Irish American organizations in the U.S. and friends of President-elect Barack Obama in Ireland are gearing up for what are expected to be historic inauguration celebrations next week. Attorney Brian O'Dwyer of the O'Dwyer and Bernstien law firm in New York, along with members of the Council on American Ireland Relations, is putting together the final preparations for their Obama celebratory brunch on Monday, January 19 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. "The idea of the lunch is to bring together prominent Irish Americans, union officials, people from the community and government elected officials to celebrate the Obama victory and to keep the ties between the United States and Ireland going throughout the new administration," O'Dwyer told the Irish Voice. According to O'Dwyer the brunch, which will be attended by members of the Friends of Ireland in Congress, including the group's chair, Congressmen Richie Neal, and Congressman Joe Crowley of New York, will afford an opportunity to members of the Obama administration to get to know people and renew ties they have had with Irish people and the Irish community in the past. Irish Consul General in New York Niall Burgess and Speaker of the New York City Council Christine Quinn will also attend the luncheon. "Many more dignitaries will be in attendance at the brunch and we are looking forward to it very much," said O'Dwyer. "With Obama it's the beginning of a new era. This is a real opportunity for us to promote Ireland and the Irish America agenda as the new administration comes in." Stella O'Leary, chairwoman of the Irish American Democrats group, said everything is falling into place for the organization's celebratory inauguration ball on Tuesday night, January 20 after Obama has been sworn in as the 44th president of the U.S. Over 200 people will attend the event, which has been worked on since Obama's election. The event, like the Council on American Ireland Relations brunch the previous day, will take place the Phoenix Park Hotel. "We are really looking forward to the day and night," said O'Leary from her home in Washington on Tuesday. "During the course of the night several senators and representatives will pop in," she added. Crowley and Neal will also attend the gala, which begins at 7 p.m. with cocktails. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, will also join the Irish Democrats, and O'Leary is keeping her fingers crossed that incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will make it to the event. "It is going to be so tight with security this year, but we are hoping they will be able to show up," said O'Leary. "It's really down to the Secret Service." Making the event extra special, O'Leary said the Corrigan Brothers from Limerick, creators of the song, "There's No One as Irish as Barack O'Bama," will perform live for guests. O'Leary said she is delighted that the White House is back in the hands of a Democrat. "It's a new and great era. A new opportunity, a new power, new faces in Washington and a new friend to the Irish," said O'Leary, who hails from Co. Dublin. Celebrations will also stretch across the pond to the hometown of Obama's ancestors in Moneygall, Co. Offaly. Celebrations will begin in Ollie's bar in Moneygall after the newly elected president is sworn into office. "We are going to have a bit of a bash to celebrate Obama as president," said Ollie Hayes, proprietor of the bar. Performing for punters at the bar that evening will be the newly formed Obama Set Dancers, who will be rigged out in their American costumes for the event. "It will be a great night," promises Hayes, adding the next time he will have a big bash will be when President Obama visits the town.
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