Jerry Brown can take some credit for getting Bill Clinton involved in the Irish issue, the former president's most successful foreign policy initiative.
As he runs for governor of California Brown can reflect on the fact that,on Ireland at least, he has done some good, even if by accident.
In April 1992 Brown was running against Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Irish Americans anxious for a new candidate to push for U.S. involvement in Northern Ireland had zeroed in on Brown and his opponent, the Arkansas governor.
By the time of the New York primary Brown had proven much tougher than expected. He had just won the Connecticut primary and was heading into New York under a full head of steam
Brown has Irish roots, his great-grandfather came from Thurles County Tipperary. He was an ex-seminarian, who was set to be a Jesuit at one point. He was also getting favorable reviews from Irish American groups around the country.
The Irish American lobby had arranged a forum organized by New York Assemblyman John Dearie at the Sheraton Hotel in midtown.
Clinton's people however, would not agree to attend unless they were sure that Brown would too.
Irish activist and top Democratic operative John Connorton confronted Brown outside a fundraiser on West 72nd Street.
Brown knew Connorton and stopped to talk. Their conversation was later carried in Conor O'Clery's book "The Greening of the White House"
Connorton told him he had to attend the Irish Forum the following night.
"There'll be a lot of Catholics there, right" asked Brown.
"You think I should do it?"
"I think you should do it."
When told Brown was attending Clinton did too.
It was there that Clinton answered the fateful question whether he would give a visa to Gerry Adams of the time.
"I would support a visa for Gerry Adams" he told Martin Galvin of the IRA leaning news paper the 'Irish people'
On the night Clinton arrived on time but Brown was ridiculously late finally reaching La Guardia at 11.p.m
At the time Brown had French guru Jacques Barzaghi by his side who didn't want Brown to attend.'
"Zherri why are we doing zis" he pleaded according to the O'Clery book
Connorton who was in the car with them said they needed to get going.
The driver got lost in Queens but they eventually arrived at midnight, Brown agreed with what Clinton had said and said he believed one day an American president would go to Northern Ireland.
In that, at least, he was proven right.
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