An opinion piece in the Irish Voice and on IrishCentral in support of a candidate for the Florida State Senate may seem unusual because the readership is so geographically widespread that a particular election for any office except President (the U.S. or Ireland) will rarely concern more than a small proportion of readers.

But every once in while, someone runs for office who is such a champion of causes important to Irish America that the entire readership of the newspaper and the web site need to hear about it.

That’s the case with Nancy Soderberg, running for the Florida State Senate in Jacksonville. The Irish community in Florida--and all across the United States--should support her. She is one of the great and brave American heroes of the peace process that ended the bloodshed in Northern Ireland and established a society that accommodated both populations living there. She stuck her neck out for back then and now she richly deserves the support, both with votes and with financial contributions, of anyone concerned with issues Ireland and Irish America.

While working for the late Senator Ted Kennedy from 1985 to 1992, Nancy became a strong advocate for peace in Northern Ireland. Bill Clinton asked her join his 1992 campaign as Director of Foreign Policy. When he won, she joined the National Security Council and soon became the president’s key advisor on Northern Ireland. Irish Americans had a real voice in the White House and, through Nancy, got their case heard at the highest levels of our government. And because of that, President Clinton fundamentally changed U.S. policy towards Northern Ireland.

She was whip smart and open minded. She was the first in the Executive Branch to recognize, along with Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith, that a U.S. visa for Gerry Adams was the key to moving the peace process forward. She stood firm in her courageous support, despite the intense opposition of the State Department and the FBI, not to mention incessant vilification by the British. Even as the violence got worse, she never lost her unwavering position. When that IRA ended its historic 1994 ceasefire with a bombing in London after a year and a half of British intransigence, she never gave up. We all remember the vision of the tens of thousands of hopeful faces in the Belfast square as Bill Clinton spoke. Nancy never abandoned them in their deep wish for peace and a better life. She is a leader who truly listens to the people and responds to their needs.

Nancy Soderberg is a candidate of rare quality who lived history and made history. She deserves Irish American in her bid for office, not only because she has been such a great friend of Ireland, but also because everyone has an interest in the what happens in the legislature of such an important state as Florida. She is up against an extreme candidate who will cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and will support efforts to overturn efforts to make our health care affordable. All Floridians and all Americans will benefit from better solutions in our state legislatures. Everyone will benefit from her common sense, bringing-people-together approach to problem solving.  

Nancy was indispensable to the American efforts to help make the great peace in Northern Ireland. Voters in her State Senate District 4 have the opportunity to vote for a truly outstanding public servant who stepped up for Ireland when it mattered most. Jacksonville followers of the Irish Voice and IrishCentral would do well to support Nancy Soderberg for the Florida State senate.
Penn Rhodeen is writing a book on the American role in the Irish peace process


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