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JUNE / JULY 2018

CANADA $4.95 / U.S. $3.95





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contents | Vol. 33 No. 4 June / July 2018 HIGHLIGHTS Good Friday Agreement at 20


Deaglán de Bréadún reflects on 20 years of peace. p. 16

48 34

32 The Irish of Jamaica

How Irish became the second-most dominant ethnicity on the island. By Ray Cavanaugh

The leader of the Service Employees International Union may be a latter-day Mother Jones. By Patricia Harty

Relentless Rowers

40 Wild Irish Women: Deirdre O’Connell

The fanatic heart of a Bronx girl who changed the face of Irish theater. By Rosemary Rogers


44 The Lincolns and their Irish Maids An excerpt from Irish America publisher Niall O’Dowd’s new book.

Concern Worldwide marks 50 years this year. Though global in reach, it’s roots remain distinctly Irish. By Ed Kenney Jr. and Kieran McConville

John Crowley, Ruth Negga, Chris O’Dowd, Cillian Murphy, and more.

p. 20

34 Cover Interview: Mary Kay Henry

48 Mission Possible

Irish Eye on Hollywood

Earlier this year, four Irishmen set out to row across the Atlantic for charity.

p. 22

Irish America’s Hall of Fame

Coverage from the 2018 Hall of Fame Awards with John O. Brennan, Jerry Brown, Dennis P. Long, and Kelli O’Hara. p. 24


54 What Are You Like?

Mystery novelist Sheila Connolly takes our questionnaire. By Patricia Harty

Book Notes

Literary news from Ireland and Irish America. p. 65

57 William Trevor’s Last Stories

Two years after the death of writer William Trevor, his final stories have been published. By Frank Shouldice

58 The Kennedy Who Changed the World

Eileen McNamara makes the case for Eunice Shriver as the most influential Kennedy sibling. By Tom Deignan

62 Sláinte! Music Is the Food of Love

Edythe Preet writes on Ireland’s bardic tradition and curates a playlist exclusively for Irish America.



64 Photo Album: Nanna’s First Fourth

Kate Connolly emigrated from Ireland just in time for a 1920s American Independence Day surprise. By Lori Cassels

66 The Last Word

Hardball host Chris Matthews writes on Robert F. Kennedy’s Irishness on the 50th anniversary of his assassination on June 5, 1968.

Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-527. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344. 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.

DEPARTMENTS 8 10 12 29 31 57 61

First Word Readers Forum Hibernia Those We Lost Quote/Unquote Books Crossword

COVER PHOTO: Kristopher Price, who works for the SEIU, took this photo of Mary Kay Henry in front of a boarded up building around the corner from the SEIU office on Du Point Circle in Washington, D.C. He explains: “It illustrates my love of street art and my love of showing SEIU in many different lights of our fights.”

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contributors | Deaglán de Bréadún is a

columnist with the Irish News and former Northern editor of the Irish Times. His books include The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland (Collins Press, 2008) and Power Play: The Rise of Modern Sinn Féin (Merrion Press, 2015).

Ed Kenney Jr. joined Concern

Worldwide U.S. in 2007 after a 10-year career in private sector communications. He previously produced documentary and entertainment programs for public TV and joined the organization to help expand coverage of its field work. He also spent much of 2010-11 as a logistics coordinator in the Haiti earthquake response and in Malawi. Currently, he serves as VP of communications in New York.

Chris Matthews has

been the host of Hardball, an hour-long political show that airs weeknights on MSNBC, since 1997. Matthews is a member of the Irish America Hall of Fame and the author of numerous books, including Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked (Simon & Schuster, 2013) and his latest, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit (Simon & Schuster, 2017). Born and raised in Philadelphia, his father was a Protestant of English and Northern Irish ancestry and his mother was from an Irish Catholic family.

Vol. 33 No. 4 • June / July 2018

Ray Cavanaugh

is a freelance scribe from Massachusetts who enjoys long walks, short novels, and colorful characters. He has written for such publications as the Guardian, Time, Celtic Life, and New Oxford Review. His mother comes straight from Kerry, and his father is a few generations removed from Wexford.

Sharon Ní Chonchúir lives and

works in west County Kerry, and much of her writing is concerned with the changing face of modern Irish culture. She is a fluent Irish speaker.

Tom Deignan writes

columns about movies and history for Irish America and is a weekly columnist for the Irish Voice and regular columnist and book reviewer for the Newark Star-Ledger. Most recently, he co-wrote, with the late Tom Hayden, an essay on Thomas Addis Emmet in the new book Nine Irish Lives (Algonquin, 2018).

publisher of Irish America, the Irish Voice, and IrishCentral. In 2002, his book Fire in the Morning, about Irish people at the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks, reached number two on the Irish bestseller list. His most recent book, Lincoln and the Irish: The Untold Story of How the Irish Helped Abraham Lincoln Save the Union was published by Skyhorse in April.

Kieran McConville is a photographer, filmmaker, and writer working for Concern Worldwide in New York. Originally from Limerick, he travels extensively to document the organization’s emergency response and development work in 26 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. He previously spent two decades covering international and domestic affairs and human interest stories, primarily for RTÉ.

Frank Shouldice is an author, playwright, and

Rosemary Rogers co-

Niall O’Dowd is the founding

documentary maker. He has worked in journalism across print, radio, and television, where he is a producer/director with the investigations unit at RTÉ. He won the 2016 Justice Media Overall Award for his radio documentary “The Case That Never Was” and is the author of Grandpa the Sniper: The Remarkable Story of a 1916 Volunteer (Liffey, 2015), about his grandfather’s role in the 1916 Easter Rising and War of Independence. 6 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018

authored, with Sean Kelly, the best-selling humor / reference book Saints Preserve Us! Everything You Need to Know About Every Saint You’ll Ever Need (Random House, 1993), currently in its 18th international printing. The duo collaborated on four other books for Random House and calendars for Barnes & Noble. Rogers cowrote two info / entertainment books for St. Martin’s Press. She is currently co-writing a book on empires for City Light Publishing.


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 Director of Events, Social Media, and Marketing Implementation: Olivia O’Mahony Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Mary Gallagher Dave Lewis

875 Avenue of the Americas Suite 201 New York, NY 10001 TELEPHONE: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344 E-MAIL: Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642

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the first word | by Patricia Harty

“Love More” I

“Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.” The definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams, 1931

n this issue we turn from the turmoil swirling around the world and focus on the people – past and present – who have hunkered down and made a difference; people who restore our faith in human nature, proof that the good outweighs the bad; that America’s future can and will be brighter. Love More will trump Hate. We have to believe that going forward, the world will know more Bobby Kennedys, more Eunice Shrivers, more organizations like Concern, and more Mary Kay Henrys who will step up and stand out and speak out for a better deal for all, no matter the race, color, creed, gender, ability, or disability. Someone like Mary Kay Henry, who says that it’s not alright to have to work three jobs on minimum wage to put a roof over your head. As the first woman to lead the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), her phenomenal efforts on behalf of the working poor brings two other labor leaders to mind, both Irish and both women. You can’t talk labor issues without including Mother Jones, the Cork-born Mary Harris who led miners and their families in a battle for better pay and working conditions until her death in 1930. (“I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hellraiser.”) The second is the Belfast-born Inez McCormack, the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Inez organized striking hospital workers in Belfast and successfully campaigned for the inclusion of strong equality and human rights provisions in the Good Friday Agreement, the 20th anniversary of which is also covered in this issue. It was at an event commemorating McCormack, who passed away in 2013, that I first met Mary Kay Henry. The venue was SEIU local 1199 headquarters on 42nd Street, and the room was filled with union members, mostly women, mostly immigrant home care workers. What I remember clearly from that evening, three years on, is how a woman in the audience, an immigrant from Columbia, shyly stood up and in halting English said, “Thank you for caring.” As Inez herself once said, “There is nothing like seeing the glint in the eye of the woman who thought she was nobody and now realizes she’s somebody.” One of the speakers at the McCormack event mentioned that the SEIU was Martin Luther King’s favorite union. The black leader was gunned down on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, where he was supporting striking sanitation workers. This year, fast-food workers striking across the mid-South were joined by workers from that 1968 sanitation strike, connecting 8 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018

the important historic action 50 years ago to today’s walk-out campaign by minimum wage earners. For us, Irish and others, the death of King will be forever linked to Robert F. Kennedy’s emotional appeal for calm in the aftermath of the shooting. In a black neighborhood in Indianapolis, he broke the news of King’s death and shared with the grieving crowd his own pain on the assassination of his brother. “We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization – black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another,” he said. “Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.” Two months later, on June 5, 1968, Kennedy himself was gunned down in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic primary. The man perceived by many to be the only person in American politics who could unite the people was dead. This year, to mark the 50th anniversary, the Kennedy/King Memorial Initiate will hold several events in Indianapolis to commemorate Kennedy’s memorable message of peace. And in this issue, Chris Matthews marks the anniversary by writing about Kennedy’s humanity and love of the underdog, and where he thinks that came from. Bobby’s sister, Eunice, also featured in this issue, passed away on August 11, 2009, but her legacy lives on in the Special Olympics, which also marks its 50th anniversary this year, as does Concern Worldwide, the Irish-born relief organization that serves the poorest of the poor. In his Indianapolis speech about King’s death, Bobby Kennedy said, “It is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.” Fifty years later, we are still asking that question. Could the answer be simply to put a little more love in our hearts? Kristopher Price, who took the cover photo of Mary Kay Henry in front of the “Love More” graffiti sign on a boarded-up building in Washington, D.C., certainly thinks so, and so do I. Mórtas Cine.

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letters | readers forum

Titanic’s “Heartbreak Pier” Having sailed the Mauretania II, Georgic, and Britannic via Cobh, I can assure you that it was not the policy of CunardWhite Star to dock at the pier, most certainly not for the aptly named Titanic. For reasons of safety and time the liners anchored off Roches Point where they were serviced by the tenders who began their round trip at “Heartbreak Pier.”

Hall of Fame: Kelli O’Hara (A/M 18) (A/M 18)

Wow, Ms. O’Hara gets my vote. That grandfather in the field seeing his high school class going to graduation. Her giving his sacrifice credit for her achievement. Beautiful. Thank you.

Peter Garland, Submitted online

Artist’s rendering of a restored Titanic Pier, Cobh.

Ivan Lennon, Rochester, NY

Taoiseach Meets with Trump in Oval Office (3/17/18) Please, NO, do not let him come to Ireland. Surely he’ll ruin it like he’s ruining America.

Kathleen Acker, Submitted online

As an Irish American, I am appalled that so many Irish Americans find Trump appealing. I am celebrating the triumph of Conor Lamb, a truly great Irish American in the Pennsylvania election. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets with President Donald Trump in March.

John Begley, Submitted online

Irish Fighting Irish (A/M 18) Wonderful story. Charming bit of diplomacy during turbulent times. Thank God (who some say went to Notre Dame).

Bob Golden, Submitted online

Tom, thanks so much for this. I genuinely look forward to seeing all of these fellas at our 50th in June. Six Nations Rugby, exciting as it was, had nothing on you.

James Scofield O’Rourke IV, Submitted online

Being Mike Brennan’s oldest son, this was an amazing read. Thank

Notre Dame rugby meets Cork, April 1968.

you for putting this together, what a wonderful story. Over the years I have had the chance to meet many of my dad’s classmates and rugby teammates from Notre Dame. What a great group of people. Thanks for this.

Drew Brennan, Notre Dame ’00, Submitted online

Irish Government Launches Brexit Website (A/M 18)

The six-county state voted in favor of remaining in the E.U., which seems to suggest that the Northern majority shares the views of most people in the independent Irish State. One is reminded that Northern cattle were still being imported by the U.S. when British cattle were not, because of foot-and-mouth disease in Great Britain. The corner of Ireland that is north of the artificial partition is contiguous with Ireland, NOT with Britain.

Visit us online at to leave your comments, or write to us:

Sean Curtain, Submitted online

Send a fax (212-244-3344), e-mail ( 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. 10 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018

Salsa Verde: Jerry Cox (F/M 18)

I was born and raised in Oakland, California, and now live in the nearby town of Danville. So I was very pleased to open the February / March 2018 issue of Irish America and find articles within about the humanitarian Jerry Cox, who hailed from my old Piedmont Avenue neighborhood, and the plan to make Danville an “official friend” of New Ross, County Wexford. In 1966, when my mother (a native of the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry) and father (born in the Aran Islands) moved our family into Oakland’s St. Leo’s Parish, John Cox, Jerry’s brother, was an associate pastor there. Through the years I attended many wakes at the little old white-painted John Cox Mortuary chapel, which was an area landmark for generations. It is a source of local pride that Eugene O’Neill wrote his greatest works while residing in Danville. Although born in America, O’Neill once wrote, “There is nothing that says more about me than the fact that I am Irish.” I heartily share those sentiments!

John Kevin Conneely, Danville, CA

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hibernia | news Pro-Choice Campaign Pops Up in London

n Irish fashion designer took over a shop window in London’s high-end Selfridges’ department store to protest Ireland’s 8th Amendment, which prohibits abortion, in support of the referendum vote scheduled to take place on May 25 on whether to repeal the amendment. Richard Malone, a County Wexford native known for his eco-conscious designs and who has been written up by the likes of Vogue and the Museum of Modern Art, was set to hold a 24-hour pop-up window in the Oxford Street store in April describing his own personal definition of luxury as part of Selfridges’ “Anatomy of Luxury” campaign, curated by London-based designer Gareth Pugh. But, on the day of the installation and wearing a “Read React REPEAL” T-shirt, the 26-year-old designer turned the window into a guerilla campaign in favor of overturning the amendment, writing pro-choice messages and language across the window in red, including “Women’s Rights = Human Rights,” “POWER,” and “Repeal the Eighth” Speaking with the Irish Times, Malone said that the store was unaware of his plan and allowed the window to continue as planned only after he removed the “repeal” slogan from the window. “I am really happy that I had the support from the crowd and were it not for the support of Gareth Pugh and his partner, who curated the whole event, they would have cancelled the whole thing.” In a joint statement to the Irish Times, Pugh and Selfridges said the store “is a politically neutral safe space for everyone, and it’s regrettable that a platform for celebrated creative talent was commandeered in Richard Malone this manner.” at the Selfridges pop-up window. The window was removed as scheduled following the temporary campaign. – A.F.



Tackling Ireland’s Homelessness Crisis


Harry and Meghan Visit Northern Ireland

rince Harry and his fiancée, Suits star Meghan Markle, made their first joint trip to Northern Ireland in March. The visit was a single day’s excursion, part of a full tour of the U.K. meant to introduce the incoming member of the royal family. Stopping first in Lisburn, the pair attended a presentation by students swearing to work for peace in Northern Ireland. Sponsored by Cooperation Ireland in support of its “Amazing the Space” initiative, the event hosted 2,500 from both Northern Ireland and the Republic. Markle, of Irish descent on her father’s side, made a memorable impression on the students. “She was so humble and down to earth, so easy to talk to,” commented 17-year-old Amber Hamilton. “She was really interested in the peace pledges we wrote.” Prince Harry has a special attachment to the program, having launched this year’s activities himself last autumn. The presentation was held at the Eikon Exhibition Centre, on the grounds of the famed Maze prison facility, where I.R.A. prisoners were held during the Troubles. The pair met Northern Ireland’s most promising entrepreneurs at Catalyst, Inc., a Belfastbased, innovation-geared campus. Their last stop was at Titanic Belfast, a museum providing an in-depth view of the construction of the iconic ship (which was built in Belfast) and its traumatic voyage. – M.G.


age of 47 people per night stayed. In 2016, the percentage increased with 60 people per night, and in 2017, the café had an average of 53 people sleeping at the facility per night with 1,893 first-time clients during the year. These people include 1,789 families with 3,755 children. Not only does the café provide basic necessities, it also provides facilities for help with drug and alcohol addiction and mental illness as they are also leading causes of homelessness in Ireland. – D.L. Merchants Quay Dublin Homeless Night Cafe.


he housing crisis and collapse of the Celtic Tiger in the first decade of the 2000s led to a major increase in homelessness in Ireland. However, organizations like Merchant’s Quay in Dublin are hoping to help Ireland’s homeless population as well as bring awareness to a crisis that has escalated in recent years. According to FOCUS Ireland, the increased rates of homelessness is directly caused by Ireland’s lack of social housing provisions and the pressure on the private rental market, leading to rising rent levels and lack of property to rent. As of midFebruary 2018, 9,870 people were homeless, an increase of 40 percent from February 2017. Merchant’s Quay Ireland established Ireland’s first homeless night café in 2015, a place where up to 70 people can eat, shower, and spend the night in a safe and warm environment away from the streets. In its opening year, according to the Irish Examiner, an aver-



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hibernia | news

.D.s and Senators have been urged to support a new bill – the Sex Offenses (Amendment) Bill 2018 – introduced in Dáil Éireann by Maureen O’Sullivan, T.D., which proposes to restrict the foreign travel of convicted pedophiles. If enacted, Ireland would be the first country in the E.U. to curtail overseas travel by convicted child sex abusers. Australia has already introduced such legislation. Addressing a press conference in Dublin, Irish Columban missionary Fr. Shay Cullen, who has ministered in the Philippines since 1969, said the bill, if enacted, “will help to curtail child abuse sex tourism and protect children in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and


Cambodia where child protection laws are weak or not enforced.” “The aim of this legislation is to protect the vulnerable in those parts of the world where sadly there is little or no child protection. In our globalized world where travel is readily available I believe we must do all we can in Ireland to ensure that our citizens who have been convicted of child sexual abuse, should they be deemed a risk, do not have a free pass to travel to other jurisdictions to abuse children,” O’Sullivan said. Cullen pointed out that about 4.5 million children are trafficked globally each year in a business that is estimated at $32 billion. He said that in the Philippines there are few reliable statistics of the number of children abused, but UNICEF estimates it at 60,000 annually. – I.A.

Clothing-Optional Beach Established in Ireland


he County Council of Dun LaoghaireRathdown announced plans in March to accommodate nude bathers at Hawk Cliff beach in Dalkey, County Dublin, making it the first Irish beach to do so. Signs indicating the permissible presence of unclothed beachgoers were Hawk Cliff, Dalkey, the posted at Hawk Cliff in April. site of Ireland’s first legal nude beach. In a victory for Ireland’s naturist population, changes to the laws regarding public exposure were made in 2017. The revisions clarify that the act is only criminal if the individual in question aims “to cause fear, distress, or alarm,” or attempts to copulate publicly. “We don’t go out to offend anyone,” Pat Gallagher, head of the Irish Naturist Association, told the Irish Sun. “We simply want to go there, lie in the sun, get in the water, have a swim, but we don’t want to wear anything, that’s all.” While other beaches in Ireland still forbid nude sunbathing, many naturists seek secluded portions of traditional beaches to avoid detection. Popular spots include Silver Strand Beach in Barna, County Galway and Brittas Bay in County Wicklow. The arrangements have upset some local politicians, who claim they were planned without their knowledge. The issue has proven the source of controversy in the past, nude bathers being threatened with arrest on numerous occasions by public officials. – M.G.



night of creative expression recalling the Troubles in Northern Ireland, sponsored by the Irish government in tandem with Poetry Ireland, was exhibited at both the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the Barbican Centre in London in April in honor of the Good Friday Agreement’s 20-year anniversary. The program, called “A Further Shore,” focused on the necessity of keeping the spirit of goodwill with which the peace agreement was written. The exhibition boasted highprofile participants, showcasing

Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Michelle O'Neill, Northern Irish leader of Sinn Féin, at the Belfast event.

performances by Atifete Jahjaga, Kosovo’s first female president, along with Irish actors Adrian Dunbar, Ciarán Hinds, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Tara Lynne O’Neill. Readings of Irish poetry on the subject dominated the program, including works by Seamus Heaney, Gráinne Tobin, and John Hewitt, and moving musical performances by the Telegraph band and fiddler Ciarán Tourish. Irish Tánaiste Simon Coveney remarked on the overwhelming spirit of the gathering, calling the performances “powerful, funny, tragic, and evocative,” and further averring that they “reflected on our shared journey towards this extraordinary short.” Prominent Irish newscaster Olivia O’Leary, who acted as the master of ceremonies, tied the event together with her succinct but effective statement: “The language of peace is difficult and it’s taking us – all of us – a long time to learn it.” – M.G. JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 13


Ireland Considers Legislation to Restrict International Travel by Convicted Pedophiles

Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan; Sr. Mary Ryan, R.S.M., Mercy Effort for Child Protection against Trafficking in the Hospitality Sector (MECPATHS); Fr. Shay Cullen, S.S.C.; and Aisling Murray, Volunteer Coordinator of MECPATHS.

