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POWER 50: CELEBRATING THE ROLE OF IRISH WOMEN IN AMERICAN LIFE
JUNE / JULY 2016
CANADA $4.95 / U.S. $3.95
THE AMBASSADOR Anne Anderson’s Brilliant Career in the Diplomatic Service ON HER TOES American Ballet’s Principal Dancer Gillian Murphy
THE ARTS Annie Ryan Stages Eimear McBride’s Novel A GIRL IS A HALFFORMED THING
THE EXECUTIVE Maureen Mitchell’s Leadership Role in Corporate America
The Other Woman in LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT Anne Enright’s Tribute to Writer MAEVE BRENNAN
“I WAS ALWAYS PRETTY COMFORTABLE ON MY TOES. EVEN IN KINDERGARTEN I WAS WALKING AROUND ON MY TOES IN MY SNEAKERS.” – Gillian Murphy
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contents | june / july 2016 62
Highlights Irish Eye on Hollywood
Michael Fassbender, Aidan Gillen, Ruth Negga, and more.
The Rep Returns
30 The Ambassador
Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson has had a long career of working towards inclusion. By Sarah Buscher
“Reach for the Stars”
35 Inaugural Top 50 Power Women Our first list dedicated exclusively to the most influential and innovative women of Ireland and Irish America.
Astronaut Eileen Collins has advice for explorers. p. 72
46 Problem Solving with Maureen Mitchell
GE Asset Management’s president of Global Sales and Marketing talks of the keys to her success. By Adam Farley
62 On Her Toes
66 The Derry Girl Makes History
68 Beyond the Bog Road
The first new album in a decade by fiddler Eileen Ivers is a testament to transatlantic folk ties. By Kristin Cotter McGowan
74 The Mother of Orphans
The story of Margaret Haughery, the savior of the most vulnerable children in 19th century New Orleans. By Rosemary Rogers
76 Roots: The Ryan Girls
What do five actresses of the stage and screen have in common? They’re all Ryans. By Marsha Sorotick
78 Mothers of Influence
If there’s one thing Irish men have in common, it’s talking about the influence of their mothers. Interview excerpts from the Irish America archives.
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Himself & Nora
In a new musical about James Joyce, Nora Barnacle comes first. p. 86
American ballerina Gillian Murphy is passionate about the dance, but won’t take herself too seriously. By Patricia Harty Roma Downey is an actress, producer, humanitarian, and, above all, ever a Derry woman. By Mary Pat Kelly
After two years of renovations, New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre comes home. p. 23
Edna O’Brien’s novel is fêted in New York, plus a poem by John James Reid. p. 91
The Last Word
82 What Are You Like?
Former Irish president Mary Robinson takes our questionnaire. By Sheila Langan
84 Girl Talk
Annie Ryan is the mind behind the onewoman knockout stage adaptation, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. By Cahir O’Doherty
88 The Maid Behind the Mayhem
An interview with Long Day’s Journey Into Night’s underappreciated maid, Colby Minifie. By Robert M. Dowling
92 The Springs of Affection
Writer Anne Enright discusses the complicated legacy of the New Yorker’s Maeve Brennan. By Patricia Harty
96 Sláinte! Women Rule
A brief history of women in power in Ireland. By Edythe Preet
Robert Schmuhl on Moira Regan, whose testimony about the Rising appeared in a 43-paragraph feature in the Times Magazine in August 1916.
Departments 8 10 12 94 100 103 104
First Word Readers Forum Hibernia Books Those We Lost Crossword Photo Album
Cover Photo: Rosalie O’Connor
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contributors | Sarah Buscher,
who profiles Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson and writes on the Kennedy Center’s Ireland 100 festival for this issue, is an educator living in Washington, D.C. with her husband and four children. Previously, she worked as assistant editor for Irish America. She holds master’s degrees in both Irish studies and elementary education.
Robert M. Dowling speaks with
actress Colby Minifie, currently appearing in the Long Day’s Journey Into Night Broadway revival. He is a professor of English at Central Connecticut State University and the author of Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Adam Farley, Irish America’s deputy
editor, interviews Maureen Mitchell and writes on the new Nora Barnacle musical, Himself and Nora, for this issue. He holds a Master of Arts in Irish and Irish American Studies from NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, where he specialized in modern and contemporary Irish poetry, and a bachelor’s in creative writing from the University of Washington. He lives in Brooklyn.
Kristin Cotter McGowan, who speaks with fiddler Eileen Ivers for this issue, is a former Irish America intern and current freelance writer living in Glen Rock, NJ, with her husband and three young daughters.
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Vol.31 No.4 •June/July 2016
IRISH AMERICA Rosalie O’Connor,
whose photographs of ABT principal Gillian Murphy appear in this issue, was born in Vienna, Austria and raised in New Orleans. She moved to New York City at the age of 15, to attend The School of American Ballet. At 17, she became a professional dancer with American Ballet Theatre, where she remained for 15 years until her retirement in 2002. Rosalie began photographing the company from within. For her last six years she juggled both passions and taught herself on the job. In addition to most dance periodicals, her photographs have also appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times. Her images have been displayed in solo exhibitions at Lincoln Center in New York and Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She resides in New York City yet she travels extensively for assignments as a freelance photographer.
is the arts editor of the Irish Voice and a weekly columnist for IrishCentral, where he reports on Irish film, theater, and television. He is a graduate of the University of Ulster and Yale University. He is a frequent commentator on Newstalk, RTÉ, SiriusXM, and the BBC. Here, he writes on the re-opening of New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre and the stage adaptation of Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing.
co-authored, with Sean Kelly, the best-selling humor/reference book, Saints Preserve Us! (Random House) currently in its 18th international printing. The duo collaborated on four other books for Random House and calendars for Barnes & Noble. Rogers co-wrote two info/entertainment books for St. Martin’s Press. She’s currently co-writing a book on empires for City Light Publishing. In this issue, she writes on New Orleans’s “Mother of Orphans,” Margaret Haughery.
Pride In Our Heritage
Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/ Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Deputy Editor: Adam Farley Art Director: Marian Fairweather Advertising & Editorial Assistant: Áine Mc Manamon Copy Editor: Bríd Long Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Julia Brodsky R. Bryan Willits
875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344 Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org www.irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-7252993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: email@example.com. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries:1-800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 150. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
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the first word | By Patricia Harty
“Reach For the Stars” “We are adventuring into a new world.” – Astronaut Eileen Collins.
he idea of an issue devoted to women has been brewing for some time but it really took hold these past months with all of the 1916 commemorations and celebrations marking Ireland’s rebellion. Finally, the Women of the Rising are getting their due, and there has been a plethora of articles showing us just how active women were in Ireland’s fight for Independence. All the hoopla caused us to consider today’s women and that became the impetus for this special issue celebrating our Top 50 Power Women. Our honorees come for all walks of life, but they are bound by a deep appreciation for the influence of their heritage on who they are today and the opportunities made available to them by their forebears. Unlike other countries, Irish woman emigrated in numbers equal to men. Between 1846 and 1875, half of the 2,700,000 Irish entering the United States were female. By the 1870s, female immigrants outnumbered the males. As single women, they found jobs as live-in maids and cooks and housekeepers in New York, Boston, and other cities. The work was hard, the hours long, and the pay not great, but they had a roof over their heads, and they sent money back home to keep the roof over their parents’ heads, and pay for passage over for younger brothers and sisters. (From 1850 to 1900 an estimated 260 million dollars was sent home to Ireland from daughters and sons in America). We see the lives of those early Irish immigrants reflected in today’s immigrants who, struggling in low-paying jobs, are sending what money they can back home, and striving to educate their children. These immigrants have their champions in the labor unions, as the Irish did. None more so than our Top 50 Power Women honoree Mary Kay Henry, who as president of the Service Employees International Union represents about 2.1 million workers. Mary Kay was instrumental in the fight to raise the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $15 an hour. We see this empathy for others in so many of our Top 50 honorees. Maureen Mitchell is a powerhouse in corporate America, where she promotes diversity in the workplace. She is also passionate about helping young women in poorer countries achieve their dreams through the non-profit She’s the First, an organization that provides scholarships to girls in developing countries to attend high school. Maureen became involved with the She’s the First because “it spoke to me of my mother’s background,” she tells Adam Farley in a far-reaching interview, in which she discusses her work, her upbringing as the daughter of immigrants, and what her success means to her. In other interviews too, we see the power of women to 8 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
enact change. Our most visible woman in Irish America is the dynamo Anne Anderson, Ireland’s ambassador to the United States. Anne is passionate about inclusivity, something that became important to her during her time at the U.N. “[Inclusivity] is something that I have always, instinctively been very attached to,” she tells Sarah Buscher, “a deep sense of equality, equal rights . . . women’s rights, human rights.” Meanwhile, Roma Downey, the actress, producer, and director, is helping to bring a smile to the faces of children born with cleft lips and palates through her work with Operation Smile. Others are spreading the joy through the arts. Several of our honorees, evoking the long tradition of Irish storytellers, are writers. The world of music and dance is also represented. Eileen Ivers, who electrifies the audience with her dazzling fiddle-playing, also spends her time bringing music to schools. “We want children to learn, to be influenced by the arts, to be moved by roots music, and to see that it isn’t an archaic art form. It’s relevant today. It’s an extension of the past right into the present,” she tells Kristin McGowan. The Irish love of dance is given expression in Gillian Murphy, the star of American Ballet Theatre, who has been dancing since the time she could walk. She is astonishing in this season’s ABT repertoire at Lincoln Center. I caught her opening night performance in Sylvia, and the following week, her 20th anniversary performance in La Fille mal gardée, which had the audience bursting into spontaneous applause at her ability to make the most difficult feats look effortless and joyful. Echoing the spirit of earlier generations, Gillian knows that it’s not just enough to have natural talent, success takes hard work and focus. “I think with true passion you can do so much more than you think is possible,” she told me when we spoke for this issue’s cover story. This determination is a characteristic that all our Top 50 Power Women share; the knowing that to reach for the stars you have to stay on your toes. (And in Gillian’s case, a mother who will drive you an hour and a half each way to ballet class). We applaud all our wonderful women profiled in this issue, and we remember those who went before. They passed on to us not just an ethos of hard work but their joy of expression, their love of a good laugh, and delight in music and dance; all the things that carried them through hard times and helped them celebrate the good. That is their true gift to us. Mórtas Cine.
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letters | readers forum
Hall of Fame
I congratulate all the recipients and wish to offer a special salute to Pete Hamill, a proud Irish American and the quintessential New Yorker, who continues to chronicle his great city better than any other journalist in the business. Mr. Hamill inspired me many years ago to pursue a writing career. No writer has ever written better opening lead-ins to their columns than this enormously talented man. Cheers!
Hall of Famers, General Dempsey, Ed Kenney, Pete Hamill, and Eileen Collins pictured with President Clinton.
John Esposito, submitted online
My dad was serving the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he died suddenly, in 1962. General Dempsey would have been a man after his own heart. Thank you for a marvelous article. Melissa H., submitted online
Way to go Ed Kenney. So well deserved, and well-written by Ed, Jr. Good to call you and Brigid family. Congrats and God bless.
John and Cynthia Aversano, submitted online
Eileen Collins is a hero for the ages. She shows you what you can do with grit and determination.
Nora Egan, submitted email
The Irish of Barbados
Eye-opening history. As a child and over the years I visited Barbados to see family that remained in Barbados. I never knew the origins of the people of St. Andrews Parish. It is now 2016 and help should be forthcoming to improve the lives of all the survivors of the transatlantic slave trade.
Tom Moss Butler, submitted online
Dear Julia: Personal Reflections on 1916 and its Aftermath
Enjoyed the letters very much. My great-grandfather was Edmund Fraher who was married to a Julia Meara. They were living in Ballinlough, Co. Limerick in 1841 when my great-grandfather Daniel was born. The family with five children emigrated to New York in 1853 and ended up in Chicago in the 1870’s.
James Fraher, submitted online
Julia Fraher. 10 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Thanks for the article – and free to read, too! Interesting. Nora [Connolly] is such a beautiful name. They say the Greeks and the Irish, of all peoples, have written the most songs about their homeland.
Peter Garland, Oakland, CA
I am the eldest son of Maureen Reid, one of the subjects of Colin Davidson’s exhibition “Silent Testimony,” which you feature in your current edition. She was a remarkable woman and mother and outstanding Irishwoman. Her life is the stuff of movies. The last weekend of the exhibition in the Ulster Museum in Belfast overlapped with the opening of the Rembrandt exhibition. The craic in North Belfast is that more people went to look at my mother’s beak than that ould fella Rembrandt! She called herself a dunce all her life and after 40 years of trauma, she has become famous through the spreading of her story and her portrait by Colin. I have tried to honor her memory in a poetic way and as a small way of helping my brothers and sisters deal with such an incredible life and incredible loss. John James Reid
Editor’s note: Read one of John’s poems to his mother on page 93.
Visit us online at Irishamerica.com to leave your comments, or: Send a fax (212-244-
3344), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or write to Letters, Irish America Magazine, 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Letters should include the writer’s name, address and phone number and may be edited for clarity and length.
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hibernia | news from ireland N.I. Assembly Gets First Opposition Government
n opposition government at Stormont is beginning to take shape after the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) decided to opt for opposition rather than take part in the power-sharing executive after Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness were re-appointed as the assembly’s First and Deputy First Ministers in May. It is the first opposition government in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement went into effect. alestinian poet and activist The UUP’s Mike Nesbitt (above left), citing the Rafeef Ziadah led the annual party’s new role as opposition said, “We have a job TOP RIGHT: Walk leaders Clare 10.5 mile Afri famine walk in to do, because now we’re the only party holding O’Grady Walshe and Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, in May. The the DUP and Sinn Féin’s feet to the fire to achieve her son John (with walk, which has been around since a proper progressive program for government.” glasses) and Dunnes 1988, traces the footsteps of hundreds Colum Eastwood (below left) of the SDLP agreed, Stores anti-Apartheid Striker Cathryn of famine victims who were turned stating, “we are going to work very, very hard to put O’Reilly (with blue away from local landlords at Delphi forward alternatives to what the other parties have jacket) lead the walk Lodge on May 30, 1849. done and what they have failed to do.” out of Delphi Lodge on route to Louis“Exhausted, weak and emaciated, In theory, supporters of an opposition government burgh, Co. Mayo. many of them were blown into the say, the arrangement will allow for a more honest, ABOVE: Palestinian water on their return to Louisburgh,” accountable executive. In practice, however, according poet Rafeef Ziadah state council member Ruairi McKierto its detractors, it could result in gridlock and the collapse speaking to the assembled crowd in nan said. of the executive and the power-sharing agreement outlined in advance of the For walk leader Rafeef Ziadah, who the Good Friday Agreement. Famine Walk in the is on a tour of Ireland at present, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams furthered that both opposition parties Doolough Valley. the walk has a special significance. should have made their intentions clear during the recent election, and “I’ll be walking to honor those who walked remained skeptical of the possibility for success. those roads during the famine, and for my own “These were the two lead parties in government for nine years and they grandparents who were forced out of Palestine in made a mess of it,” he told journalists in Belfast. “The political institutions were 1948 when the state of Israel was created.” – A.F. suspended twice and crashed twice.” – R.B.W.
28th Annual Afri Famine Walk
Queen Elizabeth Denies Twelve-year-old’s Request for Return of the Six Counties
fter learning about the Easter Rising and subsequent Troubles, Reese Kilbride, a 12year-old Irish student from Portmarnock, Co. Dublin, wrote a letter to the Queen of England in February asking that she kindly return the six counties of Northern Ireland to the Republic. “They had the six counties, they didn’t give back all of Ireland,” Kilbride told Irish radio station Newstalk. “So I thought they should give it back.” Kilbride even included a picture that he drew of himself, his friend, and the Queen standing together in front of Buckingham Palace. To his surprise, an official response on Buck12 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
ingham Palace letterhead came in April. The letter, signed by the Queen’s deputy correspondent Jennie Vine, was ultimately a letter of thanks and declined to return the counties. “The Queen has asked me to thank you for your recent letter in which you wished to tell Her Majesty that you have been learning about the history of the Easter Rising 1916,” it read. “While it was thoughtful of you to let The Queen know of your views, I must explain that this is not a matter in which Her Majesty would intervene.” “Her Majesty has asked me to thank you for the pictures you drew especially for her,” it added. – R.B.W.
Ireland Elected to UN Commission on the Status of Women for the First Time Ever
n April, Ireland was elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Charles Flanagan, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade said at the time that Ireland “will use this opportunity to strengthen the Commission’s role and to build on our international engagement on the full realization of the rights of women and girls.” The election came a month before Ireland was roundly criticized by U.N. member states for its “restrictive abortion regime” in Geneva in May during its second Universal Periodic Review, which allows member states to pose human rights-related questions. Ireland faced questioning and skepticism for Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution, which states that “the biological existence of a fetus is put on an equal basis with the right to life of a pregnant woman.” – R.B.W.
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Bear Bone Discovery Potentially Re-writes Human History in Ireland
n exciting artifact that changes what is currently known about human history in Ireland has been found in a cardboard box. A bear bone, which was discovered in a cave in Co. Clare in 1903 and lay unexamined in storage at the National Museum of Ireland until earlier this year, exhibits evidence that the hapless beast had been butchered by human hands 12,500 years ago, more than 2,000 years before scientists believed humans began to live on the island. The bear’s patella, or knee bone (pictured left), was re-examined by Dr. Marion Dowd, an archaeologist at the Institute of Technology Sligo, and Dr. Ruth Carden, a research associate with the National Museum of Ireland, who had the bones temporal origins examined through radiocarbon dating. “Archaeologists have been searching for the Irish Palaeolithic since the 19th century, and now, finally, the first piece of the jigsaw has been revealed,” Dowd told IT Sligo News. “This find adds a new chapter to the human history of Ireland.” As a specialist in cave archaeology, Dowd was naturally interested in the bear patella and together with Carden, had the bone radiocarbon dated at Chrono Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, and then at University of Oxford to test the validity of the initial result. Both indicated that the bear was butchered about 12,500 years ago, while three separate bone specialists confirmed that the cut marks were made on fresh bone, ultimately proving that they were essentially the same age as the patella, and thus, that human life existed in Ireland some 2,500 years earlier than previously thought. “From a zoological point of view, this is very exciting, since up to now we have not factored in a possible ‘human-dimension’ when we are studying patterns of colonization and local extinctions of species to Ireland,” noted Carden, to which she added, “This paper should generate a lot of discussion within the zoological research world and it’s time to start thinking outside the box… or even dismantling it entirely!” – R.B.W.
Ashford Castle Named Best in World
shford Castle, a massive hotel located at the shores of Lough Corrib on 350 acres of verdant Co. Mayo land, has been prestigiously ranked as the best hotel in the world by Virtuoso, a luxury travel network composed of 9,000 global specialists. The award was given to the five-star luxury hotel at the Best of the Best Awards during Virtuoso Travel Week, a luxury travel show in Las Vegas. Boasting 82 rooms, a 32-seat cinema, a spa, and for those with more adventurous, exotic tastes, the hotel also hosts Ireland’s first school of falconry, not to mention the archery, fishing, shooting, and golfing facilities also on-site. “Ashford represents a time stamp of the eras,” according to Virtuoso travel advisor Julie Smothers of Montgomery, Alabama. “Its staff members are like
warm and inviting walking history books.” Indeed, Ashford Castle holds a special place in Irish history and culture, as it was once owned by Lord and Lady Ardilaun of the Guinness family, and also hosted John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara during the filming of The Quiet Man. Recently purchased by the Tollman family of Red Carnation Hotel Group fame, the new owners put $74.7 million into restoring this historic site, bringing about a new era for the castle and the accolades that have come with such an ambitious project. Ashford Castle General Manager Niall Rochford Speaking told the Connacht Telegraph, “we are thrilled to have been awarded one of the luxury travel industry’s top awards.” – R.B.W.
Donegal Man Shaves Seconds off Sheep Shearing World Record
o. Donegal man Ivan Scott (below left) has recently beaten the Guinness World Record for the fastest time in shearing a single adult sheep. Scott, 33, hails from Kilmacrennan and broke the record live on RTÉ’s Big Week on the Farm in April, shearing his sheep in 37.9 seconds, beating the previous record of 39.31 seconds which was set in Australia in 2010. Scott is no tyro when it comes to the craft of sheep shearing either, as he is an eight-time All-Ireland sheep shearing champion. In New Zealand in 2012, Scott also set the record for the number of sheep sheared in eight hours after shearing on average over 1.5 lambs per minute, totalling 744 in the eight hour stint. His most recent record was overseen by Guinness World Record adjudicator Glenn Pollard and chair of the Irish Sheep Shearing Association Tom Dunne, who assessed if the sheep was sheared to World Shearing Committee standards and ensured that the sheep did not suffer from any nicks or cuts after Scott rid it of its wool, which had to weigh in total three kilos after being sheared. Scott managed 3.92 kilos in his record breaking time. – R.B.W. JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 13
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hibernia | news from ireland Two Irish Writers Shortlisted for Bailey’s Prize
rish novelists Anne Enright and Lisa McInerney have been shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, a £30,000 prize awarded for any original novel written in English and published in the U.K. Enright (right, above), one of Ireland’s bestknown writers, was nominated for her 2015 novel The Green Road, which focuses on four siblings who return home when their mother announces her intent to sell their childhood home in the west of Ireland. She also currently serves as Ireland’s Fiction Laureate. On the other end of the shortlist is McInerney (right, below), whose debut novel The Glorious Heresies, which centers on the Cork criminal underworld,
was nominated. McInerney, who had only written one short story before embarking on the novel, was recently called “the most talented writer at work today in Ireland” by the Irish Times, in part due to her blog, founded in 2006, which she described as “a gonzo version of workingclass Ireland.” It is appropriately called Arse End of Ireland. The other four shortlisters are British film director and writer Hannah Rothschild, for The Improbability of Love, and Americans Cynthia Bond, Hanya Yanagihara, and Elizabeth McKenzie. The award-winner of the prize, formerly called the Orange prize, will be announced June 8. – A.F.
National Library of Ireland Receives Donation of Yeats’s Nobel Prize Medal
he National Library of Ireland has announced the receipt of the medal awarded to W.B. Yeats for winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. The medal, valued at approximately $1.7 million, and the accompanying diploma were donated to the Library by the Yeats family and were received at a special event in April. Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 for his “always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.” Commenting on the donation, Dr. Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library of Ireland, said, “We are honored to receive W.B. Yeats’s Nobel Prize medal and we are extremely grateful for the extraordinary generosity of generations of the Yeats family. The Library already holds the personal library and papers of W.B. Yeats and the donation of his Nobel Prize medal really completes the story of one of Ireland’s greatest poets here in the National Library.” Granddaughter of W.B. Yeats, Catríona Yeats, said that the family was “delighted that the medal will be added to the Library’s Yeats Collection.” Per Hallström, Chairman of the Nobel Committee of the Swedish Academy at the time of Yeats’s award, praised Yeats’s ability to “follow the spirit that early appointed him the interpreter of his country,” while Yeats himself considered the prize less for himself than his country, calling it “Europe’s welcome to the Free State.” – R.B.W.
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Quilt Commemorates the Lives of 77 Women Detained after Rising
s is all too often the case, the story of the role played by women in major historical events is often overlooked, downplayed, or altogether covered up. But the story of the women arrested following the 1916 Easter Rising now acts as its own cover, so to speak, since the completion of a quilt that commemorates the lives of the 77 women arrested and detained at Richmond Barracks after the Rising. The quilt acts as a syncretistic time portal, bringing the lives of the 77 women detained at Richmond Barracks to life alongside the lives of the 77 women who helped to print and embroider the quilt, which was unveiled as part of the commemoration ceremony for the women of 1916 in March. The quilt is part of a touring exhibition that is travelling around Ireland, but it will eventually hang in the barracks. “A group of 77 women were invited to creatively respond to the stories of the 77 women imprisoned in Richmond Barracks. This group was selected to reflect the diversity of women’s experience in contemporary Ireland,” reads the page dedicated to the exhibit on the Richmond Barracks website. “The project was an opportunity for participants to re-visit the motivation of the women who took part in the Rising and at the same time to reflect on their own vision for Ireland, 100 years from now.” The project was designed and coordinated by The Yarn School, a textile studio based in Goldenbridge, Dublin. Meanwhile, historians Mary McAuliffe and Liz Gillis did extensive research on the lives of the women in order to guide the work of the 77 quilters. – R.B.W. ABOVE: Members of the Yarn School in front of a portrait of the women held at Richmond Barracks in Dublin after the Rising. LEFT: The Nobel Prize in Literature.
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hibernia | irish eye on hollywood
By Tom Deignan
A Colorful Career for Saoirse he Affleck family just can’t seem to get enough of Irish American novelist Dennis Lehane. Hollywood’s latest Batman, Ben Affleck, is going to get back in touch with his more gritty side (The Town, Good Will Hunting) by bringing one of Lehane’s Joe Coughlin novels to the big screen as a director. Entitled Live by Night, the book is the second in a trilogy of books set in the early 20th century revolving around a Boston Irish gangster named Joe Coughlin. The stellar cast for Live by Night, thus far, includes celebrated Irish actor Brendan Gleeson as well as
Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper and Elle Fanning. This is not the first time Ben Affleck has directed a movie based on a book by Lehane (whose parents were Irish immigrants). Back in 2007, Affleck directed Gone Baby Gone, a book in Lehane’s popular Kenzie-Gennaro series. The film even starred Affleck’s brother Casey. Look for Live by Night around the fall of 2017, when movie studios begin to roll out their prestige pictures for Oscar consideration.
Assassin’s Creed, Alien Covenant & More
peaking of Brendan Gleeson, the busy thespian is also teaming up with fellow Irish actor Michael Fassbender in not one but two upcoming movies. The dynamic duo will team up for Assassin’s Creed, the action adventure film based on the popular video game. Assasin’s Creed is currently slated for a Christmas 2016 release. (Brendan’s son Brian is also in the flick.) Then Fassbender and Gleeson will appear in the upcoming British crime drama Trespass Against Us. Directed by Adam Scott, Trespass Against Us also stars Rory Kinnear and Sean Harris. Incidentally, the latter British-born actor, best known for 24 Hour Party People and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, was also slated to star as an Irish character named “Mad Sweeney” in the upcoming TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s popular epic fantasy novel American Gods. But Harris has bowed out. Replacing Harris as “Mad Sweeney” is the (not-particularlyIrish) Pablo Schreiber.
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t’s fitting that Michael Fassbender is working with Brendan Gleeson these days because Fassbender’s schedule is nearly as packed as Gleeson’s. Fassbender was in the spring blockbuster X-Men: Apocalypse. And in September, look for Fassbender opposite Academy Award winner Alicia Vilkander in The Light Between Oceans. Then there is the long-awaited Terrence Malick movie Weightless, the Norwegian crime thriller, based on Jo Nesbo’s novel, The Snowman, and finally, in 2017, Alien: Covenant.
lien: Covenant, in fact, is also an Irish collaboration of sorts. The film was written by longtime screenwriter, playwright, and producer John Logan, whose parents came to the U.S. from Northern Ireland. Logan has had a long, glittering career in Hollywood, writing the screenplays for Oscar-nominated films such as Hugo and The Aviator. Logan also wrote the screenplay for Gladiator (which was also nominated for a writing Academy Award), Any Given Sunday, Rango, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Logan’s most recent works are the film Genius, about the life of literary editor Maxwell Perkins, as well as the Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful, which Logan created.
Rhys Meyers In Roots
Jonathan Rhys Meyers had a major role in the updated version of Roots, the epic mini-series about slavery which made a big splash on several cable channels back in May. The Dublin actor played Tom Lea, a North Carolina slave owner whose children are central to key plot conflicts in the story. Up next for Rhys Meyers are a rock-n-roll film and a thriller – London Town and Shadow. In the former, Rhys Meyers will play Joe Strummer, frontman of the legendary rock band The Clash. London Town also stars Dougray Scott as well as Natascha McElhone. Rhys Meyers will also appear opposite Brit Shaw and Michael Biehn in the suspensethriller Shadow.
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Loving Ruth Negga
n another film about breaking racial barriers, Ruth Negga is among the cast of Loving, which was featured at Ruth the Cannes Film Festival back in May. Negga Negga was born to an Irish mother and Ethiopian father. She lived in Ethiopia until she was four but moved to Limerick after her father died when she was seven. Loving also stars Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton. Negga stars as Mildred Loving, a black woman who married Richard Loving in 1950s Virginia, in defiance of the state’s law banning interracial marriage. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which unanimously struck down such state laws. The film will certainly strike a nerve given the ongoing debate over gay marriage. Look for Loving to hit theaters nationwide in November.
Sinéad the Sleuth
rish star of stage and screen Sinéad Cusack (V for Vendetta, Eastern Promises) will star in a new British crime TV show that will soon be available to American audiences via Netflix. Entitled Marcella, the show stars Anna Friel as the title sleuth, who has been out of work for years on maternity leave. Once she returns to her job with the Murder Squad of the Metropolitan Police, she has to not only solve brutal crimes but also adjust to new realities of police work and her own personal life.
The Real O’Neals
n other TV news, for better or worse, ABC has renewed the sitcom The Real O’Neals. The show looks at what some have called a typical Irish Catholic family – whose son has just come out as gay. While ratings for the show – based in part on the life of advice columnist and author Dan Savage – were good enough to grant it a second season, the show had a number of critics. Some charged it was peddling stereotypes about Catholics. In an ad in the New York Times, president of the Catholic League Bill Donohue said Savage’s “maniacal hatred of Catholicism is so strong that it would be as though David Duke were hired to produce a show about African Americans.” Meanwhile, a group calling itself One Million Moms called Savage an “anti-Christian bigot.”
Gabriel and Colin for Carrie Pilby
An Irish veteran and newcomer will get together for an upcoming comedy film. Gabriel Byrne as well as Drogheda native Colin O’Donoghue will both appear (alongside Nathan Lane, Jason Ritter and Vanessa Bayer) in the film Carrie Pilby. The film explores the life of a successful and ambitious young woman who attends Harvard, but is also socially inept. The film is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Caren Lissner.
A Couple of Irish Crooks
rish actors Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor will also be teaming up to play a couple of Irish crooks. In the film Free Fire – also starring Armie Hammer and Brie Larson – a couple of criminals are looking to sell guns and a pair of Irishmen, Murphy and Reynor, happen to be in the market for firearms. Martin Scorsese is serving as Executive Producer for Free Fire, so expect lots of bloodshed and chaos. Murphy, meanwhile, is also working on a film called Anthropoid. He will be joined in this World War II thriller by Northern Ireland actor Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey). Murphy and Dornan play allied soldiers charged with assassinating a Nazi officer who has earned the nickname “The Butcher of Prague.” Anthropoid is slated to begin filming this summer. Jack Reynor, meanwhile – who just appeared in Irish director John Carney’s latest movie Sing Street – is scheduled to appear in yet another adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. This one is not set to hit theaters until 2018 – just two years after another adaptation of the children’s classic, which graced screens earlier this year.
Gillen in Maze Runner
inally, Dublin actor Aidan Gillen also appeared in Sing Street, and over the years has become a regular in high-quality TV dramas such as The Wire and Game of Thrones. This year he was in the cast of the latest Maze Runner movie, sub-titled The Scorch Trials. The next entry in the series – also starring Gillen – will hit theaters in 2017 and is entitled Maze Runner: Death Cure.
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hibernia | news
aoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed that Vice President Joe Biden will make his first official visit to Ireland in late June. The announcement was made at the opening night of Ireland 100, a three-week cultural and arts festival at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. in May. Though Biden has made several refueling stops at Shannon Airport, where he and his staff are said to frequent the duty-free shops (the world’s first), the June trip will be his first extended tour of the country. Kenny said at the event that the vice president will be “coming home” to Ireland. “You’ll see what your mother and grandmother said, that the céad míle fáilte really means that – one hundred thousand welcomes – so be ready,” he said. Kenny was recently reelected as Taoiseach following a period of electoral uncertainty earlier this year in which no parties were able to come to a consensus on a new government. Biden, who grew up in the heavily Irish American town of Scranton, PA,
will travel with his family and visit his ancestral homes in counties Louth and Mayo, and meet with Enda Kenney, according to the vice president’s office. He is also scheduled to visit Ballina, Scranton’s sister city. Speaking at the event, Biden said that “being Irish, without fear of contradiction, has shaped my entire life.” Biden has always worn his Irish heritage and Catholic faith proudly, coming to be defined as much by them as by his policies. His great-great paternal grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from Knockmore, Co. Mayo at only 18-years old, and his great-great maternal grandfather emigrated from Cooley, County Louth in 1850, genealogist Megan Smolenyak discovered researching his Irish ancestors on the occasion of his induction to the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2013. – A.F.
