You can't miss it: the distinctly Kennedy-esque aura surrounding rising Democratic star Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. This week the charismatic 48-year-old was awarded the American Ireland Fund's distinguished leadership award.

Irish American leaders have taken note of him for two reasons, his increasing political skill and the possibility he may well represent Irish America’s best hope of winning the White House within the decade, possibly as soon as 2016.

At the award ceremony O’Malley announced that he will shortly lead a trade mission to Northern Ireland at the invitation of the First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Hillary Clinton’s economic envoy Declan Kelly. It’s exactly the kind of initiative sure to endear him to his influential  Irish supporters.

But in discussion with The Irish Times this week O’Malley would not confirm that he could be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016.

"I consider myself to be very, very fortunate to be able to serve people in my state in these times," he said.
In his private life O'Malley reportedly loves Irish poetry, calling John O’Donohue his current favorite. It's an unlikely but distinctly Irish enthusiasm, and surprising for a career politician. O’Malley’s interest in poetry is matched by his passions for music - as Governor he has had less time to play in his band O'Malley March.

A practicing Catholic who prays every morning, O’Malley has worked to rescind the death penalty in Maryland and he supports marriage equality for gay couples in his state and the nation.

When challenged recently by fellow parishioners on his stance he said: "I told her respectfully I don’t do sacraments. I do equal rights."