Good Friday Agreement 20th Anniversary Marked in London and Belfast

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hibernia | news New Map Animates Devastation of the Great Hunger


r. Alan Ferinhough, a lecturer and economic historian at Queen’s University Belfast, recently created an animation of the evolution of Ireland’s population density from 1841 to 2012 showing how the population still hasn’t recovered from the effects of the Great Hunger. In 1841, before the famine struck, the population of Ireland was around 7 million, while today the population is around 5 million. The map is part of the Irish Famine Project, developed by Ferinhough and research assistant Áine Doran with the financial help of U.K.’s Economic and Social Research Council. According to the project website, the map “examines both the contributing factors and outcomes of the famine” and relies on empirical research compiled from contemporary data sources like the 1841 and 1851 censuses as well as the Relief Commissioner’s reports. The project has developed another map on its website in which one can search their civil parish and can see the effects the famine had on the parish in subsections like the percent of population lost, household heads in agriculture, and literacy rates. – D.L.

Ireland’s Wettest Decade he years 2006 to 2015 saw the highest average rainfall in Ireland in the past 300 years, according to a study performed at Maynooth University led by Conor Murphy (right). The data, collected from Irish and U.K. records dating back to 1711, confirms what weary residents had already intuited – these ten years saw Ireland’s rainfall nearly double from 42.5 inches per year for the previous three centuries to 78.2 inches per year over the past decade. “When we look at the long-term context, we see a continuous rise in annual and winter rainfall,” Murphy told Maynooth. “This is consistent with expectations of human-driven climate change.” As for what this means for the future of Ireland’s long-held reputation of a temperate climate, RTÉ meteorologist Ger Fleming says nothing good –


winters will become more stormy with increased floods, while summer rains will decrease. While atypical, these extreme phenomena were glimpsed most recently with superstorm Emma in early March, introducing elevated wind speeds, record temperature lows, and heavy snowfall, leading to airport shutdowns and a number of accidents for citizens unequipped to deal with the severe weather. Overall, meteorologists predict an irreversible transition to a wetter, warmer climate for Ireland – boding poorly for the agricultural economy. Pádraic Joyce, head of Connacht’s Irish Farmers’ Association, told the Irish Times that the volatile weather is “causing a lot of grief,” making livestock and crop maintenance grueling and costly to an unsustainable degree. – M.G.

New Viking Finds at Site of Dublin Hotel

rchaeologists have discovered a significant number of Viking-era artifacts and architectural remains during the building of Dublin’s new Hodson Bay Hotel in the Coombe. Among the architectural findings were the ruins of 11th century HibernoNorse houses with post-andwattle fences, as well as later settlements from the 13th to 14th centuries. The team also found a medieval stone well, two wall foundations, vaulted cellars, and kilns. “You could go your whole career and not work on a site as extraordinary as this one. The artifacts we have found are very unique,” Aisling Collins, the archaeological team’s


leader, said in a statement. The archaeological team also unearthed a panoply of items that range from kitchenware and near-complete examples of pottery to other items like a decorated stick pin, a copper alloy key, and weighing scales, as well as a silver coin that dates back to King Edward I’s reign. The most significant find was a 12th century piece of slate that features graffiti of a warrior on a horse fully equipped with a shield and sword (left), a rare find due to its preserved and unusual nature. The artifacts will feature in the design of the hotel once it is completed in 2019. – D.L.

World Happiness Report: Ireland Happier than U.S.

ccording to the 2018 World Happiness Report published in March, Ireland has outstripped the United States by four rankings in terms of national glee, coming in as the 14th happiest country. The list, which analyzed statistics from 156 countries, is compiled annually and is based on residents’ perception of their nation’s performance in six areas: average income per capita, levels of generosity to others, length of life expectancy, availability of institutions of social support, individ-



ual freedoms, and reports of corruption. The drop in ranking by the U.S., which had previously been 14th itself, is understood to be in reaction to the unequalled national rise in obesity, opioid addiction, and depression in recent years. Ireland, however, has moved up one spot since 2017’s report, an improvement accorded to the reevaluation of the national life expectancy (an additional 4.1 years, increasing the average estimation from 67.4 to 71.5), as well as the value Irish

respondents place on the social aid programs in place for individuals who need them. This year’s report also paid special attention to migration statistics and their correlative effects on happiness levels in both immigrant and emigrant nations. Ireland received an even better ranking here, coming in 11th on the list of nations that are most tolerant and welcoming to immigrant populations, only two spots behind the United States’ 9th ranking. – M.G.

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The Good Friday Agreement Signed on April 10, 1998, the landmark Good Friday Agreement helped to bring to an end the 30 years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. Twenty years on, Deaglán de Bréadún looks at how the agreement came about, the American role, and the current state of play.

ABOVE: The “Hands Across the Divide” sculpture in Derry, unveiled in 1992, signifies the letting go of past grievances to make room for peace in the hearts of those afflicted by the Troubles. The sculpture, by hometown artist Maurice Harton, also marked a significant conference that took place in Derry that same year. Entitled “Living With Our Deepest Differences,” the far-reaching event was sponsored by Mutual of America, whose then chairman, William Flynn, went on to become a key person in the peace process.

n the early 1990s, the blood-soaked contest between the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) and the British security forces in Northern Ireland had reached a stalemate and the movers and shakers in both camps were looking for a more constructive way forward. But if the militants of the I.R.A. were to be persuaded to adopt non-violent means, they had to be shown that people like Gerry Adams, leader of the movement’s political wing, Sinn Féin, could get a platform that would eventually yield results. A key moment in that regard came about when President Bill Clinton was persuaded by leading Irish Americans such as former Congressman Bruce Morrison, businessman Bill Flynn, journalist and publisher Niall O’Dowd, philanthropist Charles “Chuck” Feeney, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, and her brother, the late Senator Edward Kennedy, to grant a visa to Adams, who had been banned from entering the U.S. because he was



seen as an apologist for terrorism. It was January 31, 1994, when the Sinn Féin leader arrived in New York on a 48-hour visa. Irish America turned out in large numbers for the visit, which became a major international news story. Exactly seven months later, on August 31, the I.R.A. announced it was going on ceasefire from midnight. The ceasefire collapsed on February 9, 1996, when a truckload of explosives was detonated in the London docklands, killing two people and injuring 40. The guns fell silent again on July 20, 1997, but it was clear that a serious settlement would have to be reached to ensure that it would last this time around. Efforts to broker a peace agreement continued and finally came to a head in the week before Easter Sunday 1998. Most of the main parties in Northern Ireland were at Castle Buildings in Stormont, on the eastern fringe of Belfast, with former Senate majority leader George Mitchell as the principal chairman of the talks.

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair flew into Belfast at short notice to help resolve the differences and, having declared it was not a day for talking in soundbites, went on to do exactly that when he said, “I feel the hand of history on our shoulder.” His Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern suffered a personal tragedy when his mother, Julia, died suddenly of a heart attack in Dublin, but the Taoiseach still managed to combine the funeral ceremonies with attendance at Castle Buildings, flying up and down as the situation required. The government in Dublin was prepared to modify the territorial claim to Northern Ireland in the Irish Constitution but was seeking a wide-range of North-South institutions to minimize the political

damage among its own supporters. When Ahern agreed to cut back the number of cross-border bodies and areas of cooperation, the mood on the unionist side improved: the list went down to 12 from more than 60. There was agreement on an elected Northern Ireland Assembly with a cabinet-style Executive where powers would be shared on a mandatory coalition basis between representatives of the unionist and nationalist communities. In a meeting at 3 a.m. on Friday April 10, Gerry Adams and his republican soulmate, the late Martin McGuinness, were promised by Blair and Ahern that all politically-motivated prisoners would be released within two years. There was a last-minute crisis in the Ulster Unionist Party (U.U.P.) delegation over the decommissioning of I.R.A. weapons because elements in the U.U.P. felt the conditions were not sufficiently

strict. However, a letter of reassurance from Blair allowed U.U.P. leader David Trimble to accept the final deal. Blair and Ahern were assisted by a huge effort from President Clinton who was in contact by phone with leading participants throughout the last night of the protracted negotiations. The first power-sharing Executive took office the following year, led by the U.U.P. and the moderate nationalists of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (S.D.L.P.) but also including two ministers each from Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party (D.U.P.), even though the latter had walked out of the Stormont talks. The Executive was led by David Trimble as first minister and the S.D.L.P.’s Seamus Mallon as deputy first minister (his party leader John Hume had declined the position). There have been many ups and downs since, but the most extraordinary development so far took place on May 8, 2007, when the Rev. Ian Paisley of the D.U.P. and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness took office as first and deputy first ministers respectively – their parties having by now become the largest in the Assembly. Despite the vast difference in their backgrounds – Paisley was a long-time spokesman for hard-line unionism and McGuinness had been named as I.R.A. chief of staff – PHOTO: CRISPIN RODWELL they got on famously well on a personal level and their good-humored partnership earned them the nickname of “The Chuckle Brothers.” Sadly, both men have since died. The Executive they established lasted a remarkable 10 years until January 2017, when a major dispute erupted over state payments into a highly expensive renewable energy scheme which was meant to be under the supervision of a government department headed by the current D.U.P. leader Arlene Foster. McGuinness, who was in the final stages of a fatal illness, called on her to step aside temporarily as first minister while an independent inquiry took place into the operation of the so-called “cash-for-ash” scheme. When she refused, Sinn Féin walked out of the Executive and the Assembly, both of which have been in suspension ever since. Despite protracted talks between the D.U.P. and

“Where we are may not be where we want to be, but it’s a world better than where we were.”

LEFT: At Sinn Féin headquarters in Belfast, December 17, 1997, (left to right) chairman of Mutual of America Bill Flynn, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Chuck Feeney, Congressman Bruce Morrison, and Irish American Labor Coalition leader Bill Lenahan.


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Sinn Féin, no agreement has been reached at time of writing on a resumption of the political institutions. The key point of difference is on Sinn Féin’s demand for legislation to enhance the status of the Irish language, which has become a major symbol of political respect for nationalists and republicans. It is understood that senior D.U.P. figures are welldisposed to an agreement but have so far failed to overcome the opposition from hardliners in the party. Meanwhile, demographic changes indicate that the

Catholic, mainly nationalist, element of the population will become the majority community in Northern Ireland in less than 20 years. The last census in 2011 revealed that, in the under-five age-group, 48 percent were Catholic and 37 percent Protestant. Based on these figures, Irish Times economic commentator David McWilliams has calculated that Catholics will achieve an absolute majority in the North by around 2036. More recently, leading academic Dr. Paul Nolan told the BBC that Catholics could outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland within three years, by 2021, although he pointed out that being a Catholic does not necessarily mean you want to see a united Ireland.


ABOVE: Gerry Adams and Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith pictured at an Irish America event honoring Ambassador Kennedy Smith as Irish American of the Year 1995 at Tavern on the Green, New York City.

t a political level, in the last elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the total of 28 seats won by the D.U.P. was only one ahead of Sinn Féin at 27 seats. The difference in the number of votes was also very slight: the D.U.P. got 225,413 compared to 224,245 for Sinn Féin – a gap of only just over a thousand. The tectonic plates are shifting. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, a united Ireland will come about if separate majorities in the two parts of the island vote for it. Brexit, the looming departure of the United Kingdom of 18 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018

Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union, has revived interest in the topic of Irish unity. Opinion polls indicate for the most part that, while there is a very clear majority in the North at present who wish to remain in the U.K., this figure would be reduced if there was a “hard Brexit” that had seriously negative economic consequences. Meanwhile, in the South, polls generally show a substantial majority for unity, but this would go down significantly if it meant paying extra taxes. Following the Brexit vote, there has been a sharp rise in applications for Irish passports from citizens of Ireland living in the North and Britain. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Dublin said one in every five passport applicants came into this category last year. A total of 779,000 Irish passports were issued in 2017, the highest ever in a single year. There were 6,300 applications to the department’s mission in New York, Despite the impasse at a political level, work continues in the North-South bodies and the areas for cross-border cooperation that are part of the Good Friday legacy. Tourism Ireland, for example, was set up following the agreement with a remit to promote the entire island, North and South, as a destination for holidaymakers and businesspeople. With a staff of about 150, it has created marketing programs on a wide international basis as well as at home. Remarkably, considering its recent history, Belfast has become a very popular tourist destination with such attractions as the Titanic center, which recalls the ocean-liner’s ill-fated voyage of 1912, and tours from the city to locations used in the filming of the hugely-popular Game of Thrones television series. Areas of cooperation also include agriculture, education, environment, health and transport. There are north-south bodies dealing with waterways, food safety, trade and business, special European Union programs, aquaculture and marine issues, the Irish language, and the dialect of Ulster Scots. While efforts to restore the Executive and the Assembly are continuing, there appears to be no threat, at least in the short-term, to the peace that emerged from the Good Friday pact. On a recent visit to Belfast for the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Bill Clinton described it as “a work of surpassing genius.” Tony Blair was at the same event and, recalling the daily reports of violence in the past, told the audience at Queen’s University, “Where we are may not be where we want to be, but it’s a world IA better than where we were.” Deaglán de Bréadún is a columnist with the Irish News and former Northern editor of the Irish Times. His books include The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland (Collins Press, 2008) and Power Play: The Rise of Modern Sinn Féin (Merrion Press, 2015).

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hibernia | state visits Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s First Official U.S. Visit


rish prime minister Leo Varadkar upheld the 65-yearold tradition of presenting the U.S. president with a bowl of shamrocks in March as part of his first state U.S. visit. His week-long trip included meetings with Vice President Mike Pence, Texas governor Greg Abbott, and New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio. Varadkar also attended an event honoring the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and marched in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade alongside this year’s Grand

Higgins Stumps for Peace and Women’s Rights in New York Visit


resident of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and his wife, Sabina, visited New York in late April. The trip saw him address the United Nations General Assembly and meet with senior international officials, as well as pay visits to several of the city’s Irish cultural institutions, including the Irish Arts Center and Ireland Funds. During his U.N. address, Higgins discussed the shame of how, in the 21st century, nations are creating situations that harm civilians more than ever, asking, “is it not nothing less than a moral outrage that our boundless capacity for creativity and innovation, and the fruits of new science and technology, are turned, not to the Marshal, Loretta Brennan Glucksman. promotion and preservation of peace, but to the pursuit and While the taoiseach and President Trump’s TOP RIGHT: Michael D. Higgins visits with the prosecution of war?” He also reflected on the Good interactions were pleasant – Trump declared Rockland G.A.A. Friday Agreement, which U.N. President Miroslav Lajčák that relations between Ireland and the U.S. are RIGHT: Higgins and his identified as “essential for successful peacebuilding” and “outstanding and only getting better” to the wife, Sabina, at the reiterated his support for the U.N.’s founding principles. press gathered in the Oval Office – political difTenement Museum. TOP LEFT: Leo President Higgins also tackled the issue of women’s ferences between them remained. Varadkar Varadkar meets with rights at the Ireland Funds’ Women in Leadership Series, commented to a Texan crowd on his disappointmembers of the where he spoke about Ireland’s failure to acknowledge ment in Trump’s leadership: “It’s really tough Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma. women’s voices, noting the “false dawn” of Countess to see a country that is built on freedom not LEFT: Varadkar with Markievicz’s election as a cabinet minister in 1919. being a world leader in that space anymore.” Donald and Melania Though she was the first democratically-elected female Varadkar made a special point of stopping in Trump at the White minister anywhere in the world, it would be another six Oklahoma, where he spoke to the Choctaw House. decades for Ireland to elect a second. Nation in Durant, thanking them warmly for PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE “For too long during our 100 years as an independent Irish their ancestors’ charitable collection for the DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, IRELAND State, the voice of women in Irish political life was marginIrish during the Great Hunger. alized, ignored, “Back in the 19th century, when the Irish or silenced,” he said. people were oppressed, abused, neglected, and degraded In reference to the United by our colonial master, at our lowest, your spirit of genStates, he also expressed his erosity was at its highest,” he said. “It reminded us of the concern about the current value of compassion, and encouraged us to try to become gender climate. a beacon of hope throughout the world.” – M.G. “Indeed, today we are witnessing a worrying surge of unapologetic sexism and the undermining of women’s rights in one of the world’s most advanced democracies.” His visit concluded with visits to New York’s Tenement Museum, St. Barnabas Rectory, and the Rockland Gaelic Athletic Association, the largest G.A.A. club outside of Ireland. – D.L. JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 19

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hibernia | irish eye on hollywood

by Tom Deignan

The Bookworm

elebrated Irish director John Crowley just can’t get enough of quality literature – and his latest project is based on a book by a Belfast writer. Crowley earned himself and his cast a trip to the Oscars for turning Colm Tóibín’s celebrated novel Brooklyn into a wonderful film, starring Saoirse Ronan. Crowley is currently working on an ambitious, big-screen adaptation of Donna Tartt’s best-selling novel The Goldfinch, due out next year. After that, it has been confirmed that Crowley will direct a film entitled MidWinter Break. The film is based on Belfast-born writer Bernard MacLaverty’s latest novel. The book, published last year, is about an Irish couple struggling to hold their marriage together. Published reports suggest that Crowley will begin shooting MidWinter Break once The Goldfinch wraps up, and that MacLaverty himself will write the screenplay. Meanwhile, Crowley is also John adapting Rupert Thomson’s Crowley 1987 novel Dreams of Leaving for the small screen. The Irish Film and Television Network (I.F.T.N.) reports that Crowley “is set to helm the series, which will consist of six to eight episodes, based on a script from The Sense of an Ending screenwriter Nick Payne.” Dreams Of Leaving is set in a fictional English village that is highly idyllic but also resistant to change. One native, named Moses, “escaped the village as a boy and has grown up in contemporary London. Questioning his identity, he begins to unearth chilling secrets of his past that will lead him back to the village of his birth,” the I.F.T.N. adds. Jamie Laurenson, of See-Saw Films, which is producing Dreams of Leaving, said the show “has parallels with the way we feel we’re living now, with a divided society, the notions of what is a safe space, what is home, what is national identity and paranoia about immigrants. It speaks to contemporary themes but at its heart is a very powerful, interesting thriller about personal identity.”


O’Dowd Trades Laughter for Tears

oscommon native Chris O’Dowd is moving beyond his comedy roots. April saw the release (in select theaters and also streaming on-demand) of Love After Love, a drama about a family dealing with a terrible loss. O’Dowd plays Nicholas, whose father’s death shatters not only his own life but that of his mother (Andie MacDowell) and brother (James Adomian). As Nicholas struggles to keep his immediate family together, he ignores severe warning signs in his own romantic life. The New York Times hailed this “unflinching debut feature



Ruth Negga Blasts Off

ollowing Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for her star turn in Loving, Ruth Negga is beginning to rub elbows with A-list stars. The Ethiopian-born, Irish-raised actress will appear alongside Brad Pitt, Donald Sutherland, and Tommy Lee Jones in the sci-fi epic Ad Astra, due out next year. The film will be written and directed by James Gray, best known for gritty urban films such as The Immigrant and We Own the Night. However, Gray’s last film, The Lost City of Z, was a departure – a historical epic which actually began in Ireland. Now, Gray and Negga will travel out of the universe in Ad Astra, about an astronaut named Roy (Pitt) whose father went missing on a mission to Neptune. Roy will now embark on his own journey in search of his father.


from [director] Russ Harbaugh,” and added that O’Dowd the film “delivers something rarely seen in American movies: a warts-and-all examination of extended grief.” In August, O’Dowd returns to the somewhat more familiar turf of comedy-drama, in the film Juliet, Naked, based on the novel of the same name by Nick Hornby. Juliet, Naked – which debuted in January at the Sundance Film Festival – stars Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke alongside O’Dowd, and is about a love triangle that develops between the three. Chris

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Johnathan Rhys Meyers is John Doe

The Delinquent Season Lines Up Big Irish Talent

here’s lots of Irish talent in front of the camera and behind it in the forthcoming dark, domestic drama The Delinquent Season. Cillian Murphy teams up again with Irish writer and director Mark O’Rowe for this film, which revolves around two Dublin couples. On the surface, these lovers seem to have everything they could want. But things very much go awry at dinner one night, forcing all involved to question almost every aspect of their lives. The Delinquent Season is the latest project from O’Rowe, best known for Irish films such as Intermission, as well as Boy A. The Delinquent Season also stars Irish actors Andrew Scott, Eva Birthistle, and Catherine Walker, who was dubbed last year by the Irish Times as “the best Irish actress you never heard of.” That all may change once The Delinquent Season hits screens late this year or early next. Murphy is also currently working on a crime thriller with actress Helen Mirren and acclaimed director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, Lucy). Entitled Anna, the film began production in late 2017, and should be out some time next year.

onathan Rhys Meyers is going “hardcore.” Which means the Dublin star of TV shows like The Tudors and movies such as Stonewall is teaming up with one of the filmmakers behind the controversial 2015 film Hardcore Henry. That film earned much attention (not all of it positive) for being shot almost entirely from a first-person point of view, making it appear as much like a video game as a movie. One of the cinematographers on the film was Fedor Lyass, who will make his directorial debut with Wake Up, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as a mysterious stranger (known as John Doe) who wakes up in a hospital bed with no idea who he is. All he knows is that he is wanted by the police for a string of murders. With the help of a sympathetic nurse, John Doe escapes from the hospital and attempts to clear his name and find the real killer. Rhys Meyers also recently completed shooting the 19th century period drama The Aspern Papers with Vanessa Redgrave and Joley Richardson, as well as the family drama Holy Lands starring James Caan and Rosanna Arquette.



