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MAY / JUNE 2019

CANADA $4.95 / U.S. $3.95

The Old School Massachusetts Legislator Has a Powerful New Role as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman

Irish Power U S Politics n



Integrated Education in Northern Ireland: Thanks in part to The Ireland Funds, over 22,000 children from Catholic, Protestant, and other diverse backgrounds are able to learn together.


in grants to Integrated Education

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integrated Schools

22,000 children throughout Northern Ireland

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The Ireland Funds salutes Congressman Richard Neal, a great friend of Ireland. Thanks to you, The Ireland Funds has assisted over 3,200 outstanding Irish organizations and causes across the island of Ireland and around the globe. Integrated Education is just one example of our commitment to peace and a shared society in Northern Ireland as children from Catholic, Protestant, and other diverse backgrounds are now able to learn together. Let us help you connect with Ireland and realize your philanthropic goals. Visit

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contents |


All Hallows Way, on the corner of 164th and Walton Avenue in the Bronx, was dedicated in November 2012.

Vol. 34 No. 3 May / June 2019


28 Irish Power & U.S. Politics

U.S. Representative Richard Neal, a true friend of Ireland, talks about his life, his career, and the importance of his Irish heritage. By Niall O’Dowd

News From Ireland

Arrests in Lyra McKee case; Seamus Heaney turns 80; Game of Thrones sets to open to tourists. p. 10

34 Wild Irish Women

The extraordinary life of Dolours Price, who was shaped by her family’s fight for Irish freedom. By Rosemary Rogers

38 Wild Bill Donovan, the Super Spy

Bill Donovan served in two world wars and is credited with being the father of the CIA. By Geoffrey Cobb

Irish Eye on Hollywood


Jessie Buckley is on the rise, Melissa McCarthy is in Hell’s Kitchen, and Flannery O’Connor is coming to the silver screen. p. 14



40 Irish War Brides

Transcontinental Railroad turns 150; IA’s Hall of Fame Luncheon; IFI releases historical newsreels. p. 16

They married U.S. soldiers stationed overseas during WWII, knowing little of what life in America would bring. By Ellie Shukert

42 Farrell’s Bar: The Last Irish Saloon

Those We Lost

Wakes, weddings, and school fundraisers, Farrell’s neighborhood bar has seen it all. By Pat Fenton

A reflection on what it was like to grow up in the melting pot that was the 1950s Bronx. By Peter Quinn

52 All Hallows: Then & Now

All Hallows High School is one of the highest performing Catholic schools in U.S. – with the help of its Irish alumni. By Tom Deignan

56 Window on the Past

A look back at John O’Sullivan, the reporter who coined the phrase “manifest destiny.” By Ray Cavanaugh

58 50 Years of Irish Dance

Patsy McLoughlin teaches her students that Irish dance isn’t all about jigs and reels – it’s about community. By Kristin McGowan



Edythe Preet tells the story of lace in all its historical, skillful, and fashionable glory. p. 64


Photo Album

Robin Dobson has no interest in, but wishes she had more photos of her grandparents. p. 66

38 34


46 Confessions of a Bronx Irish Catholic

Tim Conway; Lyra McKee; Sally O’Neill Sanchez; Bill O’Donnell; Martin Nelis; Laura Brennan. p. 24

Irish America magazine (ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ, 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, New York, NY, 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344. Email: Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders:1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries:1-800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 217. 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.

6 8 26 60 62

First Word Letters Quote Unquote Book Reviews Crossword

Cover Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP Photo


Home to the hum of festivals. To the thrilling notes of traditional music. To the chatter of family and feasts shared with friends. And to the legendary buzz of the Irish pub. Listen carefully because Ireland is calling, from the fast-paced beat of the Titanic city to cozy corners where laughter rises to the roof. There, against a backdrop of Ireland’s one hundred thousand welcomes, memories are prompted, acquaintances rekindled and promises made to stay connected. They say you should always listen to you heart, and it’s telling you to come home. Find your way home at

