Niall O'Dowd interviewed who he believes could be a frontrunner in the 2028 US Presidential elections, Democratic Senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy.
Back in 1988, when the world was young, I wrote a cover story on a young senator from Delaware in a hurry who deeply impressed me with his insight and knowledge of Ireland when I interviewed him.
His name was Joe Biden and the headline was “Fiery Joe Biden, White House Bound?"
I now predict another Irish American, Senator Chris Murphy, (50) of Connecticut, may well have a place in the starting gate for 2028 and could finish up first past the wire.
Who is Christopher Scott Murphy? He’s the junior senator from Connecticut who has been quietly building a more public profile of himself.
Reading about his rapid rise and talking directly to him over Zoom you quickly ascertain that is an accomplished politician, fast on his feet, whip-smart and focused.
He was first elected to the Senate at just 39, 11 years ago, hammering Linda McMahon, billionaire wife of WWE founder Vince McMahon, by a 30-point margin. After years in the minor leagues, Murphy had finally arrived at The Show.
He continued the Irish New England connection in the US Senate as personified in recent times by Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator Chris Dodd, and Senator Pat Lahey, all great advocates on Irish issues. In addition, it didn’t hurt that his Irish advisor is one Bruce Morrison, the beloved former congressman who won 50,000 visas for undocumented Irish in the 1990s.
Murphy's Irish roots are of the Famine era. His father’s people came over from Dublin during the Great Hunger and settled in as construction workers in Connecticut.
He has tried to trace his family history but having the most common Irish name of all made that impossible. His Polish roots make for an unusual combination of ethnicities.
Murphy really came to the Irish issues via his membership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and during our interview he made clear in the post-Brexit world that Britain is no longer an EU member which has “changed everything”.
As a result, he considered Ireland to be very important to the US “now more than ever” he says.
Britain had been America’s sentinel, its eyes and ears when dealing with the EU but now due to what he calls the Brexit colossal blunders, they are no longer in the EU, and America must strengthen its Irish ties.
Former congressman Morisson has high regard for Murphy on Irish issues and says he is making his mark.
“Chris comes from both Polish and Irish heritages and his House district was more of a Polish American bastion than an Irish one. But he has also become increasingly involved in issues of concern to the Irish American community, especially related to Northern Ireland. With the retirement of Patrick Leahy, Chris has stepped forward to assume a leadership role on Irish issues We could not be in better hands,” Morrison concluded.
Murphy has certainly taken on the Irish issue as an important one for him. He sees Ireland as culturally close, language compatible, and sharing a similar vision of the world that the US does.
When we spoke Murphy had just come back from Dublin as part of a congressional delegation. Brexit was very much on his mind and the dismissive way successive British administrations had treated the Irish government on the issue. He was glad to see that Prime Minister Rishi Suniak had begun to consult the Irish, unlike recent occupants of 10 Downing Street.
Murphy addressed the latest furor, a law giving immunity for crimes committed during the Troubles that he believes stinks to high heaven.
It is seen widely on all sides as a “get out of jail" card for those British operatives, police, army and paramilitary, who carried out sanctioned crimes including murders.
Murphy has little time for the British bill.
“If they failed to deal with that issue during The Troubles they will hardly deal with it now," he says
He states that the deadlocked parties in Northern Ireland at least agree on one thing, that it is a shameful law with killers getting off scot-free.
He says America staying involved as an honest broker in Northern Ireland remains as important as ever, especially on issues such as justice and questions relating to the peace process.
Outside his Irish interest, the Connecticut senator has been at the heart of major issues, most notably gun control, since the horrific Sandy Hook massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 12, 2012, where 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 and six school employees were massacred by a deranged gunman.
The impact of the killings was a defining moment for all Americans and a profound moment for local senator Murphy who deeply regrets not being more active in the gun control issues before the massacre.
As he told journalist, Tim Miller, “Sandy Hook happened right after I was elected to the United States Senate. I was actually with my two kids, then for years old and one year old...
"Sandy Hook changed my life, both as the representative for Sandy Hook but also as one of the few parents of young kids [in the Senate]. I knew that I had to step up and try to get laws passed that reduced the likelihood that anything like that would ever happen again.”
His fearless advocacy for gun control and recent anti-gun legislation he co-authored, made him an enemy of the gun lobby.
But Murphy is well able for his critics having sharpened his message in the Senate and he's already got 25 years of political experience on the clock.
Resume-wise, his father is a corporate lawyer and his mother is a retired schoolteacher. He graduated from Williams College with a Bachelor of Arts and from the University of Connecticut Law School. He also spent time at Oxford University.
The political bug grabbed him early. At the age of 25 incumbent. he won a seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives. Within 14 years after his first election he won the US Senate Seat defeating Linda McMahon.
His career trajectory is up and there seem to be few limits. After Joe Biden, we may well be talking about yet another Irish-American contender for the White House. Murphy has the perfect mix of youth seasoned by experience.
Rule him in for 2028.