Irish American Democrats have begun to campaign for a united Ireland, claiming that politicians at home have failed to pursue the aspiration.

Resolutions supporting Irish unity have been passed in 14 cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and in states including California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

John O'Riordan of the Irish American Democratic Club, which is leading the initiative, said: "If we cannot rely on political leaders in Ireland, then we will develop our own campaign."

He was particularly critical of Fianna Fáil: "According to its constitution, its goal is 'to secure in peace and agreement the unity of Ireland and its people'.

"But where are the initiatives? How many years of power do you need to develop a coherent strategy around the goal? Brian Lenihan referring to people shopping in Newry as 'unpatriotic' put the lie to 'the republican party'."

O'Riordan stressed the campaign was to achieve unity by purely peaceful means. He claimed partition hindered economic development both north and south. He believed US business leaders would be "more willing to invest in Ireland if the country is united".

A "one-country approach" would hasten recovery from the recession. It would also help agriculture by allowing for the negotiation of a "common Irish position". 

From Doneraile in Co Cork, O'Riordan has lived in the US for 17 years. He insisted the Irish American community had clout: "There are over 36 million people in the US who claim Irish descent. As a group, they maintain a powerful influence in all areas of American life, particularly within the political system.

"The goal of unifying the island is a long-held dream that has been handed down from generation to generation."

The united-Ireland campaign is supported by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, various trade unions, the GAA, and friends of Sinn Féin.