TV & Streaming Report

New, recent, and noteworthy Irish shows streaming on various services. THE IRISHMAN IN THE MIST

Details about Martin Scorsese’s next project The Irishman remain sketchy, but most reports suggest the film will be released next year. And, while it might show up in a limited number of theaters, most people are likely to see it on Netflix, which has prompted the old-school Scorsese to acknowledge that great movies can be appreciated even when Martin viewing conditions are not ideal. Scorsese “You can still study [great cinema] if it’s taken out of its original context,” he said recently. “I learned that from watching the worst prints of black-and-white TV with commercials. The first time I saw Citizen Kane was on Million Dollar Movie on Channel 9.”


Amazon Studios is teaming up with Seth Rogen to make a new series based on a comic book series by a Belfast native. Entitled The Boys, the show is based on the comic series written by Garth Ennis, a Belfast native whose work also inspired the AMC show Preacher. As Deadline put it, “The Boys is set in a world where superheroes embrace the darker side of their massive celebrity and fame. It revolves around a group of vigilantes known informally as ‘the boys,’ who set out to take down corrupt superheroes with no more than blue-collar grit and a willingness to fight dirty.”

Among the acting talent attached The Boys is Irish-born actress Dominique McElligott, who has appeared in a wide range of TV shows, from Hell on Wheels to House of Cards.


The Irish-set legal drama Striking Out (currently streaming on Acorn TV) recently received a critical pat on the back from the New York Times. The show revolves around a lawyer in Ireland (Amy Huberman) trying to start her life anew, and the Times recently featured it in a column of shows worth watching: “This Irish procedural follows a lawyer who discovered that her fiance is cheating on her and decides to upend her whole life – which includes establishing a new, quirkier law practice. The unusual cases she takes gives the show an almost David E. Kelley-like vibe (The Practice, Ally McBeal) but the series is grounded emotionally, and Ms. Huberman is anything but flighty.”

Amy Huberman


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hibernia | the sea


when things get tough…

The Tough Get Rowing Four young doctors team up for a transatlantic row for a good cause.


By Sharon Ní Chonchúir

hat takes 32 days, 22 hours and 5,500 kilometers to complete? If you’re the four young men who set a new record when they arrived in Antigua on January 16, the answer is rowing across the Atlantic. “We had calluses on our hands and our calf muscles had wasted away so much that it took a couple of days before we could put one foot in front of the other without looking as though we had drunk six pints,” says Eoin O’Farrell, one of the four. “But we had done it, we had come sixth in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge and we had set a new record for a transatlantic row by a Republic of Ireland crew.” The foursome consisted of junior doctors Seán Underwood (25) and Patrick O’Connor (28), podiatrist Eoin O’Farrell (26), and entrepreneur Thomas Browne (27). They left the Canary Island of La

On New Year’s Eve three years ago, Seán asked Eoin if he would take part in the race with him. When Eoin agreed, Seán approached Patrick who also said yes. “That made three of us but then Seán met Tommy six months prior to the race and he wanted to join us,” says Eoin. “It was lucky he did as I don’t think we’d have made it with just three rowers.” There was an incredible amount for them to do in the months coming up to the race. Tommy and Patrick had to learn how to row and all four had to spend time training. They also had to find a suitable boat for their ocean crossing. They found a 28-foot ocean rowing boat that was being sold by a team of women in the U.K. “They had called her Liberty and used her to cross the Atlantic so we knew she was up to the job,” says Eoin. “We decided to change her name to Saoirse, which is the Irish translation.” They also had to complete the courses that were required to participate in the race. These included courses in sea survival, ocean navigation, and first aid at sea. Lastly, they had to figure out how to finance their endeavor. “The boat cost €60,000 which we paid for out of our own savings,” says Eoin. “But we needed another €60,000 to cover everything from the race entry fee and safety equipment to shipping the boat back home. We’re very grateful to all the local sponsors who came on board to help with this.” To make the challenge even more worthwhile, they decided to use it to raise funds for Cork University Hospital. “They say charity begins at home, and Seán, Patrick, and I are from Cork,” says Eoin. “We’ve also worked in the hospital. They are building a new children’s unit and we decided to try to raise €20,000 for the dedicated cystic fibrosis ward.” While the four were busy preparing for the race, their families were in a state of denial. “I think our parents thought it would never happen,” laughs Eoin. “Then when it looked like it would, they became incredibly worried – supportive but worried.” When the start day finally arrived, conditions were quite stormy at sea. Eoin remembers it all vividly. “The boats set off at five minute intervals, so we could see the others for the first six or seven hours,” he says. “The water was choppy but we were in second place at one point.” That wasn’t to last long. “Our auto helm was wrongly calibrated and it directed us back towards La Gomera so that lost us a few places,” says Eoin, ruefully. That auto helm caused trouble for weeks. “We

ABOVE: At the finish line (left to right) Seán Underwood, Patrick O'Connor, Thomas Browne, and Eoin O'Farrell. OPPOSITE: The rowing team presents their fundraising check to the C.U.H. Children’s Unit staff.

Gomera on December 14 along with 26 other teams competing in what is known as the world’s toughest rowing race. What inspired them to do such a thing? “Seán and I used to row when we were teenagers at school,” says Eoin. “Because he was such a keen rower, Seán’s uncle gave him a book about someone rowing across the Atlantic. He was 13 then but it planted the seed of an idea in his mind.”


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couldn’t recalibrate it for two weeks as you need calm, flat water to do so,” says Eoin. “Luckily we had calibrated the other one in Cork before we left. But these machines are meant to be changed over every two hours, so the one we had kept overheating.” Something else went wrong on that first day. The emergency beacon was set off by accident and when the coast guard tried to reach them, it couldn’t make contact. “This meant my dad got a call saying that we had indicated there was a problem,” says Eoin. “If he was worried already, this made it much worse.” Seasickness was another big issue. “We were very naïve,” says Eoin. “We thought we would suffer through and get over it but we should have started taking medicine before we left. Instead it took us five or six days of being really sick before we got our sea legs.” Once those initial problems were dealt with, the four settled into a routine. They worked in pairs, taking two hours on and two hours off. “We would prepare all of our meals – which consisted of freezedried food such as porridge and blueberries or macaroni and cheese – in the morning and do any chores that needed doing. Then you would do your two hours of rowing and during your two hours off, you would eat and spend the rest of the time sleeping, or trying to sleep, in one of the two cabins we had on board. It was important to sleep when you could as you didn’t know when you would get a chance again.” There are certain moments that stand out in Eoin’s memory from the trip. “We saw dolphins and whales, fabulous sunsets and incred-


ible stars,” says Eoin. “I rang my grandad from the satellite phone at one stage and hearing the joy in his voice was something special.” Then of course came the moment they arrived in Antigua. “Seeing the glow in the distance having not seen land for 32 days was amazing,” says Eoin. “I didn’t know my parents would be there but they were waiting on the dock with the others. That was something I’ll never forget.” The trip meant something different to each of the four, but Seán perhaps put it best when he said, “We believe you only get one chance at life. Everybody dies but not everybody lives. There is not and never will be a good time to row an ocean so we acted on our dreams in the here and now. If we can make a difference to just one child in Cork University Hospital Children’s Unit by competing in this race, then it will all have been worth it.” They have currently raised more than €29,000. If you would like IA to make a donation, you can do so by visiting

Irish Repertory Theatre’s Seafarer Revival Lands Home


ublin-born playwright Conor McPherson’s 2006 play The Seafarer opened in an off-Broadway revival at the Irish Repertory Theatre in April, directed by County Cavan native Ciarán O’Reilly. Starring Matthew Broderick alongside Andy Murray, who plays lead character John “Sharky” Harkin, the Dublin-set play explores the earthy issues of middle age, infirmity, and alcoholism intertwined amid more ethereal questions of guilt and eternal damnation, battered about across the central action of a Christmas Eve poker game. Broderick is familiar with both the playwright and the theatre, having starred in its 2016 run of McPherson’s Shining City. The actor, who is of Irish descent on his father’s side, tackles an Irish accent for his portrayal of Mr. Lockhart, the human cast occupied by Satan who forces Sharky into a secret,

personal wager for his life and soul. Yet the Faustian aspect of the central conflict occupies only a portion of the matter of the play, occupied by a critical ensemble of the other poker players who all keep the dramatic tension at PHOTO: COURTESY IRISH REPERTORY THEATRE work, including Julian Sands, Timothy Busfield, and Sharky’s blind, viciously depressed Melissa Gilbert in attendance. brother, Richard, Sharky’s ex-wife’s new Performances run until May 24, and flame, Nicky Giblin, and their old friend tickets can be purchased online at Ivan Curry – portrayed respectively by – M.G. Irish actors Colin McPhillamy, Tim Ruddy, and Michael Mellamphy. ABOVE: Left to right, Matthew Broderick The revival opened to critical acclaim as Satan shares a drink with Tim Ruddy, as well as the interest of many, includMichael Mellamphy, and Colin McPhillamy ing Manchester by the Sea writer and in the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival director Kenneth Lonergan and actors of The Seafarer. JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 23

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hibernia | events

Metropolitan Club New York

Celebrating the 2018

March 2, 2018

Hall of Fame 1


“In generation after generation, our ancestors were moving up the American political and social ladders. Here, in America, those refugees from great hunger strengthened America, fully assimilating in every way except religion and worked with all Americans to help make us the greatest country ever.”

– Dennis P. Long





8 7


1. 2018 Irish America Hall of Fame inductees Dennis P. Long, Kelli O'Hara, Governor Jerry Brown, and John O. Brennan. 2. Irish America co-founder and editor-in-chief Patricia Harty. 3. Former C.I.A. directors George Tenet and John O. Brennan. 4. Mary Hunt, Governor Brown, and Tom Hunt. 5. Inductee Kelli O'Hara. 6. Governor Jerry Brown and family. 7. Ciaran Sheehan performs. 8. Jason McCaughey, Aine Sheridan, Shaun Kelly, and Suzanne Aquino.

PHOTOS BY PETER FOLEY For more photos and to watch the honorees’ speeches, visit

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“I never heard my father say a curse word in my entire life. I never heard him say a falsehood. He epitomized to me the integrity, the truthfulness, the honesty that really should symbolize what it means to be Irish.”

– John O. Brennan


“I want to tell you how proud I am to be an Irish American and how I think that what has been instilled in me as far as hard work, pride, family – I think all of those Irish roots have led me to where I am today and it’s teaching me how to raise my own children.”

– Kelli O’Hara



1. Kieran McLoughlin of the Ireland Funds, Chris Matthews, and Irish America founding publisher Niall O'Dowd. 2. Sheila Brazil and John Saunders. 3. Greg Naughton and Kelli O'Hara. 4. Niall O'Dowd, Laura Koumas of 1-800-Flowers, and Tom Moran. 5. Bob Devlin, Governor Jerry Brown, Nick Rolfe, and Kate Devlin. 6. Dennis P. Long and family. 7. Patricia Harty and Dr. William Campbell. 8. Jaime Callahan and family. 9. John O. Brennan and Tony Brazil. 10. Nora Browne O'Sullivan wins Moët Hennessy magnum of champagne donated by Jim Clerkin, CEO of Moët Hennessy North America. 11. Nick Rolfe, Dr. William Campbell, Pauline Turley, and Consul General Ciaran Madden.




6 8

9 11

10 “I think with all our prosperity, it is always well to remember our roots and the struggle.”

– Governor Jerry Brown


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hibernia | events World Irish Dance Championships American Winners


he World Irish Dancing Championships were held in April in Glasgow, Scotland, and several Americans came away with medals in competition among the best youth dancers in the world. The Academy of Irish Dance, based in Ohio, won several team world championships, including U16 mixed céili and senior ladies, while the school’s Loghlan Howard won boys U14. The Lavin Cassidy School, from Illinois, also came away with the top team prizes for U16 junior girls and U19 senior girls, with Ashton Bauman winning the U12 category for the school. The Clarke School of Irish Dance, based in St. Louis, also saw Peyton Clemons (left, above) win a world medal and Katherine Selness (left, below) come away with a recall medal. – A.F.

Irish Senator Receives Award for Humanitarian Efforts

PHOTO: JASON DIXON PHOTOGRAPHY / AAI rances Black, Irish senator and founder of the nation’s RISE program, was presented with the Arab American Institute Foundation’s Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award in Washington, D.C., in April. Black was selected as an individual who embodies the values of the foundation, whose mission is to showcase figures who commit themselves to the practice of inclusion and embracing the marginalized. Originally a musician by trade, Black pursued a political career to provide a voice for the silenced in society. She commented in her acceptance speech, “My music and government service are one in the same – an outlet to show people they are not alone and that they can depend on me when times get rough.” – M.G.


Irish American Partnership Awards $20,000 to Primary School Science Fairs

he Irish American Partnership hosted its inaugural New York Business Leaders Breakfast in New York in April. Bernie Brennan, president of the Royal Dublin Society, delivered the keynote address and was presented with a $20,000 check to support R.D.S. science fairs in primary schools in Limerick and Belfast. “We want it to take root that math and science is accessible to everyone,” she said. To exemplify the impact of the grants, I.A.P. chief executive Mary Sugrue quoted a letter she received from a school principal in Mayo: “I hope you realize the power of your generosity.” – A.F.


Consul General of Ireland to New York Ciarán Madden and R.D.S. President Bernie Brennan at the Irish American Partnership’s Business Leaders Breakfast on April 19. PHOTO: MATTHEW RANEY PHOTOGRAPHY

Ronan Dunne Speaks to Irish International Business Network

erizon Wireless’s executive vice president Ronan Dunne (back row, third left), a member of Irish America’s 2017 Business 100, delivered keynote remarks at a recent event sponsored by Grant Thornton for the Irish International Business Network in April. Asserting that the globe is set on the course of wireless connectivity that will irrevocably alter human interaction, Dunne, who was born in Ireland, remarked, “It’s really, really important the role that governing Irish bodies play in making sure that the diaspora will remain connected with each other, but also connected with Ireland.” He went on to praise the I.I.B.N. for its accomplishments, complimenting the organization’s “strong credibility among both the business community and among a younger generation of Irish diaspora, which is a really, really powerful thing.” – M.G.



Wild Geese Honored by Irish American Bar Association T

he I.A.B.A. of New York hosted its annual Wild Goose Awards in April, honoring three lawyers for their creative endeavors outside the field of law: Colleen McMahon (left), chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and a singer/ songwriter who penned five original verses to the classic Irish song “The Parting Glass;” Kelly T. Currie (center left), a partner at Crowell & Moring who served as senior advisor and media spokesman to Senator George Mitchell in the Northern Ireland peace process; and Russell “Rusty” McGranahan (center right), general counsel at Focus Financial Partners and avid marathon and ironman athlete. “The Wild Goose Awards originated from the notion that the Irish have a unique ability to pursue the good life, even in the harshest of times, with creative outlets like music, poetry and dance,” awards founder and Limerick native Janet Walsh (right) says. “Lawyers can be considered a little dry and honoring our legal wild geese through showcasing their talents, passions, and pursuits is very humanizing. The honorees let down their guard and display a side of themselves that is deeply personal and I believe genuinely Irish.” – A.F.

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hibernia | events McGuinness Principles Launched in U.S.


n honor of the Good Friday Agreement’s 20th anniversary, the McGuinness Principles were launched from New York in April. The principles, named after Northern Ireland’s former deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, amount to a declaration of intent to resolve contentious issues between the Northern Irish and British governments. They were compiled by members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Brehon Law Society, and Patrick Doherty of the New York State Comptroller’s office. The principles were officially rolled out for the first time at Molloy College on Long Island, then again at a larger gathering hosted by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in Manhattan. Each principle references an aspect of debate between the British and Northern Irish governments: the lack of a Northern Irish bill of rights, the civic disregard of the Irish language, the policy of nondisclosure to the loved ones of victims, and the neglect of a border referendum to determine North-

ern Ireland’s political status. These matters are termed respectively under the principle headers of “Equality,” “Respect,” “Truth,” and “Self-Determination.” The signing of the Good Friday Agreement was conducted in an era of such critical tension and completed to such relief that these particular sticking points were mutually cast aside, the principles’ authors claim, allowing them to have remained unaddressed for two decades. In memory of the work of their father, Martin McGuinness’s sons Emmett and Fiachra presented the principles to U.S. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, who embraced the document wholeheartedly and pledged his support – establishing himself as the highest-level politician to do so thus far. “That historic agreement, now 20 years old, did so much to bring the situation in the


ABOVE: Terry O Sullivan, general president of LIUNA; Fiachra McGuinness; Senator Chuck Schumer; Emmett McGuinness; and Marty Glennon of the Brehon Law Society of Nassau County. LEFT: Martin McGuinness. 

North from one of armed violence to peaceful coexistence and resolving conflict through politics – however slow and difficult that has proved,” Schumer said in a statement. “But more must be done now to fully realize its promises.” – M.G.

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hibernia | history New York’s Catholic Heritage Archive

enealogy database Findmypast joined with the Archdiocese of New York to collate a comprehensive digital record of Roman Catholics in New York, the first portion of which was uploaded in early March. The Archdiocese retains a massive collection of sacramental documents dating back as early as 1785, establishing a crucial link to the history of Catholics in the United States. The release of these records is a part of Findmypast’s overarching Catholic Heritage Archive, initiated in January 2017 and boasting detailed records from Ireland as well as the U.K. The thorough nature of the records required by Church protocol makes congregants easily traced and clearly demonstrates familial connections. “They offer a snapshot into the changing world of 19th and early 20th centuries’ New York,” New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a statement announcing the release of the archive. “Major themes, such as demographic changes, immigration, language, and culture can all be explored Cardinal through this record set.” Timothy Dolan. Over eight million records have been released in total, covering the years 1785 to 1918 with data from 163 parishes in the five boroughs. Later additions to the archive will be made annually; in recognition of the personal nature of the documents the Archdiocese stipulated that records be 100 years old before being made public. – M.G.


High School Student Project Can Predict Spread of Potato Blight

unter College High School student Benjamin “Benjy” Firester was awarded $25,000 for a unique research project that predicts the patterns of movement of the phytophthora infestans – the mold that brought about Ireland’s Great Hunger in the mid-19th century. Firester competed against 1,800 other students in the Regeneron Science Talent Search with his revolutionary computer model and followed in his sister’s footsteps when he became a finalist in March. (Kalia Firester finished as a runner-up in 2015.) The program takes data from Israeli farmers, who encounter the infectant regularly, along with regional weather patterns to plot out the disease’s progression and calculate where it will move next. The model is expected to be extremely helpful to potato farmers, who must use pesticides indiscriminately to keep crops from rotting. This innovation will allow them to establish clear targets and have a better understanding of how the microorganism operates. But the practical application of his work was not all that made Firester a finalist: panel chair Sudarshan Chawathe commented, “His use of existing data to make predictions is innovative, and we are impressed by Benjy’s long-term commitment to his research.” Historically, the blight has caused catastrophic damage. Known as “late blight,” it is aggressive when given free Benjy Firester. reign, capable of killing an otherwise healthy potato plant Courtesy within days of the first appearance of lesions. The mold Davidson was first encountered in Ireland’s notorious Great Hunger, Institute. in which it demolished the central staple of the national diet, starving one million people, and forcing another million to leave their native land. – M.G.