Mary Davis Named Special Olympics CEO
he special Olympics announced the appointment of Mary Davis (below left) as their new chief executive officer, where she will lead the world’s largest global movement for the empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities which currently serves nearly 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities and holds more than 94,000 competitions each year. Davis, who is from Ireland, boasts lifelong involvement within the Special Olympics. She has been serving as acting CEO since October 2015, but her appointment as CEO marks the first time in the organization’s history that a person from outside the United States has held the position. “Mary Davis has been a champion for the rights and inclusion of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities all her working life. She is a proven leader who knows how to envision a goal, craft a strategy for achieving it, and most importantly, lead a team in reaching it,” said Timothy Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics, and nephew of JFK. “Every position I have held in my nearly 40 years with the Special Olympics movement has prepared me for this role – the role of a lifetime,” says Davis. “I am honored to take on this role and lead our organization to not only provide high quality sports experiences for our athletes every day around the world, but also engage key influencers and communities to help us create positive attitudes and bring about permanent change towards the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”– R.B.W. 18 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
PHOTO BY: SADE JOSEPH
VP Biden to Visit Ireland
Connecticut Governor Awarded JFK Profile in Courage Award
annel P. Malloy, Governor of Connecticut, has been awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his advocacy on behalf of Syrian refugees, even welcoming one family into his own home. The prestigious award is named after President Kennedy’s book, Profiles in Courage, and is given annually to public officials who exhibit considerable courage and take a political risk by acting on principle.
The award was presented by Jack Schlossberg, President Kennedy’s grandson, who called attention to the fact that “half of U.S. governors, numerous leading presidential candidates, and countless others across our country called for a ban on any and all Syrian refugees,” during a ceremony at the Kennedy library. The family Governor Malloy took in had originally intended to move to Indiana. But following recent attacks in Paris many Republican governors, including Mike Pence of Indiana, closed their states to Syrian refugees. “Suddenly in the middle of darkness, there was a light, a person who was generous in spirit and who was good, who accepted us,” said the mother of the family. “There are those who would deny the very fabric of who we are and what we are, they would roll back the religious freedom we all hold so dear,” Malloy told the crowd at the ceremony. “When I saw that, I decided to raise my voice.” – R.B.W.
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hibernia | news Forgotten Faces of Art: The Women of the Honan Chapel
he stories of the extraordinary Irish women behind the design of the textiles at the Honan Chapel in Cork city and their contribution to Ireland’s arts and crafts movement have been largely ignored, according to Virginia Teehan, Director of Cultural Projects at University College Cork. “Like many of their generation, the stories of the women who created these wonderful artworks were often swept aside and their contributions to artists’ practice was some-
Research appeal for help in finding Irish suffragette objects
times completely ignored, or at best diminished,” she says. Many of these women worked in studios like the Dun Emer Guild, the first collective for female artists, founded by Evelyn Gleeson and the Yeats sisters Lilly and Lolly in Dundrum, Co. Dublin in 1902. The Dun Emer Guild made many of the large textiles commissioned for the Honan Chapel, while in Cork city, the firm Michael Barry Egan on Patrick Street made a number of the Honan vestments. “The women’s pride in their work is evident from the fact that they embroidered their names on the artworks. These inscriptions are a fragile testimony to the creativity and skill of the artists,” Teehan says. Conceived at the height of the Irish Revival and consecrated in 1916, the Honan Chapel is one of the finest examples of 20th century Irish design. A number of items from the Honan Chapel Collection of artworks are currently on display at The Arts and Crafts Movement: Making it Irish, a major U.S. exhibition at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College. – A.F.
n Irish researcher is currently undertaking a public appeal for information on surviving objects related to the Irish women suffragettes who fought for the right to vote nationally almost a hundred years ago. Donna Gilligan is a museum archaeologist and material culture historian who is compiling a research thesis on the visual and material culture of the Irish women’s suffrage movement. The year 2018 will mark the centenary of the first granting of the right of national vote to Irish women. Donna hopes to record any surviving suffrage material in her research catalogue, with the aim of publishing this record by the time of the centenary. Her early research has uncovered very few surviving objects present in our museums and archives, and it appears that the ongoing nationalist movement formed the main focus of contemporary collection of objects from this period. The numerous Irish suffragist groups are known to have produced a range of promotional objects for their cause, with many of these displaying the national colors, as well as suffrage slogans and organizational acronyms. A large number of domestic objects are also known to have been used by suffragists during public demonstrations and militant protests. It is Donna’s hope that many suffragist objects may today be held in private and family collections, and may not yet have been officially documented. For anyone who has, or knows of, any associated suffrage objects, contact her at email@example.com. – I.A.
Mary Robinson Centre to Host International Sustainability Symposium
he Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina, Co. Mayo is hosting an international symposium in July in partnership with the National University of Ireland Galway’s Centre for Global Women’s Studies. The two-day symposium will cover issues of peace, development, equality, and human rights. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, who currently serves as the U.N. SecretaryGeneral’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, says the symposium “will bring together in Ballina an outstanding group of sustainable development champions from Ireland and around the world. It will begin a very important international conversation that puts human rights, peace, tackling inequalities, and promoting women’s leadership at the heart of our collective efforts to implement the new U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.” The Mary Robinson Centre will be Ireland’s first Presidential library, located at Victoria House in Ballina, Co. Mayo, the birthplace of the former President of Ireland. Due to open in 2018, it will comprise a museum, archive, research facility, educational centre and events venue. In addition to sharing the achievements of Ireland’s first female president, the Mary Robinson Centre will use Mary’s legacy to inspire and foster personal leadership in promoting human rights, gender equality and women’s leadership. For more information, or to register, visit conference.ie. – A.F.
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IA.Hib21-22_IA Template 6/3/16 11:33 AM Page 21 Kevin Fortuna in Haiti in 2010 following the earthquake.
hibernia | aid The King’s Irish and American Roots
A Perfect Pairing
rish humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide and Lot18, an online wine retailer, launched a partnership in May for a unique fundraising effort – a limitededition Concern label wine. For each bottle sold, more than 20 percent of the proceeds will go directly to Concern. The partnership was developed by Kevin Fortuna, CEO of Lot18 and a long-time board member of Concern. Fortuna has also pledged that a guaranteed $10,000 minimum donation will be made to Concern. Fortuna has seen first-hand the type of work Concern does, traveling most recently to Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake. “The idea came about because
Lot18, which is a winery, does its own custom labels, and we thought a Concern wine would be a great way to pay tribute to the great work of concern and support the charity,” he says. As for the wine, a 2013 Monterey County red blend, he says, “we picked a fantastic red wine that has already gotten great feedback from customers.” Lot18’s Concern label page describes it as “A surprising burst of jammy black fruit... followed by well-integrated flavors of Bing cherry, chocolate, and Earl Grey,” adding that it will “pair well with anything from a plate of stinky cheeses to herb-roasted chicken.” Fortuna also says that if this year’s run goes well, they plan to make an annual fundraiser with more vintages and bottles produced. For their initial run, about 10,000 bottles were produced. – A.F.
Irish Navy’s Refugee Rescue Mission
É Róisín, a first-of-class offshore patrol vessel set sail from Cork on Sunday May 1, on a three month rescue and recovery mission in the Mediterranean Sea. The mission’s objective is to rescue atrisk migrants who have fled from north African nations on rickety vessels in an attempt to reach the shores of Italy, Sicily, or Malta. So far this year, over 700 migrants have been listed as missing or dead, but LÉ Róisín’s mission is not without hope. The crews of the Irish vessels LÉ Eithne, LÉ Niamh, and LÉ Samuel Beckett rescued over of 8,500 people during the course of their deployments on similar missions in 2015. Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, welcomed the decision by saying, “At a time of crisis it is important to also acknowledge the vital work our naval crews are carrying out with 8,500 people alive today as a direct result of their actions to date.” Irish Defense Minister Simon Coveney also said, “The dispatch of an Irish naval vessel represents a tangible and valuable Irish national contribution to assisting with the continuing migration crisis in the Mediterranean.” – R.B.W.
hrough an 18th century document up for auction in Whyte’s Auctioneers Eclectic Collector sale, new light has been shone on the Irish ancestry of Elvis Presley and his family’s origins in Ireland and America. The document is of a legal nature and concerns claims of abuse by a group of men in Hacketstown, Co. Carlow, which were made by William Presley, Elvis’s great-great-greatgreat-grandfather, in the Carlow Court of Assizes on August 25th, 1775. William claimed in the document that he had been “violently insulted, assaulted, beat and abused” and that the men, though unprovoked, had used their “whips and fists, dragged him down by the legs,” and even gave him “several kicks in his body and face.” An Irish farmer from Co. Wicklow, William was able to identify a great many of his abusers by name. Elvis’s Irish roots via his connection to William Presley have been known to genealogists for years, but the document is, according to auctioneer Ian Whyte, still of great importance because, “Elvis’s great-great-greatgreat-grandfather left Ireland after being attacked.” “This document proves the link and explains why Elvis was born in America.” The catalogue notes for the document, which is slated to catch roughly $600 to 800 dollars in the auction, mention that William Presley later moved to Tennessee, where he died in 1802. His granddaughter Rosella, who never married, gave birth to Jesse Presley, who in turn married Minnie Mae, who gave birth to Elvis Presley’s father in 1916, just weeks before the Easter Rising. Twenty-nine years later, the King was born. – R.B.W.
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hibernia | rising The Perfect Spot: New York’s Rising Commemoration
ew York City celebrated the centenary of the Easter Rising on April 24, 100 years to the day after Pádraig Pearse read the Proclamation on Sackville Street in Dublin. More than 2,000 people gathered in Battery Park and Pier A Harbor House, at the lower tip of Manhattan with views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to commemorate the beginning of Ireland’s independence, making it the largest 1916 commemoration outside of Ireland this year. Prior to the opening of Ellis Island in 1892, Pier A was the primary entry point for immigrants coming to America through which numerous Irish republicans would have passed. Without them, Captain Peter Kelleher of the Irish Defense Forces, who read the proclamation at the event, says, the Rising might never have happened. “Being here means a lot because of the very close links between Ireland and the US.,” he told IrishCentral. “And in particular the support they had for the militant element of Irish Republicanism at the turn of the last century. It’s very moving seeing so many
people here today.” Speaking on stage of the leaders of the Rising, author and historian Peter Quinn said the commemoration indicated that “their dream is alive.” “It’s alive here; it’s alive in us, in our willingness to see in the millions who stand at the door where we once stood, not a faceless horde of strangers, not an alien race, but the image of our ancestors, an image of ourselves,” he said. Irish Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson concluded the event with the laying of a wreath at the foot of the Irish and American flags before observing a minute of silence. – A.F.
TOP: Captain Peter Kelleher reads the 1916 Proclamation. ABOVE: Consul General of Ireland in New York Barbara Jones speaks at Pier A, where numerous Irish began their lives in America.
Washington, D.C. Robert Emmet Statue Rededicated
n April, the Washington D.C. statue of Robert Emmet, the first of its kind and the model for several identical copies by Irish sculptor Jerome Connor, was rededicated in a national park currently designated as “reservation 302” by Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson. The ceremony marked the concurrent centenaries of the Easter Rising, the formation of the National Park Service, and the creation of the first commemorative statue of Robert Emmet. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the D.C. sculpture was moved to its present site, a small park located at 24th Street and Massachusetts Avenue N.W., near the Irish Embassy. In this year’s rededication, Irish Ambassador Anne Anderson commented on the importance of Robert Emmet to the leaders of 1916, and noted that, “The connection between the Robert Emmet statue and the commemoration of 1916 is not merely symbolic or circumstantial. The men and women of 1916 were heirs to a long tradition, of which Emmet’s story formed an important part. “Patrick Pearse in particular venerated LEFT: Jerome Connor’s Robert Emmet and gave Robert Emmet statue in Washington, D.C. expression to his admi-
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ration in stirring speeches he made in New York and Brooklyn during his U.S. visit in 1914,” she said. “Although over 100 years had passed since his death, this was the first statue of Robert Emmet created anywhere. And the history of the statue speaks powerfully to the Irish-American connection: commissioned by the Smithsonian, cast by Irish sculptor Jerome Connor, funded by a group of Irish Americans, and unveiled in the U.S. National Museum in the presence of President Woodrow Wilson.” The ambassador concluded the rededication with a word for future generations, saying, “today’s ceremony helps to fortify us for the future, confident that the precious friendship between our two countries will be renewed and replenished by the events of this centenary year.” Other notable figures who took part in the ceremony include Robert Vogel, the Regional Director of the National Capital Region of National Park Service, Elizabeth Broun, the director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Brendan Moore, President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th congressional district, Joseph Crowley, who has introduced legislation to officially rename the place where the statue stands as “Robert Emmet Park.” – R.B.W.
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Ciaran O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore of the Irish Rep at the recently re-opened theater.
Irish Repertory Theatre Returns in
he Irish Repertory Theatre has come home to its dramatically redesigned original space on Manhattan’s west side this month with an exciting new production of Conor McPherson’s 2006 play Shining City, a poignant play about Dubliners looking for a place to call home. Thematically it’s the perfect choice for a company that has been in exile themselves for two years at the D2 theater space in Union Square while construction was completed on their real home. In another coup for the theatre producing director Ciaran O’Reilly has cast starring two time Tony winner Matthew Broderick in the season opener. It’s a triumphant return to form for the Rep and a signal of the sheer ambition and forward planning that’s been guiding the new space. Broderick is perfectly cast as mordantly funny middle aged Dublin businessman John, who’s haunted by the recent death of his wife Mari. But that haunting is happening in more than just his memories, as he tells his counselor Ian (Billy Carter), he is actually seeing Mari’s ghost in the house they shared before her death. How did the Rep persuade Broderick, a longtime admirer of the Rep, to tackle the role? “I knew Ciaran a little bit over the years and he mentioned he was doing Shining City and asked me if I wanted to read it,” Broderick tells Irish America. “And I did and I really liked it. I was on vacation with my wife [Sex and The City’s Sarah Jessica Parker] and I couldn’t decide if I was going to do it or not because there was so much to learn but I though and thought about it and decided it was something that I would really like to do. That’s what happened.” At 54, the still boyish looking Broderick
brings his own life experience (and it must be said a certain degree of Irish melancholy) to the role, which make him a perfect fit for this atmospheric and unexpectedly funny urban ghost story. Are the lessons of his early fifties informing his performance? “A little bit, you start to assess things and you become aware of the mistakes you made and that you can’t go back, which I guess happens in this play.” Designed by Garrison Architects of New York, the renovation of the Rep’s space has increased the Rep’s seating to 150, adding a new 40-seat balcony and an airy new secondfloor rehearsal studio and gallery that is visible from the street. Downstairs, the Rep’s smaller second stage has also been impressively renovated and what once was once a low ceilinged basement space has become a flexible performance stage, opening it up not just to theater but to cabaret and other kinds of shows now. “The space is gorgeous,” says Broderick, speaking of the main stage. “It’s got this height now. When I’m on stage I can’t see the house but I can feel the room. It’s so intimate but it has some air in it now. So it just couldn’t be nicer physically. And also, is it because of Ciaran and Charlotte Moore [the Rep’s artistic director], but the atmosphere there is so lovely. The people there, unless they’re all pretending, make it clear that it’s a very nice place to work. They all seem happy. I hear no whining, or barely any, except from me!” Shining City is playing a limited run through July 3. As Broderick says himself, “I’ve seen a million shows there and they’re always good. I always like them. I think they do an amazing job with that little space.” – Cahir O’Doherty
ne of the advantages of the Irish Rep’s makeover is the addition of a reception room that doubles as an exhibition space. Geraldine O’Sullivan’s “16 Letters,” a series of lifescape collages based on letters written between 1915 and 1916, is the space’s debut art exhibition, and runs through June 26. The accompanying booklet details the artist’s process, which began with sifting through 2,000 letters at Maynooth University. The final 16 include Thomas MacDongh’s poignant last letter to his wife and a letter written Brigadier W.H.M. Lowe, commander of British Army Forces in Dublin during the Rising, on behalf of Elizabeth O’Farrell. A nurse and a member of Cumann na
mBan, O’Farrell delivered notice of the surrender to Lowe on April 29 and accompanied Pearse to the surrender the following day. Subsequently, O’Farrell was airbrushed from the photo of the surrender – only her shoes remain. Grateful for her assistance Lowe assured O’Farrell she would be released. After the surrender she was stripped and searched and imprisoned overnight in Ship St. Barracks without his knowledge. Hearing of this, he had her released, apologized and, gave her the letter permitting her freedom of movement. – P.H. For more information, visit geraldineosullivan.com. JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 23
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hibernia | events
Celebrating the 2016
Hall of Fame 2
3 Publisher Niall O'Dowd and editor Patricia Harty present a House of Waterford Crystal Bowl to President Bill Clinton.
7 President Clinton and the Proclamation.
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1. Lifetime Achievement award recipient President Bill Clinton. 2. Eileen Collins receives House of Waterford Crystal award. 3. General Dempsey and Kieran McLoughlin. 4. Brian Stack, Kieran McLoughlin and Elgin Loane. 5. Pete Hamill receives House of Waterford Crystal award. 6. Elizabeth Crabill, Nico Zenner and Alison Metcalfe. 7. Ed Kenney and family. 8. Ambassador Anne Anderson with honoree Eileen Collins.
Photos by Peter Foley
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1. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Edward Kenney, Bill Clinton, Pete Hamill, and Col. Eileen Collins. 2. Judy Collins. 3. Irish America co-founding editor Patricia Harty. 4. Coca-Cola's Hugh Gordon and performer Gregory Harrington. 5. Andrea Haughian and Tracy Blanton. 6. Irish tenor Paul Linehan with genealogist Megan Smolenyak, who discovered that Linehan is related to Annie Moore. 7. Honoree Edward Kenney. 8. Tom Moran, Mary Lou Quinlan and Joe Quinlan. 9. Lynn Bushnell, Elgin Loane and Christine Kinealy. 10. Sandra Lee and Guy Smith.
8 Astronaut Eileen Collins with the Proclamation.
Guinnessâ€™s Emma Giles with President Clinton.
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hibernia | hall of fame quotes General Martin E. Dempsey
President William Jefferson Clinton
“[The 1916 Proclamation] is a humble document in that it recognizes the very premise of democracy, which is no body should have unfettered power because nobody is right all the time. And even if you’re right, if everybody disagrees with you, you can’t prevail…. “It’s too easy to believe that the solution to the modern world is to hunker down,” he said. “It’s easy to turn away, but it’s better to go forward, because the enemies of freedom, the people who don’t really believe in diversity, they will always find a way to pierce the walls. So we need a stronger fence; we need stronger diplomacy. But we also need never to lose our willingness to reach across the barriers. And that is the great test….
“We can never let our hearts turn to stone. And we can never let things fall apart so much that we cannot build a dynamic center where the future of our children counts more than the scars of our past.”
Edward J.T. Kenney
“Thinking of my mother and father and their forebears from Tipperary and Roscommon, and my wife Brigid whose parents are from Leitrim and Cavan, it is impossible not to appreciate the fact that we all stand on the shoulders of so many who lived through such harder times and made much greater sacrifices. It is an essential part of what it means to be an Irish American and any award that comes my way is as much theirs as mine.” 26 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
“Like many of you, I reflect back on my ancestors. I am the grandson of four Irish immigrants from Mayo, Donegal, Roscommon and Sligo. And if it hadn’t been for them, none of us would have been here – and that is the nature of our country and I never allow myself to forget that.
“I was sitting on a dais just like this with President Obama and Leon Panetta, and as he walked off to be honored by the troops, President Obama leaned across to me and he said ‘Can you believe the three of us are here?’ That’s all he said. And he didn’t have to say anything else, because I knew what he meant was ‘African American, Italian American, Irish American.’ And it was one of the most powerful moments of my entire time with the president.”
“In my case, most of my life has been an alloy and I think that is typical of New Yorkers. So I am Irish and proudly so, but I am part Italian, too. The Caputos lived across the hall of our Brooklyn tenement. And I think our American lives began when Mrs. Caputo, who had pity and compassion, taught my mother how to make the sauce. We wanted nothing else for the rest of our lives. “I was also part Jewish. As a young kid, 11, an altar boy at the Catholic Church, I was stopped by a rabbi one day at the synagogue near my house in Brooklyn, and he made me the Shabbos boy. I was the guy who turned on the gas stove. I was the guy who picked up the newspaper out of the hallway, and brought it into the house.
“I was Latino, too. My closest friend for twenty years was Jose Torres and he and I would talk about my fellow Irishman in Spanish saying, ‘Mira! De hoy!’ “And I was also African American – I love jazz music; I interviewed Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey; I became friends with Max Roach, the great, great drummer from Bedford-Stuyvesant.” Read Col. Eileen Collins’s acceptance speech on page 72.
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hibernia | ireland 100
“The Finest Strands of Who We Are”
Ireland celebrates the centenary of the Easter Rising in America with a three-week cultural festival in Washington, D.C.
ne of the most notable features of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., is a large bronze bust of Kennedy himself. A world-renowned piece of art, it manages to capture the vibrancy and energy of the late Irish American president. This sculpture was bathed in the golden light of the setting sun on Tuesday, May 17 as hundreds thronged the Grand Foyer to witness the same vibrancy and energy of the launch of Ireland 100, a three-week comprehensive celebration of Irish arts and culture conceived as a commemoration of the centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916 – what better way to remember a rebellion staged by poets and playwrights than through a celebration of the history and future of the arts in Ireland? The event was a sampler of the variety of performances staged at the Kennedy Center May 17 – June 5 that blended both the traditional and the cutting edge, celebrating the considerable contributions Ireland has made to art in all of its forms. Directed by Irish-born actor, Fiona Shaw, the kick-off featured performers like choreographer Colin Dunne, fiddler Liz Knowles, singers Tara Erraught and Iarla Ó Lionáird and installation artist/musician William Close’s Earth Harp – the world’s largest stringed instrument. The evening opened with remarks by Vice President Joe Biden and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Vice President Biden, whose mother’s maiden name was Finnegan, described how growing up Irish American informed his identify and values. Following them, Fiona Shaw rushed onto the stage with all of the earnestness and intensity of a host welcoming you into her home for the first time. At one point, she sat at the edge of the stage to recount for the audience part of the ancient Irish epic the Táin Bó Cúailne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), in a graceful, subtle nod to the power of Ireland’s folklore and oral tradition. To Ireland’s very first Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, sharing this commemoration with
the United States was especially fitting. “America played a critical role in 1916,” he said. “There are real connections between America and what happened in the Easter Rising. It’s no coincidence that America is mentioned in the Proclamation. Five of the signatories of the Proclamation spent some time in America. One of the inspirations of the Rising, Thomas Clarke spent a lot of time in America. People like John Devoy and Joe McGarrity were
instrumental in providing the motivation and inspiration but also the finance to arm the volunteers.” The strength of this connection was highlighted by the swirl of social events that attended the festival’s launch. Speaking at a luncheon hosted at Washington’s National Cathedral before racing off to the U.S. Capital for a treeplanting ceremony, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, remarked on the appropriateness of celebrating this centenary through the arts: “It is in our art, our literature, our music, our drama, our dance that the finest strands of who we are, and imagine ourselves to be, are to be found.” – Sarah Buscher
FROM TOP: Fiona Shaw, Iarla Ó Lionáird, David Brophy conducts the National Symphony Orchestra. LEFT: Liz Knowles and Pat Broaders with the National Symphony Orchestra.
Photos by Margot Schulman
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hibernia | quote unquote “People have served their time and done their probation. I want you back in society. I want you feeling good about yourself. I want you voting, getting a job, paying taxes.”
“To lead in this world you will need a warrior’s heart, an immigrant’s spirit, and a servant’s soul.”
General Martin Dempsey, addressing the University of Notre Dame Class of 2016 during his commencement address. Notre Dame News, May 15.
“He asked if he would meet with my family – we had just lost my son. And he met with my extended family in the hangar behind where the aircraft was. And I wish every grieving parent, brother, sister, mother, father, would have the benefit of his words, his prayers, his presence. He provided us with more comfort than even he, I think, will understand.”
Terry McAuliffe, governor of Virginia, on restoring voting rights to more than 200,000 convicted felons. New York Times, April 23.
“I think that it is fair to say that the Irish clergy, and indeed the Irish Church, are tired and demoralized. There is a terrible dearth of leadership. Trying to bring about any meaningful change seems more and more to me like beating one’s head against a stone wall.”
Father Tony Flannery, a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland and a leading advocate for reform in the Irish Catholic Church, speaking in advance of talks with four top-ranking Irish bishops. Flannery was suspended from public ministry in 2012 for his liberal views on women priests, gay rights, and contraception. IrishCentral, May 19.
“If there comes a time when there’s no demand for Irish pubs in NYC, consider the city too far gone for redemption.” Food writer Neil Casey, on the closure of the former Jack Dempsey’s pub in New York City, which operated for over 24 years. Gothamist, April 15. 28 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Vice President Joe Biden speaking at the Vatican of his meeting Pope Francis in Philadelphia last year following the death of his son, Beau. Biden was on a diplomatic trip to Vatican City and Rome where he held a private meeting with Pope Francis, and also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. New York Times, April 30.
“The border is of the merest consequence and Co. Donegal, Co. Derry, or Londonderry, and Co. Tyrone operate as a single economic entity to the great benefit of their inhabitants. So, I can only applaud the people of all three counties for proving that it is possible for communities that have been divided for so long to overcome their differences and create a peaceful and prosperous life together.”
Charles, Prince of Wales, during his visit to the Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Donegal. UTV, May 25.
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Ambassador Œ TOP 50 POWER WOMEN
Anne Anderson, Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, reflects on her career, her role in the United States, and Ireland’s centenary.
By Sarah Buscher
t’s hard to be an Irish American living in Washington, D.C. and not run into Anne Anderson, Ireland’s first woman Ambassador. When I point this out as we sit down in the conference room of the Irish Embassy, she laughs. “I am everywhere,” she concedes. “It’s a requirement of the job, but is also a reflection of my own interests and personality and my sense of how you do the job. It’s very important for the community, I think, that they see their Ambassador. “Every day I remind myself that I am Ambassador to the United States, and not just to Washington, D.C. I interact a great deal with our six consulates around the United States. I really put a strong emphasis on getting around the country, and being present on occasions where Irish people are engaging or being honored.” As we talk, it becomes clear that along with her status and her poise as a diplomat is a very reflective mind. As she considers her current position, she points out that “It is an extraordinary privilege to be representing Ireland abroad. There is such a level of trust and such respect for the role of ambassador. It’s really respect for Ireland. So you have to try to live up to that sacred trust. It demands all your commitment and dedication and every ounce of your energy.” The Ambassador’s CV boasts a series of considerable accomplishments. A native of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, she was appointed Ambassador to France from 2005 to 2009. She served as Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations in both Geneva, where she chaired the 1999 U.N. Commission for Human Rights, and in New York. She also served as Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the European Union in Brussels, where she led the Irish team during Ireland’s 2004 E.U. presidency. Even with all of these accomplishments, the Ambassador readily points out that serving as Ireland’s ambassador to the United States is a unique opportunity. “The greatest concentration of our diaspora is
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here. It makes it very special when you have 35 million people of Irish ancestry. Nowhere else in the world do you have that concentration of the diaspora,” she says. “It’s the unique ties of history, the ties of blood, kinship and family, but that is reinforced by the contemporary connections and economic relationships.” When asked what she finds most gratifying about her job, she ponders for a moment. “Hard to choose,” she states. “It’s a multi-faceted job, because you have the different components – you have the economic component, working to further investment, trade, and tourism. You have the political component – maintaining the relationships with the administration, and the Hill. And then you have the people-to-people element, helping to strengthen Irish culture, affirming all the achievements of Irish people and Irish Americans. It’s being present for people in the bad times to express solidarity and sympathy, and being there in the good times. “I think the people-to-people part of it has to be the most gratifying,” she concludes, “because you see the importance for people of the presence and the affirmation of the Irish Ambassador. And there are wonderful occasions, like the Special Olympics last year in Los Angeles. To be there, to be able to cheer on the athletes who are doing so, so well.” When we meet, the Ambassador is quick to ensure my comfort. She is poised, yet warm, with a ready laugh. She was about to host the launch of Ireland 100, a comprehensive celebration of Irish arts and culture at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in honor of the centenary celebration of the Easter Rising – the catalyzing event that propelled Ireland toward independence. For Ambassador Anderson, this celebration is a labor of love, years in the making. Celebrating the arts is her métier. “I’ve always had a great love particularly for literature and poetry. I love to see really interesting, substantive, challenging interpretation of the arts here in the United States.
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LEFT: Ambassador Anderson loves to highlight Ireland’s dairy and meat products when she hosts gatherings at her residence, as this photo from Capitol File illustrates. BELOW: Power Women: Anne Finnucane and Anne Anderson at the American Ireland Fund Gala in Boston in March, 2015.
“I was kind of brought up on poetry,” she continues. “My mother had very little formal education. She left school at 15, perhaps barely 16, but she loved poetry and kept books where she had transcribed so many of the great poets and would constantly read those to us as children. My daughter is a literary agent. The line of women from my mother to my daughter . . .” she laughs, “I am surrounded by words!” In addition to her love of the arts, the Ambassador’s life and work have been characterized by a passion for inclusivity. “That is something that I have always, instinctively been very attached to,” she admits, “a deep sense of equality, equal rights. Of course all my time at the United Nations reinforced that attachment to equal rights, women’s rights, human rights.” Given her agenda of inclusion, the past year has proven to be particularly gratifying for the Ambassador. Almost a year prior to our meeting, Ireland voted to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples. She is quick to also cite that this year marked the first time an Irish LGBT group marched in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Additionally, the Ambassador herself broke one more glass ceiling for women this year. In March, she was the first woman inducted into the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. In her acceptance speech in Philadelphia, she hailed these developments, asserting, “There are no second class citizens; no children of a lesser God.” “I feel that if we truly have opportunities for young women of the next generation, we would see them achieving their mark across every sphere of activity,” she maintains. “That’s my hope.” “I think we have to look at what is preventing women from rising to the very top levels,” she continues. “There are more young women than young men in third level education. One would hope that means that as those cohorts of highly qualified young women work their way through the system, we will see structures become far less pyramidal and more equal.” The Ambassador sits forward and begins pushing her fingertips along the tabletop, as if pushing JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 31
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN
PHOTO: MARGARET PURCELL
women toward a place of equal opportunity. “I think time will take care of some of it,” she continues, “but we have to work very actively to make sure that what we see happening now for young women will actually be reflected in their rise through all the ranks so they get into the top positions.” Another item on the Ambassador’s agenda is immigration reform and advocating for the rights of the undocumented Irish living in the United States. This is a topic that resonates with her, professionally and personally. “My parents both came from small farming backgrounds. My mother wrote her memoirs for the family, and she describes scenes of her elder brother leaving for the United States – the American wake – and her mother weeping, ‘I will never see my son again.’ And she never did. So I had an uncle who came over, absolutely unqualified, and struggled to make a living. “Of course we never recommend that anyone allow themselves to come into that situation,” she points out, “but I feel that if my life path had taken a slightly different turn I could easily imagine
TOP: Anne Anderson presented her credentials to President Barack Obama on assuming the position of Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S. ABOVE: Ambassador Anderson pictured with President William Jefferson Clinton at Irish America’s Hall of Fame Luncheon in New York on March 30.
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myself in their situation. In the vast majority of cases they didn’t intend to become undocumented.” “I’ve met many of them,” she continues. “You know the difficulties of their lives lived in the shadows, what it means not being able to travel back to Ireland – they can travel back but they can never return. Many came a number of years ago, so their parents are becoming older and sicker, sometimes becoming terminally ill in Ireland and that awful, awful dilemma, do you go and risk the life you have here or do you stay and miss being with your parents at a time when they need you most? The awful emotional pull of that is something that I think any of us can relate to.” The Ambassador has clear, light blue eyes that become shadowed as she looks into the middle distance and shares this recollection. This is an issue she feels quite personally. When I point this out, she maintains, “It’s a policy priority for our government, but I feel very close to the people I meet who are undocumented. They’re people I can very easily identify with.” We are clearly over our allotted time. The Ambassador dashes out of the room to find me a program for the Ireland 100 festival and then realizes that it’s her personal copy, already marked with the events she’s planning to attend. “We have over three weeks of performances with hundreds of performers and I expect to get to most of those performances. I’m not quite sure how I’ll juggle them all,” she laughs. PHOTO: WHITE HOUSE / LAWRENCE JACKSON
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PHOTO: MARY KATZ
PHOTO: MARY KATZ
“We are a hugely committed part of the European family and we have unique ties to the United States. I think we can help interpret Europe to America and America to Europe because of the particularity of our position.”
