Now Nancy Soderberg's entering the political arena herself and reaching out to the Irish.
Nancy Soderberg is not a name many associate with the Irish peace process but for my money, she was absolutely critical.
So, while all the kudos directed at President Clinton, George Mitchell, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern are richly deserved the Soderberg story deserves its proper prominence.
She is back in the headlines these days, running as a Democrat for Congress in the Sixth District in Florida in an open seat that was recently rated a toss-up.
To help her the Irish community is running a fundraiser for her on Wednesday, May 2nd in New York.
It is so hard to see how the peace process would have worked out if she had not been there to play her role.
She was in her early 30s at the time, a foreign policy expert who ended up at a very young age as Deputy National Security advisor, second only to Tony Lake.
She had come from Ted Kennedy’s staff and was the closest thing to an expert on Ireland within the Clinton administration when they took power.
The issue of Ireland was on the front burner for the first time in American history during the election campaign Clinton had promised what no other president had done --to get involved and put American muscle behind a solution.
As the only person with long experience on the issue, Soderberg became the go-to person. Her stint in Kennedy’s office had steeled her well for what she encountered, an Irish American community hot on the heels of the administration to get cracking on Ireland.
She did not disappoint.
It was not a unified White House or indeed Congress. The State Department declared it was much more important to keep the British happy than to seek a solution.
Obviously, the Justice Department saw it in light of rewarding terrorism by the IRA and wanted nothing to do with it.
In Congress for some reason, Irish American Speaker Tom Foley was as useless as a jackass in the Kentucky Derby and more British than the British themselves.
Alone among key White House staff, Soderberg and her boss Tony Lake, intuited that something different was happening, that Sinn Fein and the SDLP, John Hume and Gerry Adams and the new leader in Dublin, Albert Reynolds, as well as Ted Kennedy in America, were ready to make history.
Soderberg taught me one great lesson, how much easier it is for bureaucrats in whatever job to say “No” rather than “Yes” to new initiatives as there are little personal consequences.
Nancy was different, dealing deftly with the Irish American dimension, understanding that a campaign promise had been made and it was up to her to find a way forward.
I spoke often with her during that period and she was a tough but fair negotiator. She took the Gerry Adams visa issue and got the president to make the right decision despite massive opposition and personal abuse of her in the British media.
She never once flinched, and the president took her advice and did indeed make history,
It takes political and moral courage to overturn established policy going back two hundred years.
Soderberg took a massive gamble and she and Lake were proven right despite all the naysayers.
It is time for the Irish to remember a woman who did an enormous amount to bring about the peace.
She wasn't in Belfast with the mucky mucks last week, but she knows who did the heavy lifting when few were to be found.
She deserves our full support.
To contribute to her campaign visit Soderbergforcongress.com/contribute or come to the fundraiser hosted by Congressman Joe Crowley, likely the next speaker, Bruce Morrison, John FitzPatrick, Brian O’Dwyer, Stella O’Leary and myself at FitzPatrick’s Grand Central Hotel 141 East 44th Street on Wednesday May 2nd from 6-8pm.