Cowen's Timing Good

FEW politicians have entered into leadership during such trying times as Ireland's new Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen.

He hardly had his feet under the cabinet table when the Lisbon Treaty came up for a vote and was defeated. There was little he could do in the time allotted him to turn the No vote around.

A few weeks later the bombshell Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) report stating that Ireland was now in a recession after decades of boom hit like a hurricane.

Again, Cowen inherited the massive headache that the ESRI report unleashed, though his critics argue that he was responsible for the management of the economy to a large extent when he was minister for finance.

That may be somewhat true, but the fact is that the buck stops at the taoiseach's office on whatever the issue of the day is.

Since then it has been tough sledding for the new faces in government put together by Cowen. The trip to New York that Cowen will take next week will allow him a valuable respite outside the country.

It will also give him the opportunity to showcase his skills in the economic arena and to address head on many of the criticisms abroad about the Irish economy. His keynote speech at the Wall Street 50 event hosted by our sister publication Irish America magazine will be closely watched to see the emphasis he places on what future actions he will take.

Cowen will also meet at first hand many of the movers and shakers in American business, as well as address the editorial boards of The Wall Street Journal and New York Times among others.

All in all a perfect opportunity for the new man to get to know America, and America to get to know him - and perhaps, more importantly, send the message back home across the Atlantic that he is on top of what needs to be done on the economy.

A New York Taoiseach

NOT since Eamon De Valera has an Irish taoiseach had such a close relationship with New York City as Cowen has.

De Valera was born here and moved back to Ireland. Cowen worked in the Big Apple as a student and has an extended family here, including an aunt who is married to former Offaly football great Peter Nolan.

Thus, it is no coincidence that Cowen picked New York as his inaugural trip overseas. He was a frequent visitor as foreign minister and always seemed to enjoy his trips here.

His predecessor Bertie Ahern usually overflew New York en route to Washington, D.C., where he liked to mix it up with the politicians.

Charles Haughey was certainly a big fan of New York. He held several fundraising dinners here and was close to the O'Neill family who managed Friends of Fianna Fail for him.

Albert Reynolds, of course, achieved the singular honor of becoming grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, the first ever from outside America. Maybe Cowen can see that in his future one day too.

No Ireland for Obama

LOOKS like Senator Barack Obama will not be looking in on Ireland during his upcoming trip in late July to Europe and the Middle East.

He is currently scheduled to visit London, France, Germany, Israel and Jordan during his trip.

Plans are underway for a major foreign policy address at the Brandenburg Gate where East and West Germany once stood divided.

The itinerary reflects the foreign policy leanings within this campaign. Efforts to include Ireland on the trip were met with a firm no despite the argument that it would certainly help with the ethnic vote in key swing states.

The Obama campaign is beginning to shape up in foreign policy terms like the Gore campaign, which also had little time for ethnic outreach. In the end Al Gore could have done a lot worse than reach out to the different ethnic groups, given the slim margin of his defeat.

AOH Convention And Immigration

THE AOH national convention will be held in New Orleans from July 23-26 this year. The Sheraton Hotel in the city will be the venue, and over 2,000 delegates are expected to attend.

For the first time the conference will hear form a speaker on behalf of the undocumented Irish. Ciaran Staunton, vice chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) will be a featured speaker on the program, which certainly represents a breakthrough for the AOH.

Staunton will be addressing both the men and women's divisions of the AOH and will doubtless be filling them in on the realities that the Irish undocumented face in the U.S. today.

The fact that the AOH is hearing from ILIR is a breakthrough in itself. For some time the organization has been slow, with individual exceptions, to respond tothe issue. It bodes well that they are making it a priority now.