Senator Chris Dodd's decision to quit the Senate and not run for re-election in Connecticut comes as a major shock to his Irish friends and supporters.

His retirement means that the Irish lobby in Washington has now lost its two most prominent leaders, Dodd and the late Senator Edward Kennedy, in a very short space of time.

Dodd, who has a home in Galway, was facing a very tough re-election battle and had recently fought off prostate cancer. He was behind in polls in Connecticut and faced a very tough re-election race.  Ironically his Galway home in Connemara was at the center of some of the allegations against him. The Wall Street Journal claimed he had received a below market price deal from Edward Downe,a prominent businessman who was later convicted of insider trading.

Dodd played a critical role during the Clinton era in the Irish peace process. He and Kennedy were the key driving forces behind the move to win a visa for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and in one famous incident, Dodd convinced Clinton while they were on a golf course together to lift a fundraising ban against the Sinn Fein leader.

Dodd ran for president in 2008 in the Democratic primary but never figured in the shakeup and dropped out early. As head of the Senate Banking Committee he had reached the zenith of his career but now his unexpected departure has left Democrats scrambling to fill his seat.

Cancer battle: Senator Chris Dodd