The re-election of New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is a hugely important development for the Irish American community.

More than any other elected politician in New York, Quinn has reached out to the Irish American community and made a powerful difference on issues of great concern to that community.

The fact of her Irish heritage is important, though it must be stated many politicians of similar lineage often did little in comparison for their community.

Whether it is the funding from the city for the new building to be occupied by the Irish Arts Center, or becoming involved in the search for permanent peace in Northern Ireland, Quinn has become the greatest advocate of Irish issues since Paul O’Dwyer was City Council president from 1974 to 1977.

Quinn resembles O’Dwyer in several ways, a massive compliment because Mayo-born O’Dwyer was a fierce advocate for Irish issues, especially when it came to Northern Ireland.

Quinn has made several trips to Belfast and Dublin and has made herself known to all the powers that be over there in order to ensure that the New York Irish voice is heard from.

In other words she has done far more than just talk the talk. She has become deeply involved in many different ways in learning about the issues of most concern to the Irish community. This is no lip service politician.

She also played a leading role in the local Irish arts scene, most recently when she hosted no fewer than 90 Irish performers at City Hall during the Irish cultural invasion which took place earlier this month.

Those present describe it as a remarkable moment when the swirl of Irish pipes and voices of great musicians echoed through the chamber.

Even more remarkable will be the extraordinary development at the site of the current Irish Arts Center in Manhattan when the building is completed.

The city, through Quinn, has made a site, valued at $12 million, available for the project, along with a further $8 million in capital funding.

Following on that gesture, the Irish government committed a further $3.3 million.

"New York was always a point of arrival for the Irish in the new world. This new investment by the Irish government in the Irish Arts Center in New York heralds an acknowledgment of the contribution that the Irish have made to the social fabric of New York and America including arts and culture,” said Martin Cullen, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.

The government also made it clear that without the city’s contribution the government funding would not have happened,
No doubt Quinn has mayoral ambitions in the future, and she has a long standing relationship with current Mayor Michael Bloomberg which precluded her challenging him this time.

It has been a long time since we had an Irish mayor in New York, and we have never had a woman, or indeed, a gay person. Quinn is the person to break through all those glass ceilings and shatter them in an instant.

The election is three years away, and there is little point at this moment speculating who the contenders will be.

But it certainly may present a great opportunity for Quinn to make history is so many different ways. She is definitely a politician who breaks the mould, and we’re proud that she’s one of our own.

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