This celebration is about more than Irish culture and arts. To her and her fellow citizens, this celebration is a muscular assertion of Ireland’s identity today as it reflects on the past century and looks toward the next 100 years. “What is really wonderful about it is the blend of the classical and the cutting edge,” she says. “It’s kind of to challenge and interrogate as the two meet. What we want to say is ‘This is who we are. This is how contemporary Ireland looks and feels and sounds and that is really at the heart and soul of how we’re representing the centenary year.’ We should get out of our comfort zone.” In reflecting on how Ireland is observing the centenary, she notes, “It’s looking back at the onehundred-year journey and the point at which we have now arrived and setting the compass for the years ahead. Would the 1916 generation have been proud of us? How can we build on what’s good and course correct in areas where we have fallen short? If the centenary helps us to move along on that path, it will be such an achievement. Yes, it’s about commemoration but this year should illuminate and interrogate. It should enlighten us and refresh us.” In asserting Ireland’s identity for a new century, the Ambassador points out the importance of Ireland’s role in U.S.-Europe relations. “In Ireland, we face both ways,” she states. “We are a hugely committed part of the European family and we have unique ties to the United States. I think
we can help interpret Europe to America and America to Europe because of the particularity of our position. “All those years I spent at the United Nations makes me very conscious of our profile and our identity, which is not often understood fully by the business community here or by Irish America – how much Ireland engages in peace-keeping, how strong a development aid policy we have, how much we’re engaged in international human rights issues.” “The imprint of the famine is so strong in Irish America, so when I talk, I think my U.N. background is helpful in making that present day connection about how issues of hunger and food security are fundamental to our development policy and our foreign policy and connecting that with the historical memory of the famine.” Seamus Heaney, a favorite of the Ambassador’s, once said, “I’ve been in the habit of helping people.” One could accuse Ireland’s U.S. Ambassador of the same habit. Her life’s work has been dedicated to an idea best summed up in a line she often quotes from the Proclamation of 1916, “to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally.” It is a noble and endless quest, one for which she IA is eminently well-suited.
TOP LEFT: Ambassador Anderson speaking at the Kennedy Center’s Ireland 100 program. TOP RIGHT: With Vice President Joe Biden who opened the Kennedy Center’s Ireland 100: Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. ABOVE: Anne Anderson following her induction into the Philadelphia branch of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick in March.
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he women featured on this list perform some of the most pioneering work currently done in their manifold industries, from literature, media, and fashion to technology, business, finance, and politics. In many cases, they are representative of the crest of a new wave determined to shore up a more inclusive professional space for women, particularly in fields that have yet to reflect the full diversity of American demographics. Together, they are bound by a deep appreciation for the influence of their heritage on who they are today and the opportunities made available by their forebears. Whether born in Ireland or a descendent of a more distant immigrant, our honorees are a testament to the scope, power, influence, and esteem the Irish diaspora increasingly holds in todayâ€™s global economy. Irish America is proud to salute the inaugural Top 50 Power Women.
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN Samantha Barry
CNN Cork-born Samantha Barry serves as CNN’s head of Social Media and senior director of Social News, managing all of the company’s global social media teams. Her teams span publishing, news-gathering, digital, and TV and are responsible for the largest social accounts of any news brand in the world. The path from Cork to New York has been a global one for Barry, who, after stints in RTÉ and Newstalk, traveled the world working for ABC Australia and the U.S. State Department training young journalists. Most recently, she worked at BBC World News in London. Barry is also currently a Sulzberger Fellow at Colombia University and a guest-lecturer at Yale. Barry earned a degree in English and psychology from University College Cork and a master’s in journalism from Dublin City University. Her Cork roots are strong – her father’s family is from Bantry and her
Before joining Paramount, Megan was vice president at Fox Searchlight. She began her career as a publicist at Miramax Films, served as publicity director for Brill Media Holdings and Media Central, and then joined Fenton Communications. Megan attended Harvard University, where she received a B.A. in American history and African American studies. She and her husband, Mark Roybal, have three sons, Lukas, Simon and Jesse. A thirdgeneration Irish American, Megan was born in Mineola, NY, to James and Margaret, whose roots are in Cork and Sligo. “I love being Irish and I’m very proud of my Irish heritage.”
Susan M. Collins
Maureen is fifth generation Irish American. On her first trip to Ireland she learned that her family, along with “nearly everyone with an Irish surname” had been royalty hundreds of years ago. “The idea that nobility was democratic” struck her as “quintessentially Irish.” She also feels that her love of literature is a direct result of her heritage. Maureen believes that more transparency will help narrow the gender wage gap, citing how New Yorkers will easily talk about their rent, “but never what they earn, leaving too many of us flying blind.”
U.S. Senate Senator Susan Collins has served in the U.S. Senate for Maine for 19 years, and in that time has never missed a vote – late last year, she cast her 6,000th consecutive vote in the chamber. In that time, Senator
Megan Colligan mother is from Bere Island. She cites her heritage as what spurred her toward her many achievements, saying, “I am extremely proud of coming from a long line of Irish people who leave, seek opportunities abroad, and are fearless travelers.”
The New York Post Maureen Callahan is a journalist and author who began working for Sassy magazine and MTV at age 17. She obtained her B.A. from the New York City School of Visual Arts and went on to be an editor and writer at New York magazine, Spin, and now the New York Post. In March she was named Humanitarian of the Year by the American Humane Society for reporting on retired military working dogs and the veterans who are wrongly separated from them. 36 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Paramount Pictures Megan Colligan is the president of Worldwide Distribution and Marketing at Paramount Pictures, having previously served as president of Domestic Marketing and Distribution since 2011. Megan has led the marketing and distribution for many of Paramount’s most successful franchise properties, including Transformers, Paranormal Activity, Mission: Impossible, Terminator, and the academy-nominated films The Big Short, Selma, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Noah. She is currently at work on the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel: TMNT: Out of the Shadows, Star Trek Beyond, and Ben-Hur.
Collins, a Republican, has become known for her avid bi-partisanship, leading the effort to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2011, creating the congressional coalition that ended the 2013 government shutdown, and serving as co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s, securing a more than 50 percent increase in funding ($350 million) for Alzheimer’s research last year. For the past three years, she has
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been ranked the most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University, and for the second time in less than a year, she was named the second most popular U.S. senator in America in a comprehensive survey conducted by Morning Consult. Fourth-generation Irish American on both parents’ sides, Senator Collins was raised in Aroostook County, Maine (the “Potato Capital of America”), where her family has operated a lumber business since 1844. Her first job was picking potatoes as a teenager, she says, and she appreciated the connection to Ireland the work held for her. “I am fortunate to have grown up amid the hard work, determination, innovation, and common sense that define this great industry. To me, nothing says ‘home’ like the sight of potato blossoms stretching as far as the eye can see and the heritage they demonstrate,” she says. She also attributes some of her bipartisanship to a shared Irish connection with top-ranking Democrats, particularly former Senator Ted Kennedy, with whom she says she bonded over their love of their Irish mothers. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Lawrence University, Senator Collins is married to Thomas A. Daffron and resides in Bangor, Maine.
Universal Music Group Cora Creed is the vice president of Digital Supply Chain Management at Universal Music Group in New York. Originally from Listowel, Co. Kerry, she came to the U.S. on a Donnelly Visa and “has never looked back.” She has almost 20 years experience and expertise in business transformation in the digital space, and has worked with leading brands like Napster, Sony, and EMI. Cora believes that “Despite being one of the smallest nations on earth, [the Irish] have left an indelible mark,” as many aspects of Irish culture “have propagated to the four corners of the world.” She is also struck by the “incredible goodwill towards the Irish” that she finds on her travels abroad. Cora is also a founding member and sits on the board of directors of Swazi Legacy, a nonprofit organization that assists marginalized and homeless young people in Swaziland. She will help lead a team from
I am extremely proud of coming from a long line of Irish people who leave, seek opportunities abroad, and are fearless travelers. – Samantha Barry
New York and Ireland to Swaziland in June to work with orphans at Manzini Youth Center. Cora is married to Thomas Creed, also from Kerry and still very much considers Kerry home. Her mother Kathleen is from Kerry but now lives in London, and her father, Brendan, was from Dublin.
Susan Ann Davis
Susan Davis International Susan Ann Davis is chairman of Susan Davis International, a global strategic communications consulting firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. with 74 agency partners worldwide. She is internationally known for her expertise in reputation management, market entry and expansion, crisis and cyber risk, communications, and public affairs. Davis is also a consultant and thought leader on issues and opportunities related to the business of smart aging, annually co-chairing the Silicon Valley Boomer
Venture Summit and the “What’s Next” Boomer Business Summit. She spearheaded the Global Irish Forum’s recommendations for Ireland developing as a global hub for smart aging technologies, design, products, and services, and is vice chair of the board of directors of the Irish Smart Ageing Exchange. A lifelong advocate for social entrepreneurship, democracy building and leadership development for women, she is the board chair of Vital Voices Global Partnership, the preeminent NGO begun by Hillary Clinton supporting 15,000 emerging women leaders in 144 countries. Additionally, she chaired the landmark U.S. Ireland Business Summit, creating the groundbreaking U.S.-Ireland R&D Partnership, and is board chair of The Irish Breakfast Club, co-chair of the Washington Ireland Program Trustees Council, and a member of ITLG Womens Leadership Group. Davis is also board chair for the Zabuli School for girls in Kabul, Afghanistan.
DAQRI Gaia Dempsey is the co-founder and vice president of DAQRI International, a global company that specializes in augmented reality and holographic technologies and is the creator of the flagship product, DAQRI Smart Helmet. Gaia led DAQRI’s international expansion and recently opened DAQRI’s first European office in Dublin. She received a Bachelor of Arts from New York University. Gaia, who is sixth generation Irish American, feels a strong connection to Ireland through her late grandfather, who traveled to Galway after fighting in Iwo Jima in WWII. JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 37
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN While sitting in Eyre Square, he had “a life-changing experience” when “a woman with a pram stopped to adjust something and asked him, a perfect stranger, to hold her baby,” she says. “This was a sense of community and trust he hadn’t known was possible, and this experience while visiting the land of his forebears restored his humanity.” Gaia eventually visited Eyre Square to spread her grandfather’s ashes there after his death. To solve issues of gender inequality, Gaia cites the gains made in Iceland following a 1975 strike involving 90% of Iceland’s women. These women “made their value felt by [their] absence,” and so she holds that “sometimes the answers really are that simple.”
The New York Times Maureen Dowd is the winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and author of two New York Times best
I am fortunate to have grown up amid the hard work, determination, and common sense that defines this great [potato] industry. To me, nothing says “home” like the sight of potato blossoms stretching as far as the eye can see and the heritage they demonstrate.
– Sen. Susan Collins (R) Maine
before his departure, and he couldn’t bear to leave her. The woman who took his place survived, and eventually met his children years later. Maureen’s mother, Peggy Meenehan, was a barkeeper’s daughter and both she and Michael (who later did emigrate) were champion Irish step dancers. In addition to the New York Times, Maureen has written for GQ, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, the New Republic, Mademoiselle, Sports Illustrated and others. Her column appears every Sunday. Maureen’s first experience with the press, however, was in 1954, at age two, when she appeared in the Washington Post wearing a shamrock dress on St. Patrick’s Day.
sellers, including Are Men Necessary? She became an op-ed columnist for the Times in 1995 where she writes about American politics, popular culture, and international affairs, and in August 2014, she also became a writer for the Sunday Times Magazine. Maureen’s father Michael was the son of a poor farmer in Co. Clare who had booked a place on the Titanic in 1914. Apparently his mother cried all night 38 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Flex Caroline Dowling is president of integrated network solutions at Flex, a $26 billion, industry-leading, Fortune Global 500 electronics manufacturing services provider with more than 200,000 employees and operations in 30 countries. In this role, she leads the C unit comprised of an international team focused on design, manufacturing and services providing end-toend solutions worldwide for the
telecom, networking, server, storage, and converged infrastructure markets. The indefatigable Caroline, who came from Millstreet, Co. Cork, is the daughter of a truck driver and stay-at-home mother. Though Caroline never finished high school, dropping out at 15 to take care of her new-born baby, she tended bar and did housework until she took a course in secretarial work when her daughter began school. This course eventually opened the door to a path that would see her emigrate to the U.S. and graduate from Harvard Business School of Advanced Management. She is now responsible for over 90,000 workers and one of the most revered businesswomen in Ireland. In order to change the workplace for the better, she believes that more women need to be at the executive level and in boardrooms.
Author Jennifer Egan is an Irish American novelist and short story writer whose novel A Visit from the Goon Squad won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction. She is the author of The Keep, Look at Me, The Invisible Circus, and the story collection Emerald City. Her stories have been published in the New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, GQ, Zoetrope, All-Story, and Ploughshares, and her nonfiction appears frequently in the New York Times Magazine. Jennifer was born in Chicago and is fourth generation Irish. Her paternal line comes from Strokestown, Co. Roscommon and Cork. She says that she feels a “kinship with other Irish Americans, especially in
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN Chicago, which has a strong, proud, and somewhat unified Irish American population.” She visited Ireland for the first time in 2011, and is “dying to go back or even live there part time.” She currently lives with her husband David Herskovits and sons Emmanuel and Raoul in Brooklyn.
Mary Callahan Erdoes
JPMorgan Chase & Co. Mary Callahan Erdoes is CEO of J.P. Morgan’s Asset Management division, a global leader in investment management and private banking with $2.4 trillion in client assets. She is also a member of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Operating Committee. Mary joined J.P. Morgan in 1996 from Meredith, Martin & Kaye, a fixed income specialty advisory firm. Previously, she worked at Bankers Trust in corporate finance, merchant banking, and high yield debt underwriting. Mary is a graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Business School. She is a board member of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and the U.S.China Business Council, and serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Investor Advisory Committee on Financial Markets. Bloomberg Markets magazine named her the World’s Most Influential Money Manager for 2013. Forbes and Fortune magazines also consistently rank her as one of the World’s Most Powerful Women. An Illinois native, her great-grandparents emigrated from Cork and Tipperary. She lives in New York with her husband and three daughters.
Anne M. Finucane
Bank of America Anne M. Finucane is vice chairman at Bank of America and a member of the company’s executive management team. She is responsible for the strategic positioning of Bank of America and oversees the public policy, customer research and analytics, global marketing, communications, and corporate social responsibility efforts for the company. Finucane chairs the global Environmental, Social, and Governance Committee at 40 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Bank of America, which in July 2015 announced a $125 billion environmental business initiative. She also chairs the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, including its 10year, $2 billion charitable giving goal. She also oversees the company’s $1.2 billion Community Development Financial Institution portfolio and helps manage Bank of America’s 10-year, $1.5 trillion community development lending and investing goal. Active in the community, Finucane serves on both corporate and nonprofit boards of directors including the American Ireland Fund, Carnegie Hall, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, CVS Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Special Olympics. She also is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has roots in Cork on both sides of her family, most notably through her grandfather, who came to the United States as a young boy.
Actress A star of the screen and stage, Fionnula Flanagan was born in Dublin in 1941. She was raised speaking English and Irish, and studied acting at the renowned Abbey Theatre. In 1968 she made her Broadway debut playing Maggie in Brian Friel’s Lovers. During the U.S. tour of Lovers she met her husband, Dublin-born psychiatrist Dr. Garrett O’Connor, and they made their home in Los Angeles. Dr. O’Connor, who was the chief psychiatrist at the Betty Ford Clinic, passed away in September 2015 at the couple’s home in Wicklow. In film, Flanagan has triumphed in an abundance of scene-stealing roles, in such gems as Some Mother’s Son, The Others, Waking Ned Devine, and The Guard. A familiar face in many American television shows and series, including Star Trek, Lost, Brotherhood, and Rich Man, Poor Man (for which she won an Emmy), Flanagan has also established herself as one of the eminent portrayers of James Joyce’s female characters. She first played Gerty MacDowell in the 1967 film of Ulysses, and went on to play Molly Bloom in the 1973 Broadway production of Ulysses in Night-
town and in James Joyce’s Women, Flanagan’s one woman show which she also adapted for the screen. In February 2012, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins presented Flanagan with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Irish Film and Television Awards, and in 2014 he presented her with the Presidential Distinguished Service Award.
In July 2012, Fionnula was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in a special ceremony in New Ross, Co. Wexford, Ireland. She is currently working on a project for the BBC.
Author Meghann Foye is an essayist, editor, and novelist whose debut novel, Meternity, is a social satire that tackles the vanishing love / life / work balance and the hot-button issue of female office politics among GenX and Millennials. Foye has worked in women’s media her entire professional career, writing for publications like Elle, For Me, Woman’s Day, Seventeen, and most recently serving as the senior web editor at Redbook, where she was the recipient of a Hearst Star Award for her work on The Truth About Trying, a blog dedicated to women’s fertility health. Born in Lynn, MA, Meghann is fourth-generation Irish American on
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN her father’s side, which she describes as “true Boston Irish, growing up in Roslindale, Dorchester, and Lowell.” “My Irish heritage was a big part of my childhood growing up, and I can remember countless family parties with multiple uncles, aunts and cousins at my grandparent’s home and my own home during the holidays,” she says. As she’s gotten older and had a chance to visit Ireland, she says it’s Irish storytelling techniques that she is drawn to. “There’s a line in my book in which the main character is told ‘she’s an Irish storyteller just like her dad,’ meaning – for me at least – a weaver of epic and imaginative tales, involving many twists, turns, plotlines and deeper meanings that always come back full-circle, but in ways you never expect.”
Epilepsy and Seizures), which is affiliated with the NYULangone Medical Center.
Author Mary Gordon is the author of ten works of fiction and non-fiction, most recently The Liar’s Wife, a collection of four novellas about the difficulty of acknowledging and moving on from the past, set largely between the eastern American coast and
Loretta Brennan Glucksman
Philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman has worked tirelessly to promote Irish culture and to establish strong ties between America and the island of Ireland. Loretta was raised in an Irish neighborhood in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the granddaughter of four Irish immigrants. Her maternal grandfather was a miner from Leitrim, who was involved with the first unionizing efforts there. In 1983, Loretta met Lewis Glucksman, then head of the investment bank Lehman Brothers, and together between 1987 and 2006, when Lew died at their home near Cobh, they made many unforgettable contributions to Ireland and to the IrishAmerican community. In 1993, Glucksman Ireland House opened at New York University. Today, Loretta is the co-chair on Ireland House’s advisory board. She is also Chairman Emeritus of The American Ireland Fund. She has played a key role in philanthropic efforts to spread peace throughout Ireland, including funding two integrated schools in the North. Additionally, Loretta serves as the chairman of the board of the University of Limerick Foundation, is a longtime supporter of FACES (Finding A Cure for 42 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
continental Europe. Among her other publications include the novels Final Payments, Pearl, and The Love of My Youth; the memoirs The Shadow Man and Circling My Mother; and The Stories of Mary Gordon, which was awarded the Story Prize. She has received numerous other honors, including a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an Academy Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Born in Far Rockaway, Queens to an Italian-Irish mother, Anna Gagliano Gordon, and Jewish father, David, who converted to Catholicism as a young man, Gordon was raised Catholic, and seriously contemplated becoming a nun prior to discovering her inclinations towards creative
writing at Barnard College and later in an M.F.A. program at Syracuse University. Mary currently lives between Manhattan and Rhode Island with her husband, Arthur Cash, and their two dogs, Rhodo and Ponto.
Mary Kay Henry
Service Employees International Union Mary Kay Henry is president of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and her leadership is rooted in a deep-seated belief that when individuals join together they can make the impossible possible. Under her leadership, SEIU has won major victories to improve working families’ lives by strengthening and uniting healthcare, property services, and public sector workers with other working people across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. In 2010, Mary Kay Henry became the first woman elected to lead SEIU, after more than 30 years of helping unite healthcare workers. By 2015, she was named one of the 100 most creative leaders by Fast Company magazine and was included in the top 50 visionaries reshaping American politics by Politico for SEIU’s innovative leadership in propelling the fight for living wages embodied in the historic movement known as the “Fight for $15.” More than 10 million Americans will see their wages go up to $15 an hour, and more than 18 million have won raises, since the Fight for $15 began four years ago. Under Henry's leadership, SEIU is fighting for justice on all fronts, and she believes that the movements for economic, racial, immigrant, and environmental justice are interconnected. Born in Detroit, Michigan as one of ten children, Mary Kay’s ancestors are from Tipperary.
[An Irish storyteller is] a weaver of epic and imaginative tales, involving many twists, turns, plotlines and deeper meanings that Peggy Johnson Microsoft always come back Peggy Johnson is the executive vice presifull-circle, but in ways dent of Business Development at Microsoft where she is responsible for driving strateyou never expect. gic partnerships and transactions to accel– Meghann Foye
erate growth for Microsoft and its
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN I feel I inherited my work ethic from my Irish grandparents. Both (separately) moved to a new country, with nothing in their pockets but addresses of friends. – Peggy Johnson
customers. As part of her role, Peggy works with external partners around the world, ranging from start-ups to large-scale enterprises, to identify areas of collaboration, drive innovation and unlock shared value. In this capacity, she also manages Microsoft’s relationship with the venture capital community and oversees strategic investments through the company’s corporate venture fund, Microsoft Ventures. Many have referred to Peggy as Microsoft’s “chief deal maker.” Prior to Microsoft, Peggy spent 24 years at Qualcomm, where she served as executive vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., president of Global Market Development, and served on the company’s executive committee. She holds a B.A. from San Diego State University in electrical engineering, a field she entered after a chance conversation with some of the department’s executive assistants that inspired her to change her major to a STEM field. A second-generation Irish American, Peggy attributes her work ethic to her Irish grandparents, who emigrated from Longford and Sligo. “Both (separately) moved to a new country, with nothing in their pockets but addresses of friends,” she says, also noting that “apparently my grandfather left from Cork to America without saying goodbye to his mother! The family in Longford is still not happy about that.” Peggy lives in the Seattle area with her husband, the youngest of their three children, four dogs, and one cat. 44 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Synchrony Financial Margaret Keane is the president and CEO of Synchrony Financial. A graduate of St. John’s University, she completed both her B.A. in Government and Politics and an M.B.A. Her earlier career roles at GE Capital Corporation and Citibank have spanned global operations, quality, midmarketing leasing, banking and consumer financing. She has been recognized as one of the “Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance” by American Banker every year since 2007, and in 2015 was named #33 on Fortune’s “Most Powerful Women” list. In 2014, she led her business segment to a successful IPO of the largest U.S. private label credit card business. Synchrony Financial was added to the S&P 500 as it completed the separation from GE in
November 2015. Margaret is a second-generation Irish American with roots in Cork and Clare and finds in her heritage “a big, loving, warm family who is there in good and difficult times.” As a leader, she is known for her passion for technology and innovation, as well as her engagement with employees. Margaret currently sits on the board of St. John’s University.
Ann B. Kelleher
Intel Ann B. Kelleher is corporate vice president and general manager of the Technology and Manufacturing Group at Intel Corporation. She is responsible for corporate quality assurance, corporate services, customer fulfillment, and supply chain management. She is also responsible for strategic planning for the company’s worldwide manufacturing operations, including silicon fabrication, assembly and test. Before assuming her current position in the Technology and Manufacturing Group, Kelleher was general manager of the Fab/Sort Manufacturing organization. In that role, she was responsible for all aspects of Intel’s high-volume silicon manufacturing. Earlier in her Intel career, Kelleher was the site manager of Intel’s Fab 11X fabrication facility in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, the plant manager of Intel’s Fab 12 facility in Chandler, Arizona, as well as the factory manager of Fab 24 in Leixlip, Ireland. Kelleher joined Intel in 1996 as a process engineer, going on to manage technology transfers and factory rampups in a variety of positions spanning 200mm and 300mm technologies. She holds a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, all from University College Cork in Ireland.
Mary Pat Kelly
Author Mary Pat Kelly weaves historical characters such as Maud Gonne, William Butler Yeats, Countess Markievicz, Michael
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Problem Solving with Maureen Mitchell TOP 50 POWER WOMEN
Two years ago, Maureen Mitchell, who currently serves as the president of GE Asset Management’s Global Sales and Marketing organization, moved back into an apartment in her hometown – Manhattan. Though the city may have changed, Mitchell is still very much the daughter of Irish immigrants and a textbook example of the first-generation American Dream. She sat down with Irish America to discuss her work, her upbringing, and what her success means to her. By Adam Farley
aureen Mitchell grew up in the Yorkville neighborhood of Manhattan, the daughter of Irish immigrants from Galway (her mother) and Sligo (her father). At the time, it was a Catholic working class neighborhood, filled with immigrants from Ireland, Germany, and Hungary, and her parents met at a local parish dance. The middle of three children, Mitchell worked from an early age – her first job was babysitting neighborhood kids. Since then she’s never really stopped. It’s not much of a stretch to say her life has been defined by her jobs and her dedication to them. It comes from her Manhattan immigrant mentality – work hard, succeed, and use that success to help as many other people as possible. After she graduated with her B.A. with honors in history from the City College of New York (where she now sits on the board), Mitchell taught at James Madison High School in Brooklyn. After a short time, she went back to school and earned a master’s from Fordham University and began managing a non-profit in her late 20s. She then pivoted to the private sector, taking her first job in finance in 1981 at Banker’s Trust. Though she didn’t know much about the industry at the time, she learned quickly and spent the next 15 years at various firms, increasing her responsibility, before landing at Bear Stearns in 1998. She stayed until the 2008 collapse before joining GE Asset Management, the investment management arm of GE. Today, she oversees all global marketing and sales for the firm, strategically leading and prioritizing the efforts of her team as it builds partnerships with other investors. She’s known as a leader that pushes her employees hard to achieve results, but who also exhibits a management style that is rooted in collaboration, trust, and individual ownership. “Maureen is demanding and is always clear about her expectations,” says Chris Linehan, who works closely with Mitchell as GE Asset Management’s communications director. “At the same time she is fair, encouraging and allows you to develop your own sense of purpose and accountability. She’s committed to creating a true balance of empowerment and consultation that informs the way we work together. Her door is always open and anyone can stop by to bounce ideas off her and come to agree-
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ment on issues in a very informal and supportive way.” In January, Mitchell traveled to Guatemala with the non-profit She’s the First, where she has sat on the board since 2014. The organization provides scholarships to girls in low-income countries who will be the first females in their families to graduate from secondary school. It’s a natural fit for her. Women have always been a strong influence in her life, as she has been in the lives of those she empowers, not least her daughters. Today, Fiona (33), a pediatric neurologist at Stanford, is married and expecting Mitchell’s first grandchild; Megan (30) went to Wesleyan University and is now a zoologist at the Fort Worth Zoo. Mitchell herself was in the first generation of her family to attend college. When we meet in her Stamford, Connecticut office, she is welcoming, calming, and puts me at ease with the small trace of her mid-century New York accent that still comes through in her long a’s. She is a manager without pretense and it shows in her candor, attributable, one suspects, to her Irish parents and the close community in which she grew up.
Tell me about your childhood in New York. My parents were pretty typical Irish immigrants. My father worked for the Transit Authority in New York. My mother stayed at home and wrestled with three kids. They were not formally educated, but understood the power of education and were very bright and well read. I went to local Catholic schools with a group of very young girls and many of us were on either partial or full academic scholarship. So we were always keeping up with each other. I was a typical middle child in terms of being a little bit more anxious for independence. I went to the City College of New York, which was my idea of rebellion – a large public university – rather than follow my cousins’ path of going to a Catholic university. What stands out about your relationship with your parents as a child? There’s one memory in particular about my father that illustrates how I was raised. When I was very young I was attached at the hip to him. I would insist on going out for walks with him, but I was really little and couldn’t keep up. And I’d say “Slow down, slow down.” And he’d say, “No, keep up.” Upon reflection, it taught me it wasn’t just about keeping up, but pushing ahead.
What’s the most important thing they taught you that impacted your career? Like so many American immigrants, my parents had an unyielding focus on finding success through hard work. I’ve carried that with me every day. In fact, as I progressed in my career, I developed a mindset that my success would be predicated on my ability to outwork anyone else. And they led by example. When I think about someone emigrating from their homeland, it reinforces that fearlessness is the only path to achieving great things. I brought that attitude to being a woman on Wall Street, where I was definitely in the minority. What about their connection to Ireland? My father was a lobsterman and the lobsters were too precious to eat because they sold them to the hotels in Sligo – they couldn’t afford to eat them. But growing up, whenever we went out to dinner, which was not frequently, he always ordered lobster. In my eulogy for him, I recalled how, when I was young, I couldn’t figure out why he did that. But when I went to Ireland as a young person and gained the perspective that comes from a trip like that, I realized why it was so significant to him – and how it reflects the Irish experience in America and the value of opportunity. My mother worked in England during WWII, and came over here on her own. Her mother died fairly young, and I think for her it was as if life started here. And she didn’t go home for a really long time; she was here for 25 years before she went home. I think people deal with loss in different ways, and my mother’s way of dealing with it was to just power through it. And powering through it meant saying, “My life is here in front of me and I move through it and move forward.” There was a great sense of family and community that my parents had. The sense of knowing your
PHOTO: KATE LORD AND SHE’S THE FIRST
PHOTO COURTESY GE ASSET MANAGEMENT
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neighbors to the extent you can, being helpful and having them as part of your life. My mother was a very social person and she had many friends from all walks of life. And I think that sense of curiosity about people has really shaped me. As a child, did you have any idea of a career path? It certainly wasn’t this. A good friend of mine who is CEO of a large asset management business told me once, “We weren’t raised to be investment professionals.” It was a world completely unknown, frankly, to my parents and me. I made a lot of big leaps. It’s important to take risks and not be afraid to fail. The way I learn is through an immersive atmosphere that forces the issue. I had a couple of real pivots in my life. I tell this to my kids all of the time, “You don’t know where you will end up. You just have to be willing to embrace it when these opportunities come along.” When I went to Banker’s Trust I was singularly focused on succeeding, and I believe that perseverance emanated from my parents.
LEFT: Maureen Mitchell is president of Global Sales and Marketing for GE Asset Management. TOP RIGHT: Maureen with her daughters, Fiona (left) and Megan (right) in Ireland, 1997. ABOVE: Mitchell in Guatemala this January with She's the First.
What attracted you to a career on Wall Street? The career shift was the result of two things. First, I was drawn in by how energizing I knew the industry JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 47
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN would be. The way things change so rapidly in markets and the demands of clients made this type of job very desirable – I knew it would always be interesting. The second thing was there was never going to be any uncertainty about your purpose and your contribution. Success and measurement were clear every day and I liked that a great deal. Then when I later came to GE, I was able to remain in the investment industry, but at the same time leverage the company’s larger worldwide footprint in numerous industries to expand the way I thought about the global marketplace. How have you been successful in these roles? Again, hard work and single-mindedness are especially critical, but there’s a lot more to it than that. As a woman in this industry, I learned to stand my ground and be tough, but I also learned to build strong relationships that I have to this day. In any industry, it’s important for women to build a personal brand, and that starts with the right partnerships with the right people who can advocate for your brand. How do you think you’ve changed since you first started out on Wall Street? I think more strategically. I think I’ve gotten a lot more patient. I think I’m a much better listener. And I have a great deal more empathy. All of those big pivots in life make you realize that there are solutions to issues when you stop to reflect and be thoughtful about the challenges in front of you. There’s a sense of a longer-term view, listening to people and being confident in myself and my ideas and my questions. How did you manage your long hours when your children were growing up? We always had live in nannies. Everyone understood the expectations. From a pretty early age, I was very mindful around travel. I would tell the kids, “I will be here this day” and when I’d be back. I used to go to California quarterly, I had a lot of clients there, and my mother would stay with us. Generally holy hell would break out because I was less structured and she wasn’t. I would often say, “Listen, everyone in this house has a job.” I had an Irish nanny with us for a long time. All of us are still in touch. And her sister got married in my house. That’s the kind of relationships we had. Do you have a management philosophy? Because I love to own what I do, I like people to feel like they own what they do, too, whether it’s my assistant or my chief marketing officer. I’m here as a sounding board and, hopefully, a guide, with an integral and respected voice in the process. But in the end, ownership means getting the job done well and on time, whatever approach you take to executing the work. Leadership is also about building teams, which is an area where I’m a strong proponent of emphasizing diversity, and the way that encouraging different perspectives leads to better outcomes. You want diverse role models around you. And I think in this industry we need to continue to find ways to tap into the leadership potential and capabilities of women. 48 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
I’ve always said to people, “Tell me why I’m wrong. Push back at me. I want to understand where the pitfalls are here.” That type of openness to being challenged is important as well. What was it like to be at Bear Stearns when it failed? I learned a lot. I really, really learned a lot. It was a tough time. It wasn’t the end of the world. What you thought was your future was not going to be your future and you had to recalibrate your life, which was not such a terrible thing. Because you can survive it and go on and do some pretty interesting things. Anything you would change about the industry? I would love to see us continue to be a more diverse industry. I would love to see women grow on the investment side of the industry. And you can say the same in many other industries like technology. It comes back to understanding what’s possible and understanding that those positions are available. If you’ve got a young woman with great analytic skills, she can do any one of a number of things, and why not be an investor? Tell me about your work with She’s the First. It spoke to my mother’s background. It’s all about opportunity. When I was in Guatemala in January, I cried because I found the spirit of the girls was so extraordinarily courageous. We visited with families who didn’t speak Spanish – there are 24 native languages in Guatemala, so the first hurdle a kid needs to get through Maureen's parents, Mary and William in school is to learn Spanish. A few other Mitchell, 1948. people and I spent time with one family up in the mountains and neither parent spoke Spanish. But I just saw the bravery of these people patching a life together, an economic life. It takes you out of yourself a bit. I have a picture of where my mother was raised – a thatched cottage, very small – and it reverberated for me. It really stopped me in my tracks. These kids are walking down and up that mountain everyday to get to the bus to get to school. So it’s a real commitment to try and make this work for them. This family didn’t own any of the land that surrounded them; they just worked it. They wove and sold things locally. So it made you stop and think about what opportunities we had here. Does being a child of immigrants influence your outlook on immigration today? Absolutely. I say this all the time – I’m an American story. My kids are the result of an American story. They got to go to Wesleyan and Harvard and Stanford and places that were not in my worldview earlier in life. And I just think that the beauty of successful immigration is that it ripples. There’s more that one can achieve in this country. When I look at what helped my parents and my generation and my kids it was stability, jobs, the opportunity to work, and great access to education. With studying and hard work, there is a lot that is possible. Thank You.
