THE CAUCUS: THE IRISH-AMERICAN FORUM

In a statement released today, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign announced that yes, she would be attending the Irish American Presidential Forum this year.The what?

The Irish American Presidential Forum was first organized by a Bronx lawyer and Democratic assemblyman named John C. Dearie in 1980 as a way to encourage American presidential candidates to talk about the fragile peace process in Northern Ireland

According to the Irish Echo, a weekly newspaper published in the United States and aimed at Irish Americans, the forum has been held in every election year except 2004. Past attendees include: Al Gore (1988, 1996, 2000), Michael Dukakis (1988), Jerry Brown (1992) and Bill Clinton (1992).

Given the hectic campaign schedule this year, the organizers are not expecting to get all the candidates in the same room at the same time. A spokesman for Senator Barack Obama, Mrs. Clinton’s Democratic rival, said the campaign was not sure of the schedule.

“We’re offering a flexible forum schedule,” Mr. Dearie told the Irish Echo.

Senator Clinton, in a statement, said that she was “excited to participate in this important forum. I have worked on issues important to the Irish-American community for many years and look forward to discussing my plans as President.” Senator Clinton went on to “encourage Senator Obama and Senator McCain to accept” the invitation to the forum as well.

It was not the first time that Irish issues had emerged Tuesday on the campaign trail (yes, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up). Earlier in the day, the campaigns had sparred over Northern Ireland — specifically, Mrs. Clinton’s claims that she had aided the peace process, part of a broader argument she has been making that she is more experienced than Mr. Obama.

But the Obama campaign was having none of it. It circulated a memo from Greg Craig, a former adviser in President Clinton’s administration, refuting many of Mrs. Clinton’s claims about her involvement in Rwanda, Kosovo, China and Northern Ireland.

In one of the sharper references, the memo quotes Brian Feeney, an Irish author and former politician, on Mrs. Clinton’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process, saying: “The road to peace was carefully documented, and she wasn’t on it.”

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, who is the presumptive Republican nominee, was also invited by Mrs. Clinton to join in the forum, but his campaign did not respond to inquiries about his attendance.

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/11/meet-me-at-the-irish-forum/

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