Irish Hunger Memorial Renovations Completed


he Irish Hunger Memorial was re-opened in late July 2017 after a year-long, $5.3 million renovation. The structure had suffered extensive water infiltration, particularly from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which it had not been equipped to handle in its original state. The restoration cost $4.5 million more than the initial placement of the structure, which was unveiled to the public in 2002 in an evocative launch by former Irish president Mary McAleese. The memorial is a reconstruction of a cottage painstakingly transplanted from Ireland set amidst a structure reminiscent of a passage tomb and covered with Irish flora. The cottage, dating back to the 1820s, originally belonged to the Slack family of Attymass, County Mayo, one of the first areas to be struck by the tragic potato blight of the mid-1800s. The edifice stands in Battery Park City and the landscape it rests on was designed by artist Brian Tolle, a relative of the Slacks. “The plants are Irish; the stones are Irish,” Battery Park agricultural director Anne O’Neill recently told Kristin Shaughnessy for NY1. “All these stones came from different counties. It is for anybody who comes from Ireland, directly or indirectly – you can go find your county stone.” The memorial also conveys a global message, according to Maureen Murphy, the memorial’s historian, who told Shaughnessy, “We don’t have a corner on world hunger, so it’s to remind us of hunger and homelessness,” adding that the 200-year-old Irish cottage illustrates “that we do live in one another’s shadow, and we are responsible for each other.” – M.G. The interior of the Hunger Memorial. ABOVE: The memorial in context in Manhattan.

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those we lost | passages Marjorie Steele-Fitzgibbon

1930 – 2018 arjorie Steele-Fitzgibbon, an American actress, painter, and sculptor who later immigrated to Ireland and became a naturalized Irish citizen, died in January at the age of 88. Known for her prolific stage career, as well as her short film career, the allaround artist was born in 1930 in Reno, Nevada. In 1939, the family moved to San Francisco, where Marjorie found her first artistic passion, acting. After moving to Los Angeles and graduating from acting school, she married Huntington Hartford, the heir to the A&P fortune and the man who brought her to the silver screen. She went onto star in four films, Hello Out There, Face to Face, Tough Assignment, and No Escape. Her stage career also took off. She played Maggie the Cat in Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and the premiered the titular role of Sabrina Fair. Two divorces later, Steele married Constantine Fitzgibbon, an Anglo-Irish writer and friend to iconic Irish actors like Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole, and moved to Dublin to merge their families. While in Ireland she developed skills as a gifted artist: her work is displayed all over Dublin including RTÉ’s offices, Newman House, and a statue on North Earl Street of James Joyce. – D.L.


Jack Hynes

1929 – 2018 espected Boston news reporter Jack Hynes died of heart failure in February at the age of 88. Known affectionately as “the dean of Boston news,” Hynes received the United Press International award for a collection of pieces on New England soldiers in Vietnam and is a member of the Massachusetts Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame. John Bernard Hynes Jr. was born in 1929 to John B. Hynes, who served as Boston’s mayor from 1950 to 1960, and Marion Barry Hynes. He grew up in Dorchester, where he graduated from Boston College High School, and obtained his degree in journalism from the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 1952. He returned home in 1955 after serving three years in the Marine Corps, taking a job with WBZAM and working in Boston for the rest of his career. Hynes’ stoically serious manner and refusal to cater to the amusement of his viewers lent a cautious gravity to his subject matter, establishing him as one of the most trustworthy local reporters in the business. Explaining his deliberate, perpetually humorless on-air affect in a 1984 interview with the Boston Globe, Hynes remarked, “Most of the stories you do don’t lend themselves to levity.” His respect for the dignified nature of his work extended so far that he refused to accept More magazine’s 1976 award for Most Telegenic Anchorman. “Jack Hynes to me is Walter Cronkite, if you will,” Gerald Walsh, Channel 56’s former network president, told the Boston Globe when he hired Hynes in 1984. “Jack Hynes to Boston is Ted Williams. He’s Bobby Orr. He’s Bill Russell. He’s Red Auerbach.


He’s an identity.” The close ties and influences of the Hynes family were prominent at the wake service, which saw over 1,000 gathered in Our Lady of Good Voyage, a church Hynes’s father approved construction of when he was mayor of Boston, and which was rebuilt by his son, John III, during his oversight of the Seaport expansion project in 2016. Predeceased by his wife Marie, Hynes is survived by his sister Marie, brothers Barry and Richard, children John, Barry, Kelly, and Shauna, 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. His youngest brother, Richard Hynes, died himself on the day of Jack’s wake. – M.G.

Virginia Hyvarinen

1922 – 2018 he first female city council member of International Falls, Minnesota, passionate social justice advocate, and beloved librarian of Duluth, Virginia Hyvarinen, died in March at 95. Born Margaret Dunn, though known to all as Virginia, to an Irish American father and a French American mother in Albion, Michigan, she moved at an early age with her family to Detroit, where the Great Depression molded her ethics early. Hyvarinen’s friend Susie O’Brien recalls her firm values, telling the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “She was so tolerant of human foibles and mistakes – unless they involved any mean-spiritedness or bigotry or greed. Then she ferociously did not tolerate them.” As an adult, Hyvarinen settled in Minnesota’s International Falls, where she began a crusade for change. When a seat opened on the city council in 1965, she ran, encouraging women to vote with an enthusiasm that was ultimately rewarded. After moving to Duluth, Hyvarinen’s interest in political reform continued to influence her career as a researcher with a specialty in local history for the Duluth Public Library. She continued her political activism, representing Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson at the Democratic National Conventions of 1980 and 1988. Predeceased by husband Matti, Hyvarinen is survived by four children and one grandson. – M.G.


Joseph Mallin

1913 – 2018 ather Joseph Mallin, S.J., died at the age of 104 on Easter Sunday morning in Hong Kong, having served 60 years in the Jesuit ministry there. He was the last surviving relative of executed Easter Rising leader Michael Mallin and the last-known direct descendant of any Rising leader. Mallin’s family didn’t discuss the Rising much, despite Michael, who wrote in one of his final letters before his May 8 execution, “Joseph, my little man, be a priest if you can.” Joseph found his calling to the priesthood by following the footsteps of his older brother, Sean, and was sent to Hong Kong in 1948. “His was a practical faith with a strong base in social justice and equality; not unlike his father,” his family said in a statement.


FROM TOP: Marjorie SteeleFitzgibbon, Jack Hynes, Virginia Hyvarinen, and Joseph Mallin.


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those we lost | passages Mallin was also an educator and founded Wah Yan College where he taught future influential leaders like Martin Lee, founder of the Democratic Party of Hong Kong. In 2016, he was awarded the Freedom of Dublin for his efforts serving the people of Hong Kong, fulfilling his father’s heavenly wish. – D.L.

Thomas McBride

1936 – 2018 rish country music star Thomas “Big Tom” McBride died in April, at 81. The musician traversed national borders through song over a five-decade career, providing the connection between many displaced Irish and their native home. Born in Castleblayney, County Monaghan, McBride was immersed in farm life, which strongly influenced his music. He left Ireland to work in England, where he purchased a guitar and played in pubs. In 1965, he founded The Mainliners with six friends. He embarked on a full-time musical career, developing a committed following especially among rural Irish, who would remain loyal long after his retirement. Yet he retained his modesty. In an interview with Northern Sound Radio, McBride’s friend Michael Commins related a conversation between the musician and his wife, Rose. Tom marvelled at his fans: “I can’t believe they’re still coming to see me,” to which Rose replied, “Isn’t it great to have it and not know it?” McBride was inducted into the Irish Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016, and plans to build a monument in his honor were unrolled just weeks before his death. Predeceased by his wife Rose, McBride is survived by children Thomas, Dermot, Aisling, and Siobhán. – M.G.


Liam O’Flynn

1945 – 2018 aster uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn died in March at the age of 72 after a long illness in Dublin. Co-founder of the legendary traditional group Planxty, O’Flynn was an integral part of spreading awareness of the uilleann pipes around the world. Born in Kill, County Kildare, to parents with musical lineages, O’Flynn was introduced to the uilleann pipes at a young age by local piper Tom Armstrong, who would later become O’Flynn’s instructor. From 1972 to 1975, O’Flynn toured internationally with Planxty, which he co-founded with musicians Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, and Dónal Lunny, developing and cultivating a global audience for Irish traditional music. Speaking to the Guardian, bandmate Christy Moore likened the way in which O’Flynn played to a “deep and moving soulfulness.” Though O’Flynn left the band full-time when its original iteration broke up, he was included in reunions and formations unless he was working on other projects throughout the 1970s and ’80s. His skills as a piper were widely sought after not only within his


FROM TOP: “Big Tom” McBride (front row center) and The Mainliners, Liam O’Flynn, Tim O’Connor, and Pat Troy.


instrument’s genre but throughout the world as he worked with international stars like Kate Bush and the Everly Brothers. He is survived by his wife Jane and his sister Maureen. – D.L.

Tim O’Connor

1927 – 2018 ell-known character actor Tim O’Connor died of cancer in April at 90. O’Connor led a successful career in television in the 1960s and ’70s, garnering a reputation for being a consummate thespian. Along with his memorable role as Peyton Place’s Elliot Carson, he played a number of guest roles on shows including Gunsmoke and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Raised in Chicago, O’Connor trained as an actor at the city’s Goodman Theater after serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He moved to New York for opportunities, performing in several offBroadway productions, once filling in as John Proctor in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. His career took off in 1965 when he was cast in a guest spot on Peyton Place that he turned into a recurring role. O’Connor’s angular face and gravelly voice commanded attention on screen and he became known for his impressive presence. “I would play it against what was written,” he once told Classic TV History. “I would try to give them doubts.” Retiring from Hollywood in 1997, O’Connor remained invested in show business by directing community theatre in his town, Nevada City. He is survived by his wife Sheila MacLurg, son Timothy, and three stepsons. – M.G.


Pat Troy

1941 – 2018 lexandria, Virginia’s premier Irishman, Pat Troy, died in March at the age of 76. Beyond founding two chapters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Ballyshaners’ league to promote local Irish culture, and being a dedicated member of the Basilica of St. Mary parish, Troy owned the city’s Ireland’s Own Restaurant & Pub. The bar’s moment in the limelight came in 1988 when President Reagan visited, recognizing Troy as an essential member of the community. Raised in Kilcormac, County Offaly, Troy immigrated to the United States at 21. His enthusiasm for his homeland helped bring about Alexandria’s first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1982. In a fitting tribute, Troy and his wife Bernadette were the parade’s grand marshals in the 37th annual celebration this year just days before his death. Magee Whelan, a close friend of Troy’s, praised him as a “great American immigrant success story,” telling the Alexandria Times that he “built up a great name, a great reputation, a great business, a great family, and it’s so much because of his native Irish determination and persistence and competitiveness.” In addition to Bernadette, Troy is survived by his children Patrick and Kathleen, two granddaughters, two brothers, and a town full of friends. – M.G.


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hibernia | quote unquote “I’m really only thinking about the people who live here. I don’t really care what the future of the party looks like.”

– Recent Pennsylvania congressional triumphant (D-PA 18th) Conor Lamb on his bipartisan campaign. Lamb is a third-generation Irish American born and raised in a family of long-time Pittsburgh Democratic party leaders. Atlantic, March 18.

“As the Irish left the subway tunnels, mills, and nursery wards for the middle and upper middle class, maybe we held hard to the wrong things. Step dancing classes and children’s names with complicated Irish spelling, but not the old neighborhoods’ practice of shared advancement. Donations to the Irish studies departments at prestigious colleges, but not commitment to the on-ramps that did us so much good.”

“The neighborhood came to us. Here we are, a group of Irish immigrants being saved by the newer immigrants that the President of the United States is trying to keep out of the country. We were saved by these people. The children of immigrants being defended by today’s immigrants: Dominican, Haitian, Caribbean, African. It’s thrilling.”

– Peter Walsh, co-owner of the Irish bar Coogan’s, which is credited with helping to revitalize Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood and was threatened with closure due to an untenable rent increase after more than 30 years in business until local residents and activists, including Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda, intervened. New Yorker, January 26.

“In the anti-immigrant era of Trump, we need to stand up as Irish Americans. It is un-American to pull the ladder up after you; the American way is to pass it down to the next person, and silence is complicity when it comes to this.” – Ciaran Staunton, founder of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and the Rory Staunton Foundation. New York Times, March 16.

– Author and journalist Eileen Markey. New Republic, March 16.

“The opportunity to be a portal to some major American companies, that we can help them connect into the E.U., has got great allure.”

– Steve Connelly, on his ad agency’s (Connelly Partners) recent expansion into Dublin. Boston Globe, April 9.

“The Irish peace was born out of weariness of children dying and of lost chances. The further you get away from that, the easier it is to take the absence of bad for granted and to live in this purgatory we are in now. It is a big mistake.”

– Bill Clinton in his keynote address at Belfast City Hall during which he was awarded the Freedom of Belfast at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. George Mitchell, who was U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland appointed by Clinton, also received the Freedom of Belfast. April 10. JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 31

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corner of ireland |

by Ray Cavanaugh

“Sláinte, mon!”…



TOP: Oliver Cromwell by Samuel Cooper. RIGHT: Bog Walk Gorge, St. Catherine Parish, Jamaica.


such other Irish” who were lacking a “settled course of industry” be “transported to the West Indies.” Also ordered for transport were “all prisoners” and “such children as were in hospitals or workhouses.” James Curtis Ballagh’s 1895 work White Servitude in the Colony of Virginia says: “Oliver Cromwell in preparing for his settlement of Ireland did not hesitate to transport large numbers of the dispossessed Irish as slaves to the West Indies.” Into “such shameful slavery” thousands of Irish women were dispatched, relates Justin H. McCarthy’s 1883 book An Outline of Irish History from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Of course, a need for hard labor on the Caribbean plantations ensured that Irish men were claimed as well. Writing in the 1660s, a Rev. John Lynch, author of Cambrensis Eversus, describes the Caribbeanbound Irish: “many droves of old men and youths [and] a vast multitude of virgins and matrons […] the former might pass their lives in hard slavery, and the latter maintain themselves even by their own prostitution.” Lynch added: “Many priests are sent away to the islands of the Indies that they might be sold by auction.” Delivering his Sixth Donnellan Lecture in 1901, Anglican minister G. Robert Wynne remarked: “The victories of Cromwell in the English and Irish wars of the Long Parliament furnished thousands of white



hat Irish is Jamaica’s second-most predominant ethnicity may come as a surprise, especially to those outside the country. It all started in 1655 when the British failed in their efforts to claim Santo Domingo from the Spaniards and took Jamaica as a consolation prize. Of course, the British also had been quite active in Ireland, where, between 1641 and 1652, about half the population had been wiped out. War, famine, and plague played roles in this decline. Another lesser-known factor was slavery. As part of his “Western Design,” Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell was expanding his ventures in the Caribbean; as part of his “Settlement in Ireland,” he was tyrannizing many of the natives. To enslave Irish natives and transport them to the West Indies was a fine way to unite both agendas. Another dynamic was that few, if any, Englishwomen were willing to emigrate to the West Indies, so slave catchers and plantation owners began indulging a sweet tooth for the Irish colleen. Elliott O’Donnell’s 1915 book The Irish Abroad paints a rather vivid scene: “Gangs of [Cromwell’s] soldiers invaded Connaught, and pouncing on all the women and girls they could find, drove them in gangs to Cork.” At Cork, the slave catchers began to assess their plunder, among other activities. A 1969 Ebony magazine article, “White Servitude in America” by African American scholar Lerone Bennett, Jr., mentions various colonial undertakings involving white cargo, including a special 1655 project to bring “some 1,000 young Irish girls to Jamaica for breeding purposes.” Though Bennett says it’s unknown what ultimately became of this particular plan, his article talks about a colonial tradition that “in some cases” saw “whites, blacks, and reds [indigenous Americans]” being “sold from the same stand.” John Patrick Prendergast’s 1868 work The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland tells of a 1654 order (concerning the Governors of Carlow, Clonmel, Kilkenny, Ross, Waterford, and Wexford) requiring that “all wanderers, men and women, and


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slaves to till the fertile Jamaican valleys.” These Irish were accustomed to hard work, but they were totally unacquainted with the hot Caribbean climate. Though their bondage was often a death sentence, enough of the Irish survived that by 1670 they already accounted for a significant part of Jamaica’s population. Thousands of Irish slaves were steered to Barbados. However, Jamaica, being 25 times larger, was soon proving the more lucrative venue. In fact, quite a few owners of Barbadian plantations relocated their operations to Jamaica. And Joseph J. Williams in his 1932 book Whence the “Black Irish” of Jamaica? relates that the early Jamaican Irish in large part came from Barbados. Catholicism was ardently suppressed in Jamaica, so the Catholic religion largely faded away within a few generations. However, other signs of the Irish were beginning to take hold. Among these signs was the prominence of Irish surnames. Even today in Jamaica, one can locate a Burke, Collins, Kennedy, Mackey, McCormack, McDermott, McKeon, O’Hare, or Walsh, along with many others. Aside from surnames, Ireland also has taken root among place names in Jamaica. For example, there is an “Irish Pen” in a section of the country known as St. Catherine Parish, as well as “Dublin Castle” and

“Irish Town” in St. Andrew Parish. Additionally, there are roads given such names as Leitrim and Longford. Some of the most eminent Jamaicans have been of Irish extraction. Among these are Alexander Bustamante, Jamaica’s first prime minister upon achieving its independence in 1962 and whose father, Robert Constantine Clarke, was an Irishman, and Claude McKay, the native Jamaican writer who later would migrate to New York City and help spark the Harlem Renaissance. Writing for the Irish cultural website The Wild Geese, Rob Mullally highlights similarities between Ireland and Jamaica: both are relatively small island nations that shared the same master for over a quarter-millennium, won their independence in the 20th century, and yet continued to see large amounts of emigration. The two nations also are linked by the trade of human flesh. On a less depressing level, however, some have suggested that the Jamaican accent – made ultra-cool by reggae and Rasta – is a modification of the Irish accent. And white potatoes in Jamaica are called “Irish.” So it might be fitting after all to combine the words: “Sláinte, mon!” ADDENDUM To be clear and fair, the numbers of captive Irish sent to the West Indies amount to far less than the numbers of African slaves. Furthermore, some Irish in the West Indies became slave owners themselves. It should also be known that some venues, particularly online, have reported numbers of Irish slaves that are greatly exaggerated. At the same time, other venues say that Irish slavery was essentially a myth. The exact numbers of transported Irish will never be known. Many of those eventually transported were indentured servants who signed a contract stipulating that they would serve a master for a period of years in exchange for transatlantic passage. However, many other Irish signed no such contract. Rather, they were forcibly taken from their homeland and brought to the West Indies. Readers can judge for themselves whether or not that qualifies as kidnapIA ping and enslavement.

RIGHT: Jamaica’s first prime minister, Alexander Bustamente. ABOVE: Bustamente and J.F.K. in the Oval Office, 1962. LEFT: Claude McKay (right) with Bolshevik Grigory Zinoviev in 1923.

A version of this article previously appeared in Ireland’s Own magazine.


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A New Deal for America’s Working Poor MARY KAY HENRY IS FIGHTING FOR

Mary Kay Henry, the international president of the two-millionmember Service Employees International Union talks to Patricia Harty about the Fight for $15 (minimum wage) campaign, how Trump is ruining America, and growing up Catholic, one of 10 children, in a Detroit suburb.

TOP RIGHT: SEIU President Mary Kay Henry delivers a speech at a Home Care Workers Union rally. 34 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018


ary Kay Henry knew early on in life that she wanted to be involved in some kind of advocacy work. As a kid growing up in Detroit, she was keenly aware of the work that the socially-conscious United Automobile Workers (UAW) was doing in helping to foster a new middle class through higher wages and company benefits. By the time she finished college in 1978, however, the prosperity that the UAW had helped bring to Detroit was waning, and Mary Kay’s first job after graduation from Michigan State with a B.A. in urban planning and labor relations, was in a neighborhood where an auto plant had closed. Through that job, enrolling people who were eligible for food stamps, she learned “it wasn’t a handout that people wanted,” but a hand up. She joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in 1979 as a researcher. Thirty years later, having proven her skills as a leader and organizer in California where she created unprecedented union growth in the healthcare industry, she was elected international president of the two-million-member SEIU in May of 2010 — the first woman to serve in the position. Mary Kay, who I first met in 2015 and who shares my Tipperary roots, is articulate, outspoken, and fearless in the fight to raise the minimum wage. She brings to mind Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, the fiery Irish-born leader of the mine workers during the early part of the 20th century. Read on to learn more about the $15 campaign, why we must protect and defend against attacks on immigrants, and what she thinks of Donald Trump.

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In a group you can make anything happen. I grew up in a fam-

ily of 10 children and I am the oldest daughter. I have two older brothers, so I am the third oldest in the line of 10, and I have a visceral feeling about when you move together in a group you can make anything happen. I learned that at a very early age.