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN associate producer with “Good Morning America” and “Saturday Night Live,” and wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Abby’s Song. She received her Ph.D. from the City University of New York. Born and raised in Chicago, she lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with her husband, app developer Martin Sheerin from County Tyrone.
Collins, and Eamon de Valera, as well as Gabrielle Chanel, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Nora Barnacle, into her new novel Of Irish Blood, a vivid and compelling story inspired by the life of her great-aunt, and the sequel to her best-selling and critically praised novel Galway Bay. As an author and filmmaker, Mary Pat Kelly has told various stories connected to Ireland. Her award-winning PBS documentaries and accompanying books include To Live for Ireland, a portrait of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and the political party he led; Home Away from Home: The Yanks in Ireland, a history of U.S. forces in Northern Ireland during World War II; and Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason, a portrayal of the only African-American sailors to take a World War II warship into combat, whose first foreign port was Belfast. She wrote and
My color sense comes from the rich colors of the Irish landscape. – Orla Kiely
directed the dramatic feature film Proud, starring Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea, based on the USS Mason story. She’s also written such books as Martin Scorsese: The First Decade and Martin Scorsese: A Journey; Good to Go: The Rescue of Scott O’Grady from Bosnia; and a novel, Special Intentions. She is a frequent contributor to Irish America magazine. Mary Pat Kelly worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter for Paramount and Columbia Pictures and in New York City as an
Lucasfilm Kathleen Kennedy is one of the most successful and respected producers and executives in the film industry. She joined Lucasfilm in 2012, personally selected by George Lucas to bring in a new era of Star Wars. She currently sits on the board of governors and board of trustees of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
Kathleen has produced or executive produced over 70 films, which have collectively garnered 125 Academy Award nominations, 25 wins, and have grossed over $13 billion worldwide. Among her credits are five of the highest grossing films in motion picture history: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic Park, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Sixth Sense, as well as such blockbusters as the Back to the Future trilogy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Kathleen attended San Diego University, where she studied telecommunications and film. A fourth-generation Irish American, Kathleen traces her Irish ancestry through her father, Donald Kennedy. She and her husband, Frank Marshall, have two daughters, Lillian and Meghan.
Fashion Designer Orla Kiely is the creative director of Orla
Kiely, a Londonbased design and fashion label with a store in New York. The label was recently named the Premium Brand of the Year in the U.K. The company began as a small accessories collection in 1995 before Orla developed it into an internationally recognizable brand that has been worn by the Duchess of Cambridge, Keira Knightley, Alexa Chung, and Lena Dunham. In 2011, Orla was awarded an O.B.E. for her service to fashion and business. Born in Dublin, Orla’s parents come from Galway and Tipperary, where her grandmother and her many sons ran the local bakery, public house, and shop in Tipperary town. “I have always been proud of where I came from. My color sense comes from the rich colors of the Irish landscape. My family are in Ireland and I visit them regularly,” she says. Orla got her start as a print designer in New York and holds a B.A. from University College Dublin and an M.A. from the Royal College of Art, which recently awarded Orla a Senior Fellowship in recognition of her work. Orla also holds an honorary doctorate from Norwich University of the Arts. She and her husband Dermott Rowan, Director of The Irish Design and Craft Council, have two children and currently live in London.
Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute World-renowned Irish historian and prolific author Professor Christine Kinealy is founding director of the Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, a scholarly resource for the study of the Great Hunger. Kinealy, an authority on Irish history, was raised in Liverpool and never learned Irish history in school. The Kinealys, she says, “were from Tipperary; and on my mum’s side, Mayo – Ballycastle and JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 49
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN Castlebar. I love Tipperary, but when I return to Mayo, which is often, I feel I am home.” Beginning with her Ph.D dissertation at Trinity College on the Irish workhouse system and continuing with her breakthrough book This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52 (Irish Post Book of the Year 1995), Kinealy has been an influential authority on Ireland. Her most recent book, The Bad Times, is a graphic novel aimed at telling the story of the Great Hunger through the young characters who experienced it. Kinealy’s daughter Siobhan was born in Dublin, while her son Ciaran was born in Belfast. They both now live in the U.S. and all three remain committed to preserving Irish culture and history in the U.S.
A third-generation Irish American with roots in Cork and Tipperary, Barbara holds both an A.S. and B.S. from St. Francis College, from which she also has an honorary doctorate. Barbara and her husband, Robert, have two daughters, Kathryn and Diana.
Musician One of the most prolific and visible Irish musicians and composers in the world, Joanie Madden has sold over 500,000 solo albums, performed on over 200 recordings including three Grammy-winning albums, and was the first American to win the
Barbara G. Koster
Prudential Financial, Inc. Barbara G. Koster is senior vice president and chief information officer for Prudential Financial, Inc., and head of the Global Business & Technology Solutions Department. She is also chairman of the board of Pramerica Systems Ireland, Ltd., and founding member of Prudential Systems Japan, Ltd. Barbara joined Prudential in 1995 as VP and CIO in Individual and Life Insurance Systems. She previously held several positions with Chase Manhattan, including president of Chase Access Services. Last year, Koster was named one of STEMConnector’s “100 Corporate Diverse Leaders
in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics” and in 2013, she was inducted into Junior Achievement’s New Jersey Business Hall of Fame. In 2011, NJ Biz newspaper named her one of the “Fifty Best Women in Business.” She is a member of Executive Women in NJ and Research Board, an international think tank. 50 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
I sometimes feel that the longer I live, the more my Irish heritage percolates through my DNA. I recognize it in the stories I tell, the words I choose – in what moves me, what haunts me, what makes me laugh. – Alice McDermott
Senior All-Ireland Championship on the tin whistle. For the past three decades, she has been the leader of the internationally renowned all-female traditional Irish music and dance ensemble, Cherish the Ladies, which just released their 16th album. Having got her start playing in her father’s band, forming her own group was a different endeavor. “First we had to overcome the stereotype that people associated with having an all-girl band, the idea that we were just a marketing ploy and couldn’t perform at the same level as the boys,” she says. “Now, I’m happy to report that my band is paid on par as the tops in our field.” Born in the Bronx to parents from Clare and Galway, she says, “I feel so fortunate to have made a living playing traditional Irish music and having traveled the world representing the rich traditions that I grew up learning in New York from the music masters who lovingly passed their music down to me.”
Author Alice McDermott is an internationally acclaimed author and professor at the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. Her seventh and most recent novel, Someone, was a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the Dublin IMPAC Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Patterson Prize for Fiction, and long-listed for the National Book Award. Her 1998 novel Charming Billy won the National Book Award. Her novels have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize three times. Most recently, her short story “These Short, Dark Days” appeared in the New Yorker. Born in Brooklyn and raised on Long Island by first-generation Irish American parents, Alice has always been drawn to the New York Irish landscape in her work, drawing on its characters to explore
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN universal themes of desire, love, and loss. “I sometimes feel that the longer I live, the more my Irish heritage percolates up through my DNA,” she says. “I recognize it in the stories I tell, the words I choose – in what moves me, what haunts me, what makes me laugh.” Alice has lived in Bethesda, MD since 1989 with her husband, David Armstrong, and they have three children: Will, Eames, and Patrick. Her father’s family comes from Mayo and Cork, and her mother’s Donegal and Kerry. This summer, she looks forward to visiting her paternal grandfather’s birthplace on Achill Island for the first time.
Penn Mutual Eileen McDonnell is the chairman, president, and CEO of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, a position she has held since 2013. Prior to joining Penn Mutual, she was president of New England Financial, and vice president of Guardian Life Insurance Company. Eileen is a graduate of Molloy College and went on to complete her M.B.A. in finance and investments from Adelphi University, which also recognized her for “outstanding service” in 2013. She received an honorary doctorate from Molloy College in 2011. Eileen is a native New Yorker and is a second-generation Irish American with ancestry from Clare, Leitrim, Mayo, and Sligo. She takes inspiration from her heritage, saying her grandparents’ “courage and optimism embodies the spirit of the Irish, which I’m proud to have inherited.” Eileen belongs to a number of organizations including the Irish American Business Chamber and Network. She has also been honored as one of Crain’s New York Business 40 under 40. Eileen resides in Pennsylvania with her daughter Claire.
Lincoln Center Eileen McMahon has been at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts for nearly 20 years, where she is the senior director of Publicity and Public Relations. A presenter of more than 3,000 free and ticketed events, performances, tours, and 52 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
educational activities annually, Lincoln Center offers 16 series, festivals, and programs including American Songbook, Avery Fisher Career Grants and Artist program, David Rubenstein Atrium programming, Great Performers, Legends at Lincoln Center: The Performing Arts Hall of Fame, Lincoln Center at the Movies, Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Awards, Lincoln Center Festival, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Lincoln Center Vera List Art Project, Midsummer Night Swing, Mostly Mozart Festival, White Light Festival, the Emmy Awardwinning Live From Lincoln Center, which airs nationally on PBS, and Lincoln Center Education. In the arena of institutional public relations Eileen helped implement the campaigns for Lincoln Center’s $1.2 billion
Press Agents and Managers. She studies piano with Assaff Weisman at the Juilliard School Evening Division.
Seigel+Gale Margaret Molloy, from Offaly, is the global chief marketing officer at Siegel+Gale, the strategic branding consultancy. A marketing thought leader, Margaret has held previous leadership roles at Gerson Lehrman Group, Siebel Systems, and Eircom; has published in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and elsewhere; and is recognized as one the most influential CMOs on Twitter. She is an influential advocate for Irish design as well. In March 2016 she
Courage and optimism embody the spirit of the Irish, which I’m proud to have inherited. – Eileen McDonnell
multi-year redevelopment and its yearlong 50th anniversary, as well as internal and external communications, crisis management, and collaborations with Lincoln Center’s ten resident organizations. Her family has been in the U.S.A. for four generations. She is the eldest of five daughters of William F. and Eileen (née Lynch) McMahon of Bayonne, and subsequently, Roselle, N.J. Her McMahon, Landrigan, Lynch, and Driscoll grandparents had their roots in Westmeath, Tipperary, and Cork. She is married to actor David Wohl and they reside in Montclair, N.J. They are the proud parents of three sons: Samuel, William, and Harry. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and a member of the Association of Theatrical
launched the #WearingIrish initiative, encouraging everyone to wear Irish fashion once in March and to post their pictures on social media. For her part, she donned fashion and accessories by Irish designers every day in March. Her vision is for #WearingIrish to be an annual movement. She also serves on the advisory board of the New York Irish Center and is a supporter of Origin Theatre. Margaret earned her M.B.A. from
Irish Eyes Are Smilingâ€Ś
The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company Congratulates our Chairman and CEO
Eileen C. McDonnell and fellow honorees
named to the inaugural list of:
Irish American Top 50 Power Women
ÂŠ 2016 The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company Philadelphia, PA 19172 www.pennmutual.com 1527750DR_JUN18
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN Harvard Business School and her undergraduate degree from the University of Ulster and La Universidad de Valladolid, Spain. Growing up the eldest of six children on a farm, Margaret credits her accomplishments to her parents’ work ethic and thirst for education. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, Jim O’Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economic, and their sons, Finn and Emmet.
Irish Repertory Theatre Charlotte Moore is the artistic director and co-founder with Ciaran O’Reilly of the acclaimed Irish Repertory Theatre, a theater company in New York City devoted
Ireland is my home and I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to encourage U.S. business to expand their operations ... and understand the benefits Ireland can offer as a location for foreign direct investment. – Marie O’Connor
“Director of the Year” by the Wall Street Journal in 2011. Moore also takes an active role in promoting women in the theater world in many capacities. The Rep has produced several plays by female playwrights, and also often employs many female designers and theater professionals. Moore told BroadwayWorld’s Adrienne Onofri, “I try to choose a wide variety of ethnic professionals, especially women.”
to bringing Irish and Irish-American works to the stage. Though she grew up the granddaughter of Irish immigrants from County Wexford in a rural farming community in the Midwest, after a master’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Charlotte found her way to New York City and onto the stage. She has a distinguished career in acting and directing, having appeared in over ten Broadway Productions including Private Lives costarring with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. She has directed over sixty of the plays produced in New York by the Irish Repertory Theatre. Among her many awards she has received two Tony Award nominations, and has been given the Irish America Top 100 Irish Award, The Irish American Writers and Artists Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award, The Outer Critic’s Circle Award, and the 2008 Irish Women Of The Year Award. Charlotte was named 54 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
ment Foundation and serves on the board of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Denise was named as a co-chair of the Consumer Goods Forum in 2015 and serves on the organization’s board. In 2012, she was named to President Barack Obama’s Export Council. She was elected to the MetLife, Inc. board in February 2014 and is on the board of directors for Catalyst. A third-generation Irish American with roots in Mayo and Cork, Denise earned her B.S. in economics and psychology from Boston College, graduating magna cum laude. She was inducted into the Order of the Cross and Crown Honor Society for academic and extracurricular achievement. Of her Irish heritage Denise says, “I see the world through Irish eyes and they are smiling.” She and her husband, Tom, have two children, Michelle and Kelly.
Barbara Murphy, M.D.
Mount Sinai Hospital One of the first female renal division chiefs in the U.S. and one of only three
Denise M. Morrison
Campbell Soup Company Denise Morrison became president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company in 2011, after more than eight years at Campbell and more than 30 years in the food business. She is regularly named among the Fortune and Forbes Most Powerful Women. Denise is a founding member of the Healthy Weight Commit-
women to be appointed chair of medicine at a top medical school, Dr. Barbara Murphy is the Chair of the Samuel Bronfman Department of Medicine, the Murray M. Rosenberg Professor of Medicine, and the Dean of Clinical Integration and Population Management at the Icahn School of Medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System. Born in Ireland, Dr. Murphy earned her M.B. B.A.O. B.Ch. from The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and went on to do an internship, residency, and a fellowship in clinical nephrology at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. She completed her postdoctoral training with a fellowship in
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nephrology and transplant immunology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. In 2011, the American Kidney Fund named Dr. Murphy Nephrologist of the Year. Most recently, Dr. Murphy served as the president of the American Society of Transplantation and is currently the co-chair of the American Society of Transplantation Public Policy. In these positions, Dr. Murphy aims to directly impact patient care and access to healthcare, specifically, advocating for long-term coverage for immunosuppression. She was also a co-investigator on the landmark study investigating outcomes in HIVpositive patients that receive solid organ transplants. Her research focuses on the use of cutting edge technologies in genomics and genetics to predict and diagnose outcomes following renal transplantation.
Fidelity Investments Kathleen Murphy is president of Fidelity Personal Investing. She assumed her position in January 2009 and oversees more than $1.8 trillion in client assets under administration – a record 17 million cus-
providers of investment advisory programs, and one of the leading providers of college savings plans. Prior to joining Fidelity, Kathy was CEO of ING U.S. Wealth Management. She received her B.A. summa cum laude from Fairfield University and earned her J.D. with highest honors from the University of Connecticut. Fortune magazine has consistently named her one of the Top 50 Most Powerful Women in American business. She is a third-generation Irish American – her father’s family is from County Cork and her mother’s family is from Kerry. She is married with one son.
I try to bring the Irish humor, humanity and perseverance that I learned from my mother and grandmother to everything I do.
– Mary Lou Quinlan
tomer accounts – and over 15,000 employees. Her business is the nation’s No.1 provider of individual retirement accounts (IRAs), one of the largest brokerage businesses, one of the largest
PwC Ireland Marie O’Connor was the first woman to make partner at PwC Ireland, where she has worked for over 40 years. There, she led the PwC Asset Management and Financial Services Practice for many years and was a member of the global leadership team of PwC’s AM practice. Marie obtained a diploma in business studies from the Dublin Institute of Technology, is a certified accountant, and a barrister at law. Marie was born in Dublin, with roots in Counties Galway and Sligo, and notes that “Ireland is my home and I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to encourage U.S. business to expand their operations to Europe and understand the benefits Ireland can offer as a location for foreign direct investment.” The Irish government has appointed Marie as a member of several boards over the years, including to Dublin Airport
Authority and IDA Ireland. As the leader of the 30% Club in Ireland, part of a global group of CEO’s and chairs committed to accelerating gender balance in their organizations, she is also active in encouraging and promoting women and their careers. Marie also enjoys walking, going to the theater, and spending valuable time with her four children, Cliodhnagh, Sinead, Daire, and Fionnghuala. She is an advisory board member of the Irish Chapter of the Ireland US Council, and will receive their Lifetime Achievement Award on June 24, 2016.
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 JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 55
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN the country’s oldest advertising agency, N.W. Ayer, she started her own women’s marketing company, Just Ask a Woman. She is also the author of four books, her latest, The God Box, is a New York Times bestseller. Mary Lou also stars in her one woman stage adaptation of that book, and has donated all proceeds to hospitals, hospice, and cancer care and education. She will be performing the play in ten Irish theaters with proceeds going to local hospices through the Irish Hospice Foundation. She is also a member of The Irish Repertory Theater, The Irish Arts Center, NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, and The American Ireland Fund.
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.
Mary Lou Quinlan
Just Ask a Woman Mary Lou Quinlan is a marketer, author, actor, speaker, and advocate for women. She obtained her B.A. at St. Joseph’s, Philadelphia, and her M.B.A from Fordham, and has been awarded five honorary doctoral degrees. After serving as CEO of 56 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Mary Lou is fourth generation Irish and is currently tracing her maternal roots in the Cosgrove line. In her work, she says she tries “to bring the Irish humor, humanity, and perseverance that I learned from my mother and grandmother to
Ireland’s great balance is of the books, in our ability to connect and in the value of our connections. – Anita Sands
everything I do.” She lives in New York City and Bucks County, PA with her husband Joe Quinlan.
Sharon T. Sager
UBS Private Wealth Management Sharon T. Sager is a managing director and private wealth advisor at UBS Private Wealth Management. A CIMA, she began her career in financial services in 1983 with Kidder, Peabody & Co., which was acquired by Paine Webber Inc. and then
by UBS. Sharon is only one of sixteen women to be named to Barron’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors each year since the list’s inception in 2006, and was also featured in Barron’s “Best Advice” column. In addition, Sharon has appeared on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street and Closing Bell. Sharon was named to the 2014 Financial Times Top 400 Advisors, as well as to REP Magazine and WealthManagement.com’s Top 50 Wirehouse Women list 2012-2015. Last June, UBS presented Sharon with the “Aspire” award, a recognition that she serves as a role model for other advisors and as a culture carrier for the firm. A native New Yorker, Sharon earned a B.A. from the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Her father’s family, the O’Tooles, are from Galway, and her mother’s family, the Carrolls, hail from Cork. She and her husband, Loring Swasey, live in Manhattan and Long Island. She is co-chairman of the board of overseers for the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, secretary of the board for Careers Through Culinary Arts Programs, a member of the Economic Club of NY and the President’s Circle, James Beard Foundation, and was a mentor with the Clinton Economic Initiative UBS Small Business Advisory Program.
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN Anita Sands
Symantec Corporation Dr. Anita Sands is currently a board director of three Silicon Valley public companies – Symantec Corporation, Service Now, and Pure Storage, and serves as an advisor to Grand Central Tech, a leading NYC technology incubator where she mentors startup tech companies. Dr. Sands is from Co. Louth, and proud to be a part of the Irish diaspora which she considers a national treasure. In that regard, she believes that “Ireland’s great balance is off the books, in our ability to connect and in the value of our connections.” On four occasions she has been invited by the Taoiseach to participate in the Global Irish Economic forum, and is a former all-Ireland public speaking champion. She earned both her Ph.D. in atomic
and molecular physics and bachelor’s in physics & applied math from Queen’s University Belfast. She earned her M.S. in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where she was a Fulbright Scholar. She is also a member of the International Women’s Forum, the New York Women’s Forum, and a mentor for W.O.M.E.N. in America – an organization that enables women to fulfill their maximum potential in their chosen profession. 58 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
obtained an honors diploma in business administration. In 1991 Aine joined Flannelly Promotions Ltd, a Madison Avenue marketing firm as executive vice president where she expanded The Adrian Flannelly Show, the longest running Irish American commercial radio program, initiating international broadcast links with numerous stations in Ireland and throughout the U.S., while also establishing its website, irishradio.com. Adrian Flannelly happens also to be Aine’s husband. Aine serves on the board of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York, and was named “Woman of the Year” by the Longford Social Club of New
New York 1 Kristen Shaughnessy has been with NY1 since 1995 as the station’s weekend anchor and breaking news reporter. Shaughnessy graduated from Hofstra University with a B.A. in Communications in 1990. She started out in radio and then went on to an upstate NY television station before working for NY1. Ironically, she grew up in a house without a TV. After her family’s television broke, they decided reading was a better option. During the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Shaughnessy was one of the first reporters on scene. She arrived before the first tower fell. Due to the loss of cell phone service, she found the nearest pay phone to report back to the studio. Mid-way through the conversation, she had to drop the phone and run as the tower came down. Kristen worked first in radio and then at a television station in upstate New York before coming to NY1. Kristen is married to Joe Bush, a professional golfer. They have two girls. She traces her roots back to the mid 19th century, from the southwest of Ireland.
Mutual of America Aine Sheridan is the executive assistant to the chairman of Capital Management LLC at Mutual of America Life Insurance Company. Born in Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford with a mother from Co. Westmeath, she attended the Goff Street Business Academy, in Co. Roscommon, where she
York, and has also been named one of the “Top 50 Most Influential Irish American Women” by the Irish Voice. Of her Irish heritage and being a part of the Irish American diaspora, Aine says that “only in the United States can our Irish culture and traditions be fostered with an unmatched sense of pride.”
Only in the United States can our Irish culture and traditions be fostered with an unmatched sense of pride.
– Aine Sheridan
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Jean Kennedy Smith
Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith is the former United States Ambassador to Ireland and founder of VSA, an international organization that provides arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increases access to the arts for all. In recognition of her work for peace, she was named an honorary citizen of Ireland by Irish President Mary McAleese – and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama. The eighth of nine children born to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., Ambassador Smith is a mother of four and widow of the late Stephen Smith. She lives in New York.
Genealogist Megan Smolenyak is a real life history detective who loves to solve mysteries. You might have spotted Megan or her handiwork on Top Chef, Who Do You Think You
Are?, Finding Your Roots, Faces of America, Good Morning America, the Today Show, The Early Show, CNN, PBS and NPR. Her news-making discoveries include uncovering Michelle Obama’s family tree, revealing the true story of Annie Moore, the first immigrant through Ellis Island, and tracing President Barack Obama’s roots to Moneygall, Ireland, and Vice President Joe Biden’s roots to Mayo and Louth. Formerly Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com, she also founded Unclaimed Persons. Megan is the author of six books, including Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing and Who Do You Think You Are? (companion to the TV series), and conducts forensic research for the Army, BIA, coroners, NCIS, and the FBI.
Being Irish, and on my own, people could not have been nicer to me, and I made life-long friendships through the Irish Arts Center. – Pauline Ann Turley
Megan is all Irish on her mother’s side, with roots in Cork, Kerry, Longford, Leitrim, and Antrim.
Fidelity International Regina Sullivan is the head of Shared Services at Fidelity International, a position she has held since 2013. She obtained her B.A. from Boston College, a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School, and a risk management certificate from the Wharton Executive Education Program. Regina notes that in 2015 Fidelity International, which has operated in Ireland since 2000, “announced the creation of a global shared services structure which now focuses on technology solutions and investment and fund operations across the Fidelity International organization. Dublin is a key location for this Global Shared Services function,” she says. Fidelity International will also open a new state of the art office situated in George’s Quay, Dublin, in the summer of 2016. This new office, according to Regina, will “become an important location for shared services and associated activities over time.”
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN Regina celebrates the “history, depth, perseverance and sense of humor” that comes with her Irish ancestry, and believes that courage, humility, a sense of humor, and resiliency are key elements in making a good leader. She would also like to see more “intentional and deliberate inclusion” of women in the workplace.
Disney Anne Sweeney is former co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney/ABC Television Group, having left her post earlier this year to pursue a career in television directing. A leading industry figure, she was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune and one of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes. Anne is a
recipient of the Cable Television Public Affairs Association’s President’s Award, the Golden Mike Award for Outstanding Contributions to Broadcasting by the Broadcasters Foundation of America, and the Matrix Award for television from New York Women in Communications, Inc. Anne was elected director of the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2001. In 2007, she was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame. She has received the Committee of 200’s Luminary Award, and in October of 2011 became the first female executive in history to receive MIPCOM’s Personality of the Year. Anne, who earned a B.A. from the College of New Rochelle and an Ed.M. from Harvard, traces her roots to Meath, Kerry, and Mayo.
Pauline Ann Turley
Irish Arts Center Pauline Ann Turley is the vice chair of the 60 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Irish Arts Center, New York. She holds a B.A. in Drama and Theatre Studies from Trinity College Dublin. Pauline recalls how she moved to New York right out of college at age 23, knowing no-one, and started as an intern at the Irish Arts Center. “Being Irish, and on my own, people could not have been nicer to me, and I made life-long friendships through the Irish Arts Center.” Now, the Irish Arts Center is her first love, where she and her colleague Aidan Connolly have raised more than $47 million to build a new Irish Arts Center to better tell the evolving story of the Irish in America through the arts. Pauline is the fifth of seven children, and was born in Newry, Co. Down, to parents who are also Down natives. Pauline got her first job gathering potatoes with her parents when she was six years old. Her first paying job, however, was weighing mushrooms at a mushroom factory (at age seven), which was followed by a lucrative babysitting career at 10. As of June 24th this year, she will be married to Charles Garland. She also hopes for more transparency, governance, and affirmative equality policies for women in the workplace.
James Beard Foundation Susan Ungaro is president of the James Beard Foundation, the leading culinary organization in the U.S. Since taking on the role in 2006, Ungaro has overseen significant growth in global awareness of the Foundation, expanded the number of educational and thought-leadership initiatives, and increased the organization’s culinary scholarship program, which this year will award $750,000 in financial aid for students – the largest amount in JBF history. Of the many initiatives Susan has begun, she is most proud of creating their Women in Culinary Leadership program, which has grown three-fold since it launched in 2013. Her mother and father were childhood sweethearts, though emigrated separately from Castlegregory, Co. Kerry in 1947 and ’49 respectively, with her father following her mother to New York in a grand roman-
Because I was first in the family to finish high school and go to college, I felt a deep responsibility to be a role model for my younger brothers and sister. – Susan Ungaro
tic gesture of affection. As the oldest of six children, she also says that her parents were her cheerleaders. “Because I was first in the family to finish high school and go to college, I felt a deep responsibility to be a role model for my younger brothers and sister,” she says. Prior to assuming her role at the James Beard Foundation, Susan worked at Family Circle magazine for 27 years, eventually becoming editor in chief. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from William Patterson University, and resides in New Jersey with her husband, with whom she has three children. She is a member of the Bergen Irish Association.
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After 20 years with American Ballet Theatre, principal dancer Gillian Murphy still loves the challenge of making the difficult look effortless. By Patricia Harty & Kara Rota
illian Murphy celebrated her 20th anniversary performance with American Ballet Theatre on May 28, dancing the lead role as Lise in La Fille mal gardée (translating literally to “The Poorly Guarded Girl,” and also called “The Girl Who Needed Watching”). The ballet tells the story of a playful, imaginative girl who resists her mother’s attempts to marry her off to a rich nitwit, preferring instead her romantic, if poor, beloved. Nearly as impressive as her practiced pointe work was Murphy’s ability to use dance to tell a complex story, expressing an emotional range from mischief to frustration to joy and romance using only the controlled movement of her body and the look in her expressive eyes. When Lise snuck out to meet her beloved, or performed a complex and mesmerizing ribbon dance, Murphy’s talent needed watching indeed. Unlike Lise, Murphy had her parents’ full support growing up as she identified her passion: ballet. With roots on both her Murphy and Sullivan sides firmly planted in County Cork, Murphy joined ABT at 17 in 1996 after a childhood spent learning to dance in the Carolinas. At 11, she danced the Black Swan pas de deux, and at 14 she attended the North Carolina School of Arts (UNCSA) training under Melissa Hayden. (A former prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet, Hayden stressed the importance of the Balanchine technique.) At 15, Murphy was a finalist at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. After joining ABT at 17, she was promoted to soloist at 20, and the rank of principal at 23. The roles she has taken on over the years have run the gamut to showcase the wide range that is one of the marks of her talent, including the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Desdemona in Othello, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Princess Aurora and the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, OdetteOdile in Swan Lake, and Sylvia in Sylvia. Of this last, the New York Times wrote that “the illustrious Gillian Murphy, as Sylvia, has few roles that better show her bravura skills.” Artistic Director Kevin
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McKenzie called her, “a joy...for every minute of 20 years! She is gifted and smart, willing to absorb from her peers and be an example at the same time. We have watched her grow organically into her potential – blossoming into a truly unique American ballerina with an astonishing command and range of repertoire.” During her career, Murphy has been awarded the Prix de Lausanne Espoir, a dance fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation, and the Princess Grace Statue Award. She also received an honorary doctorate in Performing Arts from UNCSA, and the school has endowed a scholarship in her name. Now 37, Murphy has played a vital role in keeping the art of ballet relevant to mainstream audiences, whether it’s answering questions in a Reddit AMA, playing a cameo as herself in Gossip Girl, or dancing in Center Stage and Center Stage 2: Turn It Up. Along with her husband, choreographer, director, and former ABT principal dancer Ethan Stiefel, Murphy is ballet royalty. In other reviews, the New York Times called her “a redoubtable and complex artist,” and noted “the blazing clarity, the air-cleaving jumps, the dazzling turns and the plunging, hopping, complex footwork...the plasticity of her torso.” It is true that to watch Murphy dance is a stark reminder that ballet, first and foremost, pushes the limits of what the human body can achieve. But it is Murphy’s discipline, determination, and the art she brings to interpreting and inhabiting each of her heroines that make her a brilliant ballerina. We meet up on Memorial Day in a café near Lincoln Center. Murphy arrived from rehearsal wearing a light summer dress and sandals. She is fresh-faced – no lipstick – and unbelievably young looking – but she’s not a girl. She’s a woman of quiet self-possession who takes the dance seriously, but not herself. She may have been born in London but she is a passionate American who believes “education and healthcare are fundamental to everyone’s life,” and the anti-immigrant sentiment being expressed by some Americans to be “very disturbing.”
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LEFT: Gillian Murphy in Sylvia. BELOW: Gillian Murphy in La Fille mal gardée.
PHOTO: ROSALIE O’CONNOR.
How much of your life is your work? It is a big part of my life. There is no denying it. This profession requires an intense level of dedication and devotion, but it also is incredibly fulfilling. I get to go out there and do what I love – just to dance to live music with extraordinary dancers, with these great partners and the rest of the company sharing their artistry. That is a big part of what I love about performance, too: it’s about being in that zone collectively with others. I like being a principal dancer and having all those solo moments, but just looking around the stage and sharing that moment with these other artists is a big part of my love of being out there. It must be very important to trust the other principal dancer, your male partner. Oh, that is key. Trust is key like in any relationship, but especially as it is a partnership and you are going to be lifted over their head, or twisted around or spun around the stage – you absolutely have to trust. But I have been very fortunate to have had amazing partners. I have no complaints.
