They were the Four Horsemen, the most powerful Irish lobby in American political history. They were Senator Edward Kennedy, House Speaker ‘Tip’ O’Neill Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and New York governor Hugh Carey.
Back in the 1980s they practically ran America, and were a lobby group for Irish issues that the Irish government depended on heavily.
It helped that another Irishman Ronald Reagan, also partial to the old sod was in the White House. It got so cozy that a famous cartoon of the period shows Tip O’Neill and Reagan as two old Irish fishwives haggling over costs
O’Neill, Reagan and Moynihan are long gone, Carey is well retired and now Ted Kennedy, the lead horseman, has also faded into the shade.
With his passing, Ireland and Irish America has lost its most important advocate. For decades Ted Kennedy’s door had a welcome mat outside for any Irish politician large or small who wanted to visit Capitol Hill and speak with the most important man in the senate.
The Irish government depended on him on many levels - on Northern Ireland, immigration trade issues, access to the president, whatever the issue was Kennedy cheerfully carried the water.
Now he is gone, and like a tribe without a chieftain the Irish have to find a new leader.
There is simply no one of similar stature. There are vital issues at stake. The Obama administration has stated that they may penalize countries like Ireland where US. companies often park their profits. That could have a devastating impact on the multinationals there.
For the Irish American community the loss is very deep indeed, especially on the immigration issue. A fierce advocate for legalizing the undocumented, Kennedy was moved in part by his interaction with Irish undocumented.
He attended many of their events, spoke powerfully and lobbied strongly on behalf of all undocumented.
He is simply irreplaceable.
The Irish government will need to move fast to build up a new base. Whether they can do remains to be seen. Issues such as Northern Ireland have lost their urgency. With Teddy gone the fear is that Ireland will slip even further down the agenda.