People don’t want handouts.

ABOVE: With Home Care members at a 2016 Democratic National Convention reception.

Growing up in a Catholic household where we very much focused on the needs of the poor, my family tradition was not about charity, but about justice. People don’t want handouts or charity – people wanted to be able to provide for themselves and their families and have a more just society. You couldn’t grow up in Detroit in 1950s and 1960s and not understand that UAW was making life better for everybody in the state. Supporting the $15 movement. [The union support] grew out of an analysis that we needed to add

something to our organizing efforts, which was to support the demands of minimum wage workers and try to think about how to organize millions more. We could keep organizing the way we knew how and grow by a million workers every ten years or so. If we did that, we would be losing ground because the attack on unions was such that it became a matter of sticking with the movement and continuing to insist on not just $15 but on being unionized. SEIU is completely committed to these [fast food] workers being able to ultimately win their union. The next American middle class. We hope to get

the multinationals [corporations] to our bargaining table in 2021 or 2022 and create sectorial bargaining for all fast food workers. And we would like it to spread to the entire service and care workforce – homecare workers, childcare workers, retail workers – all these workers that have been structured into these poverty wage jobs. We think it should be the foundation of the next American middle class that includes everybody this time because many, many people in the last American middle class were excluded.

Uniting organizing demands with political demands. It is going to take us changing the poliJUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 35

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tics of the United States, so we hope to make progress in this midterm election and create more organizations of fast food workers in cities and states. We have a specific focus on the Midwest elections. We are uniting our organizing demands with our political demands. We shouldn’t allow the extremists in our country to suppress the votes of poor white, black, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander communities. There is a lot of evidence – Kentucky, West Virginia, who held special elections – that most of the American people have had it and they are willing to show up and vote and make it clear that the current president doesn’t represent the majority in this nation. TOP: Henry marches at a Fight for $15 convention in Richmond, Virginia, 2016. ABOVE: Speaking at the SEIU 2016 Convention.

The current administration is a moral outrage.

The idea of deciding what food SNAP recipients (food stamp recipients) will get is just one example of how insulting the current administration is towards justice in this country. We think that this administration is a moral outrage. And that is true for how it has treated immigrants, how it’s treated Muslims, how it’s treated young people, how it’s dealt with the issue of gun violence, how it is dealing with our partners around the world. I would say overwhelmingly, on every issue that matters to our members, this administration has failed us. Broken promises. The tax cut was a huge broken


promise by this president. He promised that he was going to make the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share and make sure that people who are working hard for a living get their fair shot. There is no action or policy that he’s taken that is making that happen for the vast majority of working people in this nation. We think that this administration is a moral outrage. We protect and defend against the attack on immigrants. Our union was born by immigrants –

window washers and janitors in the city of Chicago. I am sure there were Irish, Polish, Italian and other immigrants in the founding of our union back in 1921. About a third of our union members are recent immigrants and our union has been proud to change the American labor movement policy to welcome immigrants [undocumented] back in 2000. We have done a lot on the temporary protected status, on DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]. We see that as a core mission of our union – to ensure that we protect and defend against the attack on immigrants, but we are also fighting for the full inclusion of immigrants as citizens in our democracy. We share your concern for how the institutional church interacted with the healthcare debate.

We [the SEIU] believe in the separation of church and state. We believe in religious freedom. We think every woman should be able to exercise her own conscience. We worked a lot with our Catholic healthcare employers. Some of whom were against what the institutional

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LEFT: Henry with a union member at SEIU’s Member Political Organizer bus kickoff in California. BELOW: With SEIU Healthcare Canada president Sharleen Stewart (left) and Deborah Mathews (center), deputy premier of Ontario, at the IEB meeting in Montreal, September 2015.

church did in the U.S. because they understood that they are serving a secular population, not just Catholics, and so they couldn’t (shouldn’t) impose Catholic teaching or belief for hospitals especially. We did a lot to advocate for Catholic employers ensuring equal access to all kinds of healthcare coverage, including reproductive services. So I think we share your concern for how the institutional church interacted with the healthcare debate. Sister Carol Keehan’s bold stance on the issue.

There were some very good Catholic healthcare employers that are run by religious women who we think did the right thing and tried to respect the institution of Church while also saying, “Hey, we receive Medicaid and Medicare dollars from U.S. taxpayers and therefore we should be held accountable for making sure that people have equal access

“We think it should be the foundation of the next American middle class that includes everybody this time because many, many people in the last American middle class were excluded.” 38 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018

to all kinds of services.” We have seen Sister Carol Keehan on behalf of the Catholic Health Association who took a very bold stand on that issue, making sure that Catholic healthcare employers did the right thing for everybody. Wake me up when the Teamsters elect a woman. I am the first woman president in SEIU.

The teachers’ unions both have women presidents and have had previous women presidents; the flight attendants had a woman president, the nurses associations – but [SEIU] is probably the first large private sector union that has had a woman. There was a Nicole Hollander cartoon when I was first elected saying, “Oh, my gosh isn’t that incredible!” and then the Nicole Hollander character said back to the cat that is talking to her, “Wake me when the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO elect a woman.”

Organize and listen. The thing that got me here [the top job] is that I did some organizing work in California, which was a huge breakthrough for our union. We organized not just one hospital at the time but a whole system. So, I have been accomplished

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in terms of the union’s core mission to grow and expand, plus the way I lead, which is not to just lead based on what I think, but lead based on listening and creating as much internal political will and unity as I could in, frankly, what I find to be one of the toughest times to lead in the labor movement. A make-or-break year for the American labor movement. We are at the height of extremists’

attack on the union. It has been building for forty years, but this is a make-or-break year for the American labor movement and I can’t think of a better time to be a leader who can listen and build unity.

The growth of the Lavender Causus. I have been

very public about my lesbian identity in this union for my entire 36 years. [Henry is married to Paula Macchello, now retired as an organizer for the Teamsters.] The AIDS epidemic in our union allowed for our healthcare workers to become frontline advocates to make sure that healthcare workers had the protection they needed to care for people with AIDS in the early stages of the epidemic. It also was a way to advocate for dignity and respect.

I would argue that a lot of the Lavender Caucus organizing grew up around that issue – protecting healthcare workers, but also fighting for dignity and respect for people with AIDS, and then that moved to educating our coworkers about domestic partnership benefits and trying to make sure that collective bargaining kind of set the precedent for the rest of the country for health insurance for the LGBT people. Reaction to Ireland’s legalization of same-sex marriage. I was totally delighted by it! It is fantastic. The plan. Creating a path for the next middle class. We want to end poverty-wage work in Amer-

ica. That is our number one agenda. We are bound and determined to make sure that minimum wage underpaid service and care workers, fast food, janitors, airport workers, homecare workers, childcare workers can use collective bargaining to create a path to the next American middle class. In that agenda, we fight for healthcare for all, we fight for citizenship for immigrants, we fight for racial justice for the black community, but I think what galvanizes us across all of our differences is ending poverty. IA

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Deirdre O’Connell



Deirdre O’Connell The Bronx girl who changed the face of Irish theater. By Rosemary Rogers

ABOVE LEFT: Bronx girlfriends. Deirdre, then called Eleanor or “Ellie,” on the left.

n enigma and a shapeshifter, she changed her first name each time her life entered a new incarnation. Baptized Eleanor, she was Ellie as a child, a little beauty with a bounty of red-gold hair. Her gifts – singing, dancing, and especially acting – were supported by her parents who encouraged creativity in each of their five children. The O’Connell family was different in other ways too, they were three generations of immigrants and emigrants who straddled the Old and New Worlds, continually moving back and forth between both. When Ellie attended her all-girl Catholic high school, it was in the conservative 1950s and the streets of her Bronx neighborhood were more insular than mean. It was a community of working-class Irish immigrants bound by a set of strict rules, especially when it came to their daughters. College, barely affordable, was a luxury reserved for boys

(although the rare scholarship girl would occasionally slip through). A young woman’s career choices were narrow – nursing school, “going to business” (prefaced by a stint at secretarial school), or, if she was blessed with a vocation, the convent. But Ellie wasn’t like anyone else. She cut classes in high school to take classes in drama school and on graduation announced she was going to be an actor. Her neighborhood saw it as an act of rebellion against the tribe. She was signing on with a fast and


louche profession. Worse, in New York the best place for an aspiring actor to live, even one just sprung from the nuns, was the world of weirdos, Greenwich Village. Ellie’s roommates were, at various times, acting cohorts, folkies, random beatniks, and at one point, Barbra Streisand. She studied at the Drama Workshop where she immersed herself in the Stanislavski Method, the revolutionary drama technique that had already inspired a whole new generation of actors. Konstantin Stanislavski, founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, demanded his actors have a knowledge of their authentic self and bring personal traumas to their roles. “Acting is all pain, all guts, all inside” was Ellie’s mantra as she became Eleanora, her new name doubtless a tribute to the legendary actress and lover of Stanislavski, Eleanora Duse. Lee Strasberg, head of the exclusive Actor’s Studio (alumni included James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Marilyn Monroe) saw Eleanora in an off-Broadway production and invited her to join the Studio. She acted on and off Broadway in plays by Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett and Henrik Ibsen. In her spare time, she performed in coffee houses and even sang at the Newport Folk Festival, sharing a stage with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Her star was rising but her dream was veering in a different direction altogether: she was going to Ireland to establish a school and theatre, the first to be dedicated to the Stanislavski Method. She was 23, had no money, but needed to follow her heart, and Ireland, she knew, was her soul’s home. She arrived in Dublin in 1962 and again changed her name, this time forever. Eleanora became Deirdre, borrowing from the tragic Deirdre in Irish mythology whose story was told in the classic Synge play, Deirdre of the Sorrows. Deirdre established an actor-training school in Dublin’s Pocket Theatre, teaching her students improvisational work, effective memories, and later directing them in small productions. It was all groundwork to create a permanent company of actors trained in the Stanislavski Method, her dream that was later realized as the Focus Theatre. Today it’s difficult to understand just how bold her move to Ireland was. She arrived not during the heady days of the Celtic Tiger, but when the country

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ABOVE LEFT: Deirdre’s wedding to singer Luke Kelly. Actress Sabina Coyne, later the wife of President Michael D. Higgins, is the bridesmaid. LEFT: Deirdre, with Dubliners Barnie McKenna and Ronnie Drew, who serenaded the couple as they left the church. TOP: (Left to right) Emmett O’Connell, Eleanor “Deirdre,” Jerry O’Keefe (cousin), Marie diMaggio (neighbor), and Geraldine O’Connell.

was a Northern European backwater, economically depressed and artistically repressed. Free of Great Britain, Ireland was now enslaved by religion, reactionaries, and censorship, having devolved into a theocracy. The nation’s puritanical and patriarchal leader, Eamon de Valera, sought to embody Ireland in its Catholic heritage, a crusade that enlisted a leading cleric, the fanatical Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. Together they created a moralistic society that evoked almost sharia law as it condemned “alien influences” from jazz to tampons to unsupervised dancing. Anything deemed “obscene and indecent” in literature or films was banned. McQuaid’s bile was particularly directed at women as he railed against contraception, Jayne Mansfield, and female athletics, and he once collapsed at the sight of naked mannequins in the window of a Dublin department store.

The Ireland of 1962 was hardly the place to welcome a free spirit like Deirdre, an actor who had performed Tennessee Williams on the New York stage. It was hardly fertile soil for the Stanislavski Method, a groundbreaking technique that demanded actors draw on emotions in their inner lives. How would this happen in a world where emotions and inner lives are taught to be hidden? She didn’t receive much support from Dublin’s theatrical community either as they held fast to the belief that actors were “born not made.” It seemed the method she taught and the country she loved were alien to each other. To raise money for the theatre, Deirdre continued playing folk gigs, and in Donoghue’s Pub, the headquarters of the Dubliners, Ireland’s first urban folk group, she met founding member Luke Kelly. The group got much of its power from the raucous voice of Kelly, who sported a head of unmanageable JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 41

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ABOVE: Magnetic Luke Kelly performs in London, 1964. RIGHT: Deirdre with her father, Michael, in the Garden of Remembrance, Dublin. BELOW: Deirdre at Kennedy Airport.

Deirdre O’Connell

orange frizz and opened each set by shouting, “Listen to this, ye blackguards!” U2’s Bono said of the group, “When the hard men of rock ’n’ roll are lined up they’re like a ‘girls’ choir’ compared to the Luke Kelly and the Dubliners.” Luke, the card-carrying communist from the Dublin docks and Deirdre, the otherworldly creature from the South Bronx, came together and married in 1965. Her maid of honor was Sabina Coyne, an actress in Deirdre’s company and the future wife of Ireland’s current president, Michael D. Higgins. Deirdre’s sister, Geraldine O’Connell Cusack, said of the couple, “So alike were Luke and Deirdre, they could have been mistaken for brother and sister, the same flaming hair and the same searing fire in their souls.” They were celebrities, an almostmagical sight as they “tripped lightly along the ledge” of Dublin’s streets. At the urging of his new wife, Luke took a leave from the Dubliners to study folk traditions with Peggy Seeger (Pete’s sister) and Ewan McColl, the “godfather of folk music.” At the same time, Deirdre introduced him to Stanislavski and he brought the same rigor, discipline, and perfect diction to his singing as she did to her acting. He had become more active in communist causes and his radical politics gave conviction and edge to his voice. Over time, both Luke and Deirdre became active in political causes like Amnesty International and Ireland’s Anti-Apartheid Movement, and later supported the HBlock hunger strikers in Northern Ireland. In 1967, Deirdre’s hard work and planning finally paid off when she converted a building on the laneway of Pembroke Street into the Focus Theatre. It had only a 73-seat capacity, the facilities were crude, but as one critic put it, the “tiny theatre was a place of magic.” Deirdre cre-


ated a repertory of contemporary and classic works, never wavering from her commitment to the Stanislavski. A member of her loyal troupe, Gabriel Byrne, paid her this tribute, “With minuscule grants, this unsinkable woman has given the country some of its finest performances and a fair percentage of its best actors.” Like her hero, Samuel Beckett, Deirdre worked with prisoners, putting on a performance with inmates from Mountjoy Gaol for the 1983 Dublin Theatre Festival, a show (ironically?) called “Fancy Footwork.” Because it was small, the Focus was always poor and Deirdre always struggling to keep it going, relying on patrons, friends and her generous husband. Unfortunately, Luke’s benevolence extended to total strangers as well, inviting them to live in the home he shared with Deirdre. And his drinking, never moderate, was out of control as he drank “pints for thirst, whiskey to get drunk . . . an accident about to happen.” They separated but their bond remained, and when Luke Kelly died in 1984, she called herself his widow even though they had been apart for years and there had been another woman in his life. Now alone, Deirdre spent most of her time at the theatre, calling the troupe her “family.” She was a frequent sight on Dublin Streets, moving from home to work, known as the “Woman in Black,” a Kathleen ni Houlihan wearing layers of black shawls and skirts carrying a clipboard overflowing with scripts, notes, and snippets of poetry. Years later when she was diagnosed with cancer, she took it on with characteristic independence and determination, telling no one, refusing treatment and even hospitalization. She died in 2001, and, like Luke, was buried in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery, the IA resting place of heroes.

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MARYand ABE A sneak preview of a new book, Lincoln and the Irish: The Untold Story of How the Irish Helped Abraham Lincoln Save the Union, by Irish America publisher Niall O’Dowd.

ary Todd Lincoln was of solid Irish stock.



Mary’s paternal great-grandfather, David Levi Todd, was born in County Longford, Ireland, and came to America, via Pennsylvania, to Kentucky. Another great-grandfather, Andrew Porter, was also of Irish stock, the son of an Irish immigrant to New Hampshire and later Pennsylvania. Abraham Lincoln was primarily of English descent, though there was some Scots-Irish in his roots, namely a McLoughlin and a McKinley. Mary Todd moved to Springfield, Illinois from Kentucky in 1839, at the age of 21. She went in order to escape her stepmother, live with her sister Elizabeth, and begin the search for a husband. Springfield had become the state capital and was overrun with men fastening down political and lobbying careers, as well as a plethora of chancers, fakers, hustlers, and some do-gooders. Women were in short supply, which suited Mary Todd. Back then, a woman’s prospects in life depended on what kind of marriage she made, not on her own abilities. Mary was determined to meet the right match. She had “a well-rounded face, rich dark-brown hair, and bluish-grey eyes,” according to Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon, who was no fan. She spoke fluent French and had a long and distinguished ancestral line. Mary was about five foot two and weighed about 130 pounds, though in later years she would gain weight. She and Lincoln became acquainted at a cotillion. “Who is that man?” is what Mary said in reaction to seeing for the first time the long, gangly figure of the country lawyer and budding politician. Her reaction to seeing Lincoln was recorded by Mary’s


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niece, Katherine Helm. Later at the cotillion, Abraham Lincoln came over and said, “Miss Todd, I want to dance with you in the worst way.” They had a stormy courtship, a presentiment of what was to come. In the fall of 1842, the couple decided to be married, despite her family’s concern about his rough-hewn background. Her sister Elizabeth, who had brought her to Springfield, had married well to Ninian Edwards, the son of a former governor, and tried to break up the match to the backwoodsman. She wrote, “I warned Mary that she and Mr. Lincoln were not suitable. Mr. Edwards and myself believed that they were different in nature and education and raising.” When Mary announced their wedding would go ahead, her sister exploded. Elizabeth “with an outburst, gave Mary a good scolding, saying to her vehemently ‘Do not forget you’re a Todd,’” Mary’s other sister, Frances, remembers. Even his accent and voice were a drawback, a country bumpkin mixture of Indiana and Kentucky and a high-pitched voice at odds with his great hulking figure. Speaking of his looks, it was bad enough her sister thought she was marrying beneath herself in the incredibly class-conscious mentality of the time, but then there was Mr. Lincoln’s visage and presentation.

ABOVE: A portrait of Abraham Lincoln, by Irish American artist George Peter Alexander Healy, 1860. LEFT: Mary Todd Lincoln, seated, holding flowers, in a picture taken by Irish American photographer, Matthew Brady, 1861.