I read that you said, “It is not enough to have natural talent. You really have to work at it.” That is true. It is never enough to have the talent because you also have to have the tools, the training and you have to put the work in. In your early life, how much work was it on a daily basis? As a twelve year-old, I was taking class an hour and half every day, followed by some other rehearsals for an hour or two. As a fourteen year-old, when I was at North Carolina School of Arts, I had a ballet class every weekday. We would have one day off for the weekend, possibly two, but usually one. So ballet class and either pointe class, pas de deux, or modern class. So almost every day there was at least three hours of certain conditioning, training classes, and then, one to three hours of rehearsals on top of the full high school academic program.
PHOTO: MARTY SOHL
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TOP 50 POWER WOMEN Were your parents supportive of you wanting to be a dancer? They were, yes. I was always dancing around the house when I was little and I really loved it from an early age. They were very supportive and my mother ended up driving long distances for me to get better training. When I was about twelve, I think they realized… First of all, they knew I loved it, and second of all, they realized I might have some potential. So we started driving to Columbia, South Carolina, which is an hour and a half away each way, several times a week when I was twelve, and then, when I was thirteen, we actually relocated there, just me, my mother, and my little sister. My father was working in North Carolina at the time, so it was hard for all of us to be apart from each other, but I think my parents understood how much I love to dance and how much I would need to have the right kind of training to make that happen.
You were actually accepted into ABT before you finished high school. Yes. Georgina Parkinson was a ballet mistress and a coach at the American Ballet Theatre in New York, and she came down to North Carolina School of Arts to work on a piece and she saw me and she said, “Gillian, you are ABT material. You should come, audition, come take a class.” So I came up for her class on a Saturday in April. I’d just turned seventeen, and Kevin McKenzie [the director] offered me a place for the following Tuesday. I was graduating from high school a year early and I had another month of academics, so I asked to join in August. It was great. A couple of days after I joined, we went to Rio de Janeiro on tour, then to Korea. We work all over the world as a company, and as the designated national company, we perform regularly all over the United States. 64 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
PHOTO: GENE SCHIAVONE
When did you know that you wanted to dance professionally? I don’t think I knew what to expect in terms of like where my career would go or what was possible really. I just knew from a very young age that this is what I love to do. If this could be a profession, then I absolutely would love to at least try and make that happen. I have just been very fortunate and I’m really grateful for everything that has occurred. I was very lucky also that my parents allowed me to go away from home when I was fourteen because that time in Columbia, training there, away from our home in Florence, was really critical, but the next critical step was moving on to even more advanced training which was the North Carolina School of Arts with Melissa Hayden. She really took me under her wing and I got the opportunity to do a lot of Balachine’s pieces at the a very young age and train there without compromising my academic growth. Was it a big change moving to New York? It was a bit of cultural shock. You know, I grew up in the Carolinas [with] a much slower pace, so moving to New York when I was seventeen was definitely different, but I’ve always liked it here. Especially because we do tour a lot. I think New York 24/7 day in-day out can be a lot. It is just so fastpaced, so much fun at all times, but the fact that we travel the world and every now and then my husband and I get out to Pennsylvania, to the woods and rivers – having that balance makes me appreciate New York much more. Does dancing ever feel like work? The only time when it becomes work is dealing with injuries. It becomes more complicated because you are pushing your body to do something that it clearly probably shouldn’t be doing at that moment.
TOP Gillian Murphy and Alexandre Hammoudi in The Sleeping Beauty.
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I have been very fortunate in my twenty years at the company in regards to injuries, but just recently I had a calf strain. So I actually didn’t rehearse as much as I might have wanted to because I need to let that heal. That takes away some of the joy of it, when you are dealing with a muscle strain or some sort of situation like that. But generally, I feel so grateful that this is what I do for a living and I understand that the discipline of hard work is part of that and it is a necessary part of growing, making progress, and getting the opportunity to be free on the stage. If you put that work in, then I feel like performance is where you trust that work – and [you are able to] just be more spontaneous and just enjoy the dance. How important is it to have a strong sense of yourself, which is something I’ve read people saying about you? I think that has been very important because it’s kept me grounded – that I am always grateful for talent, for the potential that I started out with but I don’t just take it for granted and I don’t take the opportunities I’ve been given for granted. I really just want to make the most out of this profession and art that I love so much. I take ballet as an art form very seriously and I think it can be very powerful and meaningful, but I try not to take myself too seriously. I have to have a sense of humor and take myself with a grain of salt and [I try to] keep that sort of grounded sensibility of striving for something more rather than getting caught up in applause or a good review here or there. Dancing cannot just be an exercise in ballet technique, which can get very much isolated in a bubble, but something human and a real and spontaneous expression of joy, or drama or pathos that just happens to be in this classical form. You seem to spend so much time on pointe, more than anyone I have ever seen – sort of like you float around the stage effortlessly. Lise runs on pointe, literally, quite a bit, and hardly ever comes down. But I do love that. I always loved pointe shoes and just that sort of ethereal feeling, kind of other-worldly feeling of being on my toes. I enjoy it. I mean, I am lucky that ABT also does more modern repertoire, so I am not always in pointe shoes and I can explore different types of movement and work with modern choreographers and do various styles. But my favorite – my real passion is for pointe shoes and classical ballet, Balanchine, Ashton, Tudor, et cetera. I don’t know how you manage to do that ribbon dance [as Lise]. It seems so tricky! There are some tricky moments with that ribbon! Doing a little jumprope with that ribbon in pointe shoes is not easy, but it is fun and I do love being on the stage. And music is fundamental to why I dance. When you have wonderful music and exceptional choreography, and the Metropolitan Opera House stage, there is no reason to pull back, really, and some of what we do is very difficult, but that is the art of ballet. To make it look effortless. What was the music that you used to dance to when you were a child? My father loved Amadeus, the movie, so he would play that quite a bit, the soundtrack. I remember loving that music when I was little and dancing to it endlessly.
PHOTO: MEL BARLOW
Speaking of your Dad, where are your ancestors from? Both sides are from Cork. My mother is English and she is a Sullivan. The Murphys moved to America around the Famine time, to the Midwest. I think around Wisconsin. My dad grew up all over the United States because his father was a cartographer. He was the oldest of six and they would move around constantly. His father was surveying and mapmaking the entire country. Where did your parents meet? They met in Barcelona. My father went to Dartmouth and he wanted to do a year abroad at university in Spain, and my mother was going to school there and they met there. Have you ever been to Ireland? I’ve never been. I always wanted to go. It’s really high on my bucket list. My brother Kevin just went. He brought back all sorts of Guinness shirts and paraphernalia. I have two older brothers Thaddeus “Thad” and Kevin, and a sister, Tessa, who is eight years younger than me. They were all born in America except for me. I was born in Wimbledon because my father was working overseas for a few years – he was with GE. My parents live in Virginia now. They have been traveling a fair amount lately because my father retired. We should all do a IA family trip to Ireland. It’s time.
ABOVE: Wedding day, September 19, 2015. Pictured with the Murphy side of the family (from left to right: Kevin, Tessa, Amy (Kevin’s fiance), Gillian, Ethan, Thad, Carol (mom), Paul (dad) Murphy. RIGHT: Gillian at 11 in Black Swan.
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The Derry Girl Makes
The actress, producer and humanitarian, Roma Downey. By Mary Pat Kelly
oma Downey received the first ever Irish Diaspora Award from the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) and the government of Ireland in Dublin on April 9 for her “extraordinary achievements and vision as a producer and an actress alongside her charity and humanitarian work worldwide.” Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, the youngest of six, Roma and her husband, Mark Burnett, the Britishborn television producer she married in 2007, live in Malibu, California with Reilly, her daughter from her marriage to director David Anspaugh, and James and Cameron, Mark’s sons. Though she first made a name for herself as an award-winning actress, particularly in her nine seasons as Monica on the CBS series Touched by an Angel, Roma is also a highly successful producer. In 2009 she formed LightWorkers Media, which has produced several mega-hits including The Bible, the 2013 Emmy-nominated miniseries, watched by over 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone. “You made the Bible the water cooler talk in the United States of America,” Oprah Winfrey said to Roma, who not only produced the series but played the role of Mary the mother of Jesus. In 2014, LightWorkers Media re-cut The Bible series as a film about Jesus called Son of God, and produced a two-hour special for Lifetime television on Women of the Bible. Both were well-received, as were A.D. The Bible Continues on NBC and The Dovekeepers for CBS. This coming August, a new version of Ben-Hur, starring Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman, will be released by the company,
which MGM acquired last December. Burnett now runs MGM’s Television and Digital Group, while Downey remains President of LightWorkers Media, which has become the Faith and Family Division of MGM. “I never dreamed when I left Ireland 25 years ago to tour America with the Abbey Theatre’s The Playboy of The Western World that I would be back here now having produced Ben-Hur for MGM and Paramount,” said Roma to the IFTA audience. After the Abbey tour ended Roma decided to stay in New York. “I had empty pockets and a heart full of hope,” she said. “I was checking coats one day and starring in a TV mini-series the next – the American Dream.” The mini-series, A Woman Named Jackie (1991), won an Emmy and rave reviews for Roma in her starring role as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She was on her way. The offers came pouring in, but the scripts were disappointing with only stereotypical parts for women. Then along came Touched by an Angel and the role of Monica, a messenger of God. Here was a chance to express the faith that had sustained her when, as a ten year old, she lost her mother and faced years growing up during the Troubles in Derry. Once, Roma was visiting her mother’s grave and found herself pinned down during a gunfight in the cemetery. That night her aunt found that a bullet had grazed Roma’s red coat. So Roma knew what it was to depend on belief. Still, a show about angels? Not much chance here for commercial success. But Touched by an Angel (with an audience of over 20 million viewers a week) would become one of the highest rated TV series ever with multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, in prime time from 1994 – 2003 and still being seen in syndication. Roma’s success enabled her to give back and the
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birth of her daughter, Reilly (named for her mother Maureen O’Reilly Downey) made her sensitive to the needs of children. It was at this time that she became involved with Operation Smile. “We asked Roma to film with us in Vietnam twenty years ago. Since then she has become the catalyst enabling us to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of children,” said Dr. Bill Magee, the plastic surgeon who together with his wife, Kathy, a nurse, founded the non-profit medical group that provides surgeries for children around the world who are born with severe cleft lip and palate deformities. Downey is more than just a spokesperson for the organization. She has traveled on several missions with Operation Smile, sometimes taking her family along. “Every child deserves the dignity of a smile, and because of the amazing volunteer medical teams of Operation Smile, free care is given to children who might never even be able to dream of a normal life,” she says. Roma is also a patron of the arts, giving generously to both Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and the Irish Arts Centre in New York, and supporting The Playhouse in her home town of Derry. The Playhouse was founded during the worst of the Troubles by Pauline Ross who decided the city needed a space where the transformative power of the arts could encourage peace and reconciliation. “Roma has been our generous patron from the very beginning,” Pauline says. “I love that her company is called LightWorkers Media, because she is spreading light and love.” “I am a Derry girl,” Roma said in her IFTA speech. “The life lessons I learned growing up in Derry remain with me. It’s who I am. And no matter where I go I carry them in my deep heart’s core.” On the morning following the IFTA event, I traveled with Roma to her hometown. Family and friends gathered for Sunday dinner in a room of a recently-built hotel where a huge plate glass window (unthinkable during the Troubles) looks out over the new Peace Bridge that connects the Cityside to the Waterside, uniting both sides of the community in the miracle of ordinary life. “I chose this room because you can see the Peace Bridge from one side and Saint Eugene’s Cathedral, my parish church, from the other,” Roma tells me. She gestures at the group. “These are the people who formed me and still nurture me,” she says. “My family is here. Classmates and teachers from my high school Thornhill College and friends of my parents. Now that my mother and father are gone it’s a way to keep them close.” Children play together. And every guest takes a cell phone photo of Downey and the statuette. I sit next to a woman who tells me, “Roma gets her talent from her mother, Maureen. She was the best actresses and
OPPOSITE PAGE TOP: Downey on location in Morocco during the filming of The Bible series. BOTTOM: Downey with her husband Mark at the IFTA Awards.
mimic in Derry at a time when drama, songs, and stories kept us going.” “The arts were how we survived,” says Madeline McCully, who taught Roma painting. “Roma showed great originality and I was delighted when she graduated from the Brighton College of Art. But then she went on to the Drama Studio in London.” “Oh but she had to be a performer,” her drama teacher Mary Murphy says. “She touched audiences with her warmth and humor and a deeply spiritual beauty. The two teachers smile at each other remembering Roma as a young girl at Thornhill College. The school takes its name from The Hill of the Thorn Trees – where the hawthorn, a sacred tree, has grown since the time of the Druids. Even today, a branch of hawthorn blossoms marks the Irish festival of Bealtaine and decorates May altars devoted to the Blessed Mother – a good place to cultivate feminine energy. As sunset light shines on the gathering, fiddler Frank Gallagher sends the first notes of “The Derry Air” floating out into the room. Downey said later it was her favorite moment of the evening. “The music brought a kind of calm to the room. Even the children responded. All of us held together by that ancient tune,” she said. It was as if we were united in some profound way. No need to hear the words of “Danny Boy.” We knew them. Roma had visited her mother’s grave earlier that day and said “an Ave there.” But as Frank played there was no loss, no past, only the eternal reality where the women of Ireland passed their strength from mother to daughter down through the generations. “Since Roma was a little girl,” says Pat Hume, the Downey’s long time neighbor and friend, “I’ve been impressed with her compassion and serenity.” Compassion and serenity. Hardly the usual adjectives for someone about to get her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but as MGM CEO Gary Barber says, “Roma is one IA of a kind.”
ABOVE: Downey with her husband Mark and President Michael D. Higgins at the IFTA Awards. INSET: Downey with her pal, the singer Van Morrison. BELOW: Downey on a mission with Operation Smile, the non-profit she’s been involved with for the past 20 years.
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yond BeThe Bog Road
PHOTO BY: MEL DIGIACOMO
By Kristin Cotter McGowan
The first new album in 10 years from fiddle virtuoso Eileen Ivers traces traditional Irish music to Canada’s Nova Scotia, and through the Scots/Irish root of Bluegrass and Old-Time music of Appalachia, and on to the Cajun sounds of the South.
“The bog roads of Ireland were paths into ancient sod fields, laboriously farmed to provide an essential source of fuel and warmth.”
So begins the liner notes to Grammy-Award winning, multiple All-Ireland Fiddle champion Eileen Ivers’s most comprehensive and reflective album to date, Beyond the Bog Road. Its release coincided with the first night of her new tour, bringing this historic musical journey into the present day. “It was great to come out with a bang. We were out in San Francisco, in a very celebratory mode having heard the album was number three on iTunes that day, ” said Ivers, calling me from the road. Having spent childhood summers in Mayo helping her grandfather bring home the turf along bog roads, Eileen’s personal connection to this ancient source of fuel sparked a musical story of emigration, integration, and evolution. Her parents emigrated from Mayo and Connemara; her mother with great memories of her uncle’s fiddle playing, and her father’s love of American Bluegrass are writ large on this album. “My dad
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didn’t play, but always wanted to. They have these steel pipes on the gates in Ireland with holes drilled in them. When the wind was strong and blowing through the tubes he would go over and press the holes like he was playing tunes. The soul has to play music!” Eileen lived the first-generation Irish-American life in the Bronx during a musical time and space that produced many champion Irish musicians. Her early teacher was master fiddler Martin Mulvihill, a County Limerick native who regularly brought his students back to Ireland to compete. It was Mulvihill who first taught Eileen not to be hemmed in by the notes on the page, to explore what the fiddle could do and to play with heart. Lifelong friend and Cherish the Ladies frontwoman, Joanie Madden, remembers being in school with Eileen and dozens of kids playing Irish music – many of whom won medals in All-Ireland competitions. She also recalls Eileen joking with her about the tin whistle being “for babies.” “She’s taken that back, trust me. But I always remind her of what she said to me in 6th grade – every time she asks me to play on one of her albums.”
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Uilleann piper, Jerry O'Sullivan, played in Eileen’s band from 2000 to 2003, but remembers first hearing her play in the mid-seventies at the VFW on 238th Street in New York. “Even as a tenyear old, she was a great player. Martin Mulvihill was her teacher and when you hear tunes she learned from him, you hear Martin.” As for Eileen today, Jerry is still impressed. “No one does it as well as her, this bluesy-Irish improv. There are a lot of imitators, but none as interesting as she is... she is the best player with the best technique.” Eileen was drawn to the violin’s sound in jazz, rock, bluegrass, and continuously unearths the parallels between the genres. She has played a significant role in integrating Irish traditional sounds with American music, having played with Sting, toured with Hall and Oates and Riverdance, and guest starred with over 40 orchestras. Dubbed the “Jimi Hendrix of the violin” by the New York Times, she recently performed a rock version of the National Anthem at the 2015 NBA Championship. “It was such a privilege. [Stephen] Curry giving me the thumbs up and high five afterwards. I was beaming with pride.” The beginnings of Beyond the Bog Road are as old as Irish music itself; a path long in existence before Eileen began her own journey. The album features music from Nova Scotia, Bluegrass, and Old-Time music of Appalachia, and the Cajun sounds of the South. “I had always wanted to connect all these roots. I started kind of slow with the research and then started recording around 2009/2010.” One of the many highlights of Beyond the Bog Road is the pairing of Irish tunes to an American counterpart, allowing listeners to hear the similarities and influence of one on the other. With double the recorded material needed for the CD, creative choices were made to keep the story progressing. “‘Kitty’s Wedding’ and ‘Smith’s Delight,’ I knew that combination had to be on there. Both tunes have similar melodic structure. For ‘Linin’ Track’, I took two railroad-themed songs one from the IrishAmerican experience and one from the AfricanAmerican experience. There were coal mining songs I had – all kinds of work related tunes – some had to get cut. You want to tie it all together to make one complete thought, one statement, and then you have to let it go. I’d hate to lose them though, so perhaps there will be a follow up CD.” The show Eileen and her band created for the tour is a multi-media sensation. Followers of Eileen’s Facebook page received sneak peaks of the album’s tracks through beautifully produced music videos. “We did a few shows with some of these videos showing behind the band. We have seventeen hours of footage, all around the places I grew up during my summers in Ireland, in Mayo and Connemara.
There’s so much there – we’re actually thinking about putting that out on a DVD. It’ll be a challenge to get it all together but we’re working on it.” The album opens with Walk On, a Cajun-style tune in which Eileen focuses on the obstacles that come up in life, from the emigrant experience, moving on, leaving home, and how you’ve got to keep moving forward. The music is a simple “drone-y fiddle” groove knitted together with an Irish reel. Eileen not only composed the music, but took her first stab at songwriting in the process of taking a deeper look at life. “I never thought I was a songwriter – that’s a weighty title for sure – but I love to read, I love words and thoughtful ideas and putting them together. I wanted a certain kind of song, a certain sentiment, and said to myself, ‘Geez, Eileen, maybe take a stab at it.’ I wanted to bring in something of the year that impacted our lives so much.” And what a year it was. In the album’s early stages, life intersected in a momentous way. Eileen and her husband Brian welcomed their son Aidan in May of 2012. Three months later, Eileen’s father passed away. Then Brian’s father passed away in September and his mother in October. “There was a lot going on that left me thinking about the afterlife, so the record, in an interesting way, got very much reshaped. I think when you are coming from a place of writing and composing yourself, there’s something a little more heartfelt in the process. You’ve got to keep the faith. It got us through a lot, and I wanted to put that in there. We need to be positive, but gosh it’s so hard at times.” Breathing life into Eileen’s lyrics is Tim Shelton, a singer with bluegrass roots she met through their mutual agency. “He’s such a gentleman, a wonderful soul, an incredibly kind man, and that voice – I absolutely fell in love with Tim’s voice. It draws you in. I played a track for my father when he was in the hospital and he said, ‘Oh, I like that!’ and gave me the thumbs up.” The path of Beyond the Bog Road leads out of Ireland, through the music of America, to present day. The themes of tradition, history, music appreciation, and culture on this CD naturally lend themselves to the classroom, and Eileen and her band take every opportunity to bring their music into schools. She
OPENING PAGE: Eileen Ivors performing on tour. ABOVE: The cover of Beyond the Bog Road.
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“We want children to learn, to be influenced by the arts, to be moved by roots music, and to see that it isn’t an archaic art form. It’s relevant today.
It’s an extension of the past right into the present.”
PHOTO BY: MEL DIGIACOMO
says, “we want children to learn to be influenced by the arts, to be hopefully moved by roots music, and to see that this isn’t an archaic art form – that it’s relevant today. It’s an extension of the past right into the present. “We do an hour program and I’m really wanting to do much more. I’ll use the electric fiddle and record a four-bar loop, bang the fiddle, get a little drum groove going and play the loop on top of it. They think it’s cool! You’re like a mini rock star to them. It’s beautiful to think we’ve actually moved these kids to maybe check out some different music or maybe take up an instrument, or just be more open to tradition and culture.” Out of Ireland, through the Bronx, driving north on that last drive to their new home, Eileen recalls getting off the exit as Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” came on the radio. “I blasted it! ‘In the arms of the angel / May you find some comfort here…’ I just love it. It was back in ’99, and Brian and I were getting ready to be married, prepping for 300 of our closest friends.” Those friends included a star-studded band handpicked by T-Bone Wolk, former bassist for Hall and Oates. “When I was on the road with them, he would say to me, ‘Eileen, when you get married, I want to put the band together.’ And true to his word, he did. And on her wedding day, she found herself rocking out in her backyard with Billy Joel’s sax player, guitarist G.E. Smith, and Paul McCartney’s drummer. “It was this dream band, unbelievable!” With the album complete and greatly received, Eileen reflects on family during a break from her 70 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
tour – her childhood summers in Ireland with grandparents, in the Bronx with her friends and mentors, returning to her father’s land with her son and placing their fingers on the same holes he did, in that same gate. Eileen feels blessed to have her family, and to have been with her father when he passed. “He had a full life, thankfully. My sister Maureen is a home care nurse and she was over-the-top incredible. She’s an amazing woman. While he was in the hospital she would go and give him a bath every night. She is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. At the end, she held one hand, I held the other, and typical Irish – we opened the window to let his spirit out. It was incredible. Looking at it now, it was such a blessing the way he passed. I thank God every day for that. And the same with Brian’s parents – he was there for both. It really helped to move along, to cherish every moment and be the best you can. Be there for your son, your family, for anybody.” On the back of the CD there’s a picture of her father waving. It was taken the last time he was in Ireland. The image used to break her up, now makes her laugh. “Those older Irish guys, they would just take it on. That little wave says everything. “We had a lot of time, a lot of life. He had a gentle passing, but it impacts you forever. My music and writing comes from a much more centered, reverent place now. Life is about helping each other and working hard. I want to put thoughtful art and performances out there. I want to leave every drop of everything I have out there on stage, to seize the IA moment and just go for it. Life is a gift.”
Eileen Ivers with her blue electric fiddle.
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ABOVE: At Irish America’s Hall of Fame luncheon, President Clinton, meets with Eileen Collins, her husband Pat Youngs and their son Luke. OPPOSITE PAGE: Eileen Collins talks about the space program and her Irish heritage at the Hall of Fame luncheon. INSET: Judy Collins sings “Beyond the Sky,” the song she wrote for Eileen.
n March 30 astronaut Eileen Collins, the first of two women Navy test pilots, the first woman to pilot a space shuttle, and the first woman to command a mission, was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame, at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. Folk legend Judy Collins sang “Beyond the Sky,” the song that NASA had commissioned her to write for Eileen when she commanded the “Return to Flight” mission two years after the Columbia disaster in 2005. Eileen began her remarks, an edited version of which follows, by thanking Judy saying, “I‘ve always wanted to be a singer, but I could not sing so – maybe in another life – I decided to go fly.” She signs all of her photographs with “Reach for the Stars,” her own personal motto. Colonel Collins went on to thank President Clinton. “He was the one who in 1993 signed the cooperative agreement with the Russians, which got the U.S. and Russia working together in the space program... That was a little bit controversial... But it did work out and we are good friends with the Russians now – at the engineers’ level – the flight controllers, the managers, the cosmonauts, the astronauts... It’s been very successful. And now we are in the International Space Station. “But I do want to say a few things about my Irish heritage and then a few things about the space program. “I am very, very proud of my Irish heritage and I am very lucky to be part of Irish culture and I consider us one big Irish family. “My ancestors came to America in the mid-1800s. The Collins family settled in Richboro, Pennsylvania. They were farmers. And on my mother’s side, the
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O’ Haras, they were mostly railroad people. “My grandfather, Jim O’ Hara, was a manager at the Lackawanna station in Elmira, New York, so I grew up in Elmira, New York. And why does that matter? Well, Elmira is nearby Harris Hill, known as the ‘soaring capital’ of America. “When I was a child, my dad would take us to the airport or the gliderport. We‘d sit on the hood of the car and we would watch these gliders take off. And even at summer camp and all through the summer I watched these gliders fly overhead and I thought, ‘I’d really like to do that someday.’ “I remember my mother taking us to the library. That is how she’d get rid of us, you know – four kids, dumped them off at the library and she’d go do her shopping. But at the library, I found the section on flying and I found everything I could find on flight – the theory of flight, the history of flight, women in aviation, military pilots… They all inspired me to eventually join the military. And by chance, my timing worked out. So the year that I graduated from Syracuse University, which was 1978, was the first year that the Air Force took women into pilot training. “I reported to Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, and I was a member of the first class to take women for pilot training at that base. And there were only four of us women – and there were 280 male pilots and over 100 instructors. So everybody knew who we were and they knew what kind of grades we were getting and what we were doing… “The first time I flew with Fort Worth Center I was in formation. We fly ‘lead’ and a wingman – both the lead and the wing talk on the radio. So when the Fort Worth Center flight controller or air traffic controller, heard my voice, he called my lead and said, ‘Vance 21 flight. Is your wingman a wingwoman? Or is his seatbelt just too tight?’ “So I learned to have a sense of humor and I never got upset about those things. I flew in the Air Force for 12 years. I absolutely loved the years that I did that. I met my husband Pat who is here with us today. He has just been great and very supportive throughout my career. “I started at NASA in 1990 – the Airforce assigned me to NASA, and I felt like I was leaving the best job in the world for the future best job in the world because all I wanted to do when I was young was go further and faster and higher. “So I just want to say a few things about what it is like to be in space because my Pat always tells me,
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‘Just tell them what it is like to be in the space and how much fun it is up there...’ “So being in space you are floating in zero G. It is like learning how to roller skate for the first time but it is a wonderful, effortless feeling. Looking back at the Earth from space, you can put your face right up against the window and stretch out your arms and you feel like you are a Greek God flying over the planet, very cool. “Think about the fact that we live on a ball that is spinning. And the space station – by the way, and the space shuttle is only 200 miles above the surface. It is not that far. If you drove straight there, it would take maybe three hours. “So the breathable air goes up two to three miles, an airplane flies six to seven miles… The Earth’s atmosphere is like the skin on an apple– that is how thin it is when you look back. “The other thing about being in space is the orbit. “We go around the Earth once every 90 minutes, so that converts to… If you project it on the surface,18,500 miles/hour... “We have the low Earth orbit. So if this is the Earth, we are going around like this – every 90 minutes. We go in and out of the shuttle – so the sun is shining on the Earth…. Well, you get the sunset and then 45 minutes later sunrise; 45 minutes later sunset, 45 minutes later sunrise…So you don’t have normal nighttime up there like here on Earth when you sleep when it is dark usually. You get constant sun coming in and out of the windows every 45 minutes. It kind of messes with your circadian rhythm… “Now, we are in lower Earth orbit. If you could fly straight there, you might get there in three hours but if you are going to go to the Moon, it takes three days. If you are going to go to Mars, it takes six months if the planets are on the same side of the Sun. If planets are on the different sides of the Sun, it takes two years. But we want to go to Mars someday. “So why are we flying in space? What does that do for us?” “Well, if you look at the history of the space program, spaceflight leads to invention, it leads to discoveries… It is exploration and it is adventure. We are adventuring into a new world. “If we think about the Irish people and even my ancestors who crossed the ocean so long ago coming to a new world… And you think how much courage that took… It took courage for them to
leave their homes and their families, first of all. It took courage to get in a boat and go across an ocean. And it took courage to set up a new home in a place where you’re maybe not even going to be accepted – where you’re going. “So I believe that the Irish people, particularly Irish Americans, are people of adventure. And I believe that our Irish ancestors have something in common with the space program and that’s the sense of adventure. So there is a need to explore, a need to learn new things, a need to do new things… And this is the hope of our space program and it is the premise of our space program. “So someday, people will leave planet Earth to explore new worlds… It will be under different circumstances, obviously, than the ocean travelers but there will be many similarities because there are new worlds to discover, new technologies, new materials and maybe even new life. “Most of you know about the Kepler Satellite. So the Kepler Satellite was launched by NASA several years ago. The only purpose is to discover Earth-like planets in other parts of our galaxy. So today Kepler Satellite has identified 4,600 candidate planets, and of those, 1,040 are confirmed to be planets like Earth in the habitable zone of their stars. “So I remember as a kid they told me there are nine planets, and now we teach our kids that there are over 1,000 and the number changes all the time – it keeps going up. “Kepler has only looked at the tiny bit of the sky in the galaxy. So if you extrapolate what we have found to the entire galaxy, they are predicting there are over 11 billion Earth-like planets. That doesn’t even include the large ones! “Someday, I believe, people will figure out a way to travel to these places and it won’t be in my lifetime. Sometimes I wonder if maybe I was born too soon. “But finally, I‘d just like to say it is really an honor to be here. “My congratulations go to the other honorees. It is wonderful to meet you all and to be here with you. I want to thank Patricia again and all those who went through a lot of hard work to put this together… “And again, I am very proud to be Irish. God bless you all!” IA JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 73
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wild irish women |
by Rosemary Rodgers
The Mother of Orphans “She was a mother to the motherless; she was a friend to those who had no friends; she had wisdom greater than schools can teach; we will not let her memory go.”
here’s a small park in New Orleans, on the corner of Camp and Prytania Streets, which exists solely to house a statue of an elderly woman holding a young girl. The woman is homely and stout, the girl is angelic and the message is one of love and caring. The plaque on the statue has only one word, “Margaret.” In New Orleans, there’s no need to include a last name – everyone knows. She’s Margaret Gaffney Haughery, a beloved character in New Orleans history, known as “The Angel of the Delta,” “The Bread Woman,” and, more than anything else, “The Mother of Orphans.” The Big Easy, known for good times and raucous celebrations, still recognized a great soul in its midst and claimed this austere, religious woman as its very own patron saint. Margaret may be unknown everywhere else but she was one of the most remarkable immigrants of the 19th century. She was an illiterate Irish washerwoman who faced down the terrible misfortunes of her life with grit and charity, dedicating her life to orphans, the poor and the displaced. To finance her generosity, she embarked on remarkable career trajectory: servant-peddler-washerwoman-dairymaidbaker-businesswoman-philanthropist. She left Ireland with her family when she was five in 1818, “the year without a summer.” The crops had failed, the Gaffneys were starving and, as Margaret later pointed out, her father was “an uncompromising foe of Saxon rule.” It took six grueling months for them to arrive in America eventually settling in Baltimore. They were still destitute when Yellow Fever took her sister and soon after, her parents. Another family member, a brother, just disappeared. At nine, Margaret was alone, an orphan working as a house servant and peddler to support herself. She was 21 when she married a fellow immigrant, Charles Haughery and in 1835, the couple moved to New Orleans where Margaret gave birth to a daughter, Frances. Although the Irish would soon be a major force in the city, Margaret and Charles faced the resentment directed at the new wave of immigrants; vicious prejudice was reserved, particularly, for the women who were perceived as ugly and mannish. An 1837 fiction piece in The Daily Picayune
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wrote about the mock trial of an Irishwoman, too drunk to be around decent folk so she was sent to the House of Correction. This, it should be added, was a “humor” article. Margaret was a stranger in this strange world when Charles died and when, months later, the ultimate tragedy struck – her infant daughter succumbed to SIDS, a disease unknown and unnamed at the time. A widow and an orphan who had buried her only child, she railed against her fate, “My God! Thou hast broken every tie: Thou hast stripped me of all. Again I am all alone.” A very formidable nun, Sister Regis Barrett of the Sisters of Charity, came to the aid of the impoverished 23-year-old widow giving Margaret a free room. More importantly, Sister Regis helped her channel her grief by directing her to work at the Poydras Orphan Asylum. This was her salvation and the beginning of her life as “The Mother of Orphans.” She worked as a laundress at the elegant St. Charles Hotel and divided her time between washing sheets at the hotel and giving love (and her wages) to the orphans at Poydras. To secure more clothing and food, she went street to street, store to store, begging – this was her first foray into what would later be her great mission, fundraising. She once entered a grocery store asking for donations for the children. A cheeky clerk said he would only give her as much as she could carry. A few minutes later, she returned with a wheel barrel, stocked it with enough supplies for months, and wheeled it, unaided, on the long journey back to the orphanage. Margaret wanted to be sure the children always had enough milk so she used her savings to buy two cows. She milked the cows, fed the children, then put the surplus milk on a truck, which she drove around
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the French Quarter. With profits from her milk truck, she started a dairy with 19 cows. Improbably, the woman who couldn’t read or write, the woman who owned only two dresses, was becoming a savvy entrepreneur. An entrepreneur who would, in time, buy land, businesses, and machinery and take on the all-male business community with lawsuits and injunctions. It helped that she was a widow (married women weren’t allowed to own property) known throughout New Orleans for her benevolence – profits she saw from her businesses went into constructing more orphanages and shelters. She parlayed her dairy success into another venture, buying a failing bakery and creating Margaret Haughery & Company, the first steam bakery in the South which, in time became one of the largest bakeries in the country. She expanded the product to cakes, crackers, cookies, flour, and even macaroni, increasing profits not by raising prices but by expanding production. A visitor at the time watched the company in action, “men were carrying drums of flour into the bakery while others were coming out of the warehouse with large barrels of bread and crackers.” Always known as a practical woman she co-invented a more efficient oven and discovered a way to package crackers keeping them for weeks. Now she was officially “The Bread Lady” as she personally delivered her bread to the poor of New Orleans. When the Yellow Fever hit New Orleans, the epidemic took over 8,000 lives and many more lay ill and dying. This was the same disease that claimed her family but Margaret went from house to house, nursing the victims regardless of race or means, promising dying mothers she would be a mother to their children, a promise she kept. During the Civil War she helped feed the city, defying the curfew and the Union Army. There’s a story about Margaret, in the middle of a battle, attempting to pass a barrier to feed starving citizens. She was stopped by the Union’s General Benjamin Franklin Butler. “You are not to go through the barrier without my permission, is that clear?” “Quite clear” Margaret replied (among other more pointed words) and walked through the barrier. The following year, during the siege of Port Hudson, she was brazen enough to solicit – and receive – donations for her orphanages from the Union army. The epidemic and the war filled New Orleans orphanages, prompting Margaret to construct seven more (including St. Elizabeth’s Asylum, later the home of Irish-American author Anne Rice). It’s important to note that her orphanages were ecumenical and inclusive, open to black and white, Protestant and
Jews, with no questions asked about paternity. She died in 1883 at the age of 69 and was honored with a state funeral. The city shut down and two governors, a mayor, and an archbishop were her pallbearers. Crowds of people, including every orphan in New Orleans, lined the street to pay tribute as her cortege passed by. The Times Picayune was in black borders and ran an obituary on the front page titled, “Our Margaret.” “The people of New Orleans, many of them, are wedded to pleasure and sensual delights; but they recognize true religion when they see it, and they turned out en masse to do it reverence when they followed Margaret to the grave.” Soon after her death, the city erected her monument – only one other statue to a woman existed in the country at the time. When it was completed, Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant orphans came from every asylum in the city to dedicate the monument and the park, “Margaret’s Place.” Margaret’s Place survived Katrina but time had still done its damage. The citizens of New Orleans raised funds for its restoration and, in 2015, the refurbished park and statue of Margaret was completed. Even her native Leitrim, to which she never returned, has restored her homeplace and welcomes tour groups to “walk in Margaret’s footsteps.” Today, her institutions survive as homes for the elderly and infirm. The immigrant washerwoman left an estate of $50,000 (today estimated at 1.2 million dollars) all of which she left to charity. She signed her will with IA an “X.”
