Top 50 Power Women – 2016

Stella O’Leary/Irish American Democrats

Dublin native, Stella O’Leary was so inspired by President Clinton’s work for peace in Northern Ireland that she founded Irish American Democrats Political Action Committee in 1996 to work for his reelection. The PAC “provides support to Democratic candidates for national and state office who promote peace, justice, and prosperity in Ireland.” Since 1996, Irish American Democrats PAC has raised millions of dollars for both congressional and presidential elections.

In 2000, Hillary Clinton declared her candidacy for the New York Senate seat and O’Leary launched Irish Americans for Hillary that has worked in support of Hillary’s two Senate campaigns and her two presidential bids. O’Leary accompanied Hillary on many of her visits to Ireland and worked with her to sustain American funding for the International Fund for Ireland. In 2011, O’Leary founded the Clinton International Summer School, now housed at the University of Ulster, Magee Campus. The Summer School provides full scholarships to students from post-conflict countries to join Northern Ireland students and explore projects that would further economic development in their home countries. To date, students representing thirty countries and five continents have participated in the program.

In 2011 President Obama appointed O’Leary as one of two observers to the International Fund for Ireland, an appointment she still holds.

Prior to entering politics, O’Leary worked in library sciences at the Catholic University of America. Together with Professor Thomas Halton she co-authored the seminal reference volume Classical Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography.

O’Leary says her interest in politics is motivated by the talent she sees in Irish American politicians and their interest in, and love for Ireland. That so many of the best American politicians have Irish ancestry seems to suggest that the Irish have special communication gifts. “In the end, the ultimate goal for me is to see Hillary in the White House,” she says.