The political consultant spoke at the state Hibernians convention.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
BOARDMAN -- The Republicans' ability to convince Americans that they are the party of values and morality has severely damaged Democrats on the national level, said the son of a legendary speaker of the U.S. House.
"The Republican language of values has undermined the Democrats and hurt them," said Thomas P. O'Neill III, the son of House Speaker Tip O'Neill.
Despite being a Democrat, O'Neill said it's hard not to admire the Republicans' ability to successfully portray themselves as the party of values.
"They do it with genius," he said.
In doing so, Republicans are able to maintain a majority in Congress, and helped President Bush win last year's election, O'Neill said.
O'Neill, lieutenant governor of Massachusetts from 1975 to 1983, was the keynote speaker Friday at the 75th Biennial State of Ohio Ancient Order of Hibernians Convention at the Holiday Inn in Boardman. The convention runs through Sunday.
In an interview with The Vindicator, O'Neill said the climate of the U.S. House has changed for the worse in recent years with blatant partisanship damaging the country.
Republicans gained control of the U.S. House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years.
O'Neill's father served in the House for 44 years including his last nine years as speaker, retiring in 1986. He died in 1994.
"When my father was speaker, there was the ability for both parties to work together," O'Neill said. "Today, there is little interest in working together. That has damaged the country."
O'Neill is chief executive officer of O'Neill and Associates, a Boston consulting firm.
During his speech at the convention, O'Neill spoke of the ongoing struggle for peace in Ireland. The AOH is the nation's leading Irish Catholic American fraternal organization.
Taking a stand
O'Neill said he is a friend of Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein, Ireland's oldest political movement. But O'Neill criticized Adams for how he has dealt with recent violence in Ireland, including a robbery at the United Kingdom's largest bank and the murder of a Belfast man.
Police say the Irish Republican Army is responsible for the crimes, something the IRA denies. Also, police say senior Sinn Fein officials knew about the robbery before it occurred, an assertion that Adams denies.
"He provides leadership, but he must be held accountable for his actions," O'Neill said of Adams. "In a perverse way, the bank robbery and the shooting will have a positive effect. Sinn Fein leadership will now be more involved."
During a recent visit to the United States, several prominent politicians -- including U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., a longtime Adams supporter -- snubbed the Sein Fenn leader.
O'Neill said Kennedy and others were "correct to shun Adams."
O'Neill was introduced at the AOH convention by former Mahoning County Commissioner Ed Reese. The two men have known each other for years.
"What a great candidate he'd be for Congress," O'Neill said of Reese.
Reese is considering a run for the 6th Congressional District seat that will be open in next year's election.