Clockwise: The Margaret statue in New Orleans. “Margaret Haughery with Orphans,” a painting by J. Amans. Margaret’s memorial card.
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Unrelated Ryan roots |
by Marsha Sorotick
Whether it’s stomping the boards on Broadway or on Hollywood’s silver screen, these girls all share a love of performance. Perhaps it’s in the DNA?
Peggy Ryan and Donald O'Connor The Merry Monahans. OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP TO BOTTOM: Kathleen Ryan, Sheila Ryan, Meg Ryan, and Amy Ryan.
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hinking about writing an article for Irish America, I recalled the childhood games my mother and I would play on long car rips. We named state capitals, movie titles and how many famous people we could list with the same last name. In the spirit of those long ago car games, I offer Irish America readers a chance to meet five women all with the last name Ryan and all performers on the silver screen. One was the female lead in one of the greatest movies ever made. Another was one of filmdom’s great dancers. The third hasn’t been seen in a while but her talents are taking her in a new and exciting direction and her work should be back on film this year. The fourth was a star in classic cowboy films and the fifth receives rave reviews for everything she does, not only on film but also on stage and TV. So come along with me, and meet the unrelated Ryan girls.
First there’s Peggy Ryan. Born Margaret O’Rene in 1924 in Long Beach, California, she was part of her parents vaudeville act “The Merry Dancing Ryans” by the age of three. Peggy’s best known for dancing with Donald O’Conner as part of a group put together by Universal Studios called Jivin’ Jacks and Jills. Donald and Peggy were the tallest and were paired up as a dance team. They became sensations with their high-energy jitterbug routines. A favorite film of mine, The Merry Monahans, had 20 song and dance numbers. They were Universal’s answer to Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. Why aren’t they better known today? Mickey and Judy were at highpowered MGM and Donald and Peggy were at lowly (in those days) Universal. MGM offered perfection. Universal had that “Let’s put on a show, gang” feel. Watch Peggy and Donald on You-Tube and you’ll soon be smiling. Peggy made five films with O’Connor, before she left Universal in 1945. She returned to the screen with dancer Ray McDonald for two movies in 1949 There’s a Girl in My Heart and Shamrock Hill, and 1953’s All Ashore. She retired after her third marriage and moved to Hawaii. She returned to show biz in the 1960s with a small, regular role
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Girls as a secretary on the original Hawaii Five-O TV series. She eventually moved to Las Vegas, taught tap and produced dance shows. She died in 2004.
color smash The Gang’s All Here. This frequently-screened Busby Berekley musical is available everywhere. Sheila married actor Pat Buttram who appeared in Gene Autry cowboy movies as Gene’s sidekick. Sheila and Pat met on the set of Mule Train. Cowboy movies, classic or otherwise, may not be everyone’s cup of tea but those of a certain age may fondly recall Gene, Pat, and Sheila and the music, comedy and cattle rustic of the “oaters” they starred in.
Sheila Ryan was born Kathleen Elizabeth McLaughlin in Topeka, Kansas in 1921. She was so fabulous looking she was offered a contract by 20th Century Fox Pictures while still attending Hollywood High. What followed was a career mostly in “B” movies with a few very notable “A” pictures, including Laurel and Hardy’s Great Guns, and a pretty good noir thriller, Railroaded, with John Ireland (she played a character named Rosa Ryan). Don’t miss Sheila in the 1943 Techni-
Amy Ryan was born in Queens, NY in 1968. Her name is Amy Beth Dziewiontkowski. Ryan is her mother’s maiden name. Essentially a character actress, she has been nominated for the theater’s Tony Award twice. She was Oscar-nominated for Gone, Baby, Gone. She was a regular for several seasons on TV’s The Office. We’ve been seeing a lot of Amy of late as she has a slew of feature films either on release or getting ready for release. In the Oscar-nominated Bridge of Spies, directed by Stephen Spielberg, she stars as the wife of heroic Irish American lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks). This New York girl has so much talent I’m sure there are many more memorable roles and awards in her future. There they are – the Ryan Girls. They do the name proud with talent, good looks and a certain IA endearing and enduring charm.
Kathleen Ryan was born in Dublin in 1922. Her parents, originally from Tipperary, managed a chain of grocery stores. She entered UCD and appeared opposite Dan O’Herlihy. She dropped out of college but continued acting. O’Herilihy eventually recommended her for the female lead in the classic film Odd Man Out. Though her experience was limited she beat out all the Abbey Theatre regulars for the role of Kathleen Sullivan opposite James Mason. If you haven’t seen it, don’t miss it. Odd Man Out presents the story of Johnny McQueen (Mason) an Irish revolutionary leader in the last hours of his life after being wounded in a hold-up. The British Film Academy chose it as the Best British Film of 1947. Kathleen Ryan followed up Odd Man Out with several other films with Irish locales. Esther Waters (Best British Film of 1948), Captain Boycott with Steward Grainger and the American produced Captain Lightfoot with Rock Hudson. She also appeared in an American film noir indie Try and Get Me with Lloyd Bridges. A serious car accident in 1954 permanently affected her health and by 1958 her career had petered out. She died in Dublin in 1985.
Meg Ryan was born in 1961 in Connecticut as Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. Ryan is her maternal grandmother’s mine name. To earn extra money while studying journalism at NYU, Meg went into acting. From a two-year stint on the soap As The World Turns to being named one of People magazine’s “most beautiful” in 1994, Meg Ryan is a delightful screen presence. When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle are on most best romantic comedy film lists. Meg took a break from Hollywood to concentrate on raising her children Daisy and Jack, but 2015 proved an interesting year for her with her debut as a director. She reunited her with her Sleepless costar Tom Hanks to direct him in a movie called Ithica, also starring her son Jack Quaid. This film may prove to be a career changer for Meg as she joins the small club of female feature film directors. Good luck, Meg!
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A sampling of quotes from men interviewed in Irish America over the past 30 years on the impact that their Irish mothers had on their lives.
Compiled by Patricia Harty “My mother was very strong – very unruffable, steady on the emotional keel, righteous and majestic and vulnerable. Her McCann family were terrific, they had the volubility of protest – they were democrats. My father had a different kind of majesty, the country farmer’s silence and hauteur. My mother had an unbending thing, which she shared with women of that generation, a child a year in eight, nine, ten years. The giving-birth factor involved, I suppose, a willful adherence to the compensations of Catholicism – the cult of the suffering mother of Jesus, the cult of the suffering Jesus, and the cult of St. Anne, the mother of Mary. These were actual real psychic resources for sublimation in the lives
John Fitzpatrick and his mother Eithne, a former Miss Ireland.
“Dad was very successful but he wouldn’t have been a success without Mum. She was a great mother but she also helped him with the business. Where did I learn about interior design? I used to follow Mum around the hotel.”
Hotelier John Fitzpatrick on his mother Eithne. Interview by Patricia Harty, April / May 2010.
Seamus Heaney and his mother Kathleen McCann.
of women. In particular, for ones who were going through, without much consolation or understanding, the solitude and exhaustion of childbirth and child-rearing and the biological entrapment of being in a place with no birth control. Nowadays, I remember that affirmative bold outcry of prayers from women in church as a cry of rage and defiance. My mother wouldn’t have put it that way – she would have seen it as a form of transport and endurance.”
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Poet Seamus Heaney on his mother Kathleen McCann. Interview by Patricia Harty/April 1966.
The Class of 1974. Martin Dempsey and his mother Sarah.
“MY MOTHER CRIED WHEN I TOLD HER I REALLY DIDN’T WANT TO GO TO WEST POINT. SO I WENT.”
When Martin E. Dempsey, who became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received the telegram announcing his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he was far from certain about accepting. But his resolve fermented quickly, he says, by what he ultimately determined was the “most important” factor: his first-generation Irish American mother. Profile by Adam Farley, April / May 2016.
“Even though we Michael Dowling and didn’t have much, my his mother Margaret. mother always made books available. I grew up reading Shakespeare, and the American author Zane Grey whom I loved. . . . My father never really understood it [my desire for education], but my mother did. She was a very strong model. She was big into education even though she had no education herself. She always wanted you to not let your current circumstances limit your potential. You had the potential to do what you aspired to, to aim high. You might not get completely there, but you will go a distance. I still talk to people about that.”
Michael Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health. Interview by Sheila Langan, December / January 2014.
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“My mom is this little woman with white hair and you see her and you’re like ‘what a sweet little lady’ but she has this side to her that she’s very direct and you think ‘I’m not going to cross this Noah Galloway and woman.’ his mother Bebe. “When I was in the hospital and kind of depressed my mom said, “I’ve got to go back to Alabama. I’m not doing you any good, I’m helping you too much; you have to do more for yourself.’”
Sergeant Noah Galloway lost his left arm and his left leg in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2005. In May, 2015 he placed 3rd on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Interview by Patricia Harty, June / July 2015.
Jack Welch and his mother Grace.
“She was a smart, into-everything woman who I was born late in life to. I was an only child. She was my best friend. So if things didn’t go right I’d talk to her about them, talk to her about my girlfriends, talk to her about everything. She was my buddy, my manager, and my critic. She was everything. She taught me to play to win, but know how to lose. Although she was never short of whacking me one if she thought I was too strict with my kids or something, she was always right there. She was fantastic.”
Jack Welch, the former GE chairman and CEO. Interview by Patricia Harty, October / November 2002.
“My mother used to call and say, ‘Bill, we really need a new boiler.’ Just for the hell of it, I’d say, ‘Don’t spend a lot of money, just shop around and get a bargain.’ I’d say stuff like that purely for the devilment of it. I finally got her an American Express card. The first year she bought a tow when the car broke down. The second year she went out to dinner on her birthday. The third year she rented a condo in Florida for the winter and took a couple of cousins and friends, and last year she went to China. So she’s figured it out.
Actor Bill Murray. Interview by Tom English, November 1988.
VP Joe Biden with his mother Catherine Eugenia Finnegan in 2009.
Kevin Kline and mother Margaret Agnes Kirk.
“It was really my mother – she was the drama queen, very outspoken very reactive, a complete character for the occasion, every occasion.... She was a very powerful woman. She was very nurturing and loving but she could also be angry and tormented. That was the Irish in her.”
Actor Kevin Kline. Interview by Marlin Cole Lownes, December / January 2001
“Yes, my mother was a great reader. My mother was a great force behind my writing. My mother was a great storyteller who made sure that we knew the stories of the family. My mother was a great creator of legend, and a liar, and everything else you need to be a writer. I think mom was more Irish than dad. Her family came over early from Ireland and went to the Appalachian Hills. Her back- Pat Conroy ground was extraordinarily poor.”
Writer Pat Conroy responding to a question about writing in his mother’s voice in an interview with Patricia Harty, September / October 1995.
“MY MOTHER’S CREED IS THE AMERICAN CREED: NO ONE IS BETTER THAN YOU. EVERYONE IS YOUR EQUAL, AND EVERYONE IS EQUAL TO YOU.”
Vice President Joe Biden, on being inducted in to the Irish America Hall of Fame in March 2013. JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 79
October 16 1956: William Brennan and his mother Agnes McDermott on his investiture.
Pete and his mother Anne Devlin.
“I wish I could do justice to her. Mother was just absolutely extraordinary, really. She was a sweet, caring woman, fending off my dad when he got upset with something we were doing. She would protect us.
Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. Interview by Seán Ó Murchú, June 1990.
“I think the key thing in my life was my mother, because my father, whom I loved, was much more an Ulster man in his inability to express certain emotions. But my mother was better educated. She’s finished high school, which was a triumph for any woman in those days, but for a Catholic woman in Belfast it was amazing. And because her father had gone to sea, she understood that there was a wider world out there, which is why she loved New York when she got here. “She loved it because of its difference. And because of the way she was. I had that sense that everything was possible. It wasn’t absurd to say, ‘I want to be a painter.’ It was kind of nutty to my father. He thought that once I got that job in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a civil service job, I should stay there for life. But she thought that the whole point of this place was that you were not a prisoner of what your father or your grandfather did.
Writer Pete Hamill. Interview by Patricia Harty, February / March 2002.
Martin Sheen, whose mother was Mary Ann Phelan.
George Carlin and his mother Mary Bearey.
“[My mother] was very verbal, very funny, and she had a quick mind. She was the one who loved the dictionary. If I ever asked her about a word, she’d say, “Let’s go look it up.” And she talked to me about all the great Irish writers, about their gifts with the language. She would tell me about Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw and Yeats and Beckett.
Comedian George Carlin. Interview by T.J. English, June / July 2006.
“MY MOTHER LOVED CINEMA AND INTRODUCED ME TO MANY FILMS AND ACTORS, WHICH MADE ME WANT TO PURSUE THIS PROFESSION. I HAVE HER TO THANK FOR THAT.”
Actor Michael Fassbender. Interview by Patricia Danaher, August / September 2012.
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“She was so feisty, so cocky. I learned all the Irish songs from her. We were all kind of suspicious why she left Ireland. She had an education, she spoke Gaelic, she went to Dublin to study. They came from a poor village but they had a pub. My brother Manuel was born above the family pub, Phelan’s on Mill Street in Borrisonkane, Co. Tipperary.”
Actor Martin Sheen. Interview by Tom Dunphy, September 2000.
Michael and his mother Adele, a great-great niece of Michael Collins, at the 2014 Oscars.
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Mary Robinson what are you like? | By Sheila Langan
ary Robinson made history as Ireland’s first female president, in office from 1990 – 1997. She has since devoted her life to human rights on a global scale, serving as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997 – 2002, and founding, among other projects, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice. She is also a co-founder and past chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, and a member of the Elders, an independent group of international leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. Today, she currently serves as the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change. Robinson was born Mary Bourke in Ballina, Co. Mayo in 1944, the daughter of two physicians and the only girl among five children. She studied law at Trinity College, Dublin; King’s Inns, Dublin and Harvard Law School. Her legal career, throughout which she was a member of the Trinity Law Faculty, was marked by a vision for achieving social change. In addition, she was a member of the Irish Senate from 1969 – 89. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Robinson now lives with her husband, Nick, in Dublin and Mayo. Her revealing and insightful memoir Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice was released in March 2013.
What is your current state of mind?
I am very happy to be back in Ireland and working on what I believe to be the greatest threat to human rights: the negative impact of climate change on poor communities and poor countries.
What brought you to write Everybody Matters?
I wanted to share my own experience and very much to encourage others to believe that not only does everybody matter, but everybody can make a difference.
Where did your sense of the importance of equality come from?
From a very early age I had a strong sense of wanting things to be fairer and being conscious that my family was quite privileged in comparison to others. I joke that that being the only girl among four brothers was an early introduction to human rights and fighting for equality!
Globally, what should we be paying attention to right now?
That climate change affects the poorest countries. At the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, we are looking at opportunities for affordable renewable energy for the 1.3 billion people who have no access to electricity and the 2.6 billion who still cook on open fires using coal, wood or animal dung, the the vast majority of whom are women. It is estimated that about four million people die from toxic fumes from indoor cooking of this kind every year, so it’s also a huge health issue.
How did your time as president of Ireland prepare you for addressing human rights on a global scale?
When I was elected, I said that I wanted, on behalf of the people of Ireland,
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to give leadership on human rights, but I had very little idea how I could do that. But then, as it happened, I was the first head of state to go to Somalia in 1992, and I was able to draw attention to the food crisis there. I was also the first head of state to go to Rwanda in 1994, and I went back in 1995 and again a third time for a Pan-African women’s conference. All of this gave me a sense of the need to address human rights and [provide] a moral leadership as I had been [providing] as President of Ireland.
You often quote lines from poetry and literature to convey larger ideas. Is there a quote or passage you always come back to?
I often come back to a poem by Seamus Heaney called “From the Republic of Conscience.” It’s a wonderful poem to explain what having a strong sense of human rights is about. In the ‘Republic of Conscience’ you loose all sense of privilege, and when you return you are a dual citizen; you are an ambassador, and no ambassador will ever be relieved. I said that poem to myself on my last day as High Commissioner for Human Rights, at a memorial in the Cathedral in Geneva to mark the first sad anniversary of 9/11. What I was saying was, “today you are High Commissioner for Human Rights, tomorrow you are just Citizen Mary Robinson, but you are still an Ambassador of Conscience.”
You’ve spent a lot of time here. What do you like about the U.S.?
I feel very at home in the United States because I was privileged to take a Master in Law at Harvard, in the class of 1968. I always look back on that year as having been very significant in my development. I spent eight years working with the UN from New York. It is a wonderful, cosmopolitan city and it suits me very well because the shops stay open late and early, and I’m a bad shopper and don’t plan ahead.
Where did the idea of keeping symbolic a light on in the Áras for the diaspora come from?
The idea of that light came from my mother, who used to put a candle in the window at Christmas signifying that no one should be without shelter and that if somebody knocked on the door
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What is your hidden talent?
An ability to relate to people at a deeper level.
Your favorite quality in others? A willingness to listen.
What’s on your bedside table?
Usually a book of poetry and a very readable novel.
Your perfect day?
A day spent with my children and grandchildren.
Best line in a piece of music? they would be welcome. That was the idea of the light, to link with all of those who had to emigrate from Ireland in difficult times and to tell them that we still cared. I still have that light and treasure it.
Your election was a huge step forward for Irish women. Is there more to be done?
Yes. We still have a relatively small percentage of women in our parliament, and in other walks of life we also need to make progress.
What historical figure do you most identify with?
There are a number. My great living hero is Nelson Mandela. I also very much look to Eleanor Roosevelt, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Those who trample on the human rights of others. At the moment that would be what is happening in Syria and those responsible for that.
Best advice ever received?
My friend Eavan Boland said to me when I was going forward as High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Mary, if you become popular in that job, you’re not really doing a good job!”
Best advice ever given?
I tell young people to believe in themselves, particularly young women, and to have confidence.
Where do you go to think?
I do my best thinking walking around our grounds in the west of Ireland, by the lake, and I love to be there.
What don’t people understand about the Irish?
Because we live on a small island, I don’t think people understand how politically conscious we are and how much we know about the rest of the world.
What don’t people understand about you?
That I have a good sense of humor and like to tease and be teased and laugh.
I like Edith Piaf, whom I heard in Paris. I suppose it is “Non, je ne regrette rien.”
Your proudest moment?
When I was elected President.
What drives you?
A passion to make a difference and make life a bit fairer for those who suffer from inequality and injustice.
Your greatest fear?
That we won’t take climate change seriously and that our grandchildren will look back and say “how could they have been so selfish and so uncaring?”
What trait do you most deplore in others?
Any racism, anti-Semitism, Islama-phobia, any hatred of the other.
I can tend to be very impatient for no good reason, especially in restaurants if I’m sitting there for too long before getting attention.
Do you have a motto?
I think the essential motto is “Everybody Matters.”
What’s next for you?
Continuing to work for climate justice for so long as I have health and energy.
What are you like?
I’m a mother, a grandmother, a family person, very rooted, and yet I am very concerned about what is happening in poor countries and to poor people far away. IA I am very preoccupied. JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 83
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Girl Talk W
A conversation with Annie Ryan about her brilliant adaptation of Eimear McBride’s novel, A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing, and Aoife Duffin, the young actress who gave life to the words on stage. By Cahir O’Doherty
hen theater director Annie Ryan approached novelist Eimear McBride to discuss bringing her award-winning debut novel A Girl Is A HalfFormed Thing to the stage, McBride had one caveat – however Ryan edited the text, not one word was to be changed. It’s not hard to understand McBride's concern. The language spoken by the unnamed girl in A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is halting and broken, reflecting the character’s damaged psyche and just how many oppressive forces are preventing her from forming and finding herself. Because Ryan has reproduced the book's injured cadences, McBride's raw tale of a young Irish woman coming undone has lost none of its power from the page to the stage. In fact the translation from book to theater seems to have only increased its potency, aided by Ryan’s theatrical vision and actress Aoife Duffin's lighthouse performance. At root, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is a catalogue of the shocking abuses and privations heaped on one thoroughly unremarkable Irish woman, referred to only as The Girl, to the point where her tally stick of misfortunes threatens to strain credulity. We learn that The Girl’s father has absconded, later we learn he has died, we learn that her mother is a tragic figure clinging to her faith like an amulet, we learn her adored older brother is suffering from a brain tumor that will eventually kill him and we learn her polite and considerate uncle is actually sexually abusing her. In the book this surfeit of human misery is offset by McBride's formidable technical skill (compared by some to James Joyce’s) and by the strength of her characterization, but onstage A Girl Is A Half-
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Formed Thing depends unarguably on the quality and focus of actress Aoife Duffin who hails from Castlegregory in County Kerry. As her performance makes clear she knows the play’s west of Ireland setting and its rural characters in her bones. A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is Duffin’s first one-woman show, a fact that will astound anyone who caught her blistering performance at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York in April. She carries its cast of small town characters and their private sins on her slender back for the roughly one hour and forty five minutes the show performs. “It’s such an incredible undertaking for the actor,” Ryan tells me. “The role can be as harrowing for the actress as it is for the audience. It’s a universal story about abuse and crisis that transcends the particular. It speaks to a very specific time and place and ends up speaking to everyone. That’s why it resonates so strongly for people.” “We have had audience members and social workers come to us privately after performances and say we’re giving voice to what is still an underground unspoken crime.” “There have been many silver linings after the great reckonings of the last two decades. After the dam burst – or the glacier crack – of the abuse crisis, other long festering issues have come to light and many of them led to truly positive change,” Ryan says. “What struck me about the book and Eimear herself is this total sense of rebellion. While this is a story with dark themes – and my God I’ve never directed a play with so much darkness, cancer, abuse, suicide – the character never feels like a victim. She's always awake to what’s going on and she tries to work a way through it.” “Although bright, The Girl is not special in any way,” Ryan says. “Eimear set out to create a character who is totally ordinary, an Irish girl from the countryside who is bright but not remarkable. Her challenge is to make sense of the challenges she’s facing as they unfold.” We haven’t seen many plays that address the sheer scale of poverty in Ireland in the ’70’s and ’80’s. It’s a third rail issue that for a host of reasons
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CLOCKWISE: Aoife Duffin as The Girl in A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing. Annie Ryan who adapted it for stage. The writer Eimear McBride.
PHOTO: MIHAELA BODLOVIC
most of our middle class playwrights are loathe to touch. McBride goes straight for it, however, showing the sheer destitution suffered by The Girl’s mother. “To be a single mother with two kids on the outskirts of some dead end west of Ireland town in the 1970’s, without any family support, means that life would have been pretty grim. “Her solace and comfort are in the Church. In a way this is her revenge too. She may not have much in the way of worldly accomplishments but she’s favored, she believes, by God, which is a sort of reward in itself. “It props them up in some way, it conveys some status. It also papers over the chaos a bit. Part of what made our play so moving is Aoife's characterization of the mother. It’s so human and in a way forgiving. We didn’t seek to demonize her, there was no need to.” Most joltingly of all, the uncle who sexually abuses The Girl is portrayed as very reasonable, very considerate even, a middle class avatar which makes the abuse worse in a way. Duffin holds the audience rapt as she brings him to life onstage, a feat of artistry that is worth the ticket price alone. You’re filled with dread as you watch him manipulate her, then disavow the consequences, and walk away. “McBride should be seen as one of a new generation of exciting Irish women writers who are securing their stature on the world’s stage as they examine the contradictions of their own society,” Ryan says.
The strength and impact of McBride's work is driven by the sense that many long suppressed voices in Ireland are finally being given a hearing. “It started with novelists such as Anne Enright and Belinda McKeown and now Eimear, there are so many other young writers, too. There have been many strong female writers in Irish fiction, but let’s remember that this is also a country that could write an anthology of Irish literature since the fourth century and not include a single woman writer,” Ryan says, referring to The Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature released in 1991. McBride’s book makes the transition to the theater seamlessly because of Annie Ryan’s vision and Aoife Duffin’s inspired performance but the battles that it depicts have happened offstage for most of the state’s history. That’s finally changing. “Women's voices were ignored for so long here. Last year we had the emergence of the Waking the Feminists movement here in the theatre (The Corn Exchange Theatre in Dublin that Ryan founded in 1995) after the 2016 commemorative program for The Abbey Theatre had only one woman playwright. There needs to be a broader sweep of how we nurture talent. I think we are going to see great change.” IA JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 85
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by Adam Farley
ness of the lavender. It felt like the color that was the closest to him, so it wasn’t a masculine versus a feminine thing, they very much live in equilibrium throughout the whole play.” This aspect of the show and characters, actress Whitney Bashor notes, is a unique one, as well as a contemporary issue women are still facing today. “There aren’t very many roles this juicy for women in theater,” she says. “When you’re young you usually play the ingénue who is very naïve and innocent and dewy, and then you get a little bit older and you’re usually playing the mother or the grandmother. But Nora is a complex, complicated woman who is a mother and a lover and her own person, which I think modern women are grappling with – how to be all those things at once.”
In New Joyce Musical, Nora Barnacle Comes First A new Off-Broadway musical seeks to tell the story of the passionate, tumultuous, and prolific relationship between James Joyce and Nora Barnacle through Nora’s perspective of their nearly 40-year romance. We sat down with Whitney Bashor, who plays Nora, as well as some of the crew, to see how the show came together and how the story of Nora and Joyce might resonate with contemporary women.
Writer and composer Jonathan Brielle
ora Barnacle is one of the most famous women in the history of Irish literature, not least because her relationship with James Joyce was the genesis of Ulysses. The novel is set on June 16, 1904, supposedly the day that Joyce and Nora first went on a “date,” and now celebrated as Bloomsday, named for the novel’s main character, Leopold Bloom. But Nora was anything but a passive muse to Joyce’s literary talent, as Himself and Nora makes clear. The musical has been almost 20 years in the making, ever since Jonathan Brielle, the writer and composer, was invited to a play about Joyce in a small Hell’s Kitchen theater that someone was considering turning into a musical. But the more Brielle researched, the more convinced he became that the musical had to be about Nora. “It became evident to me that he would not have been who he was without her. And the story became about balance between man and woman. I got completely seduced by him and Nora and their lives together,” he says. “This was a very different woman who inspired Joyce, and our story’s really about achieving that balance.” The first production of Himself and Nora was at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego in 2005, and from there it played in Dublin twice (both on Bloomsday) before finding a home in the 2012 New York Musical Theater Festival. Since then, it’s been a steady march to its current iteration, now at the Minetta Lane Theater in Greenwich Village. Like Ulysses, the play is impressionistic. It is ostensibly set in 1941, with flashbacks to earlier points in Nora and Joyce’s relationship. A few years ago, Brielle discovered that Nora arrived to the hospital where Joyce was dying 15 minutes too late, and came to the conclusion that this story “needed to be the missing 15 minutes that she wished she could have gotten. And that somehow it would give Nora the credit that she deserved.” Part of that credit is implicit in the costuming of the production, as costume designer Amy Clarke explains. “Because she demanded such equality from Joyce, and their relationship was a partnership from the get go, I’m constantly juggling on stage a way for them to be in visual equilibrium,” she says. “Joyce lives in blues, browns, and greys throughout the play, so it’s one of the reasons I ended up landing her in purple and use things like some navy blue sweaters and brown leather belts to help balance out the light-
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Whitney Bashor and Matt Bogart as Nora Barnacle and James Joyce.
The musical also grapples with Joyce and Nora’s famously physical relationship, albeit in a PG-13 atmosphere. “One of the things that I really love about the way Jonathan has written the show is that there are certain moments where the language might be [sexually] overt, but the physicality is something different, or vice versa, and I think that’s where it becomes something that can be easily understood and accepted by an audience rather than having it be thrown down their throats,” executive producer Erin Craig says. Indeed, when Brielle took the show to the Joyce Center in Dublin in 2008, producer Cherie King said the center’s director praised the work, saying Brielle had “accomplished something that had never been accomplished,” she said. “And that was to make IA Joyce accessible.” Himself and Nora stars Matt Bogart as James Joyce and Whitney Bashor as Nora Barnacle. For more information visit himselfandnoramusical.com.
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An Interview with Long Day’s Journey Into Night’s Colby Minifie By Robert M. Dowling
n the evening of November 7, 1956, after the final curtain dropped on the New York premiere of Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical masterwork Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the air in the Helen Hayes Theatre was strangely still. After more than a minute of hushed silence, the audience slowly rose to its feet, gradually began clapping, then roared its applause. Countless curtain calls followed before theatergoers finally rushed the stage to hail the visibly exhausted performers who had, nearly everyone there knew, just made American theater history. The production ran for 390 performances over 65 weeks and posthumously won O’Neill a Drama Critics Circle Award, an Outer Circle Award, a Tony Award, and his fourth Pulitzer Prize. When the final curtain fell on this season’s new telling of Long Day’s Journey at the American Airlines Theatre, the great burst of applause and genuine outpouring of admiration conjured up, for many O’Neill devotees like myself, the spirit of that legendary evening in 1956. The Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival, under the superb direction of Jonathan Kent, features Jessica Lange as Mary Tyrone (the morphineaddicted matriarch, whom Lange also played to great acclaim in 2000 in London), Gabriel Byrne as James (the miserly first-generation pater familias), Michael Shannon as Jamie (their ne’er-do-well elder son), and John Gallagher, Jr. as Edmund (the tubercular wouldbe playwright himself). Lange, Shannon, and the revival as a whole have already garnered three Outer Critics Circle awards, and the show’s been nominated for numerous others still to be announced, including seven Tony Awards. Yet there’s a singular role in Long Day’s Journey that typically draws scant critical attention. Cathleen, the Tyrones’ Irish servant, or “second girl,” makes few appearances in the play. Most of her lines take place in the opening scene of act three, where she offers her mistress a respite from loneliness while the three Tyrone men are out drinking and, in Jamie’s case, visiting a brothel. Mary, having taken untold injections of morphine, is progressively losing herself in the fog of the past while an actual fog clouds the
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view outside the windows (the symbolism of the fog is intensified by designer Tom Pye’s exquisitely rustic set). Cathleen, having been offered whiskey, becomes more than a little drunk herself and boldly chats away with Mary, who remotely voices her past hopes and profound disillusionment with the present. This brief but vital scene is played opposite Jessica Lange with winsome liveliness by the gifted young actor Colby Minifie. Irish America was delighted, then, when Minifie agreed to reveal her process to our readers and what it was like to perform in this celebrated production.
