Niall O'Dowd (born 18 May 1953), is an Irish journalist and author living in the United States. He was extensively involved in the negotiations leading to the Irish Good Friday Peace Agreement, and is a proponent of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States. He is founder of Irish Voice newspaper and Irish America magazine in New York City, as well as overseeing Home and Away newspaper. He is also the founder of IrishCentral, a global Irish internet website which he launched in March 2009.
O'Dowd was born in Thurles, County Tipperary in Ireland but moved to Drogheda when he was nine. After attending Drogheda CBS and Gormanston College, he was a student at University College Dublin, gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1977. He emigrated to the United States in June 1978.
He moved to San Francisco where he founded the first new Irish newspaper in California in 50 years, the Irishman Newspaper. In 1985, he moved to New York City where he founded the Irish America magazine, the first ever national Irish American magazine. In 1987, he founded the Irish Voice newspaper, the first successful Irish American newspaper launch since 1928.
He was a founder of the Irish Americans for Clinton campaign in 1991, supporting candidate Bill Clinton for president. He led an Irish American peace delegation to Northern Ireland after Clinton was elected and he acted as intermediary between Sinn Féin and the White House at a critical period in the peace process. He played a key role in securing a US visa for Gerry Adams in February 1994. His role was featured in the book Daring Diplomacy by The Irish Times journalist Conor O'Clery and also in an RTÉ-PBS documentary entitled An Irish Voice. He has created numerous successful business networks through his publications including the Wall Street 50, Business 100, Hall of Fame, Legal 100, Silicon Valley 50 magazine in conjunction with the Irish Technology and Leadership Group, and the Science and Technology 50. He created the US Ireland Forum, a forerunner of the Diaspora forum held by the Irish government in 2009.
He is a close confidante of the Clinton family and served in Hillary's Finance Committee for her 2008 presidential run. In April 2011, at the inaugural Irish America Hall of Fame luncheon, former President Clinton stated that his initial involvement in the Northern Ireland issue has come about through O'Dowd.
He has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Irish Times as well as tabloid publications. He has spoken to groups involved in the Middle East peace process as well as the former Sri Lanka conflict about the importance of diaspora involvement in seeking solutions. A video interview with him on diaspora impact on successful peace processes was used at the US State Department Global Diaspora Conference in May 2011, chaired by Hillary Clinton.
In 2002, his book Fire in the Morning, about Irish people at the World Trade Center during the 11 September attacks, reached number two on the Irish best seller list. O'Dowd was awarded an honorary doctorate by his alma mater University College Dublin in 2004 for his role in the peace process and his work on the Irish American and Irish relationship. O'Dowd was one of the founders of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in 2005, set up to lobby the Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.
He was named among the state's most influential people by New York magazine in their issue of 15 May 2006. He was featured on the "People You Should Know" segment of the Paula Zahn Now program on CNN in 2007. In January 2008, he was appointed an adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism..
In March 2009, O'Dowd launched IrishCentral a companion website to his two publications. The launch was attended by then Irish Taoiseach, Brian Cowen. In March 2010 he published his second book An Irish Voice, an autobiography. He became a Huffington Post blogger in September 2010.
He announced in June 2011 that he was considering becoming a candidate in the 2011 Irish Presidential election but pulled out soon after. In September 2014 the Irish government awarded him the President's Distinguished Services Award —http://www.merrionstreet.ie/index.php/2014/09/minister-flanagan-announces-recipients-of-presidential-distinguished-service-awards-for-2014/?cat=12