There was great excitement in Orange County, California on Wednesday March 20, 2013, as An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD made his first visit to the West Coast. The Taoiseach joined an enthusiastic group of American Ireland Fund supporters for a private Leadership Forum luncheon at The Pacific Club in Newport Beach, generously hosted by AIF Board Director, EJ Tracy. This was the Taoiseach's only official engagement in Southern California and he was warmly welcomed by AIF West Coast Director, Marjorie Muldowney.
The Taoiseach was accompanied by a delegation that included H. E. Ambassador Michael Collins, Consul General Gerry Staunton, Barry O'Leary of IDA Ireland and Honorary Consul Finbar Hill, along with members of the Taoiseach's Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs. San Diego was represented by two extraordinary torchbearers of the Fund, AIF Board Directors John Lynch and Dan Mulvihill. Several Los Angeles Regional Advisory Board Members also attended including Sean Kneafsey of Kneafsey & Friend, Bill McMorrow of Kennedy Wilson and Conor Shalloe of TCW.
The La Jolla Room at the Club was abuzz with many friends of the Fund including Tom Barry of UBS, Matthew Doran of RBC, John Ganley of Quest, Donal Hanley of Aviation Capital Group, John Hearty of Allen Matkins and Edward Siebert of Loyola Productions. Also present were Orange County friends Georgia & Bob Roth, Susan & Chuck Van Cleve, George O'Connell, Larry Ort and Monsignor Art Holquin. Other guests included longtime supporter Mary Mulvihill, along with Dan Broderick of Cassidy Turley from San Diego, and they enjoyed seeing Catherine Thyen of Newport Beach and Bishop Tod Brown.
Marjorie Muldowney spoke of the tremendous success of The Ireland Funds Promising Ireland Campaign and the impact it is having on thousands of people throughout Ireland. She encouraged guests to become more directly connected with projects and to stay closely connected to the Fund as "a light that shines for concern and friendship, decency and generosity". As keynote speaker, the Taoiseach spoke about the important steps that have been made in Ireland's economic recovery. He praised the founders of the Fund, Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Sir Anthony O'Reilly as well as generous supporters in California for their longstanding loyalty to Ireland. He talked about the special teapot that was presented to mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York the previous week, symbolizing the millions of Irish who have emigrated to the U.S. over many years where they were provided with tremendous opportunity; and he referred to the difficult situation that affects so many undocumented Irish today.
If you go to Ireland, you need to bring a raincoat. The Taoiseach received a rousing round of applause when he was presented with a piece of gear that every Californian needs – a pair of dark sunglasses as he travelled on to Silicon Valley.