Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon Joins Roundtable Event


Courtesy of Villanova University

The University’s Center for Irish Studies held a roundtable with Mary Gay Scanlon.

Cate McCusker, Senior Editor

This past Saturday, the University’s Center for Irish Studies and the Irish American Business Chamber & Network held a roundtable conversation in Dougherty Hall on US-Ireland relations with US Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (PA 5) and Irish Senator Malcolm Byrne.

Students, faculty and locals were able to meet with and question the politicians. Representative Scanlon, a member of the Friends of Ireland Caucus, is hosting County Wexford Senator Byrne during his visit to the Philadelphia region. Senator Byrne has served in Seanad Eireann as Fianna Fáil’s Spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science since April 2020.

Scanlon was happy to have Byrne in PA, and she noted the connection between Ireland and Pennsylvania.

“One fifth of my constituents identify as being of Irish descent, and so do I,” Scanlon said.

“It’s an amazing campus, and Villanova is famous in Ireland,” Byrne said, agreeing with the connection. “For me growing up, I remember it as the home of Irish athletics, because of the very strong tradition of Irish runners who used to come over here.”

Byrne thanked Scanlon for her work growing US and Irish relations and encouraged the room to support her in the upcoming election.

“She’s been very supportive around issues relating to Northern Irish peace protests and how we deal with Brexit,” he said.

Throughout the roundtable discussion, questions generally focused on Brexit, US and Irish relations and the war in Ukraine.

Byrne vehemently condemned Brexit as “short-sighted.”

“Most people in Ireland wouldn’t see it as a problem to say I’m Irish and European,” he said. “Brexit, to me, was a victory for English nationalism. How that plays out long term, I’m not sure.”

Scanlon discussed her work with the Irish and the British government on this topic.

“The issues around Ireland and Brexit are solvable,” she said. “But we really need the UK to come to the table.”

Byrne also encouraged US citizens to visit Ireland, pointing out about the strength of the dollar currently.

“There are things that are different, but there’s a lot more in common,” Byrne said. “There are already strong educational, historical and economical links between Ierland and the United States. I think we can continue to grow those.” 

Additionally, without the UK in the European Union, Ireland is now one of the few English-speaking countries in the EU.

“For Americans who want to do business with Europe, it’s possibly the best gateway,” he said. 

Although this was not the focus of the meeting, Byrne also spoke to The Villanovan on his thoughts on the Queen’s death and the new British monarch.

“I would define myself as a republican, but in the European sense, so I believe in the concept of an elected head of state,” he said. “I don’t believe you should get to be head of state because of who your family is. That said, Queen Elizabeth II was an amazing woman. She was still active in public service when most people would be well retired. That’s a phenomenal achievement.

Byrne noted that there is a challenge in the relationship between Ireland and Britain, but he touched on the Queen’s recent work in Ireland. 

“With the peace protests, when she came to visit Ireland, she helped forge new relations between Ireland and Britain,” he said. “From that perspective, she was a remarkable woman, and I think that has to be acknowledged.”