When he became a national contender, Lincoln was memorably described in the Houston Telegraph as “the leanest, lankiest, most ungainly mass of legs, arms, and hatchet face ever strung upon a single frame. He has most unwarrantably abused the privilege which all politicians have of being ugly.” In an era before photographs, such descriptions were damning. An anti-Lincoln refrain ended with the lines “Don’t for God’s sake show his picture.” A reporter for the Amboy Times who went to hear Lincoln speak was hardly flattering about his appearance, but he found his two-hour speech mesmerizing. “He is about six feet high, crooked-legged, stoop shouldered, spare built, and anything but handsome in the face. It is plain that nature took but little trouble in fashioning his outer man, but a gem may be encased in a rude casket.” Lincoln realized his best bet lay in a flattering photograph, the exciting new technology. He was perfectly aware his ungainly body, oversized hands, hard-edged and lined face, and physical presence at six foot four (in an era where the average male height was five foot seven) could be off-putting. When he launched his presidential bid, he turned to Irish photographer Matthew Brady, the Annie Leibowitz of his day. Brady claimed he was born near Lake George in upstate New York in 1822. No birth certificate or any kind of documentation has been found to link his birth to New York State. In fact, an 1855 New York census lists Brady’s place of birth as Ireland, as do an 1860 census and Brady’s own 1863 draft records. His parents, Andrew and Julia, were Irish immigrants. Given the suspicions and prejudice about Irish Catholic immigrants, Brady may have preferred to claim American birth. He grew up in Saratoga Springs and became fascinated with the new art of photography, eventually opening his own studios in New York City. He became known as the best photographer in town at a time when the craft was in its infancy and the rich were clamoring for their likenesses to be created. Brady had poor eyesight and hired others to take most of his photographs, but he “conceptualized images, arranged the sitters, and oversaw the production of pictures.” Plus, according to the New York Times, Brady was “not averse to certain forms of retouching;” an early Photoshop genius, in point of fact. The photograph he took of the future president, which coincided with Lincoln’s breakthrough JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 45

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Lincoln and the Irish is published by Skyhorse (February 2018 / 224 pp. / $24.99).

speech at the Cooper Union in February 1860, flattered his subject greatly. Brady bathed Lincoln’s face in light to hide the hard edges and wrinkled, sallow skin. He told him to curl up his fingers to hide the sheer length of his hands. Brady “artificially enlarged” Lincoln’s collar so his gangling neck would look more proportional. Lincoln loved it, later saying, “Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president.” In all, Brady and his team took thirty photographs of him. Those pictures shaped his legacy of being the first American president made truly accessible by photographs. Whatever he looked like, Mary Todd was in love, as was her beau Abe with her. The wedding ring Lincoln bought her had an inscription that read “A.L. to Mary, Nov. 4, 1842. Love is Eternal.” Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd were married at her older sister Elizabeth’s home on Friday evening, November 4, 1842. She wore her sister’s white satin dress and a pearl necklace. About thirty relatives and friends attended the ceremony. It rained. In 1844, after living in lodgings in Springfield, they moved to 8th Street and Jackson, as their son Robert, who had been born the previous August, grew older. Mary loved her new home. “The little home was painted white and had green shutters. It was sweet and fresh, and Mary loved it. She was exquisitely dainty, and her house was a reflection of herself, everything in good taste and in perfect order,” a friend reported. As the family expanded, there was a need for maids. Lincoln’s improved financial circumstances meant that help could be hired. Many at the time came straight off the boats from Ireland and Germany. Vere Foster, an agent for the Women’s Protective Emigration Society in New York, was constantly being petitioned to send young girls into service in Illinois. She eventually sent 700, most of them Irish and German. These young women found homes in Springfield, as well as other Illinois towns. Several at various times were hired by the Lincolns. Despite her own heritage, Mary Todd Lincoln disliked the Irish and was thought to favor the Know-Nothings, the virulently anti-Irish Catholic grouping that split her husband’s Whig party. She wrote to a friend in Kentucky, “If some of you Kentuckians had to deal with the Wild Irish as we housekeepers are sometimes called upon to do, the South would certainly elect Fillmore (who was favorable to Know-Nothings) the next time.” Lincoln,


on the other hand, made it clear he was not against the Irish. After all, he was surrounded by them as domestic help at home, and many historians believe the help shielded him from the worst of his wife’s tantrum excesses. The women hired were mostly young and single. Their pay was $1.00 to $1.50 a week. (In contrast, Lincoln made up to $2,500 a year as a lawyer.) The work was exhausting—laundering, emptying chamber pots, and looking after four rambunctious boys who were poorly disciplined by their parents to begin with. Later, Mary Todd Lincoln would be called “Hellcat” as a nickname in the White House. She was just as hard on her Irish maids. Despite her Irish heritage, Mary Todd Lincoln held a deep grudge against the Irish and constantly had problems with her Irish maids while raising her children in Springfield. Catherine Gordon, from Ireland, was named as living in the household in the 1850 census. She was likely the one who enraged Mary Todd Lincoln by leaving her window open so boyfriends could enter. Ten years later, Mary Johnson, also from Ireland, was in situ for the census. Mary was likely the one that Abe Lincoln paid to put up with his wife’s tirades, an extra dollar a week slipped to her in order to placate and manage his wife. Margaret Ryan, another Irish native, claimed she lived at the Lincoln household until 1860 and witnessed Mary hitting her husband and chasing him out of the house on several occasions. She stated all this in an interview with Jesse Weik, who helped William Herndon, Lincoln’s law partner, write his definitive biography of Lincoln. Herndon hated Mary Todd Lincoln, and as a result, the Ryan stories are hotly disputed. But there are more than enough stories told by disparate figures over her lifetime to suggest that Mary Todd Lincoln was a deeply troubled woman, a condition exacerbated by the death of three of her children. Lincoln’s niece Harriet Chapman, who worked for a time with Mary, stated she had nothing good to say about her but could talk about her uncle all day. Unpredictable outbursts and unreasonable demands was one description of Mary Todd Lincoln’s behavior at the time. Perhaps the most poignant moment of all is when Lincoln took her to an upstairs room in the White House after her grieving for her dead son Willie had sent her into a profound depression. “Mother,” he said quietly to her, “You see the insane asylum yonder. You will have to go there if you cannot stop the grieving.” It was a harsh choice for a woman, who had little medical expertise at the time to help treat her. It also spoke volumes for Lincoln’s desperation for her to get better. Throughout all those trying times and despite Mary Todd’s scorn, Abraham Lincoln often focused on the story of the Irish who were flooding into IA America and sang the praise of their heroes.

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Concern, Ireland’s largest humanitarian aid agency, has been serving the poorest of the poor for 50 years. Ed Kenney Jr. and Kieran McConville, both of whom work for Concern, explore the organization’s history.

T 1 A Concern distribution of tarpaulins to displaced families in Katale, Masisi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. 2 Concern workers in Liberia in 2015. 3 Siobhan Walsh in Darfur in 2004. Siobhan co-founded Concern U.S. with Fr. Aengus Finucane. 4 The Columcille leaving Dublin for Biafra, September 6, 1968. 5 Ali Assen Ali with two of his daughters on their farm 12,000 feet up in the highlands of South Wollo, Ethiopia. 6 Áine Fay, Phelim Murnion, Aengus Finucane, and Jack Finucane with Concern Ethiopia staff in 1989. 7 Rhambutel (70) at a distribution by Concern Worldwide of emergency shelter and relief supplies at the village of Bhirkot in Dolakha district, Nepal.

he story begins 50 years ago in the parlor of a modest townhouse on Northumberland Road in Dublin, moving on quickly to a 600-ton cargo ship called the Columcille, then to a remote island off West Africa, the hub of a daredevil outfit known as “Jesus Christ Airline,” and finally to a darkened landing strip manned by fearless Irish priests, among whom were two brothers – one would go on to be called “The John Wayne of aid workers;” the other would gain a reputation for taking on poverty and injustice with the force of a “19-stone rugby tackle.” It’s the story of Concern Worldwide, one of the world’s most respected international humanitarian and development organizations, which last year worked in 26 countries, helping 22 million people. Concern’s reach is global, but its Irish roots are strong. In 1967, the province of Biafra attempted to secede from Nigeria. The Nigerian army responded with unmerciful force, displacing millions of people who became further isolated by the government’s blockade of food, medicine, and basic necessities. In 1968, famine followed. Images of starving, skeletal children flashed across televisions and newspaper front pages worldwide, and in Ireland, it touched on the deep scars of the starvations of the 1840s. A small group of people, alarmed by the sheer human suffering, got together in the home of John and Kay O’Loughlin Kennedy, a young economist and insurance underwriter, who opened their Dublin townhouse on Northumberland Road to those like them who wanted to do something. Without any clear idea of what could be done, the assembled group decided to call themselves Africa Concern. Within weeks, they launched a first-ofits-kind fundraising campaign. The Irish people responded in force. In less than one year, the equivalent of more than $6 million, roughly $2 for every person in the Irish Republic, was raised.


As the money flowed in, the group enlisted experts to help engineer a solution for the delivery of life-saving relief supplies around the blockade. First, they secured a boat – the Columcille – that would be loaded with food and medical items, and sailed to the island of Sao Tome, off West Africa. From there, they relayed the goods via a constant flow of bold, nighttime airlifts. Africa Concern’s partner, the cross-denominational Joint Church Aid founded by Fr. Tony Byrne, a Holy Ghost missionary priest, secured a small fleet of old cargo planes and a crew of daredevil pilots, who gave it the name “Jesus Christ Airline.” It was a rag tag corps motivated by their shared refusal to let millions die on their watch. Their collective response became known as the Biafran Airlift. In two years, they flew 5,314 missions from Sao Tome, carrying 60,000 tons of humanitarian aid as Nigerian anti-aircraft guns and fighter planes tried to bring them down. In all, 25 pilots were killed but millions of lives were saved. On the receiving end, manning a rudimentary airstrip hidden deep in the bush, were Byrne’s fellow priests, Aengus and Jack Finucane, brothers from County Limerick who did literally whatever it took, exhausting every logistical means to reach the people who needed aid the most. Aengus often boarded the flights himself, demanding efficient and speedy loading and delivery, regularly ferrying out the most seriously ill children on the return trip. His “19-stone rugby tackle” reputation derives from a legendary encounter with a thief who attempted to rob a Concern delivery truck. Aengus reacted like the star rugby player he had been in his youth. His relentlessness was otherwise non-violent, as he led by “conversation not confrontation,” with healthy doses of self-deprecation and humor. Meanwhile, Jack masterminded a vast and com-

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“Start before you are ready. Just start doing and the rest will happen.”

— Siobhan Walsh remembering advice from Fr. Aengus Finucane

1 Aengus Finucane and Anne O’Mahony, a veteran Concern staffer and current international programs director. 2 A tarpaulin distribution for displaced families in the north eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. 3 Concern logistician Graham Woodcock supervises the transfer of Irish Aid emergency relief supplies at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal. 4 Concern volunteer Irwin Shorr, from Maryland, in Bangladesh in the early 1970s. 5 Elizabeth Lane, a volunteer nurse with Concern, in Yemen in 1977. 6 Concern emergency response team member Nellie Kingston, from Clonakilty, County Cork, travelling through the swamps of Unity State, South Sudan, by dugout canoe. 7 Frances O'Keeffe from County Limerick with a severely malnourished 11-month-old boy at Dollow Ado camp in Ethiopia in 2011. 8 Nalois Lepile (center) of Nairibi village in Marsabit County, Kenya, with some of the women who have been part of the community conversations project, which has resulted in improved infrastructure and services for his locality.

plex distribution network, which at its height was reaching roughly four million people a day with food and medical supplies. Africa Concern’s founders began to see a much broader vision as famine ended. Some two million had died, but clearly millions of lives were saved. Events in other parts of the world soon demanded urgent attention. A cyclone disaster in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and civil war and refugee problems in Calcutta (now Kolkata) became the next intervention. Over time, Africa Concern evolved into Concern Worldwide and its global identity was cemented through successive bold, practical, effective responses to major disasters in the succeeding decades: East Pakistan/Bangladesh in the early 1970s; famine in Ethiopia in 1973 and 1984; refugees along the Thailand-Cambodia border in the early 1980s; famine in Somalia in 1992; genocide, refugees, and cholera in Africa’s Great Lakes region in the mid-1990s; mass suffering in Sierra Leone and Liberia in the late 1990s; the mostly silent plight of millions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the early millennium through today; the 2010 Haiti earthquake; flooding in Pakistan and famine in Somalia in 2011; and the still raging, seemingly endless violence in Syria and South Sudan. A telling case study unfolded in the crowded slums and remote forests of West Africa during the Ebola crisis that exploded across the region beginning in 2014. Landing in Freetown, Sierra Leone, shortly before the outbreak was the new country director and Clare native, Fiona McLysaght. She had been there before as a young aid worker during the vicious civil war twenty years earlier. Soon, Ebola was killing people indiscriminately and at a frightening rate, threatening to tear apart the very fabric of society. “There were bodies literally being left in the street,” she recalls. McLysaght’s team had been focusing their work in education, agriculture, water, and sanitation. Ebola presented new, unimagined challenges. She decided they would pivot to managing and executing the most dangerous and potentially deadly work: safe removal and burial of the dead, whose bodies had become leading sources of infection. She quickly steered the team to the task of body removal and transport, whether or not they were confirmed Ebola deaths. They also provided safe and dignified burials for over 16,000 of the dead. As often as possible, the graves were marked to allow family members to mourn in dignity. The Ebola crisis ended in 2016. Concern remains, helping ensure lasting recovery, health, livelihoods, continued growth, and development. These mass disasters have punctuated Concern’s growth over nearly 50 years, but they have been matched by a commitment to responding to lesserknown, smaller-scale disasters and an everexpanding breadth of comprehensive long-term development work.


Long recognized as a disaster response leader, Concern has also gained recognition – from the grassroots to governments to peer organizations – as a transformational force in nutrition, maternal and child health, community empowerment, genderbased violence, climate-smart agriculture, and primary education. Addressing guests at a recent reception marking the 50-year milestone, Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins said, “I would like to thank Concern most profoundly for all that you’ve achieved, not just for the work that you’ve done, but for the work you continue to do.” Over the course of its years, Concern has not only touched millions of lives but, as Higgins said, “it has crafted a vital bridge between the Irish people and some of the poorest people in our world.”


Father Aengus, Siobhan Walsh, and Concern U.S.

The Finucane brothers and former missionaries like them would be central to Concern’s early growth and future globalization. But they guarded its secular identity, as they themselves grew into dynamic, world-renowned, humanitarian leaders. As director of many of Concern’s country programs over a 30-year career, Jack drove the professionalization of the organization, transforming a small organization of volunteers into a humanitarian force equipped with skilled agriculturalists, health specialists, educators, nutritionists, logisticians, and engineers. U2’s Bono credits Jack with his awakening to the scourge of global poverty on a trip to Ethiopia together in 1985 to witness famine and Concern’s response. “The John Wayne of humanitarian aid” moniker was affectionately coined by Bono in recognition of Jack’s quiet, steely resolve to get the job done no matter who or what stood in his way. Aengus, decidedly more charismatic, ascended from country director to chief executive of Concern in 1981, serving until his retirement in 1997. He was also instrumental in the establishment of a U.S. affiliate in the 1990s – Concern Worldwide U.S. – with fundraising and support offices in New York and Chicago. Siobhan Walsh, eventual executive director of Concern Worldwide U.S., joined Aengus in New York early on as the operation got off the ground. She recalls his advice, which harkened back to that

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“[Concern has] crafted a vital bridge between the Irish people and some of the poorest people in our world.” — President Michael D. Higgins

1 John Greed, chairman and CEO of Mutual of America, Ed Kenney Sr. of Mutual of America, and Concern U.S. CEO Colleen Kelly in Ethiopia, December 2017. 2 An Africa Concern van during the Biafran Airlift. 3 Family and friends pray over the body of Sulaiman Barrie (7), who died on the night of October 31, 2014, at his home in Banana Water, Freetown, Sierra Leone. 4 Nutrition assistant Poni Jane Charles with 30-year-old Amir Bol and her one-year-old daughter, Rezek Thiep, at the stabilization centre in Nyamlel, South Sudan. 5 Former Irish president Mary Robinson with Concern's Frances O'Keefe in northern Kenya, July 2011. 6 Jack Finucane in Ethiopia, 1989. 7 Laura Hastings, from Westport, County Mayo, who worked on Concern's response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. 8 Longtime Concern supporter and former chairman of Concern U.S. Tom Moran visits a bridge reconstruction project in northern Afghanistan. 9 Members of the Concern emergency response team at Hakim Para refugee camp for Rohingya people in Bangladesh.

Biafran airstrip: “Start before you are ready. Just start doing and the rest will happen.” Those beginnings were humble, Siobhan recalls, “From our bucket collections in New York’s Grand Central Terminal, to peeling bags of spuds for special event dinners, to sleeping on couches in Chicago, all of it was part of a very colorful journey to set the foundation for Concern U.S.” Today, Concern Worldwide U.S. has a staff of 50 in New York City and Chicago, supporting the mission and global efforts of Concern Worldwide by raising funds and providing technical and program support, advocacy, and public engagement. Now annually generating nearly $40 million through a mix of individual donations large and small, foundation funding, and U.S. government grants, Concern Worldwide U.S. has been a sustaining force and has helped engineer groundbreaking programs in countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Malawi, Pakistan, and others, driving innovations especially in nutrition, maternal child health, and emergency response. Its growth has been powered by loyal, close-knit communities of donors, first in New York and Chicago, drawn in by the relentless charm and humanitarian authenticity of Fr. Aengus and Siobhan. Mutual of America chairman and CEO, Tom Moran, experienced the Finucane/Walsh strategy firsthand. After the tragic and premature death of Concern’s first U.S. chair, legendary public relations executive, John Scanlon, Fr. Aengus and Siobhan approached Moran to take up the mantle. “Being double-teamed by the two of them, I couldn’t say ‘no.’ Of course, I still would not have agreed without [fellow Mutual of America executive and Concern U.S. board member] Ed Kenney, who assured me that together we could make it happen. “And, so it was that we recruited an incredible group of talent. Once we identified the right person, Aengus took the lead and Siobhan explained exactly what was needed from each of us. There was no escaping. Of course, we knew we had the support of an incredible group of professionals working in Dublin and in the field, so we could deliver results in return for support.” After 20 years as chair, Tom Moran retired in 2017, passing the torch to board member Joanna Geraghty, executive vice president of customer experience at JetBlue, who remarked, “I’m inheriting the proud legacy of a group of one-of-a-kind leaders, namely Tom, Fr. Aengus, and Siobhan, who have touched millions of lives. I’m firmly committed to building on that foundation, continuing to grow our community of supporters, to innovate, and reach even


more of those most in need.” President of Concern Worldwide U.S., Limerick native Áine Fay, has been witness to the changing nature of the humanitarian landscape over the decades and reflects on the ability of colleagues across the globe to evolve and embrace innovative approaches. “Many of the fundamental challenges facing the extreme poor have not changed in 50 years, but the range of solutions available to us is greater now than at any time, and we are finding new and ever more effective ways to deliver not just aid – but opportunity.”

The Future of Concern

In recent years, a number of Concern’s founders have passed on. Aengus Finucane died in 2009, Kay O’Loughlin Kennedy in 2016, and Jack Finucane in 2017. But the animating and relentless forces that emerged from that Dublin townhouse in 1968 are as powerful as ever – in Ireland, the U.S., the U.K., in a new fundraising office in South Korea, and across the developing world. In all, over half a century, Concern has worked in more than 40 of the world’s most disadvantaged countries. Today, there are nearly 4,000 workers of some 50 different nationalities working in 26 countries. The percentage of Irish staff on the ground is now very small, reflecting Concern’s commitment to transfer its work to local hands. Still, the ethos and the essence of the organization have been formed from roots that are 100 percent guaranteed Irish. In the words of worldwide CEO, veteran aid worker, and Belfast native Dominic MacSorley, “Our stated mission is ‘to help people who are living in extreme poverty achieve major improvements in their lives – improvements that last and spread without ongoing support from us.’ And it’s that last part that’s the real key. We’re essentially in the business of putting ourselves out of business.” It’s a thought that might not have crossed the minds of the O’Loughlin-Kennedys, the Finucanes, and the men and women who sacrificed and risked their lives to save lives in 1968, but it will guide Concern’s efforts from 2018 forward. The goal is to not mark another anniversary in 50 years’ time. IA

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what are you like? | by Patricia Harty

Sheila Connolly


heila Connolly has published over 30 mysteries, including several New York Times bestsellers. Her series include the Orchard Mysteries, the County Cork Mysteries, and her newest, the Victorian Village Mysteries. Connolly, who is passionate about history and genealogy, has been an art historian, an investment banker, a non-profit fundraiser, and a professional genealogist. She is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution as well as the Society of Mayflower Descendants and owns a cottage in west Cork. Sheila lives in “a too-big Victorian” in southeastern Massachusetts with her husband and three cats. They have a grown daughter who is pursuing her own writing career. Tell me something about your Irish roots – was your family very Irish?

Depends on how you look at it. My father’s parents were both born in Ireland, in Carlow and Cork, but my mother hated them from the first time my father took her to visit them, so I never even met them. At least I knew that 50 percent of my blood was Irish, but when I tried a DNA test, it came back at 75 percent – my mother’s mother, who was adopted when she was very young and never knew as much as her parents’ names, turned out to be Irish as well.

Why Cork?

I didn’t visit Ireland until my daughter was in her teens, and I thought she should know something about her own history (no matter what my mother said). We’d planned a short trip and drove down from Dublin to Carlow for Sunday dinner, then kept going to Leap, the town nearest to where my grandfather was born. Carlow was nice enough, but Cork was everything I’d hoped Ireland would be. It felt like coming home. Corny, I know, but in some ways it seemed familiar. Two years ago I bought a small cottage in Drinagh, in sight of where my great-grandmother, Bridget Regan, was born and married. Half the people I meet seem to be relatives, and if they’re not, they know someone who knows someone, etc. It’s very different than the way I grew up, and I’m enjoying being a part of it.

Where did the idea for the Cork Mysteries character Maura Donovan come from?

I began with a concept that runs through the series: insider versus outsider. Maura is both. She’s young, has no more than a high school education, and has no plan for a future – until the Irish-born grandmother who raised her dies and Maura finds she’s inherited a house and pub in Cork from a distant relative. She thinks she’s going to make a quick trip, sell both, and come back to Boston. Funny thing – she’s still in Ireland, five books later. 54 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018

Having an American heroine allows me as a writer to let Maura ask all the dumb questions about how and why things are done in Ireland. Plus her Boston city background gives her a different perspective on crime-solving, in a place that has very little crime. (At least, until I started writing about it. I’ve apologized to the local gardaí.)

You switched from being a genealogist to a mystery writer – how did that happen?

