Many superlatives will undoubtedly be trotted out to describe the momentous nature of the current US presidential election. Looking at it from a narrow Northern Ireland context it had one noticeable ‘first’. It was the first time a Democratic candidate had refused to hold a ‘caucus’ event for Irish America. Obama’s team was apparently concerned that if they did one for Irish America they would have to have an event for every ethnic group.
Such concerns have been never stopped such events in the past. Partly this reflects the fact that by and large Irish America supported Hillary Clinton rather than Obama in the primaries.
Obama, however, clearly does not feel the need to pander to Irish America. Having ‘offended’ some Irish Americans by refusing to commit to appointing a Special Envoy to Ireland Obama showed some awareness of the need to keep them ‘on side’ by appointing a seven man Advisory Panel on Ireland.
In addition to the fact that Irish American backed Clinton the decision also reflects that ‘Ireland’ as a political issue no longer has the ability to influence even Irish American voters particularly now that Northern Ireland is regarded as ‘settled’.
The main reason not to hold an event, however, is the simple fact Irish America’s special position in the political demography of the USA has largely been eclipsed by the increasing diversity of the USA and the rise of other groups such as the Hispanic community.
An exclusive Irish Voice survey of 180 Irish and Irish Americans (93 women and 87 men) from across the U.S. showed that Senators John McCain Senator Barack Obama are neck and neck for the Irish American vote.