DEMOCRATIC presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton boosted her campaign coffers by $500,000 after two hugely successful Irish American fundraising events held in New York and San Francisco last week.
The events, under the auspices of a new fundraising group called Irish Americans for Hillary, were organized by Declan Kelly, the Co. Tipperary-born president and CEO of FD, one of the world’s leading financial public relations firms.
The New York party was held last Thursday at the Brooklyn brownstone owned by actor Gabriel Byrne and was attended by 75 guests who paid up to $4,600 apiece for the change to mingle with former President Bill Clinton, who acted as his wife’s stand-in as she participated in the first Democratic presidential debate that evening in South Carolina.
The San Franc-isco event took place at the suburban home of John Hartnett, an Irish-born senior executive at Palm, Inc. More than 100 guests were on hand, including the guest of honor herself, Senator Clinton, who traveled north from an earlier campaign stop in San Diego.
The gathering at Byrne’s house was attended by a number of Irish American community leaders, including John Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group; Stella O’Leary, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Irish American Democrats; Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chairwoman of the American Ireland Fund; and former Congress-man Bruce Morrison, a Yale Law School colleague of both Clintons.
Leading Irish businessmen on hand included Danny Moloney, founder and president of Liffey Van Lines, Larry Sullivan, president of Conserve Electric, Gerry Flynn, president of New York Flooring, and Andy Breslin, president of Atlantic Scaffold-ing.
Byrne set the tone for the buoyant mood at his home by saying “there’s a sense in America that great change is on the way,” and that Senator Clinton is poised to deliver, should she win the 2008 election.
Referring to Ireland, Byrne praised President Clinton for all of his administration’s efforts to secure peace in the North. “In my lifetime I never thought there would be peace in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“To be at this time in my life saying that peace has come to our troubled island is something I never thought I’d see. It’s an honor to have a man of history standing in my living room.
“And,” Byrne added, “to paraphrase John Lenn-on, if you can, imagine a future pres-
ident of the United States as a woman. It’s easy if you try!”
Nodding approvingly, President Clinton then accepted a framed poster of himself on a 1996 cover of Irish America magazine from publisher Niall O’Dowd -– “thank you of this reminder of how young I used to be!” he joked –- and spoke about his enduring fondness for the Irish.
“You know, I was thinking today that it took 13 years from the time I gave Gerry Adams a visa, and nine years from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, to get to where we are now,” Clinton said, referring to next Tuesday’s historic first meeting of the new devolved government in Northern Ireland headed by Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.
“The people I most believe are responsible for May 8 are the Irish public. They have enjoyed the benefits of peace, and it became impossible to go back . . . the public is in a place where they will no longer tolerate anything else.”
Though he clearly enjoyed reminiscing about his time spent on the Irish peace process, Clinton spent most of the evening building up his wife’s presidential credentials. “I think we need somebody who offers positive leadership around the world. We have to get America’s standing around the world back,” said Clinton.
“Hillary visited 82 countries when I was in the White House. She was the face of America in Africa and India and so many other places.
“Nobody we could elect in the party could do so much to restore America’s prestige so quickly. And I believe she will win if we all stick with her.”
Clinton took three questions from the audience, outlining Senator Clinton’s views on issues such as global warming, the war in Iraq and domestic concerns including health care.
One of the questioners was Malachy McAllister, the New Jersey-based former Irish political prisoner who has been fighting deportation from the U.S. He asked if Senator Clinton would be supportive of his years-long quest to receive political asylum now that peace has come to Northern Ireland, and the former president said that since the conflict is over, McAllister’s case should be re-evaluated in that light.
Clinton stayed at Byrne’s house to pose for photos, sign autographs and catch up with long-time supporters from his days in the White House. “You know, in New York I think I’m no good to Hillary except at Irish parties and the state fair,” he laughed.
As for the new contender in the Clinton family, she expressed a trace of envy at her husband’s new schedule. “Hillary said for all these years she wondered what it would be like to run for president. And now she knows. She said to me, ‘I’m going off to a debate, and you get to go to Gabriel Byrne’s house!” said the former president.
Speaking to the Irish Voice on Sunday evening after the two fundraisers, Senator Clinton stated that she was “delighted and so encouraged by the support of the Irish American community.”
“It is so exciting what is happening in Northern Ireland on May 8,” she added, “and I am so proud that the work that Bill and I put in has helped the Irish achieve peace, in even a small way.”
If elected to the White House Senator Clinton pledged to keep Ireland on the front burner.
“Ireland is always in my heart, as it is in the president’s,” she said. “We have such great friends there and in the Irish American community.”