Senator John McCain will appear at the Scranton Cultural Center in Pennsylvania on Monday morning, September 22, to attend the Irish Presidential Forum, according to Republican Party sources.
He will be the first Republican candidate in history to attend the forum, which is during each presidential election season.
The forum's founder, Irish American attorney John Dearie, told the Irish Voice, "It does seem like the forum is ready to go and Scranton, Pennsylvania will be the setting."
Scranton is the birthplace of Democratic vice presidential hopeful Joe Biden, and the implicit challenge the choice represents could hardly be clearer.
The McCain campaign believes that working class Catholic vote is in play in 2008 and they are reaching out for votes in Democratic strongholds.
For Dearie, however, such considerations belong to the competing campaigns. He simply wants to hear the candidate's positions on issues of concern to the Irish American community.
"The format of the forum will be the same. The senator will be asked to respond to the same six questions that were previously addressed by Senator Clinton," said Dearie. Clinton attended the forum in March at the New York offices Dearie shares with Irish broadcaster Adrian Flannelly.
As no Republican presidential candidate has ever attended the Irish Presidential Forum, McCain's participation will be significant.
The questions he will be asked concern America's role in the Irish peace process. He will be asked if he will send a special American peace envoy to Northern Ireland as both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did.
The forum will then ask McCain to outline his position on immigration reform and how his administration would handle it.
The next question will remind the presidential hopeful of the success of previous White House trade conferences on Ireland, and ask if him they will be continued, and if he would welcome an annual visit and progress report form Northern Irish political leaders.
The final question asks the Republican hopeful if he will make a presidential visit to Ireland.
Senator Barack Obama recently encountered problems with his statement on the peace envoy when he seemed to imply in a statement that he would revisit the issue when in power.
Reacting to that, a commitment to the envoy became a part of the Republican platform at their Minneapolis convention.
Dearie, who is currently recovering from a hip replacement operation, does not expect to attend the presidential forum himself, but he will continue to be instrumental in setting it up.
"I'm not expecting to recover in time. As the weeks go by and I was aware that I would shortly have this hip replacement, I kept thinking as soon as I get this done we'll get a call from one of the two candidates saying we're ready to go next week," he added.
Meanwhile, the forum's invitation to Obama's campaign is still under consideration. Dearie feels that McCain's decision to participate would likely make Obama do likewise soon.
"I would hope to hear from Obama campaign shortly. I've spoken with a couple of key people and I've indicated the importance of getting back. I have no doubt that they will soon," he said.
Monday's forum is set for 10:30 a.m. at the Scranton Cultural Center, 420 North Washington Avenue. Call 570-346-7369.
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