Nobody ever stops being a genealogist – it’s addictive. It’s also great training for a mystery writer. I’ve always read a lot, as did my mother and grandmother (although they preferred historical fiction with a lot of royalty in it). I started with Nancy Drew and read piles of cozies before they even had a genre of their own. I was an academic art historian for years, which taught me to look at things and describe them. Then I was an investment banker and later a fundraiser, which taught me how to make up stories for things I knew little about. If you look at all my series, family history runs through them consistently. I borrow all the time from my own ancestors because I know them, and why make something up when you’ve already got a story to use? And some of them led very interesting (if not always quite legal) lives.

What is your current state of mind?

Overwhelmed, though mostly by real-world issues. Writing is a place I can escape to, where I can make the story come out the way I want it to.

Your greatest extravagance?

Apart from travel? Collecting things. Books, of course, but also a lot of old things (like cookware), which in a small way capture how people lived in the past. I like that others have handled the things I’m using. Actually, these fragments of the past are not usually expensive, but they do take up a lot of space!

Name one of your heroes.

Eleanor of Aquitaine, who led a challenging life juggling marriages to two kings and preserving her inherited properties, and who survived it all.

What is on your bedside table?

Boring stuff: landline phone, clock-radio, small

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father was an engineer – which reminds me that another one of my earliest memories is my father showing me how to putty a window – I think I was three). I’ve done a lot of home repairs.

Do you strike up conversations on long plane journeys?

Rarely. I always travel with something to read (printed, not electronic).

Where do you go to think?

It’s not so much as where as a how. I prefer being outside somewhere, weather permitting, but mostly I make myself comfortable on a seat, shut my eyes, and just focus on what I’m hearing or even smelling. After I clear my head of all the things I should be doing and all the lists that I’ve made, I can start with a blank slate and think about questions like, what should my character do next? What usually happens is that an unexpected

The author’s cottage: “The cottage is a work in progress – we’re supposed to paint this summer. And it should have a patio on the west side, in front of the glass doors by then.”

flashlight, antacids, toenail clippers, pens and highlighters, band-aids, and sticky pads. All jammed together in one square foot of space. (If you’re wondering, the books are stacked on the floor next to the bedside table.)

What was your first job?

Grubbing out dandelions from the yard, at a penny per plant, when I was eight. I think I made a dollar. First paying job was probably as a workstudy student in college (my first assignment was to catalog the stuffed bird collection) and graduate school. First “real” job was as an assistant professor in art history at Duke University.

Your earliest memory?

Eating pistachio ice cream with my father. Or maybe learning to putt from him, when the putter was taller than I was.

Best advice ever received?

Don’t give up just because something is difficult.

Your hidden talent?

I can make or fix a lot of different things. (My

idea pops up and makes perfect sense, but I didn’t consciously think of it.

Your perfect day?

Waking up in my cottage in Ireland, answering emails while watching rainbows outside the window (on a good day there’s more than one), going to the Skibbereen farmers’ market, and the hardware store, and other small shops, then coming back to the cottage and doing something practical like scrubbing mold off the walls. And talking to people of all kinds.

Your favorite qualities in friends?

Loyalty. Support. Humor. Shared memories. JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 55

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what are you like? | Shelia Connolly


ABOVE LEFT: The Drombeg stone circle, also known as the Druid's Altar, which features as a romantic spot in Connolly’s the County Cork Mysteries series. ABOVE RIGHT: Connolly’s of Leap, which inspired the author’s “Sullivan’s Pub” in Leap, which serves as the center of activity in the County Cork Mysteries. The owners are not related to the author who explains: “Eileen Connolly McNicholl is one of the Reavouler Connollys, while I’m a Knockskagh Connolly – they’re about three miles apart. Eileen shut the place down for a couple of years when her husband died, but her younger son, Sam, reopened it two years ago now and it’s come back to life. How could I not write about the place?”

Movie you will watch again and again?

The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Jurassic Park (the first one). Dirty Dancing.

Your favorite place?

Ireland, since the first day I saw it, nearly 20 years ago. But Concord, Massachusetts, and the surrounding area is a close second (most of my non-Irish family lived and died in Massachusetts. I visit a lot of cemeteries to say hello to them.)

Favorite drink?

Strong coffee – the good stuff. And I’ve gotten very fond of Irish whiskey over the past few years.

Favorite food?

I love to cook, and I love to experiment with food, so my tastes have changed over time. If I was stuck on a desert island, I’d want a supply of desserts.

Best opening line in a book or piece of music?

“Nothing ever happens to me.” That’s the first line of Mary Stewart’s book My Brother Michael, which I read in high school. Great opening for a mystery.

What drives you?

I want to see what I can accomplish, whether it’s wallpapering a Victorian parlor or writing a book. It took me five years to find a literary agent when I started writing, and another two until I saw a book with my name on it on a shelf, but I never gave up. I believed I could do it, and I wanted to prove it. 56 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018


What have you been working on recently?

I’m currently working on five different book series, all but one of which are mysteries (the fifth one is a paranormal romance series). That’s a pretty full schedule. I’m trying to get to Ireland at least twice a year, now that I have my own place there, but life keeps getting in the way.

What’s next for you?

More books, I hope. It took me a long time (and multiple careers) before I found something I was good at and enjoyed, and I have no plans to stop.

What are you like?

I’m intelligent, analytical, curious, hardworking, methodical. I’m a loyal friend, but I believe in letting other people find their own way. I don’t judge others. I communicate better on paper than face to face. IA Editor’s Note: I’m currently reading the Cork Mysteries, which features Sullivan’s Pub in Leap where most of the action takes place. It’s owned by Maura Donovan, an independent young woman raised by an Irish grandmother in Boston. Maura has a penchant for solving crimes. And there’s a great supporting cast of regulars, including Old Billy, who spend his days by the fire telling stories to tourists but behind all he’s the wise man of the community who knows where all the secrets lie. Connolly is great at mixing in her two passions, genealogy and history, into her writing – family connections, the big house, the famine, and the standing stones all feature in her stories. I love this series. For someone who didn’t grow up in rural Ireland, Connolly nails the characters.

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book review |

by Frank Shouldice

A Parting Gift William Trevor’s posthumous Last Stories.

ow strange to read a published work knowing it to be the author’s last. Such was the feeling on opening Last Stories, a collection of short William Trevor, stories made available two years after William photographed Trevor’s death. The Cork-born author leaves us by Jerry Bauer. a treasure of quality work, fronted by an impressive canon of 14 novels – the last, Love and Summer, was his fifth nomination for the Man Booker Prize and several others, “How good the everyday was, the ordinary with its lesser tribulaincluding Felicia’s Journey and Fools of Fortune, were adapted tions and simple pleasures.” It may as well represent the author’s for the big screen. own philosophy. For such an accomplished hewer of the human However well received his novels, he has always been regarded condition, the quotidian is the well from which he draws most as a master of the short story. One particular classic, “The Ballroom inspiration. of Romance,” evoked 1950s dance hall days in the west of Ireland Equally striking is how empathetic he is to his characters and, and was memorably adapted for television by RTÉ in 1982. by extension, how forgiving they are to the people who cause them The New Yorker once described Trevor as “the greatest living grief. “At the Caffé Daria” tells a story of competing lovers, one writer of short stories in the English language.” In lucidly Chekovof whom, Andrea Cavalli, is “not embittered” by his wife’s deparian tales, his prose flows with a trademark simplicity that belies ture to the arms of a silver-tongued poet. the craft and complexity pulsing beneath. Curiously, the same theme is repeated in With 13 collections already published in his name, “The Women,” where Mr. Normanton loses it is by way of fond farewell that Viking presents this his wife “not to the cruelty of an early death unexpected treat, 10 new stories that the master was but to her preference for another man.” At 31 studiously crafting in the autumn of his 88 years. pages, it’s one of the longer entries, but one There are certainly moments here to justify his wonders had the story idea come to him earlier exalted reputation. might he have developed its potential as a “The Piano Teacher’s Pupil” stands out as vinnovella. Several shifts in the main protagonist tage Trevor, a succinct masterpiece with a delicious make it a less satisfying read. twist midway through. It embraces themes found Dublin streets provide possibly the book’s elsewhere – personal loss, unrequited love, and the grimiest backdrop in “Giotto’s Angels,” a story forgiveness of disappointment. Miss Elizabeth of survival for an amnesiac and a prostitute. Nightingale, the eponymous teacher, once had a Another adulterous tale, “An Idyll in Winter,” 16-year affair with a married man, “but since then details the plight of two women coveting an she had borne her lover no ill will, for after all indecisive Yorkshire man. Typical of Trevor is there was the memory of a happiness.” that an injured bystander plays a key role, in this It’s a gem. Here and elsewhere, through symcase the man’s young daughter who enters this pathetic characters navigating everyday chaltug-of-love as collateral damage. lenges, he nudges the reader without supplying tidy Last Stories is published Elsewhere, “The Unknown Girl” deals with the solutions, confidently resisting the urge to wrap mat- by Viking (May 2018 / mystery of a fatal road accident in which the identity ters up in a bow. How recognizable his deceptively 213 pp. / $26). and background of the victim is attentively explored. simple style, the hallmark of prose so easy to read that From such promising beginnings the denouement it prompts a misconception that it must have been equally easy to feels almost too subtle. Known as a perfectionist for the infinite write. care he would take to polish each story to a shine, it is not a surprise Most of the stories are situated in England – only two take place that “Taking Mr. Ravenswood” is one of three stories not previin Ireland – so through its 213 pages we are taken mostly around ously published. It ends with such uncharacteristic abruptness that London. In settings as English as drawing rooms and afternoon tea, one might reasonably wonder whether the story had been comTrevor offers us a glimpse of society, possibly as genteel as it once pleted to its creator’s satisfaction. was. His characters are sensitively drawn and the preoccupations Reaching the end of the collection, I recalled interviewing Trevor overwhelmingly middle-class. The collection beckons a bygone for Irish America several years ago. He told me that he dedicated age dominated by social division and etiquette. Although Last each publication to his wife Jane Ryan. Unfortunately she preStories might be accused of overlooking, if not avoiding, moderdeceased him by two years. In a turn almost reminiscent of the nity, its concerns are typically ordinary people and how life’s frailgreat author himself, I found myself searching for her name at the ties afflict and disrupt everyday existence. front pages only to find the space blank, loving authorial words IA Little surprise then is a passing remark in “Mrs. Crasthorpe:” sadly missing in this welcome posthumous tribute. JUNE / JULY 2018 IRISH AMERICA 57

Eunice and Eileen

Eunice Kennedy was an amazing woman who changed the way people with disabilities are treated and viewed. Who better to bring her story to light in a new biography than Eileen McNamara, another trailblazing Irish American. By Tom Deignan


ileen McNamara – the longtime Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe columnist who now directs the journalism program at Brandeis University – grew up in Kennedy country. “I grew up in North Cambridge, in what was then Tip O’Neill’s congressional district, the seat previously held by John F. Kennedy,” McNamara recently told Irish America via email. “It was a largely Irish, working class neighborhood.” For the past several years, McNamara has been living with a different member of Irish America’s royal family. The result is a new, highly acclaimed biography about (as the subtitle puts it) “the Kennedy who changed the world.” It is a provocative title because – for all the fame and accomplishments of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s nine children – McNamara is implying that only one actually changed the world. It was not the dashing Jack, or martyred Bobby. It was the middle child – Eunice Kennedy Shriver. It was Eunice, McNamara writes “who left behind the Kennedy family’s most profound and lasting legacy.” Eunice “advanced one of the great civil rights movements, on behalf of millions of people across the world with intellectual disabilities.”


Such a bold claim is at odds with what McNamara knew of her subject when she considered taking on this project, at the request of Priscilla Painton, vice president and executive editor at publisher Simon & Schuster. “I knew little about [Eunice Kennedy] beyond her association with Special Olympics, but I suspected Priscilla’s instinct was correct, that this was an accomplished political actor who had been overlooked because of her gender.” Indeed, central to McNamara’s book is the degree to which the Kennedy family – especially patriarch Joseph Sr. – lavished praise and expectations on the boys, leaving the girls to more or less fend for themselves. As McNamara writes, Eunice Kennedy’s “struggles to be seen – on the public stage and in her own family – mirrors the experience of so many ambitious women in mid-twentieth century America who had to maneuver around the rigid gender roles that defined the era.” Not that, as McNamara noted to Irish America, Eunice was afraid to point this out. “Her father mistakenly assumed his Stanfordeducated daughter was killing time until marriage. ‘You are advising everyone else in that house on their careers, so why not me?’ she once asked him. She knew the answer. For Joe Kennedy, power was the province of men, not women. What Joe would not give, Eunice took.” And so, Eunice Kennedy turned a family charitable foundation named after her late brother Joe Jr.


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FAR LEFT: Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics and a key founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, is pictured here with Irish Special Olympics participants. LEFT: Eileen McNamara.


into what McNamara called “an engine of social change on behalf of those with intellectual disabilities and – in doing so – she carved a role in national politics at least as consequential as that of her more famous brothers.” In this day and age, it might seem hard to believe that there is actually a Kennedy about whom not much is known. Yet McNamara’s is the first fulllength look at Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s very full, very complicated life. “There are hundreds of books about Joe, Jack, Bobby, and Ted,” McNamara noted. “There are dozens about Rose, the Kennedy matriarch, and Jackie, the glamorous first lady. Laurence Leamer did a book called The Kennedy Women, which

included Eunice. But there were vast swaths of her life story that had never been uncovered and so had never been told.” McNamara spent time in archives in Boston, London, Chicago, and Palo Alto, California. The first thing that surprised her about her subject was how “often [Eunice] got there first.” McNamara said: “Eunice worked for the State Department two years before Jack arrived on Capitol Hill in 1947. She administered a task force on juvenile delinquency in the Justice Department fourteen years before Bobby tackled the issue as attorney general. She worked with women in a federal prison more than 25 years before Ted took on prison reform in the Senate.”

BOTTOM: October 24, 1963 – The signing of H.R. 7544, the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendments of 1963. President Kennedy hands the signing pen to Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the Cabinet Room of the White House.

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Eunice “advanced one of the great civil rights movements, on behalf of millions of people across the world with intellectual disabilities.”

Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara is published by Simon & Schuster (April 2018 / 416 pp. / $28).

Of course, for all of their notoriety – indeed, because of it – the Kennedy family is famously guarded. “It took a long time to convince the five Shriver siblings to cooperate with this biography,” McNamara said. “Their reluctance was understandable. The Kennedys have not always been dealt with honorably by historians and journalists, but once they accepted that I was not interested in writing either a hagiography or a hit job, they gave me access to their mother’s personal papers, dozens of boxes of uncatalogued material that they had never even read themselves. It was a profound act of trust.” The children, McNamara added, “asked only that I share with them any alarming information I found in those boxes. There was none, and they made no effort to meddle with my research or my conclusions or to censor the manuscript.” McNamara also added that Bobby Kennedy’s widow, Ethel, was “very generous with her time and her memories of her sister-in-law.” McNamara’s own Irish roots are as strong as her subject’s. All four of her grandparents were born in Ireland and came to Boston. Her maternal roots are in Ennistymon, County Clare, while her father’s family hails from Malin Head, County Donegal. “My own father worked for the post office,” McNamara added. “I was first in my family to go to college, to Barnard College on a full scholarship facilitated by my Irish American English lay teacher at North Cambridge Catholic High School. She had won a scholarship to Barnard 10 years earlier through her father’s longshoremen’s union in Brooklyn and convinced Barnard that I showed some promise. My mother listened to the Irish Hour on the radio every Saturday afternoon and I took Irish step dancing lessons for years, never once winning a medal at an Irish feis, to my mother’s chagrin.” McNamara went on to the Columbia School of Journalism, before becoming a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. She would eventually end up spending 30 years at the Boston Globe, starting out as a secretary in the newsroom and rising through the ranks to become one of the Globe’s top columnists. McNamara won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1997, and was a key contributor to the Globe’s dogged coverage of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal in Boston. McNamara was even a character (portrayed by actress Maureen Keiller) in the Academy Award winning film Spotlight, about the Globe’s coverage. During her research, McNamara came to see that the Kennedys have “a complicated relationship with


their Irishness.” She added: “Joe Kennedy balked at being called an Irishman. In his eyes, he was as American as any of the Boston WASPs who rejected him for country club memberships and a place on the board of overseers at Harvard. But Rose played Irish tunes on the piano in Hyannis Port while her father, John ‘Honey Fitz’ Fitzgerald – the colorful former mayor of Boston – sang. The children absorbed the story of Irish struggle, of fighting to claim a place in a hostile world. Joe’s children were the beneficiaries of his determination to claim the American dream for them.” Eunice herself, McNamara said, “came back from her time in London – while Joe was U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James – with a British accent.” And yet, she was also able to share in a very special Irish moment with her brother. “She accompanied President Kennedy on his trip to the family’s County Wexford ancestral home in Ireland in 1963, declaring it one of the highlights of her brother’s presidency.” Perhaps the strongest part of McNamara’s book is her even-handed analysis of Roman Catholicism’s influence on Eunice Kennedy. “Catholicism was central to Eunice’s identity,” said McNamara. “But hers was not the reflexive Catholicism of rules and rituals and rosaries. She thought deeply about ethics, adhering to the ‘consistent ethic of life’ tradition of the Catholic church, what Cardinal Joseph Bernadin described in 1984 as the ‘seamless garment doctrine.’” This doctrine argues that human life, “no matter how developed or how compromised, is sacred and deserving of protection,” noted McNamara. “Believing that life begins at conception, she opposed abortion just as she opposed capital punishment and euthanasia. In the 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, as states began to repeal the 19th century statutes that had criminalized abortion, she had lots of company among liberals, many of whom saw abortion as a weapon being wielded against the poor.” McNamara added: “The politics of abortion changed after Roe, but Eunice remained consistent in her opposition. She would have been enraged by the decision of organizers of the Women’s March in 2017 to exclude opponents of abortion, believing it was not incompatible to fight for the equality of women and to oppose abortion.” Having completed this ambitious biography, McNamara – who has three children with her sportswriter husband Peter May – is not sure what her next big project will be. “I am not very good at predicting the future. Most of my life has been a surprise,” she said. “I am focused at the moment on grading a stack of essays from my media and public policy class.” And even though she is no longer grinding out regular newspaper work, she also can’t completely shake the habit, contributing columns to the opinion page of WBUR, Boston’s NPR radio station. “Once you’ve been given license to share your opinion,” McNamara said, “it’s a hard habit to turn IA off.”

