IN the run up to the Democratic convention last week the media was obsessed with the notion that Hillary Clinton supporters would not come across the aisle and get behind Barack Obama because of the bitter primary fight. So did the Clinton contingent at the Denver convention really warm to Obama, as many media reports reported?
"I think we'll come around, some quite reluctantly," she said in an interview. "I certainly think there are fewer votes for John McCain now among Hillary backers after the convention."
O'Leary stated that the convention went very well and many of the Obama people reached out to Clinton supporters. She says that will help a lot, as will the choice of Senator Joe Biden, an Irish American originally from Pennsylvania, as the vice presidential candidate.
"I think the ones who are sitting on the fence will come around eventually," she said. "I really don't think there is any alternative."
"I detect a new outreach," said O'Leary, who has run many successful Irish fundraising events in both Pennsylvania and Ohio.
She pointed to the new Irish advisory council just announced by Obama and the appointment of Carol Wheeler, a Washington fixture at Irish events, as the liaison with the community. "Those are all important steps," she said.
O'Leary stated that is was counterproductive to keep the negativity towards Obama that many Hillary supporters had right after the nomination battle.
"We've got to be bigger than that, we have to accept he is now the nominee," she said.
O'Leary will give her vote to Obama, but her heart remains with the Clintons.
"I thought they were both magnificent in their speeches at the convention," she says. " It was wonderful to see them. No one has an ear for the Irish like the Clintons."
Like other Irish Americans, O'Leary makes clear she was less than impressed with the recent Obama statement on Ireland which called into question the role of a special envoy.
However, she will not criticize publicly. "I am reluctant to weigh in negatively," she says. "It doesn't do any good, and hopefully the new advisory group of leading Irish politicians will ensure there are no more hiccups."
O'Leary instead prefers to look back on a great convention for the Irish. The highlight for her was an Irish /Kenyan luncheon she organized at the Hotel Teatro.
O'Leary decided to do the luncheon because of Obama's Irish/Kenyan roots, and both the Kenyan ambassador Peter Ogego and his Irish counterpart Michael Collins attended, as did the Kenyan Minster for Water Charity Ngilu and two Irish ministers, Mary Hanafin and Noel Dempsey. Also there was former Irish President Mary Robinson and European Union Ambassador to the U.S. John Bruton.
O'Leary stated that the atmosphere for the Obama victory speech was unlike anything she had ever experienced in politics.
"It was a magnificent occasion," she says.
O'Leary is the best kind of political activist, prepared to put her personal feelings aside to work for the candidate picked by the party.
"In the end it is about this country, about having a Democrat in the White House," she says. "Everything else pales in comparison to that."