You started acting at only 11 years old and were soon hired, in 2005, as an understudy for Martin McDonagh’s multi-award winning Broadway triumph The Pillowman. Now you’ve returned to the Great White Way with this acclaimed revival of Long Day’s Journey. But you’ve also appeared in an array of OffBroadway plays, feature-length films, shorts, and TV shows. Where are you hoping to go from here? Well, I have been ridiculously fortunate thus far to work with some of the best writers on some of their most poignant plays. Between O’Neill, McDonagh, and Simon Stephens, I have been spoiled beyond belief to be able to cut my teeth on writing that seems to have limitless depth. I can only hope to be as fortunate in the years to come in that department. I am also very interested in the complex and nuanced stories that are being explored in the television industry these days, especially through these lovely streaming services. We are in another “golden age of television” where shows that exist somewhat out of the normal tenor of what networks are producing have a home where they can be explored in a new format. What excited me about [working on the noir superhero TV series] Jessica Jones was that the writers didn’t have to bend the story around advertising breaks or include expository dialogue to recap information from the week before. As a result, the show turned into a riveting thirteen-hour movie. Being a part of Long Day’s Journey Into Night has given me the gift of witnessing a small fraction of how hard these legendary actors work, and they have taught me, at the very least, the importance of thorough and ruthless preparation. The more you mine this play, the more you get out of it. I can only strive to be as thorough with my own preparation from here on out. We owe it to the writer.
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Following on the trail of so many of O’Neill’s interpreters over the decades, you made the trip out to tour Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, Connecticut, where O’Neill grew up and set the action of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. What did you hope to gain from your pilgrimage to his family home, and what did you discover once you got there? I went to Monte Cristo Cottage a couple years prior to working on this play and, I am embarrassed to say, I had not read or seen Long Day’s Journey at that point. But it was exceedingly helpful to revisit the cottage from Cathleen’s perspective once I heard I would be part of this production. Reentering the house, having just finished your book, Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts, I immediately felt the haunting presence of the O’Neill family. I was struck by the claustrophobic atmosphere of the house, especially in the family room and on the second floor. The bedrooms are so close it’s easy to understand why Jamie and Eugene were hyper aware of Ella O’Neill’s movements throughout the house at night, or that James’s snoring would keep them awake! Jamie’s room just breaks my heart; its odd shape and precarious placement over the eaves of the porch further solidify his place in the family as the boy who has “been lost to us for some time.” The intimate layout of the house explains so much of the play to me. They desperately love each other while harboring massive deep-seated resentments, and they are so physically close all the time, they can’t help but be brutally honest with one another.
While revisiting Monte Cristo Cottage, it became clear to me how harrowing it must be for Cathleen to be invading their small space every day; making their beds, cleaning their sheets, and listening to them hash out their deep family wounds.
ABOVE: Colby Minifie as Cathleen.
To prepare for the role of Cathleen, you encountered, unavoidably, O’Neill’s rather unkind description of your character as “ignorant” and “dense” with a “well-meaning stupidity.” Given O’Neill’s reverence for all things Irish, I understand you were surprised by this, perhaps inclined to disregard to an extent O’Neill’s stage directions and deepen the role intellectually and emotionally. If so, do you feel you arrived at an interpretation that satisfied you while still maintaining the integrity of the script? I knew, from the moment I read Long Day’s Journey, that if I played Cathleen as “stupid,” I would not be servicing the play. Cathleen is in the play, yes, as a light color to the relentless intensity of the “four haunted Tyrones,” but she is also there to give context to the family. If she is “stupid,” the Tyrones are placed on an intellectual pedestal of sorts, which dehumanizes them a bit. Rather, if Cathleen’s stupidity lies in her ignorance of their problems, it isolates the Tyrones and makes them appear more secretive. During rehearsal, Gabriel Byrne told an anecdote about playing a king: “You don’t play a king,” he said. “Everyone else does.” I think the same goes for Cathleen’s stupidity. The family thinks she’s stupid beJUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 89
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RIGHT: Jessica Lange in Long Day’s Journey into Night.
Robert M. Dowling is author of Eugene O’Neill: A Life in Four Acts, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Jessica Lange, playing O’Neill’s mother Mary “Ella” O’Neill, was a far more convincing morphine addict than I’ve ever seen staged, or envisioned from reading O’Neill’s script countless times; but she also displayed a captivating physicality to the character of Mary Tyrone. What has it been like playing this critical scene with an actor at the height of her career? How do you balance Mary’s (Lange’s) speeches with your sense of Cathleen’s (your) individuality? Did Jonathan Kent offer any guidance you might share? I am in awe of Jessica. I’ve never seen her perform our scene the same way twice. She tells the story clearly and hits all the notes that we discussed in rehearsal, but she breathes new life into it every night. She is ruthless with her choices. I heard Jessica say the other day that she feels like she’s being pushed through the play by an unseen hand. I feel that same vitality when we do our scene at the top of act three. The wonderful Jonathan Kent reminded me in rehearsal that Cathleen is both blithe and terribly excited by boys. When Mary is telling her story about how she and James Tyrone met in his dressing room, all I have to do is listen, and I am enthralled. She makes my job so easy. I am happy to be there, giving her whatever energy she needs to get through this play, one minute at a time. And the same goes for Gabriel, Michael, and John. The play is a living organism that grows and changes with each performance because these actors refuse to stop digging. Your Irish brogue was splendidly done. Can you talk about how you developed it? Did O’Neill’s script guide you through Cathleen’s dialect or have some of your past acting roles equipped you for it? Do you think your Irish background might have, in other ways, improved upon your performance in this most Irish of Irish-American plays? Thank you! O’Neill writes Cathleen in an Irish syntax so it’s easy to wrap your mouth around his words when you add the accent. Being a redhead, I have had to learn different Irish accents, and I have
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had a lot of help from accent coaches, such as Stephen Gabis and Charlotte Fleck, throughout the years. I did an audio book last year entirely in a Galway accent, and I think that’s why it rests so easily in my body now. But I was very nervous to do my accent for Gabriel Byrne on the first day of rehearsal. (I took a trip to Ireland over New Year’s, and who was on the cover of the Aer Lingus in-flight magazine talking about his upcoming revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night? You guessed it: Gabriel Byrne.) I confessed my nerves to him and that night Gabriel went home and recorded all of my lines in three different Irish accents. Could you ask for a more supportive cast member? My trip to Ireland certainly helped my research. (I do not have a lot of Irish blood myself. My mother’s great grandfather was Scotch-Irish, but I’m not sure where he was from, exactly. I was born and raised in New York City. My sister and I mark the fourth generation of New Yorkers in my family!) I listened to the various accents I encountered in Ireland but the point of the trip was to see land and meet people. New Year's Eve was spent watching the sunset on the Cliffs of Moher and singing in Gaelic for two hours in a pub in Ballyvaughn after the stroke of midnight. I really got a sense of Irish culture and the familiarity with which the Irish talk to one another, which is Cathleen’s demeanor through and through. I’m beyond proud that my first time playing an Irish girl is in an O’Neill play. IA
PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS
Colby Minifie is an actor and former YoungArts scholar currently performing as Cathleen in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
cause she doesn’t act like a maid the way they expect her to; she speaks out of turn, shouts from the porch to the front hedge, and constantly forgets her place. But Cathleen is a toughie. She survived the harrowing trip to America and found herself a job. I imagine Cathleen is just passing through this house on her way to a happy life and a successful job.
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book notes | PEN dinner
n March 29, against the elegant backdrop of books and crystal, sat the elegant Edna O’Brien. Irish America’s editor and cofounder, Patricia Harty, co-hosts Ellen McCourt, Joe & Mary Lou Quinlan and PEN, the international writers’ association, joined together to celebrate O’Brien, one of our greatest living writers, and The Little Red Chairs, her new book. Guests convened in the library of the Lotos Club, New York’s oldest literary society, to listen to her speak, then read. Her first novel in ten years, The Little Red Chairs is already being talked of as O’Brien’s masterpiece, quite an accomplishment since her prolific body of work spans almost 60 years. It’s fitting that PEN, a fearless advocate for human rights, free expression and persecuted writers, chose to honor O’Brien because her latest book revisits the horror of ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe. In a literary tour de force she brings Radovan Karadžić, the “Beast of Bosnia” (in the book, “Vuk”) home to Ireland where his evil seduces an entire town. It’s fitting, also, that Harty and Irish America would pay tribute to this most Irish of writers who, among her other gifts, seems to be blessed by the proverbial “luck of the Irish.” The Little Red Chairs was released the same week Karadžić was finally convicted of war crimes in The Hague bringing his genocide back in the news. O’Brien’s book and attendant glowing reviews provide a meta-commentary on Karadžić and a horror the world should never forget. Bestselling novelist (Let the Great World Spin) and close friend, Colum McCann, introduced O’Brien by relating the story of their first meeting in London many years ago. McCann was at the beginning of his career, visiting his publisher, only to find himself dissed and dismissed by everyone in the office. Everyone, that is, except the successful and famous O’Brien, who just happened to be there at the same time. In an act of great generosity, she asked McCann to her reception later that night and to do the opening reading. Overwhelmed, he showed up and, as he told the audience, “went on for over forty minutes.” On this night, Edna’s reading went on, in her beautiful lilting voice, for less than 20 minutes. She began by describing the plot of her book, its central characters and asking if it’s possible that we are all “an emulsion of good and evil.” She concluded with a passage from the end of the book, a scene taking
place in a shelter for women refugees of war. A chorus, in 35 languages, sings “Home:” “Home. Home. Home. It rose and swelled, it reached to the rafters and through the walls, out onto the lit street, to country-side with its marsh and meadow, by graveyard and sheep fold, through dumbstruck forests, to the lonely savannas and reeking slums, over seas and beyond, to endless longedfor destinations. You would not believe how many words there are for home and what savage music can be wrung from it.” In December, O’Brien will turn 85, so hard to accept by anyone who sees her, hears her, and, especially, reads her. At the Lotos Club, she floated among her guests wearing black sequins, a necklace designed for a Faerie Queen and a halo of copper hair. She told her audience that she doesn’t really mind being described as “on the cusp of 85” but when she’s referred to as “being in her ninth decade,” it somehow “gets” to her. It shouldn’t. She’s as beautiful and timeless as her art. – Rosemary Rogers
PHOTOS: NICOLA BAILEY / PEN AMERICA
Edna O’Brien at the Lotos Club O
TOP: Edna O’Brien (right) with Italian writer Antonio Monda at the Lotos Club dinner in March. LEFT: Mary Lou Quinlan. CENTER: Joe Quinlan. RIGHT: Colum McCann.
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book notes | remembering
The Springs of Affection
Anne Enright delivered the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction lecture on writer Maeve Brennan at the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House at New York University. Enright’s lecture will serve as the introduction to a new edition of Brennan’s Dublin stories, The Springs of Affection, in bookstores in June. By Patricia Harty
TOP RIGHT: Maeve Brennan at home. RIGHT: Maureen Reid, one of the subjects of artist Colin Davidson’s exhibition on the human cost of the Troubles.
he historic New York city townhouse at 58 West Tenth Street is abuzz with NYU creative writing program students waiting for Anne Enright’s lecture, “An Irishwoman Abroad: Maeve Brennan and the Streets of New York,” on a Thursday evening at the end of April. Brennan lived in this New York neighborhood off and on from 1954 to 1981 and wrote about it in the “Talk of the Town” section of The New Yorker, under the pen name “The Long-Winded Lady.” Anne Enright herself has been staying in this area during her current term as NYU Creative Writing Program Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. The Booker Prize-winning author of six novels, most recently The Green Road, began her lecture by saying that she chose Brennan as a subject, not just because living in the neighborhood called the writer to mind, but because of her interest in women’s voices “not being heard or being barely heard,” and “what makes the female voices survive or in Maeve Brennan’s case go mad.” Enright recalled arriving in New York in 2000 with her first ever New Yorker story in her bag. At the famed offices in Times Square she went to the lady’s room, “looked into the mirror and wondered about Maeve Brennan and the rumor that she had ended her days or spent some of her days sleeping in the washroom of The New Yorker. “In fact [Maeve] slept in a little cubicle beside – a lady’s retiring cubicle – not quite, you know, in the washroom itself,” she tells us. Up until the 1990s you would not have found Brennan’s name on a list of Irish writers, though she had two books of short stories that were highly regarded. “Maeve Brennan didn’t have to be a woman for her work to be forgotten, though it surely helped. She didn’t have to become a bag lady for her work to be revived, though that possibly helped, too. The story of her mental decline is terrifying for anyone who works with words, who searches her keen, sour sentences for some hint or indication of future madness and then turns to check their own,” Enright says. When she died in 1993, Brennan’s books were mostly out of print and she was mostly forgotten. Then in 1997, William Maxwell, The New Yorker’s fiction editor and a longtime friend of Brennan’s, introduced a collection of her Dublin stories, The Springs of Affection, and it helped revive her reputation.
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It was at this time that Enright became aware of Brennan’s work. “The prose holds her revived reputation very well, especially the Irish stories, these being transparently modern the way that Dubliners by James Joyce feels modern,” Enright says. “Brennan remains precise, unyielding – something lovely and unbearable is happening on the page.” Enright goes on to talk about Brennan’s life, as if mining for the reason(s) of her decline. “Her mother Una took part in the fighting in the 1916 Easter Rising, alongside her father Bob, who was arrested and sent to prison. Maeve was born 37 weeks later.” Bob Brennan, she goes on to tell us, “left his young family to take part in the War of Independence and in the Irish Civil War, and Maeve’s childhood home was raided several times by men carrying guns.” After the Irish Free State was formed, Brennan founded The Irish Press for Éamonn de Valera in September 1931. And in 1934, when Maeve was 17, he was appointed as Ireland’s First Minister to America, and the family, Maeve and her sisters Emer and Deirdre, moved to Washington, D.C. Enright describes Brennan as a Gaelic princess: “Her hair was chestnut, her eyes were green. A pixie, a changeling… She was admired for the sharpness of her wit. It is hard to find a description of Brennan that is not also a code for her ethnicity.” When the Brennans moved back to Ireland in 1941, Maeve moved to New York and found a job at Harper’s Bazaar. And in 1949, she secured a staff job at The New Yorker. Enright quotes William Maxwell, who edited Brennan and became a true friend. “To be around her,” he wrote, “was to see style being reinvented.” Brennan also, according to Enright, had “a tongue that could clip a hedge, and a longshoreman’s mouth.” Enright tells us, “She said ‘fuck’ in company and drank in Costello’s on Third Avenue. Once, when no one came to take her order as she sat in the booth there, she lifted a heavy, full bowl of sugar and dropped it on the floor.” And when it came to men, she didn’t show good
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About the Poet
The Final Pass
She held the ball for two and a half weeks, unable to move, unwanting to pass. Each breath, each save, knowing, the game was almost over.
PHOTO: KARL BLISSINGER / THELICENTIATE.COM
judgement: “There is no sense that when she became the [fouth] bride of New Yorker colleague, St. Clair McKelway, fellow drinker, fellow madman indeed, that he was taking a virgin Irish bride. Brennan was 36. One friend said of them, ‘Like two children out on a dangerous walk, both so dangerous and so charming.’” Brennan wrote steadily for The New Yorker, though her progress as a fiction writer was “far from steady,” Enright says. Her first published stories, set in America, were published between 1952 and 1956. The Irish stories did not start to appear until 1959, a year after her mother’s death when she was deep in debt, and her marriage had fallen apart. There was a second rush of more fiction after the death of her father in 1964. Two collections of short stories, In and Out of Never-Never Land (1969) and Christmas Eve (1974), were also published. But publishing in The New Yorker, and good reviews in the New York Times for her short stories, did not enhance Brennan’s reputation in Ireland. “Maeve Brennan may also have managed that female trick of being both well-regarded and completely unimportant – one that was played out in America often enough, but the deafness to the female voice in Ireland makes these issues of reputation moot,” says Enright. In the 1970s, Brennan began to show signs of mental illness and alcoholism. In the 1980s she disappeared from view and was largely forgotten. She died in Lawrence Nursing Home in Rockaway, New York, of a heart attack on November 1, 1993. Enright surmises that Brennan might have been bipolar. “She gave things away all the time. It was almost like she couldn’t bear to have possessions and was continually divesting herself of all the money and all of her things that have been of value to her all of her life,” she says. Perhaps lack of recognition plagued her. It wasn’t until 1969 that The New Yorker revealed her name as the writer of “The Long Winded Lady.” The revival of interest shows that Brennan’s work stands on its own. As Enright concluded, “Each one of Brennan’s stories is a victory over sameness and the loss of meaning: she makes a bid for her sanity, IA one sentence at a time.”
Her players, watching their Goalkeeper In her final attempt to save herself. Weakened, withered, wasted, against a powerful pneumonic team.
White referees blowing warning whistles, her players urging resistance in warm strokes. In sort whispers, in heart-splitting days, against choking strikes amidst the plays. God, the saves she made in life’s days, felling those ferocious frightening attacks. Saving her players and their players too, In courageous hard dives we all knew.
Standing back there alone, watching the world, Her team of special players in front of her, The penalty kick came late on as always, With spectators hoping for extra time. But the game ended as expected, to An empty goal, a net of stark silence She is gone, she is passed, defeated, Exhausted in the final ward of her game.
In an almost empty stadium of life lived. With her final pass.
– John James Reid
aureen Reid, one of the subjects of artist Colin Davidson’s exhibition about the human cost of the Troubles in Northern Ireland titled, “Silent Testimony” (April/May issue), passed away in March, 2015. To mark the first anniversary of her passing, her eldest son, John James Reid published a book of poems called The Goalkeeper. Reid says his poems try “to capture some of the story of the trauma of 40 years of his mother’s life dealing with the grief of her husband’s loss and the domino effect on her ten children.” Maureen’s husband, and father of their ten children James, 44, was killed on January 17, 1976, when a bomb was thrown into the Sheridan Bar in the New Lodge district of Belfast. Dedicated to his nine brothers, Reed’s book was launched at a poetry reading night in the WAVE Trauma Centre in Belfast on March 24, 2016, where Maureen had worked as a volunteer helping people who had been injured or lost loved ones during the Troubles. As to the title of the book, The Goalkeeper, Reed explains, “I had seven brothers and one sister who played soccer, and soccer became an obvious metaphor to unite some poetic words.”
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review of books | recently published books Spill Simmer Falter Wither By Sara Baume
efore she began her creative writing Master’s degree at Trinity, Sara Baume studied fine art, and her visual acuity seeps through every pore of her debut novel, which was awarded the prestigious Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. The story itself is not a new one: outcast man rescues overlooked dog, but, in time, dog rescues man – but it is Baume’s narrative technique and her attention to the minutest of details that makes the story fresh and brilliantly alive. Ray is a 57year-old outcast in a small seaside town in Cork, living in self-imposed exile from other humans in the house he still thinks of as his father’s. Before adopting a dog advertised in a rummage shop window – a dog he calls “One Eye,” due to injuries sustained in a badger attack – Ray’s solitary existence drones on, marked only by the passing Tuesdays, when he drives into town to visit the shop and the post office, and by the changing of the seasons, which he notes with great sensitivity. Despite – or perhaps, because of – his removal from the human realm, he takes pleasure in imagining the lives of other people behind closed doors, and regards the natural world with devastating tenderness. At one point, he says of himself, “I’ve always noticed the smallest, quietest things.” Ray addresses One Eye in the second person throughout, and by extension, addresses the reader, bringing us into the lonely, but vibrant, world he inhabits. When he asks One Eye to notice the swallows that nest in his roof every year, the wildflowers that grow unbidden in the yard, he shows them to the reader, as well, in brilliant detail. “Show, don’t tell” is one of the cardinal rules of creative writing, and Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a stunning testament to its visual and emotive power.
– Julia Brodsky (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / 274 pp. / $23)
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The Unfixed Horizon: New Selected Poems By Medbh McGuckian
edbh McGuckian has long been regarded as one of the more “difficult” Northern Irish poets for her enigmatic syntactical structures, complex metaphors, and dreamlike images that branch off each other like roots that must be traced to the surface in order to just begin to render the picture whole. This isn’t an inaccurate reading of her work, but it does exclude both the intimacy and tenderness that her most personal poems can achieve, and also elides the powerful political force that her work embodies through the personal angle. Her new collection of selected poems, edited by Borbála Faragó and Michaela Schrage-Frueh, serves as a good way for the unfamiliar to enter her work. Covering 31 years of writing, The Unfixed Horizon offers a representative sample of her trajectory as a writer. The introduction by Faragó and Schrage-Frueh in particular lays out the course of her work, from the early poems that center on the domestic and personal through the more overtly political poems in the last decade, and acts as a guide through the 14 individual volumes of poetry represented here. Born in Belfast, McGuckian first came to prominence in 1979, when she won the British National Poetry Competition for a poem called “The Flitting,” which explicitly connects the female body to the built landscape of the north and intellectual and physical insecurity – “You wouldn’t believe what this house has cost me – / in body-language terms, it has turned me upside down,” it begins. As the editors of The Unfixed Horizon note, because she was an unknown, pregnant, Belfast schoolteacher, the prize jury forced her to split the prize with a more famous male poet. It’s an illustrative story, not least because of the obvious sexism of that decision by the jury, but also for highlighting how McGuckian was read as a poet of “domestic” life, even during the worst years of the Troubles. As McGuckian has demonstrated over and over again, and as this collection brings into sharp focus, writing about the “feminine,” or the “domestic,” is never an a-political act. Readers who approach her work with that in mind, and who enjoy tracing imagistic and metaphoric threads as they enlarge and change over the course of decades, will find in this collection an intense and wholly unique perspective on womanhood and the violence of the Troubles.
– Adam Farley (Wake Forest / 344 pp. / $18.95)
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Courage Boys We are Winning: An Illustrated History of the 1916 Rising By Michael Barry
he story of the 1916 Easter Rising is being told and retold in a great many new volumes this year, but Michael Barry’s new book does it in a way that many others won’t, namely, through the use of the image. Courage Boys We are Winning: An Illustrated History of the 1916 Rising explores the events that led up to the Rising, the fight itself, and its brutal aftermath and legacy, all by compiling over 500 images, which, in many cases speak for themselves. Nevertheless, Barry also provides detailed descriptions and analysis of the images, giving the viewer (or reader) a rich and insightful understanding of every picture they see. Within each chapter, Barry explores not only the dramatic photographic or artistic renderings of images that would have been seen by those who were witness to the events, but also provides his readers and viewers with images of the seemingly mundane, like the garments that would have been worn by those who did the fighting. Such particulars seep into the viewer’s mind’s eye, filling out details in our understanding of the past that in many accounts would otherwise have been left out. This is the real benefit of an illustrated history: where the word fails to convey a message, image effortlessly takes over. Those who read Barry’s Courage Boys will find the images engrossing at first, but will surely find thereafter that the intuitive power of the visual material will have greatly informed their perception of these historic events. – R. Bryan Willits (Andalus Press / 208 pp. / €25)
SUMMER READS Immaculate Heart
By Camille DeAngelis A gripping mystery until the end, Immaculate Heart focuses on three women who saw a Marian apparition 30 years ago (and which the Catholic Church refused to acknowledge), and the Irish American journalist who is determined to find out what really happened. The story questions nothing less than the nature of truth and faith, yet remains fully grounded in the individual lives of the dubious characters of a small Irish town. – A.F.
(St. Martin’s / 304 pp. / $25.99)
It Started with Paris
By Cathy Kelly After a proposal on the Eiffel Tower (the titular “start”), the three women closest to the betrothed are spurred to come to terms with and move on from their own romantic pasts and presents. One complex, compelling, and thoughtful, woman-centered love story is hard to find, let alone three, and It Started with Paris successfully and movingly takes on that task with friendship, romantic, and maternal variations on the theme. – A.F.
(Grand Central / 458 pp. / $14.99)
The Long, Hot Summer
By Kathleen MacMahon A book that begins with a family tree illustration on the opening page compels consideration for how the actions of a generation ripple up and down the family line. In The Long Hot Summer, three generations of MacEntees, a family that has sought and been defined by fame and publicity since the matriarch, Deirdre, began acting at the Abbey Theatre in her 20s, encounter a series of trials that highlight the fickle nature of 21st century notoriety. – A.F.
(Grand Central / 400 pp. / $26)
Models for Movers: Irish Women’s Emigration to America By Íde B. O’Carroll.
Revised for its 25th anniversary and during a new period of immigration, Models for Movers uses oral histories to examine Irish women’s experiences immigrating to the U.S. in three waves – the 1920s, ’50s, and ’80s. O’Carroll provides contextualizing analysis of how these women are role models for their independence, and gives them a platform to speak against the implicit silence surrounding women’s immigration stories during the 20th century. – A.F.
(Attic / 216 pp. / $21)
Rolling Up the Rug: An American Irish Story By Michael Scanlon
A nostalgic and thorough family memoir, Rolling Up the Rug is the story of an average first-generation Bronx-Irish family between the post-World War II boom and the ascension of the author and his siblings into maturity through some of New York City’s most trying years. Particularly poignant is the recurrence of baseball (whether watching at the Polo Grounds or playing at a picnic) as a symbol of community inclusion, teamwork, and assimilation. – A.F.
(New Forge / 100 pp. / $15)
By Alice Taylor Somewhere between a praise poem and a memoir, The Women documents the female figures that shape our lives. From the mother and the grandmother, to ordinary farmers and church-goers, Taylor elevates the lives of 15 women to poetic form, telling their stories as they were, and avoiding the reductive analysis that often categorizes such stories before they have a chance to become embedded in the mind. Richly illustrated with photographs by Emma Byrne. – A.F.
(Brandon / 208 pp. / €16.99)
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Women Rule “I was elected by the women of Ireland who, instead of rocking the cradle, rocked the system.” Mary Robinson, President of Ireland (1990 – 1997)
By Edythe Preet
everal months ago, when 2016’s presidential campaign launched with more hoopla than has been seen in U.S. politics for more than a century, a Dublin-born friend told me he was placing his bet that, for the first time in American history, a woman would be elected to the highest office in the land. When I questioned Paul’s confidence, he said, “Just look at all the television shows and films that have been released in recent years. Many, perhaps even a majority, portray a woman or women in decision-making lead roles. Even the newest episode in the Star Wars franchise features a heroine saving the day rather than the traditional hero!” It got me thinking. American history does not lack female archetypes. Chief among them is maternal Lady Liberty who has been offering shelter and sustenance to the world’s impoverished and persecuted since the late 19th century (although the current deportations of women and children to Central America must make her weep). The rallying cry of WWII was “For Mom and apple pie,” and Rosie the Riveter symbolized women’s crucial participation in the war effort. At about the same time, our first female super hero appeared – Wonder Woman, followed by Bat Girl and Clark Kent’s cousin, Supergirl. The renowned psychologist Carl Jung identified certain universal concepts – among them birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, and the union of opposites – that underlie all human experience and behavior. Similarly, he singled out certain unique personages that are also universal: the maiden, the great mother, the child, the wise elder, and the shadowy dark side, which appear in the mythology of all cultures. The concept of an all-powerful mother goddess is one of humanity’s earliest archetypes. Carved figures and drawings depicting full-figured but faceless female forms have been found at numerous neolithic sites, especially in central Europe where the Celts originated. There the mother goddess was called Danu, and her name was given to the mother of the continent’s eastern rivers – the Danube. The Lebor Gabala (the “Book of Invasions,” transcribed oral history, 1000 AD), records that when the Tuatha de Danaan (literally ‘“Tribe of Danu”) arrived in Ireland they encountered an earlier Celtic population, the Fir Bolg. According to the saga, the Fir Bolg met defeat at the Battle of Moytura, at the GalwayMayo border on Bealtaine. Now fixed on May 1st, but originally celebrated during the three-day full moon midway between spring equinox and summer solstice, Bealtaine was celebrated with fertility rituals to insure an abundant harvest. Unlike other invaders who had come from the sea, the Tuatha de Danaan arrived magically in airborne
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vehicles, bringing with them four miraculous treasures: the Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny) which shrieked when touched by the rightful monarch; the Spear of Lugh and the Cliam Solais (Sword of Light) which brought victory to the warriors who wielded them; and the Cauldron of Dagda from which no one ever walked away hungry. Despite their powers, the Danaan were defeated by the next wave of invaders – the Milesians. Even so, the Book of Invasions records they magically plagued the Milesians by rotting their crops and sickening their cattle. Finally, a truce meeting was arranged between Amergin, bard and spokesman for the Milesians, and three sister-queens, all daughters of Dagda, the greatest ruler of the Danaan. It was agreed that although the Milesians would rule and the Danaan would retreat to live in fairy raths (hills), the land would forever be known by the name of the youngest Danaan queen – Eire. But Eire and Danu are not the only female archetypes to have figured prominently in Irish myth. Celtic goddesses presided over battle, nature, healing, and fertility. Many times, they exhibit Jungian opposing concepts of virginity and sexuality, fecundity and destruction, war and peace, life and death. Partnership is a prominent theme, and in these relationships, the female is frequently the dominant partner, an indication of the independence afforded women in early Irish society. Divine and semi-divine, they were often believed to have the power of shape-shifting into animals: horses, birds, wolves, and dogs. Like the Christian patriarchal concept of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, several Celtic goddesses are associated with triplicity, implying the three ages of woman: maid, mother, and crone. Bríd, or Brighid, is a classic example. A triple goddess, her dominion encompassed the elements of earth, water, and fire (planting, caring for, and preparing food). Her dual opposing nature is expressed by her patronage of both smiths (those who fashion killing weapons)
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sláinte | good cheer Mary Doyle Keefe was the face behind Norman Rockwell’s iconic “Rosie the Riveter” image. Born in 1922 she died in April 2015 at the age of 92. In 1943 while America was embroiled in WWII, Rockwell contacted Keefe, his neighbor, for a series of photographs to be taken over two sittings. Keefe was paid five dollars for each sitting, but the real payoff was the painting. Rockwell took inspiration from Michelangelo’s Isaiah on the Sistine Chapel and the 1942 song “Rosie the Riveter” by Evans and Loeb. The likeness between Rosie and Keefe can only be found in her red hair and pale Irish skin, as Keefe was neither a riveter nor quite so muscular. She said as much in an interview with the Norman Rockwell Museum in 2002 saying, “Except for the red hair I had at the time, and my face, the rest I don’t think is me at all.” Keefe was born in Bennington, Vermont on July 30, 1922 and graduated from Temple University, later marrying Robert Keefe and working throughout New England as a dental hygienist. She is survived by her four children, 11 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Over the years, Rockwell’s image has become a symbol of the emancipated woman that coyly mixes genders while upholding patriotic zeal. Rosie is a woman who has grown out of the cloistered confines of the home and is ready to take Germany, and the world, by storm. Keefe herself never forgot the now classic image that bears her likeness and continued to give interviews throughout her life, including a notable appearance on the Tonight Show (riveter in hand) in the 1990s. She also remained fond of her relationship with Rockwell, cherishing the letter he sent her in 1967 that read, “The kidding you took was all my fault because I really thought you were the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.” – Matthew Skwiat
and midwives (those who bring new life to the tribe). As nurturer, she protected the Celts precious cattle, especially cows – the replenishing resource that supplies dairy products, known in Ireland as “white food.” As patroness of poets, she provided the Irish with the gift of language and communication. As healer, she was the wise woman who taught the use of medicinal herbs and guarded the holy wells. Since time immemorial women have figured prominently in Irish history and myth. Ireland is Eire’s land. Eire was a queen of the Tuatha de Danaan. The Tuatha de Danaan was “the Tribe of Danu.” Danu was the Celt’s Mother Goddess. With its wealth of female archetypes, it should not be surprising that Ireland was the first nation in the world to elect two women in succession to serve as President: Mary Robinson (1990 – 1997) and Mary McAleese (1997 – 2011). If Paul’s theory that the current abundance of iconic decisionmaking women in American film and television can impact political outcomes is correct, we may see a similar result in our own 2016 presidential election. Only time will tell. Slainte!