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crossword | ACROSS

1 (& 25 down) Sea stack off the north Mayo coast at Downpatrick Head; its name means “broken fort” (3) 3 (& 24 across) G.A.A. club in San Antonio, Texas (3) 4 The Young Offenders hail from this neck of the woods (4) 5 (& 16 across) He was director of the F.B.I. until his dismissal in May last year (5) 7 Not off (2) 10 (& 40 across) The British Brexit secretary (5) 11 This musical group will finally retire this year after their 25th anniversary reunion tour (7) 13 Mountain range in Sligo (2) 14 (& 27 down, & 29 across, & 33 down) This nun founded the Foxford Woollen Mills in 1892 (6) 16 See 5 across (5) 22 Gatherings of hay (5) 24 See 3 across (8) 26 (& 6 down) Only Irish hotel on the Condé Nast 2018 Hot List (5) 28 Spoken (4) 29 See 14 across (7) 30 Noah’s mode of transport (3) 31 The constitutional amendment which

33 38 40 41 43 44 45

by Darina Molloy

is the subject of a referendum in Ireland in May of this year (6) Well known windmill in Co. Kerry (12) Not urban (5) See 10 across (5) This Glen is in Co. Tipperary (7) Shallow recesses or comfortable positions in life or employment (6) See 3 down (4) (& 36 down) Semi-aquatic way of seeing Dublin city (6)


2 Affirmative motion with head (3) 3 (& 44 across) New novel from psychological thriller author Liz Nugent (4) 4 Black bird in four letters (4) 6 See 26 across (5) 8 (& 20 down) A foreign policy strategist in the Clinton administration now running for Congress (5) 9 Connaught county where 14 across was based (4) 12 This streaming service and chill (7) 15 (& 23 down) This English crooner sold out nine huge concerts in Ireland

in May (2) 17 North America’s largest celebration of Celtic music and culture takes place here in August (9) 18 Supposedly the bird with the worst singing voice ever! (9) 19 Woods close to Limerick city and Shannon (7) 20 See 8 down (9) 21 Yellow flower with trumpet head (8) 22 (& 37 down) Cork coastal walk (5) 23 See 15 down (7) 25 See 1 across (6) 27 See 14 across (5) 32 Many of Dublin’s

iconic buildings – including Leinster House and Dublin Castle – are from this architectural period (8) 33 See 14 across (7) 34 (& 39 down)

35 36 37 39 42

Birthplace of Saoirse Ronan (3) The newest Royal baby (5) See 45 across (6) See 22 down (3) See 34 down (4) Night before (3)

April / May Solution

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, 2018. 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 accepted. Winner of the April / May crossword: Kelly Long, Tucson, AZ


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The Food of Love I

live with a disc jockey. No, not like one you’d find in a dance club, not at all. My jock lives in my head. His repertoire is wide and deep, it ranges through all music genres, and I never know what tune he’s going to spin next. Some days his pick is my first waking thought. Other times it’s inspired by one word that relates to something I’m doing, like “June Is Busting Out All Over,” the rollicking ode to the joys of early summer from Rogers & Hammerstein’s Broadway classic Carousel that started playing when I began writing By Edythe Preet this piece. I can make requests, but often he pre-empts me with his own choice, sometimes on a loop so it plays over and over again, until it makes me crazy. This is not a new phenomena. My disc jockey has been serenading me all my life. I suspect that my parents’ love of music started it all. Both Mom and Dad sang, not professionally, nor for any recognition of any sort from anyone. They simply had “song” in their hearts. Mom’s melodies were mostly popular hits from the ’30s and ’40s, with now and then a nod to Gilbert & Sullivan. Dad, on the other hand, was a true Irish bard. While his catalogue ranged from Latin hymns chanted during a Catholic Mass and folk songs he’d learned from his Irish mother to ditties he’d picked up during his WWII Air Force service in Australia, Dad often told me that he especially loved music that told a story. In old Ireland, the exploits of both mythical heroes and actual kings were all preserved for future generations through oral history. This was the realm of two highly respected personages: the seanchaís and the bards. In the days of the High Kings, every clan had its resident seanchaí whose job it was to recount PHOTO: FRANCIS TYERS / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS the group’s history, recite the BreABOVE: Molly Malone hon Laws, and entertain gatherings with spellbinding statue on Dublin’s performances of the old myths and legends. While Grafton Street. The most seanchaís were part of a chieftain’s inner circle, statue has since been some traveled from village to village trading their relocated to nearby Suffolk Street. services for food and shelter. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, William Butler Yeats, Lady RIGHT: George Francis Gregory, and Padraic Colum, among other literary Burns, the author’s notables, spearheaded the Celtic Revival that reawakfather.

With Father’s Day in mind, our columnist writes about her own dad, “a true Irish bard.”


ened interest in the seanchaís’ oral history tradition. Thanks to their dedication and perseverance, many of the old tales were written down, published and distributed globally so that Irish emigrants who had fled their homeland during the Great Hunger would not lose touch with their heritage. These days, numerous Irish storytelling festivals celebrate the seanchaís’ time-honored craft, with the most famous being the Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival ( Situated eight miles off the coast of west Cork, Cape Clear is Ireland’s southernmost inhabited island and its unique scenery is a stunning backdrop for one of the most renowned storytelling festivals in the world. Since 1994, would-be seanchaís have attended the festival’s storytelling workshops and guest international storytellers have enchanted audiences with their tales and diverse oratory styles. The 2018 event is scheduled for August 31 to September 2, so there’s still time to make arrangements to attend! In pre-Christian Ireland, even before seanchaís came on the scene, Ireland’s past was kept alive by the bards. Those who aspired to that exalted profession attended colleges in Clogher, Armagh, Lismore, and Tamar where the highest level of achievement was to become an ollamh, who toiled for 12 years, memorizing more than 300 heroic sagas and poems, 250 primary legends, and 100 secondary stories, learning how to compose heraldic poetry, and mastering the art of playing the harp. When his studies were complete, the bard was awarded a symbolic cloak of crimson feathers and went out into the world singing the histories in his own way, adding to and shaping old tales in his own style, creating new mesmerizing poems and stories as the spirit moved him, and always accompanying his performances with the music of his harp. Imagine what it must have been like to witness a masterful bard play the harp and sing in a great hall illuminated only by flickering candlelight or under the night sky on the edge of a battlefield beside a glowing campfire. The sound of his voice and music must have been hypnotic. It is told that by the power of his song, a bard could encourage warriors to win battles or cause crops to wither and die. Some, who fell into trances when singing, are said to have predicted future events. A bard’s praise was coveted and wooed with lavish largesse. Only a foolhardy chieftain would ever insult or ridicule a bard, as the transgressor’s payback would be the poet’s scathing satire that would spread through the region as fast as wagging tongues could carry it. So respected were these encyclopedic minstrels of Irish history, laws, myths, heroic sagas, and poetry that they were exempt from prosecution of all crimes except treason and murder. Only the High Kings were more revered. The genius harpist Turlough O’Carolan (16701763) is considered by many to have been Ireland’s last bard and by some to have been Erin’s greatest composer. Blinded by smallpox at the age of 18, he devoted himself to creating music on his beloved

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harp. During life, O’Carolan journeyed all over Ireland, and by the time he died, he had composed more than 200 melodies, many of which are still played by Ireland’s modern musicians. When I was a child, my family owned a television and several radios, but we didn’t have a stereo system. Then one Christmas morning I discovered Santa had left a little RCA 45 rpm record player under the tree for me! Another package tagged “Love from Mom & Dad” contained a petite sixrecord set of classical music: Rimsky Korsakov’s magnificent Scheherazade symphonic suite. In retrospect I’ll bet it was Mom who made sure my first recorded music was a classical masterpiece, and Dad who chose one that told a story. There were no words, but like O’Carolan’s mystical melodies that could evoke visions of fairies and fabled heroes, the music carried me away to Scheherazade’s tales of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights imagining Sinbad sailing tempestuous seas and Aladdin soaring through the sky on his magic carpet. Proving to me for all time that music is best when it marries story, IA just like Dad always said. Sláinte!


Shakespeare called music “the food of love,” I know it’s true because every time I hear one of Dad’s favorite tunes, I remember how happy we both were when he shared each one with me. I hope you will enjoy this little “concert” featuring just a few of the many songs I grew up with.


sláinte | good cheer

One tune Dad sang often, especially when we went crabbing at the crack of dawn on the Jersey shore, was “Molly Malone” (here sung by The Dubliners: While cockles aren’t easily found, mussels are… and this is THE best way to prepare them!

Steamed Mussels (personal recipe)

5 pounds black mussels (preferably from Prince Edward Island, Canada) 1 large onion, chopped 4 stalks celery, chopped 2 garlic clove, minced 1 ⁄2 cup olive oil 1 tbsp minced parsley 1 tbsp minced fresh basil Fresh ground black pepper 1 ⁄2 cup white wine 2 cups canned tomatoes, chopped but not drained

Clean mussels under running water and tear off their “beards” (the black strings by which they attach themselves to their anchorages in the ocean). Discard any mussels that are broken, cracked, open, or don’t close when tapped. Set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and add the onions, celery, garlic, herbs, and a few grindings of black pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until the veggies are somewhat soft. Pour in the wine, raise the heat and boil until the wine is reduced by half. Stir in the chopped tomatoes with their juice, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the mussels, cover the pot again, and cook over high heat for 10-15 minutes until all the mussels have opened, stirring occasionally to make sure each one contacts the broth. Serve in big bowls accompanied by crusty bread for dunking. Serves 4-6.

CHILDREN’S MEDLEY The Clancy Brothers This group of children’s songs was recorded at a Clancy Brothers concert Dad and I attended more than 50 years ago. From that night on, we called him “Shally” (after the snail in song #2) because all the ladies loved him. BARNEY MC SHANE Irish Folk Song Dad sang this often and never failed to give me a wink when he reached the line ‘“it’s THE WILD COLONIAL BOY not the tea from China but the real old The Clancy Brothers mountain dew.” The Clancy Brothers were Dad’s favorite Irish watch?v=xHnWglV9gxw performers and he was delighted when they made their American debut WALTZING MATILDA singing his favorite ballad Unofficial Australian National Anthem of an Irish immigrant who Dad learned this tune when he was became Australia’s Robin stationed in Australia during WWII. It Hood. and the U.S. Air Force Anthem “Off We Go Into The Wild Blue Yonder” watch?v=j3QJPxiLOPo were the first songs I learned. O’CAROLAN MEDLEY The Chieftains Dad always said there was no sound sweeter than the Irish harp. watch?v=onppWZ-yZHw watch?v=CwvazMc5EfE

ABDUL ABULBUL AMIR sung by Brendan O’Dowda I always thought Dad made this song up until I researched this article and discovered it was penned in 1877 by

the Irish songwriter Percy French to commemorate the Russo-Turkish War. THE BLACK VELVET BAND sung by the legendary Luke Kelly While Dad loved singing this 19th century ballad, he also loved reciting its epic 20th century American derivative, The Blue Velvet Band. The Black Velvet Band: The Blue Velvet Band: THE RAGGLE TAGGLE GYPSIES Irish Folk Song With his coal black hair, twinkling blue eyes and ability to tell fortunes with a deck of cards, Dad might easily have had some Irish gypsy blood running through his veins.


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photo album | by Kate Connolly

Nanna’s July 4th! “Kate, be careful when you get to America, the streets are full of gangsters!”

FROM TOP: Kate Connolly with her first husband, Daniel Battle. Kate (left) with her daughter, Catherine, (center) and her grandchildren, Michael, Lori, and Kathleen.

That is what my grandmother, we called her Nanna, heard before she boarded the ship to America in the 1920s. It was advice from her brother, Jim Connolly, who bonded her and paid for her third class (steerage) passage. As the story goes, Kate Connolly arrived in New York in the early spring. She worked as a domestic and waitress and enjoyed all America had to offer, especially the many parties that the Connolly family threw. Kate liked to have fun and was a popular guest. At one party she met Lucy Bailey, a cousin, who was her own age, and the two hit it off. In early July, Lucy invited Kate to visit her on the Upper East Side and Kate agreed. When the day arrived, Kate set out to walk to Lucy’s apartment. As she strolled along Second Avenue she heard a loud blast, and quickly took cover in a nearby doorway. No one else seemed to be bothered by the blast, so Kate waited until her heart stopped pounding and set out again for Lucy’s place. Another blast. Kate dove for the next doorway and waited. She continued to do this, run from doorway to doorway, until she completed her journey to Lucy’s. “The gangsters are out today, they are shooting up the streets!” a frightened Kate told Lucy when she arrived. Breathless, she explained: “They told me in Ireland about the gangsters with their Tommy guns, but this is the first I’ve heard them shooting.” Lucy laughed. “What kind of greenhorn are you, Kate Connolly, running scared? Haven’t you ever heard of the Fourth of July?” She told Kate about the fireworks, and how America celebrated independence from England. That was Kate’ s first Independence Day in America, and never would she forget it. She would tell us that story every year when we gathered to celebrate the Fourth, and sometimes she would add

Kate and Catherine, the author’s mother, outside Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home in New York where Kate passed away in 1996. 64 IRISH AMERICA JUNE / JULY 2018

that one day, she hoped, Ireland would celebrate complete independence from England with fireworks, too! Kate enjoyed her life in America, but it was not without challenges. She married Daniel Battle and they had four children, my mother and her two sisters and one brother. It was not a happy marriage, and for a time the family went on Home Relief due to Daniel rarely working and drinking excessively. Back in the 1930s you moved to a cold-water flat for cheaper rent in the winter, and moved again in the summer. Even though they were poor, the sense of fun was what my mother remembered of growing up in the many apartments they had in Washington Heights and the Bronx. Growing up myself, I often heard Nanna say, “Hard work never killed anyone.” And work hard she did. After Daniel left, she reared four children on her own. She was a domestic, chambermaid, defense factory worker during World War II, line cook, and finally a cashier at the President Cafeteria on Lexington Avenue. It was at this job that she met her second husband Edward Hofmann. They stayed together for the rest of their lives and had a happy marriage. Kate loved to laugh and talk about her old home in Sligo. She was always the first on the dance floor at any wedding or St. Paddy’s Day dance at the Tower Ballroom in Queens. Sadly, her remembrances grew less and less over time because of Alzheimer’s. My mother, along with the nuns, and her sister Julia, took take great care of Kate at the Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home on York Avenue in Manhattan. I wrote a song for Nanna when she herself could no longer laugh, dance, or talk about her old home of Sligo. The chorus goes like this: Remember me happy, and remember me strong Remember me singing an old cowboy song And when it’s time for good-bye Remember Katie with the smiling eyes.

My Nanna, Kate Connolly, passed on February 14, 1996, Valentine’s Day. I think of her often and especially on July Fourth. My mother, Catherine, passed away in 2012, and she is a great loss. In later life, she wrote down many of the stories Nanna told her, and they both live on in the retelling.

– By Lori Cassels

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 We will pay $65 for each submission that we select.

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book notes

Sebastian Barry Is Ireland’s New Fiction Laureate

Trove of Irish Civil War Letters Donated to Boston College

ix years after finding a box in her attic with her great-great-grandfather’s photographs and letters from his time in the American Civil War – and one book later – author of Yours Faithfully, Florence Burke and former educator Ellen B. Alden donated these artifacts of the early days of the Irish American experience to Boston College’s John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collection at a ceremony co-sponsored by The Éire Society of Boston. Alden’s great-great-grandfather, Florence Burke, emigrated to Massachusetts in 1848 to escape the Famine and, in January 1864, he took the ultimate risk to ensure his family’s security by taking the place of a wealthy banker in the Union Army. Unfortunately, Burke died at the Battle of Petersburg in June 1864, but his memory will live on not only within the Alden family, but with Irish studies students and scholars around the world. – D.L.


Novelist Edna O’Brien to Become a Dame of the British Empire

t has been reported that renowned Irish novelist Edna O’Brien will be made an honorary Dame of the British Empire for her contributions to the field of literature. Because O’Brien is a native of County Clare, the title will be unofficial. O’Brien jumpstarted a career of over five decades with her acclaimed debut novel, 1962’s The Country Girls, establishing a worldwide readership appreciative of her fearless portrayals of controversial or horrific subjects, including fugitive I.R.A. soldiers and terrorist-orchestrated kidnappings. “It unites me in some etheric way to readers I don’t know,” she told the Irish Times when the news broke in April, calling the honor “an incentive, at 88, to keep going.” O’Brien was also chosen as this year’s recipient of the U.S. PEN / Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, presented to writers judged to demonstrate excellence over the course of their career. This year’s judges, authors Michael Ondaatje and Diana Abu-Jaber, praised her “powerful voice and the absolute perfection of her prose.” – M.G. PHOTO: ANDREW LIH / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS


| literary news

uthor Sebastian Barry, known for his representation of varying perspectives during Ireland’s revolutionary period in The Steward of Christendom and A Long Long Way, was announced as Ireland’s new Laureate for Irish Fiction by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins in February. He will hold a term of three years, through 2021, and succeeds writer Anne Enright (The Portable Virgin, The Gathering, The Green Road).


LEFT: Ellen B. Alden.

ABOVE: Sebastian Barry (far right) receives an honorary degree from NUI Galway with Irial Finan, Maureen Dowd, and Minister Jim Flaherty, 2012. BELOW: P. Kearney Byrne. BOTTOM: Edna O'Brien at the 2016 Hay Festival in Wales.

The role of the Laureate for Irish Fiction was cocreated by the Arts Council, University College Dublin, and New York University with a mission to recognize the contribution of fiction writers on Irish culture as well as to promote and inspire a new generation of Irish fiction writers. Speaking to the Irish Times, Barry said, “It’s a joyous moment, after 40 years of work.” – D.L. PHOTO: AENGUS MCMAHON

Sunday Times Longlists Irish Writers

he Sunday Times recently announced the winner of their EFG Short Story Award, a £30,000 prize: American Courtney Zoffness, who won for her story “Peanuts Aren’t Nuts” and beat out several Irish names, both big and small, for the award. Among the Irish longlisted was Leitrim psychotherapist P. Kearney Byrne – who counts this as her second nomination for the award despite being unpublished – for her story “Buck Mad,” which follows a gay relationship in two parts, one for each of the relationship’s participants. This isn’t the first-time Kearney has been up for an award for her writing as she has won the Francis MacManus, Bryan MacMahon, Wow, and John McGahern awards within a four-year period from 2012 to 2016. New York-based Irish writer Joseph O’Neill (The Dog, Netherland) was also up for the prize, as well as Irish American writer Molly McCloskey. – D.L.



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last word |

by Chris Matthews

A Touch of the Irish O

n March 17, 1964, Robert F. Kennedy traveled to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to address the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. His address that evening was rich in purpose but also in sentiment. It was his first speech since Dallas. He had chosen this Irish American audience in this most Irish of cities to share what lay so deep in his heart: his love for his lost brother Jack and his commitment to his legacy. He began with a tribute to the legacy he and his audience shared: the mid-19th century famine that had caused their ancestors to cross what John Boyle Reilly would call “the bowl of tears” and the prejudice that met their families here in this country. Bobby spoke of the NO IRISH NEED APPLY signs that were then all too common in the windows of Boston shops and the Yankee social prejudice that drove even the well-off Kennedys to forsake it for New York. “Our forefathers were subject to every discrimination found wherever discrimination is known,” he reminded the prominent men of Scranton before him in the black tie event. He asked that they join him in pushing for the landmark civil rights then before the Congress. He wanted them to show the same passion for ending segregation in the South as they still felt for the past injustice done to their own families. This concern for minorities had become Bobby’s mission in the early 1960s. It would be his vocation. There were the fights to open up the University of Mississippi, then that of Alabama. He’d ordered in federal troops to protect student James Meredith at Ole Miss, then pushed Governor George Wallace aside on the campus of Tuscumbia. By 1963, even before his brother was killed, R.F.K. was championing the concerns of Native Americans. After Dallas, he became a partner with Caesar Chavez in demanding rights for Mexican Americans, then for the desperately poor in the Mississippi Delta. All the time, Bobby continued to parallel the earlier obstacles facing the Irish in this country with these other communities. He felt it gave him credibility. More important, it gave him empathy for the PHOTO: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

The seeds of Robert F. Kennedy’s compassion lay in his understanding of the past struggles of his Irish ancestors.

Robert F. Kennedy speaking to civil rights demonstrators in front of the Department of Justice on June 14, 1963.


basic reason that he never lost his inherited memory of being rejected, of being overlooked. His respect for human dignity was something he put into practice on a daily basis. I remember hearing when I first came to work in Washington how Senator Robert Kennedy was the lone Democratic liberal who regularly greeted the Capitol Police officers on duty. The great New York columnist Jack Newfield noticed this aspect of Bobby Kennedy. What made R.F.K. unique, Newfield wrote “was that he felt the same empathy for white working men and women that he felt for blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans. He thought of cops, waitresses, construction workers, and firefighters as his people.” Bobby knew this set him apart. On the same night in Los Angeles he was shot, he took hope from what Newfield had noted about him. “I have an association with those who are less well off, where perhaps we can accomplish something,” he told a reporter interviewing him, “bringing the country back together. If the division continues, we’re going to have nothing but chaos and havoc here in the United States.” So what was it? What gave this man born to wealth this instinct for the overlooked, this empathy for people cast aside? I believe it was largely what he would often say it was: his Irishness. He carried with him that memory of a people repressed in their native land, a million of them starved to death, more than that forced to emigrate to America. I cannot forget the role of his religion. He thought it unjust that Dr. Martin Luther King was thrown into prison in the fall of 1960 for what was no more than a traffic violation. He believed it was unjust to deny California farm workers the basic rights of Americans. He saw it as “unacceptable,” a word he used often, when he came across a young boy in the Mississippi Delta forced to survive on a diet of molasses. Robert Lowell once noted how “unassimilated” Bobby Kennedy was, that he’d never quite given up the personality of the Irishman just off the boat, just arrived from the land of famine and British repression. I think Lowell got it right. Still hurting and morally tested by the death of his beloved Jack, he began his remarks in Scranton with an account of how a young Queen Victoria, hearing that 15,000 Irish men and women were dying each day due to the famine, “was so overwhelmed with pity that she offered the sum of five pounds for the Society of Irish Relief.” Yes, you can hear the attitude in his words, the sarcasm, but with it the quiet, contemptuous, irreverent call for justice. You can hear the Irish in Bobby, the Irish he never IA lost. Chris Matthews is host of MSNBC’s Hardball and author of Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit.

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Irish America June / July 2018  

June / July from Irish America, featuring Service Employees International Union leader Mary Kay Henry. Plus the Good Friday Agreement 20 yea...

Irish America June / July 2018  

June / July from Irish America, featuring Service Employees International Union leader Mary Kay Henry. Plus the Good Friday Agreement 20 yea...