Sinn Fein revealed their secret weapon in America at their historic event at the Mansion House in Dublin last night with over 400 people in attendance, including 200 Americans and a table or two of Canadians.
Rarely has a secret weapon been more warmly applauded or given more standing ovations or been less of a secret.
The fact that the secret weapon could hardly see over the 4' 9" podium and never uses one swear word when ten can do further endeared her to the crowd when she got up to speak.
In the presence of congressmen, Gerry Adams, union leaders, AOH leaders, and American captains of industry, Rita O’Hare, Sinn Fein’s US liaison, finally spoke publically.
At five feet – minus a few inches – ishe once nearly disappeared out of a famous photograph with those husky six-footers, President Obama and Gerry Adams, save for a tuft of red hair.
She’ll never write a book on etiquette or be invited to tea at Buckingham Palace as she’d be far more likely to use her middle finger rather than her pinky with her majesty.
But after 18 years with O’Hare as Sinn Fein’s emissary to America, it was clear that the 200 Irish Americans who traveled to sit in the same room where the First Dail, a Sinn Fein led government, sat in 1918, felt a deep sense of loyalty to her. The standing ovations were many and loud.
History was in every particle of air in the Mansion House but there was also a profound sense of recognition of the extraordinary job O’Hare has done keeping the Sinn Fein presence in America very live indeed for almost two decades.
She has crossed the Atlantic so many times her frequent flyer miles could sustain her for a decade. Whenever crisis beckoned or support was needed or sought, she was there. She became a familiar figure in the White House, both houses of Congress, and state legislatures all over the country, as well as among Irish organizations, media and societies.
Hers is a blueprint on how to work Irish America - not with St. Patrick’s Day fly-ins but doggedly and determinedly all year round.
Sinn Fein is known for putting in the hard work and, unlike other political parties like Fianna Fail, which once had a foothold in America, they work the community long and hard.
Adams recited the successes of the Irish American lobby: opposing the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six cases before any Irish government did, the MacBride Principles legislation for fair employment, the success in achieving the Adams visa and bringing the then president Bill Clinton into the issue, the work of Irish America in seeking the first economic and peace envoy who eventually became George Mitchell. He baldly stated that there would have been no peace process without them.
Rita O’Hare was a huge part of that and continues to be.
Union leader Terry O’Sullivan gave a spirited talk about the labor connection between both countries and the need to stay united as the peace process can move in mysterious ways.
Gerry Adams also spoke but he was overshadowed for once by a diminutive redhead who owned the night. No one could argue that she didn't deserve it.
With official government 1916 commemorations to come, it promises to be an historic week.