A leading Irish-American politician has warned that the “unique relationship” between Ireland and the US should not be taken for granted.
Ike Cusick, President of the American Irish Legislators Society, was in Dublin and Belfast last week for a series of meetings.
Mr Cusick, whose ancestors emigrated to the US from Cork and Roscommon, said the links between America and Ireland need to be continuously nurtured.
He has been an elected member of the New York State Legislature since 2002, representing the Staten Island region.
Mr. Cusick has been President of the Legislators Society for 14 years. The Society is made up of politicians from various political parties and its aim is to promote “awareness of Irish culture, Ireland-New York relations and the community among lawmakers of Irish descent or with an interest in Ireland or the American-Irish community”. .
The Society recently successfully lobbied the state legislature to secure funding for the development of the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan.
Mr Cusick led a US delegation that attended the Belfast International Homecoming event last week, which was attended by senior members of the Irish diaspora. The event was organized by Belfast City Council in partnership with Ulster University to celebrate the achievements of people of Irish heritage and build stronger global connections.
Accompanying Mr. Cusick on the trip were: Michael Meade, general manager of Sullivan’s Brewing Company, New York; Sean Tenner, President of KNI Communications, Chicago; Steve Lenox, Director of the New Jersey Ireland Centre; and Jay Hart, chief of police in Torrance, California.
The delegation also visited Áras an Uachtaráin last week to meet President Michael D. Higgins.
Mr Cusick said he was interested in building closer relationships between organizations and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.
“One of our goals within the Legislative Society is to promote Irish culture in New York, whether that be funding parades or local cultural groups,” he said.
“However, since I became President of the Society we have also become more engaged and better connected with our colleagues in Ireland north and south and we have developed relationships with governments and we can work together on certain things.
“We met business leaders in Belfast to work together and come up with ideas that could help New York, or maybe we companies in Northern Ireland or Ireland can partner with companies in New York doing the same.
“The majority of the companies that we’ve seen are in the energy and renewable energy sector, and here we see some of the innovations that we can bring back and maybe incorporate some of that into what we’re trying to do in New York .”
Mr Cusick, who will not stand for re-election later this year, said it was important to continue building links across the Atlantic.
“I think there is enough talk about the links between New York and Ireland,” he told the Sunday Independent. “However, I think it’s always important to keep building those connections.
“New York and the US have a particularly unique relationship with Ireland that we cannot take for granted.
“You have to keep cultivating it and that’s why I think it’s very important for organizations like ours in New York to be in touch with leaders in Ireland.”
Mr Cusick said he was heartened to see the ongoing efforts to consolidate peace during his visit to Northern Ireland.
“We support the peace process and have spoken to the people about where Northern Ireland is at the moment,” he said. “Having these face-to-face discussions was very promising.
“What I will take away from New York, having spoken to many officials, is that there is a lot of work being done that may not be in the spotlight.
“I know that people are working very hard to continue the peace process. Seeing it first hand and speaking to the people involved in this journey has been very encouraging.”
Much has been written about US President Joe Biden’s Irish connections, but Mr Cusick said his country’s leaders have always had an interest in Irish affairs.
“I know the President is very proud of his Irish heritage and culture.
“I think it’s an advantage, but I also think a lot of the presidents who have been in the White House have given Ireland special attention since I’ve been in office. The United States has always done that.”
Though he will soon step down from frontline politics, Mr Cusick said he would maintain his support for Irish-US relations.
“I may not run for re-election but I will probably be more active in Irish-American affairs as I have less travel to do,” he said.
“I certainly have no intention of not being involved in Irish affairs and I hope to get involved with organizations that I can help.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/we-must-not-take-ireland-and-americas-unique-relationship-for-granted-says-influential-us-politician-42032996.html We must not take the ‘unique’ relationship between Ireland and America for granted, says an influential US politician