How will Brexit affect U.S.-Irish relations? Are there any new insights into business ties between the States and Ireland? What issues are affecting the local Irish and Irish-American community?
These concerns and more are up for discussion Wednesday, February 17, in a virtual town hall meeting sponsored by the Irish Diaspora Center.
Ireland Consul General Ciarán Madden and U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5) will be on hand to answer questions in a discussion moderated by Professor Joseph Lennon of Villanova.
The town hall is an outgrowth of a conversation with Rep. Scanlon at last year’s open house for the Irish Diaspora Center in Havertown, according to center executive director Emily Norton Ashinhurst.
“We had our grand opening at the new center on March 1, and she came and joined us,” says Ashinhurst. “We talked about the potential for her getting a town hall going, to talk to the Irish community. She is part of the Friends of Ireland Caucus.”
Then the pandemic hit and plans for the town hall went by the wayside.
Fast forward a year, and the town hall is back on, virtually. “We are thrilled that a year later we’re able to do it and that we’re able to bring people together, even though it’s via Zoom,” says Ashinhurst. “We’d hoped to be able to do it in person, but obviously that’s not going to happen right now.”
From Rep. Scanlon’s perspective, a town hall focusing on Irish issues makes a good deal of sense since one in five people in her district claims Irish heritage.
Many of the issues on tap are reflective of the sorts of concerns Rep. Scanlon hears from her Irish and Irish-American constituents. “People have been asking about Brexit and we’ve had multiple visits over the last year or so in D.C. from the Irish foreign minister, from Gerry Adams, from various Irish leaders, wanting to talk about the pace and the terms of negotiations with Great Britain,” says Rep. Scanlon. “So there’s just a lot going on.”
And at least one local issue is front of mind. There’s a new shipping line coming into the port at Eddystone from Cork on a weekly basis, she observes, “so there are some real opportunities to grow trade.”
The town hall presents an opportunity to garner feedback from constituents. “Whenever we do a town hall, we learn things,” she says. “People bring up issues that are affecting them and that gives you clues about what to do next.”
Consul General Madden was invited as Rep. Scanlon’s guest to give his perspective on international issues involving the United States and Ireland.
“I’m really glad to have the opportunity to join this town hall event and to connect with the Irish community in Philadelphia,” Madden says. “In previous years at this time, I would be in Philadelphia regularly for different events in the lead up to St Patrick’s Day so this is a good occasion to make the best of current circumstances. I’m looking forward to sharing updates from Ireland on a ranges of topics of interest and to hearing about what matters to the community. Philadelphia has a really vibrant and engaged Irish community and I hope that I can visit again before too long. In the meantime, it is great to be able to take advantage of virtual ways to connect.”
The town hall is open to all area Irish and Irish-Americans. It begins at 7 p.m. Reservations are limited. Questions must be submitted by email in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org.