Former Maryland governor and White House hopeful Martin O’Malley attended the “official kick off” of a new campaigning group “Irish Americans for O’Malley,” at a pub in Washington DC, on Thursday evening.

O’Malley, who is proud of his strong Irish roots linked to Mayo and Galway, regaled the crowds while standing on a table at The Dublin pub, with a Guinness in hand.

The new group lending its weight to O’Malley’s presidential campaign is separate to the Irish-American Democrats, led by Dublin woman Stella O’Leary. They have already pledged their support to Hillary Clinton.

Currently, three months before the first nominating contest, O’Malley is in third place in the polls, lagging behind both former first lady Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. According to the latest sizeable poll carried out by NBC and Survey Monkey, O'Malley is polling at just 1% among registered Democratic voters, whereas Ms Clinton is polling at 50%, followed by Bernie Sanders on 30%.

The aim of this new group is to draw support from the country’s Irish-American demographic.

The committee of Irish Americans for O’Malley is made up of 18 people, both Irish and Irish American. It is chaired by Dubliner Colm O’Comartun, who was O’Malley’s closest aide during his terms as governor and mayor. The Irish Americans for O’Malley board also includes former Pittsburgh mayor Tom Murphy, John Cavanaugh, a former congressman from Omaha, and Ivan Doherty, a former general secretary of Fine Gael and currently a director at the National Democratic Institute.

Speaking at the launch O’Malley told the crowd he kept a “No Irish need apply” sign on his desk, during his time as Mayor of Baltimore. These signs date back to around the 1890s and O’Malley said “about the time that my great-grandfather was here and no doubt would have seen those signs.”

During a short speech O’Malley highlighted his ongoing support for comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.

“I think we need comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes the economic realities of our times,” O’Malley said.

“I think the old system and the quotas has grown outdated. Our country is made better every generation by the arrival of new American immigrants. And we need to have an independent office that actually accesses our economic needs and sets immigration levels accordingly.”

Ending his speech he said “There’s a lot of people who tell me, ‘man you’re in a tough fight. But being Irish, I kind of like a tough fight.”

After saying his piece the jacket came off and O’Malley picked up his guitar asking for requests. The former Maryland mayor is known for his musical prowess with his band, O'Malley's March, which was founded in 1988. Along with a three-member Irish band O’Malley sung along to Irish classics such as “Oh Danny Boy” and “This Land is Your Land.”

A group of Irish step-dancers performed as a send-off to O’Malley who is enroute to South Carolina for the first in the south candidates forum.

Liz McCloskey, a visiting scholar at Washington University, told the Irish Times she came to the pub to support O’Malley “It’s very exciting to me, how much the Irish community has advanced in every single field, but still has never forgotten our roots. There’s a deep commitment to serving people who are struggling,” she said. “That is something I believe Martin O’Malley represents.”

 

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley pledged support for immigration reform and spoke of the importance of his Irish roots.iStock