Women of Myth & History The Morrigan:
A “triple” goddess, whose sphere of influence includes fertility, birth, and death. The Morrigan is also known as Badb Catha (Battle Raven), Macha (Sovereign Queen), and Nemain (Terror). On the bank of the River Unshin, Co. Sligo, she is said to have seduced the All-Father Dagda at Samhain in an annual renewal of the life and death cycle. The Morrigan is best known for her warrior nature especially when her favored people, the Tuatha de Danaan, were threatened. In the tale Cath Maige Tuireadh (The Battle of Mag Tuired) she shape-shifts into an immense raven, swoops over the battlefield shrieking “kaaas” so fearful the enemy drops dead on the spot, and carries off her valiant fallen to their eternal reward. Since the Morrigan always knew in advance the outcome of any battle, the Irish proverb “has a Raven’s knowledge” means the person it describes can see into the future. (Continued on next page)
HONEYCAKES (personal recipe)
Note: In times gone by, women made honeycakes on Bealtaine Eve and placed them in the garden as treats for the Tuatha de Danaan fairy folk. ⁄2 2 1 2 ⁄3 1 ⁄8 1 ⁄8 1
cup sweet white wine tablespoons sugar egg cup flour teaspoon cinnamon teaspoon salt oil for frying cup honey teaspoon nutmeg
Beat the wine and egg in a medium bowl. Combine the flour, cinnamon, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Stir into the egg mixture. Let stand 30 minutes. Combine the honey and nutmeg in a small bowl. Heat 1/2inch of the oil in a frying pan until hot, but not smoking. Drop the batter into the oil 1 tablespoon at a time; fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Dip into the honey. Makes 1 1/2 dozen.
OATCAKES (personal recipe)
Note: Circular oatcakes were made for Bealtaine to symbolize the return of the sun and the start of a new agricultural season. 3 ⁄4 1 1⁄2 3 3 3
cups regular oatmeal flakes teaspoon baking powder teaspoon salt tablespoons butter tablespoons water extra oatmeal flakes
Whirl the oatmeal in a blender until it is reduced to flour. Combine oat flour, baking powder and salt. Melt butter with water in a microwave. Add butter-water to dry ingredients and stir until a thick dough forms. Place dough on a flat surface liberally sprinkled with extra oatmeal flakes and roll it around until completely covered. Press with a rolling pin or your hands until the dough is 1/4-inch thick. Cut circles (I use a whiskey glass) and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet sprinkled with more oatmeal flakes. Combine scraps and repeat cutting process until all the dough has been used. Heat oven to 350F. Bake oatcakes for approximately 10 minutes. When the oatcakes are a light brown, turn off the heat and open the oven door. Leave the oatcakes in the oven for four or five minutes, or until they become firm and crisp. Remove to wire racks to cool. Serve with cheese or butter and jam. Makes several dozen depending size of circles.
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sláinte | good cheer Macha Mong Ruad
(323 – 283 BC) According to medieval legend and historical tradition, Macha Mong Ruad (the Red Mane) was the only queen in the List of High Kings of Ireland. Her father Aed Ruad rotated the kingship with his cousins Díthorba and Cimbáeth, seven years at a time. Aed died after his third stint as king, and when his turn came round again, Macha claimed the kingship. Díthorba and Cimbáeth refused to allow a woman to take the throne, and a battle ensued. Macha won, and Díthorba was killed. She won a second battle against Díthorba’s sons, who fled into the Connacht wilderness. Disguised as a leper, she pursued the men alone, overcame them when they tried to rape her, and carried them to Ulster. The Ulstermen wanted to kill them, but Macha instead enslaved them and forced them to build the stronghold of Emain Macha (Navan Fort near Armagh), to be the capital of the Ulaid. Macha married Cimbáeth, ruled together with him for seven years, and after his death, another 14 years on her own.
Tain Bo Culainge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), an epic tale set in the first century AD and the centerpiece of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology, recounts how a war erupted over the theft of a bull. At that time an Irish person’s wealth was measured by the number of cattle one owned, and Queen Medb of Connaught demanded that her wealth be equal to that of her husband Ailill. Alas, his herd contained a fine white bull and hers did not. Vowing to best him, she set out to steal Ulster’s even finer brown bull. Despite the fact that Medb’s army was slaughtered by the Ulstermen, she succeeded. When Medb returned to Connaught, her brown bull defeated Ailill’s white animal and peace was restored to the royal household. 98 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Saint Brigid (453 – 523 AD)
Like many women in the early days of Christianity, Saint Brigid was named in honor of the ancient goddess Bríd. Sired by a Celtic chieftain to a slave girl and foster raised by a Druid priest, Brigid was beautiful, gifted, and so strong-willed that when the Druid attempted to marry her off, she refused, choosing instead baptism by Saint Patrick and a life dedicated to charity. Saint Brigid was warm-hearted, hospitable, and one of history’s earliest liberated women. She traveled widely, entertained with charm and grace, and was an excellent business manager, competently running an abbey which she built in Kildare on the very hill where Bríd’s sacred fire had burned for centuries.
(c.1530 – 1603) Born to a wealthy seafaring Co. Mayo family, Grace O’Malley’s father was chieftain of the Ó Máille clan and on his death Grace inherited her father’s sailing ships and international trade. At a time when women were only expected to be docile wives, Grace defied tradition by going to sea. After her first husband died, she wed “Iron Richard” Bourke under the early Irish marriage law of “one year certain” at the end of which, Grace not only divorced Bourke but kept his property. In retaliation to taxes imposed on vessels by the English Council in Galway, the O’Malley fleet regularly boarded and demanded similar payment from any ships traveling in Co. Mayo waters. When her harassment of shipping so vexed the English that her sons and half-brother were imprisoned by the English governor of Connacht, Grace sailed to England where she met with Queen Elizabeth I and negotiated their release. Other parts of the agreement, however, were not honored by the English, so Grace resumed raiding ships and supporting insurgents to the English occupation of Ireland, which earned her the lasting title of Ireland’s Pirate Queen.
(1868 – 1927) Constance Georgine Gore-Booth,
known as Countess Markievicz after her marriage to a Polish aristocrat, was a nationalist, suffragette and socialist politician. For the part she played in the 1916 Easter Rising, she was sentenced to death but the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment and she was released in 1917. In December 1918, she was the first woman elected to the British House of Commons, though she did not take her seat and instead, along with other Sinn Féin members of the lower house of Irish Parliament, formed the first Dáil Éireann. Markievicz served as Minister for Labour from April 1919 to January 1922, in the second Ministry and the third Ministry of the Dáil becoming both the first Irish female cabinet minister and only the second female government minister in Europe. She was the only female cabinet minister in Irish history until 1979 when Máire Geoghegan-Quinn was appointed to the cabinet post of Minister for the Gaeltacht for Fianna Fáil.
(1852 – 1932) The youngest daughter of Anglo-Irish gentry, Isabella Augusta was born at Roxborough Co. Galway, the 6,000 acre Persse family estate. Educated at home, her nanny, a native Irish speaker, laid the foundation of her future interest in Irish history and legends. After her marriage to Sir William Henry Gregory, the couple traveled widely in Europe, Egypt, and Asia, and when at home held weekly salons frequented by famous figures of the art and literary world. A prolific writer before and after the death of her husband, a visit to the Aran Islands reawakened her interest in the Irish language and folklore. In 1896, an introduction to W.B. Yeats, who became her lifelong friend, led her to collaborate on the founding of the Irish Literary Theatre which inspired the Irish Literary Revival. Yeats wrote numerous poems about Lady Gregory, her family and homes, and George Bernard Shaw once described her as “the greatest living Irishwoman.” IA
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those we lost | passages Daniel Joseph Berrigan, S.J.
1921 – 2016 aniel Berrigan, activist Jesuit priest and intellectual, author, and pacifist agitator who served as inspiration for the character Father Corrigan in Colum McCann’s 2009 novel, Let the Great World Spin, died in the Bronx on April 30, age 94. Daniel was born May 9, 1921 in Virginia, Minnesota, the son of Frieda and Thomas Berrigan, the latter of whom was a second-generation Irish Catholic. The family moved to Syracuse, New York, where Daniel’s lifelong dedication to the Catholic Church brought him into the Jesuit order immediately after high school. An award winning writer and poet with more than 50 books to his name, Berrigan emerged as one of the leading lights of the Catholic Church’s “New Left” movement in the 1960s. His brand of pacifist protest was one of praxis over passive resistance, and as a leading member of the Catonsville nine, he, his brother Philip (also a priest), and their seven Catholic cohorts used homemade napalm to destroy 378 draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville, Maryland, draft board which they raided on May 17, 1968. Berrigan then went on the run, refusing to acquiesce to the three-year prison sentence handed to him by what he saw as an illegitimate authority. He was eventually caught, imprisoned, and released in 1972 – but remained undeterred. Berrigan carried on with a life of Catholic dedication and protest, forming also the anti-nuclear weapon movement, the Plowshare Movement, and later opposed many other American military interventions abroad. “The day after I’m embalmed,” he said in 2001, on his 80th birthday, “that’s when I’ll give it up.” – R.B.W.
David Ross St. John Beresford
TOP TO BOTTOM: Daniel Joseph Berrigan, S.J., David Ross St. John Beresford, and Pat Conroy.
1947 – 2016 ward winning journalist David Beresford, best known for his detailed reportage of the Troubles in the north of Ireland, died in April at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa at the age of 68 after years of battling Parkinson’s disease. In 1978, David was working for the Guardian when he become a correspondent in Ireland. The Troubles were at that point in full force, and his unique experiences and insights eventually culminated in the 1987 release of his well-known book, Ten Men Dead, which tells the harrowing tale of the 1981 hunger strike of IRA prisoners held in Long Kesh. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams payed tribute to Beresford, calling him “an exceptional journalist” and Ten Men Dead “probably the best book written
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about that period.” Born in Johannesburg, the youngest of three sons of St. John, a banker, and his wife, Faith (née Ashby), the family moved to Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), when David was seven. In the 1970s he moved to Britain, and got his first job as a journalist in the U.K. with the South Wales Echo. Beresford was named foreign correspondent of the year twice, and along with his renowned coverage of the northern Irish Troubles, he also received acclaim for his coverage of the Apartheid regime in South Africa and for his coverage in 1991 of the American lead Operation Desert Storm. Paul Webster, former foreign editor of the Guardian David’s long time employer, said, “David Beresford was one of the greatest correspondents of his generation. He was a tenacious and brave reporter, a brilliant investigator, had a fine analytical mind, and was a wonderful, lucid, graphic writer – a rare combination of skills.” – R.B.W.
1945 – 2016 cclaimed novelist and New York Times best selling author Pat Conroy, died in Beaufort, South Carolina, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. Pat was born October 26 to parents who served as the inspiration for many of his works. To his mother, he credited his desire to write, but it was from his abusive, discipline obsessed father that he derived the material for his first novel, The Great Santini, an autobiographical work that explores the tumult of living in a family dominated by a pugnacious professional military man and the relationships that develop between abuser and abused. Pat described his father as a “dreary, somber Irishman,” in a 1995 interview with Irish America. Consequently, “All the things Irish that could be beautiful, came to me twisted,” he recalled. Nevertheless, he had a drive to go to Ireland, to find his relatives, and to “discover what all this is, because I feel it inside me, all the time,” he said. Editor Nan A. Talese of Doubleday remembers Pat as “a beloved friend and author for 35 years” and said, “He will be cherished as one of America’s favorite and bestselling writers.” Conroy authored many best-selling works, four of which, including The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, were made into movies. The latter work brought commercial success and renown for Pat, especially after Barbra Streisand both directed and starred in the film adaptation along with Nick Nolte. The eldest of seven children, Pat’s early life was peripatetic and violent. He moved with his family from one military base to the next before settling in South Carolina. It was there that he graduated from the Citadel Military Academy in Beaufort, the town
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where he also spent his final days. He is survived by his third wife, fellow writer Cassandra King, four children, five stepchildren, five siblings, and seven grandchildren. – R.B.W.
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett
1983 – 2016 r. Clare Theresa Crockett, a Catholic nun from Derry who was based at the Colegio Sagrada Familia school in Playa Prieta, Ecuador, was killed while leading others to safety after an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 ravaged the country on April 16. With a death toll over 600 and hundreds more injured, the Earthquake has been described as “the worst tragedy in 60 years,” by Ecuadorian Defense Minister Ricardo Patiño. Sr. Clare was teaching children at her school to play the guitar when the earthquake struck, and it is believed that she was leading the children to safety through a stairwell when the four-story building collapsed. Her body was found in the rubble about 36 hours after the quake. Sr. Clare found her calling after signing up for what she thought was a free vacation to Spain and an excellent chance to party abroad. As it turned out, the trip was actually a pilgrimage. After spending her youth focused on theater, acting, and revelry, it was on that fateful journey that she found her true calling. It was around that time that she also landed a small part in Paul Greengrass’s Bloody Sunday, a film about the Parachute regiment’s killing of innocent civilians in Derry in 1972. “Sr. Clare devoted her life to children and young people and died selflessly helping those in need in Ecuador,” Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said. “It is unbelievable. She has been a missionary for 15 years and been all over the world doing her work.” Her cousin, Emmet Doyle commented on her passing saying, “She was a superstar. Everybody loved her. She died as she lived, helping others.” – R.B.W.
1929 – 2016 he human rights activist and U.S. civil rights advocate Patricia Derian, who also served as President Jimmy Carter’s assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, died in May of Alzheimer’s at her home in North Carolina. She was 86. During her tenure in the executive branch, Derian used her power to persuade the White House to use foreign aid as a way to curtail human rights abuses in foreign countries, including during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” with the authoritarian President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, and elsewhere. “Pat spent hundreds of hours meeting with victims
and their families. She became a champion of oppressed people around the world,” President Jimmy Carter said in a statement. “Because of her determination and effective advocacy, countless human rights and democracy activists survived that period, going on to plant the seeds of freedom in Latin America, Asia, and beyond.” Born Patricia Sue Miriam Murphy in 1929 in Manhattan, Derian was raised in Danville, VA, graduating from nursing school at the University of Virginia before moving to Jackson, MS. There, she entered the Civil Rights movement and organized the Loyalist Democrats, a bi-racial alternative to the whites-only state delegation to national conventions. She served as deputy director for the 1978 CarterMondale presidential campaign, and married her second husband, Hodding Carter III, who would be Carter’s assistant secretary of state for public affairs, that same year. “She spoke truth to power and never stopped. I’m blessed that I was with her,” he told the Boston Globe. In addition to Carter III, she is survived by three children from her first marriage, four step-children, two grandchildren, and ten step-grandchildren. – A.F.
Anna Marie Duke
1946 – 2016 cademy Award winning actress Anna Marie “Patty” Duke, who first gained notoriety as a teenage star at age 16 for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, died in March at a hospital near her home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, from complications of a ruptured intestine. Duke was born Dec. 14, 1946, and raised in Elmhurst, NY. She had been involved in theater, broadway, cinema, and television for most of her life, and her legacy lives on through those that survive her including her husband and sons Mackenzie and Sean Astin, the latter of whom is known for his roles in Rudy and the Lord of the Rings. “This morning, our beloved wife, mother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian and champion of mental health, Anna Patty Duke, closed her eyes, quieted her pain, and ascended to a beautiful place,” said a statement from the family. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.” Duke also starred in her own sitcom, The Patty Duke Show, in which she played two “identical cousins.” She later starred as Neely O’Hara in the cult classic, Valley of the Dolls. She was also nomi-
TOP TO BOTTOM: Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, Patricia Derian with President Jimmy Carter, and Anna Marie Duke.
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those we lost | passages nated for 10 Emmy awards, of which she won three. Aside from her acting career, Patty was known for her work on behalf of those who suffered from mental illness. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, after which she wrote about her experiences with her condition in her autobiography, published in 1987. She was well-known thereafter for her advocacy of raising awareness for issues related to mental health. – R.B.W.
John Norman Ide Leslie
1916 – 2016 ohn Leslie, otherwise known as “Uncle Jack and, more formally, “Captain Sir John Norman Ide Leslie, 4th Baronet,” died in April. He was the eldest son of Sir John Randolph Leslie, 3rd Baronet, and Marjorie Ide. A cousin of Winston Churchill, he became the fourth baronet upon his father’s death in 1971, and was later crowned “the disco king of Ireland” when in his 80s he discovered his love of dance clubs and the music he famously dubbed, “the boom boom music.” “Words can’t describe our bittersweet joy at the manner of his living and dying,” Mark Leslie, his nephew, said at his funeral. “I’m still basking in the golden glow of his departure.” Though much of his life was spent in London, traveling the globe, or living in a restored Monastery in Rome, he eventually settled once again in his native Monaghan, taking up residence at his family home Castle Leslie, which was the place where Paul McCartney married Heather Mills, a fact that Uncle Jack famously divulged on live television just before the wedding by blurting, “it’s on Tuesday, but it’s a secret.” Jack’s life was filled with socializing and populated by lords and ladies, but it was not without hardship either. He fought the Nazis in France, was captured, and remained in a POW camp for years thereafter, for which he would be appointed a chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest medal. “Jack was such a special person, who was loved by many,” his nephew Mark says. “He never said a bad word about anyone, not even the people who captured him and brought him to prisoner of war camps in Germany.” – R.B.W. TOP TO BOTTOM: John Leslie, Christy O’Connor, Sr., and Daniel Tully.
Christy O’Connor, Sr.
1924 – 2016 n May, Irish golfer Christy O’Connor, Sr., who participated in 10 consecutive Ryder Cup teams and was the second Irishman ever inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame, died at his home in Ireland. He was 91. His death follows that of his nephew, fellow golfer Christy O’Connor, Jr., who died unexpectedly while on vacation in the Canary Islands in January. O’Connor, who was born in 1924 in Knock-
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nacarra, Co. Galway, dominated the European golf circuit for four decades, winning 24 times on the European Tour, and playing 15 times in the World Cup. Until 1997, he held the record for the most Ryder Cup appearances by any golfer. In Ireland, he was known as the “father of Irish golf.” “When I was growing up, the name Christy O'Connor was synonymous with Irish golf,” his friend, Fr. Martin Hogan, told the Belfast Telegraph. “He was our national golfing treasure who could compete with the giants of golf from all around the world and beat many of them more than once.” “Christy was built like a bull but he had incredible hands for golf,” Ryder cup director Richard Hills said in a statement. “Christy did so much for the game and his legacy will long live on,” he said. “After the tragic, sudden death of his nephew in January, golf has lost two of its greatest men.” He is survived by his wife, Mary, and five children. – A.F.
1916 – 2016 ormer Merrill Lynch CEO Daniel Tully, pioneer of the 1990s “Mother Merrill” business model which tripled Merrill shares during his tenure, died while visiting his daughter, Eileen Ceglarski, in Darien, CT in May at the age of 84. Tully was appointed CEO in 1992, after serving the company for almost 40 years, and ushered in its most profitable years to date during his five-year control. As good as he was with numbers, he was equally gifted in conversation and true care for his work, attributing this to his Irish upbringing. When he was made CEO, he had his carpets changed to Kelly green, and was often heard singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” “On road trips, he would follow up client meetings with visits to the local offices of Merrill Lynch private client managers, where his gladhanding and banter weren’t an act, but the expression of a man who actually cared about the firm’s network of financial advisers,” Greg Farrell wrote in his 2010 book about the firm’s collapse, Crash of the Titans. Daniel Patrick Tully was born in 1932 in New York and raised in Woodside, Queens, a heavily working-class neighborhood filled with Irish and Irish Americans. His father was a steamfitter, and the family assumed he would follow in his footsteps. But after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army following college, Tully returned to St. John’s University career center to see who was hiring. He applied for a job at Merrill Lynch, not even knowing what the company did. His mother, he told Irish America in 1985, congratulated him on getting a job in advertising. In addition to his daughter Eileen, Tully is survived by his wife of 59 years, Grace, three children, and 13 grandchildren. – A.F.
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crossword | by Darina Molloy by Marita ConlonMcKenna focusing on the Gifford sisters and the 1916 Rebellion (5) 45 Lactose intolerance means avoiding members of this food group (5) 46 See 36 down (6)
1 (& 33 down) This U.S.-born independent politician is Ireland’s Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (9) 4 See 34 down (6) 8 See 37 down (9) 11 (& 31 across) Cork-born Mary Harris became a prominent labor and community organizer in the U.S. (6)
12 Oscar-winning movie that focused on the Boston Globe investigation into Catholic Church abuse (9) 13 Birth surname of 39 across (7) 15 See 21 down (8) 16 See 44 across (7) 17 See 10 down (4) 18 See 38 down (8) 20 (& 6 down) Dublin-born actor, son of Brendan, who starred in Brooklyn and The
April / May Solution
Revenant (8) 23 Female horse (4) 24 (& 19 down) Jesuit priest and anti-war activist who died in April (6) 26 Require something essential (4) 28 Meters, inches or feet: _____ of measurement (5) 30 Last ______ : final sacrament for Catholics before death (5) 31 See 11 across (5) 33 See 1 across (7) 35 Irish equivalent of a bachelorette party (3) 39 (& 42 across) Birth control activist and sex educator who established the fore-runner for Planned Parenthood (8) 42 See 39 across (6) 43 Not yes (2) 44 (& 16 across) Book
2 This school of business is part of Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH (4) 3 A Boeing 747 touched down in this Northwest seaside town recently, after a most unusual journey (10) 5 Born as Honora Nagle, she founded the Presentation Sisters in Ireland (4) 6 See 20 across (7) 7 (& 32 down) This actress-turneddirector opened the 2013-2014 season of the Metropolitan Opera in NY(5) 9 Regulation (4) 10 (& 17 across) This politician, activist and medical doctor was arrested during the 1916 Rising (8) 14 The first commercial internet provider in Ireland (1, 1, 1) 19 See 24 across (8) 20 Someone who gives a gift or donation (5) 21 (& 15 across)
22 23 24 25
27 29 32 33 34
36 37 38 40
Ambassador of Ireland to the U.S. (4) See 23 down (5) (& 22 down) Estranged wife of 1916’s John MacBride (4) Donald Trump’s Irish connection (7) The travel permit required for those entering the US under the Visa Waiver program (1, 1, 1, 1) People, as Gaeilge (6) Tiny drink (3) See 7 down (4) A school of Buddhism that emphasizes meditation (3) (& 4 across) Former leader of Ireland’s Labour Party, who stepped down after the most recent election (4) (& 46 across) Irish actress in hit AMC series Better Call Saul (5) (& 8 across) Formerly known as Cape Kennedy (4) (& 18 across) Ireland’s first female president (4) “Do you love anyone enough to give them your last ____?” This marketing slogan – for a popular caramel candy, is still remembered in Ireland (4) Fastened or attached with string (4)
Win a subscription to Irish America magazine
Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than July 15, 2016. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable. Winner of the April / May crossword: Jim Roberts, Sidney, BC JUNE / JULY 2016 IRISH AMERICA 103
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100th Birthday photo album |
by Bríd Long
Molly Long greets a baby lamb, one of the first signs of Spring, at Easter 2016. Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description, to Patricia Harty at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. If photos are irreplaceable, then please send a good quality reproduction or e-mail the picture at 300 dpi resolution to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will pay $65 for each submission that we select.
o receive a personal letter and gift from the President is one of the lovely Irish ways of honoring centenarians. We were indeed proud on May 19, 2016, to read to our mother, Molly Long, a message from President Michael D. Higgins: “What a wonderful occasion for you, your extended family and friends as you reminisce and celebrate a life great in years, and I have no doubt, rich in accomplishments. I join with your family and friends in wishing you a very happy 100th birthday. “Born, as you were, in the second decade of the twentieth century, you have lived through remarkable times in the history of Ireland and the world. You have witnessed remarkable changes, in lifestyles and technological developments, unimaginable at the time of your birth in 1916.”
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My mother, Molly or “Mam” as we call her, was fifth in a family of nine children born to Kate Sayers and Maurice Donnacha Boland in Fahan on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, overlooking one of the most spectacularly beautiful coastlines in Ireland. Atlantic waves crash against the rocks or glisten blue in the sun, hedgerows drip with fuchsia in summer, and stone walls, beehive huts and Ogham inscriptions on headstones recall ancient times in pre-Christian and early Christian Ireland. She was born in the days of candlelight, paraffin lamps, pumping water from the well and drawing turf from the mountain bog, days that were hard in rural Ireland of the time. “That was how things were, our life was simple and we were happy,” she likes to say, adding with a smile, “My mother was patient, hard-working and kind and my father a hard working poor devil of a
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farmer who liked his medium and chaser.” Snippets of family history have been recorded in her various notebooks over the years. Her maternal grandparents were Seán Sayers and Jude Lynch; her paternal grandparents Donnacha Boland and Máire Rua Murphy. “My granny was elegant. I think I’m like her but thank God, I don’t have her hard, sad life. Three of her children died of TB, the deadly disease of those days. She prayed constantly and many a rosary we said together.” Like her grandmother, God has been an everpresent force in mother’s life and his Mother Mary as real as her best friend. “Tá Dia láidir agus Máthair mhaith aige.” (God is strong and has a good Mother), I have often heard her say with conviction in her native Irish language. In one notebook, she recorded scrambling after her brothers over the sheer rocks to pick seaweed and gather shell fish, and climbing the mountain to the bog and walking home behind three donkeys laden with side baskets or creels of turf. She loved math and Irish and earned a scholarship to Scoil Chaitríona, Eccles Street, Dublin, run by the Dominican Sisters and in 1929 at the age of 13, set off for boarding school. Here she formed fast and lasting friendships with fellow students Eileen Ashe, Máire McEntee and Siobhán Manning. She developed a lifelong love of poetry in both Irish and English. On mother’s 100th birthday, my sister posted a little video of her reciting with strong voice and mellifluous cadences her two favorite poems, “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson and “Anois teacht an Earraigh” by Antaine Ó Raifteirí, on Facebook; the latter concludes with the line: ‘Is dá mbeinnse mo sheasamh i gceartlár mo dhaoine./ D’imeodh an aois díom is bheinn arís óg’ (And were I to be standing in the midst of my own people, age would depart from me and I’d be young again), to which she adds wryly, ‘I wonder!’” Upon completing secondary school, Mam returned home to discover that her mother was very ill with cancer. She cared for her to the end, and also watched with a heavy heart as one by one, four brothers and one sister emigrated to America. The first two brothers would return in 1956, many years after both parents had died. In later years, my mother visited me in California and later in Washington, D.C. On both occasions, there were emotional reunions with her family in Detroit, and she made a third visit for the funerals of two of her brothers. Mam married her childhood sweetheart, Michael Long, in 1940, and moved to Fleenstown on the borders of Meath and Dublin, as part of the resettlement of poor, Irish-speaking farming families from Kerry and other areas of the South and West, to the fertile grasslands of the East. This internal migration was part of Fianna Fáil’s efforts to safeguard the Irish language and to deal with agricultural
poverty in the newly independent country. The nine children in the Long family grew up in something of a “little Kerry” since five families on our lane hailed from there and were all Irish-speaking. They brought with them to Fleenstown the tradition of céilí dancing in one another’s homes, “set dances and old time waltzes as a neighbor-musician played the accordion or melodeon,” she fondly recalls. While she has always missed the striking landscape of Kerry, my mother adapted easily enough to her new home. She loved animals, dairy farming, and gardening and threw herself into doing all it took to survive through the strict rationing of goods that came with World War II, and later through her husband’s long and trying illness. Nanny, my Dad’s mother, lived with us until her death in1956 and helped care for our growing family. Like her own mother before her, Mam was “handy with the needle” and even acquired a knitting machine and started a little business. Families in the neighborhood helped one another and readily shared what they had. Down the years, my mother has had a wonderful capacity for enjoying life. For as long as she was able to bend, she was an avid gardener; for as long as she could see the cards, she was a sharp poker player, and for as long as she could walk, she loved a day at the races or just simply being out in nature, listening to the lark, the cuckoo and corncrake, admiring simple flowers, shrubs, and rainbows. Many who know her describe my mother as extraordinarily kind. Her nine children, 17 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren are blessed to have experienced her love and we know we have received lessons and blessings from her. Her lively and unwavering faith life is an inspiration to all of us. She has shown us how to live with joy and sorrow, through the ups and downs of our lives, through Dad’s struggle with the effects of bipolar disorder, through the death of two of her adult sons from cancer, and the untimely death of her beloved granddaughter, Michelle, a few months after her twenty-first birthday. What is the secret of her deep happiness? She would say “hard work, a loving family, good friends and neighbors, and the ever-present care of Our Lady.” To my mother, in her present frail state, lovingly cared for by the staff at Kilbrew Demesne, on the hundredth anniversary of her birth, I echo President Higgins’ birthday wish, “May you be surrounded today by the warmth of happy memories and secure in the knowledge that you continue to make this world a better place for all who love you.”
Top: Molly Boland at 9 years old in 1925. Above: Molly Long with her youngest daughter, Brenda, on her 100th birthday.
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last word |
by Robert Schmuhl
An Irish Rebel Girl
106 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2016
Cumman na mBan, at two days. They were treated just as the Brookfield, near Omagh, men prisoners were treated. The in Tyrone. An Irish women slept over the yard while the republican women’s organization formed in men were shot. They would be awakDublin on April 2, 1914 ened in the morning by the sound of as an auxiliary of the the quick march, the brusque comIrish Volunteers. mand, and the sound of the rifles.” This survivor’s final words assume a power transcending the time when they were originally spoken. A century ago, Moira Regan already understood the Rising’s meaning and significance. “We have been living in a country that had no national life,” she noted. “And suddenly we were shown that we had a national life – that we were a nation, a persecuted and crushed nation, but, nevertheless, a nation. “You cannot understand the joy of this feeling unless you have lived in a nation whose spirit had been crushed and then suddenly revived. I felt that evening, when I saw the Irish flag floating over the Post Office in O’Connell Street, that this was a thing worth living and dying for. I was absolutely intoxicated and carried away with joy and pride in knowing that I had a nation. This feeling has spread all over Ireland; it has remained and it is growing stronger. We were a province, and now we are a nation; we were British subjects, and now we are Irish.” Conducting research about Kilmer and American press coverage of Easter 1916, I discovered that this remarkable interview surreptitiously made its way back to Ireland and was published there. Shortly afterwards the press censor in Dublin (esRobert Schmuhl is tablished by the British in early June) the Walter H. became enraged and threatened to shut Annenberg-Edmund P. down the Irish newspapers involved. Joyce Chair in Moira Regan’s story brought a American Studies and woman’s voice, one of experience and Journalism at the insight, into the conversation about the University of Notre Rising. What she said back then – with Dame and the author emotions still raw and embers still of Ireland’s Exiled warm – makes a reader, even today, see Children: America and the bloody struggle for Irish independthe Easter Rising ence in human terms that are imbued (Oxford University IA with hope. Press).
PHOTO BY JAMES LANGTON
laudable feature of this year’s Easter Rising commemorations is the conscientious effort to recognize the role women played in the insurrection for independence. Books, articles, and documentaries present the distaff side of history, creating (if you will) the “her” story of 1916. Current attention, however, doesn’t mean that members of Cumann na mBan and like-minded women were invisible in contemporary accounts. Pistol brandishing Countess Markievicz figured prominently in early reportage, and one account of her capture noted that she “kissed her revolver before surrendering it and her cartridge bandolier.” Moira Regan isn’t a household name for her involvement in the Rising. Yet her detailed description of what it was like to serve in the General Post Office and to move around Dublin throughout Easter Week remains a compelling record from a woman’s point of view. Regan was interviewed by Joyce Kilmer a few months after the April Rising and May executions, with her own words encompassing 39 paragraphs of a 43-paragraph article in the New York Times Magazine for August 20. A prominent poet – Kilmer’s lyric “Trees” took root in 1913 as an American favorite – he supported himself and his family by writing journalism, mainly for the Sunday magazine of the Times. Headlined “Irish Girl Rebel Tells of Dublin Fighting,” Kilmer describes his subject and sets the scene before presenting her narrative. The “slight, gray-eyed girl” has “a charming flavor of County Wexford in her manner and in her voice.” The mood, though, quickly changes: “But back of her gray eyes and charming manner there is a depth of tragic experience. For Moira Regan has worked night and day in a beleaguered fort, has breathed air redolent with gunpowder, and heard the groans of men torn by shot and shell. She has seen her friends led away to death, their bodies to be thrown into a pit of quicklime.” A few sentences later, the woman – “now living in New York” – begins to tell her story with an emphasis on the day-by-day sequence of events and her judgments of what Kilmer refers to as the “brief but great adventure.” After she concludes her factual description, noting the involvement of women, Regan interjects her opinions to round out what happened. There’s eloquence throughout her assessment: “One thing that would strike you about the conduct of the rebels was the absolute equality of the men and women. The women did first-aid work and cooking, and some of them used their rifles to good advantage. They just did the work that was before them, and they were of the greatest moral aid. “About eighty women were taken prisoner and thrown into cells in Kilmainham Jail. There were no jail matrons; there was no one in charge of them but soldiers, who took every opportunity to insult them. They were not allowed to leave their cells for any purpose for
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