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Why Irish American vote is more important than ever

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The unions are the financial backbone of the Democratic Party. The majority by far of these unions are headed by Irish Americans, including the president of the AFL/CIO, John Sweeney.

Along with their donations to the Democratic Party every one of these union heads contributes generously to Irish American organizations, including Irish American Democrats and the American Ireland Fund.

The campaign for the governorship of New Jersey is one of the two important political contests in 2009. As I write I am taking time away from the Irish Americans for Corzine campaign.

If Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey retains his seat in November it will be because he got the Irish vote. If Stanage has any remaining doubt about the importance of the Irish vote he should contact the Corzine campaign and ask them their opinion on it.

On the question of the Irish American media, they are our partners in the mission to promote Ireland in America. Irish America magazine’s and Irish Voice awards to the Top 100 Irish Americans, the top Irish American lawyers, women, academics and business leaders give unprecedented profile to the achievement of the Irish in America. I remember one award ceremony, in which an Olympic medal winner said she was more proud to receive the Irish American of the Year award than to receive the Olympic Medal.

Stanage is now, thankfully, in a minority of critics of Irish America who insist on rehashing the ubiquitous image of the Irish as St. Patrick's Day drunks. Witness the line in his Irish Times piece in which he quotes Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College in New York, as saying, “I would imagine that the only time a lot of those (43 million) people consciously think of themselves as Irish is when they drink to excess” on St. Patrick’s Day.”

For those who are more in tune with modern Irish America, that image is $1,000 a plate dinners for 1,000 people at the American Ireland Fund. These dinners honor Irish American politicians and celebrities.

The millions raised at these events fund university programs, community programs and other social programs in Ireland. This level of financial giving and celebration of Ireland hardly qualifies for Stanage's description of Irish America as “nothing more than smoke and mirrors."

The huge interest in Ireland described here provides a boost to Irish businesses seeking to enter the American market. Many of those honored by Irish America magazine, like Tom Moran of Mutual of America, not only look to encourage Irish business in America, but also reach out a helping hand to young native Irish entering the business world in America.

The suggestion by Stanage that those of us who work with Irish American politicians, business leaders and academics are an obstacle to Irish American relations is so ludicrous as to be unworthy of comment.

Maybe it is time for the Irish at home to start giving back. How about a Top 100 Irish Americans awarded in Dublin? We here would much appreciate such a gesture.

Instead of criticism and scorn, is it time to say thank you to the Irish American politicians, the Clintons, the union leaders and the many, many people who are working here in projects to promote Ireland.

If more honors were handed out in Dublin, rather than New York, then maybe the Irish would be better acquainted with the goodwill, generosity and constructive role that Irish America plays.

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