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Vol. 34 No. 3 May / June 2019

IRISH AMERICA Mórtas Cine Pride In Our Heritage

Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Art Director: Marian Fairweather Assistant Editor / Sales and Events Coordinator Mary Gallagher Assistant Editor / Social Media Coordinator Maggie Holland Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Accounts: Mairead Bresnan

IRISH AMERICA 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 1606 New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344

Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 EMAIL: Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 Email: Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-582-6642. Subscription queries: 1-800-582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 217. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, N.J. 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.

the first word | by Patricia Harty

A True Friend of Ireland


y first home in America was in the Bronx, a basement apartment on Briggs Avenue off Fordham Road. It was a happy time. We were a revelry of young Irish immigrants caught up in the glorious freedom of having shed parents and small towns and farms for apartments and subway trains that we took down into the city to work as waitresses and bartenders. At the end of the day we’d meet up in the Bunratty or Durty Nelly’s on Kingsbridge Road, young women waiting for our men to finish their 4-12 shift in the Water Tunnel Construction Project. They mostly ignored us when they showed up, talking over our heads to each other about manly things like “the headings” being flooded. We didn’t mind. They were our heroes doing dangerous work hundreds of feet underground, so we cut them some slack. On Sundays we’d go to Gaelic Park on 240th Street, a scrappy piece of ground under the stewardship of John O’Donnell, always known as John “Kerry,” for the place of his birth. We’d sit in the stands watching our boys play hurling and football, and moan about the Irish-American girls (the Narrowbacks), who came over from Queens to compete with us for their attention. In the bar after the games, we’d dance to live music that would now be classed as Country & Western; to us it was just the music we had grown up with. Those glory days would be over too soon. The city went broke in 1975, the water tunnel project was put on hold, and almost overnight our men left en masse to work on the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. I moved downtown, and then to San Francisco, and back to New York to start the magazine in the mid-1980s. I would never live in the Bronx again, but it left its imprint on my heart. And two stories in this issue, Peter Quinn’s beautiful recollection of the Bronx of his childhood, and Tom Deignan’s piece on All Hallows High School, filled me with nostalgia for that time and place. While I was enjoying the liberating freedom of being young in New York, dark clouds were gathering in Northern Ireland. Just months before I left for America, in 1972, the British Army shot 28 unarmed civilians, killing 13, during a protest march against internment without trial. (Read Rosemary Rogers’ piece on Dolours Price in this issue, it will break your heart). Sometimes you have to leave a country to really see it for what it is. The discrimination that was happening to Catholics in the North was largely ignored in the part of Ireland I grew up in. Here it was a different story. Irish Americans were more concerned than the Irish back home, and more ready to do something about it, which brings me to our cover story. Richie Neal, the U.S. congressman from Springfield, Massachusetts, was just a young councilman when he first became involved with Northern Ireland. It was 1981, during the Hunger Strikes. “They were just letting them die,” he tells Niall O’Dowd in this interview, and he had to try and do something to bring American weight to bear on the British governmnt. He went on to lobby for the MacBride Principles, the set of fair employment practices that became a corporate code of conduct for U.S. companies doing business in Northern Ireland, and he helped pass them into law. And, as the cochairman of the Congressional Friends of Ireland caucus, he played a central role in passing the Good Friday Agreement. Now, at a time when tensions are rising in North over the possibility of a hard border being reinstated, we turn once again to Richie Neal for help. As the newly appointed chairman of the powerful Ways and Means committee, he will play a key role in overseeing any future trade agreement between Britain and the United States after Britain leaves the European Union. And as he has already shown with his recent trip to Northern Ireland with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he’ll be there for us, as he always has been. There is no truer friend of Ireland. Mórtas Cine.


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caint | readers forum

Galway Girl (March / April 2019)

Commissioner James P. O’Neill

Love it! Had the pleasure of working in the 25th Precinct when he was the commanding officer. Great boss!

– Caroline Kennedy, Mahopac, N.Y. (posted online)

Best police force in the world!

– David McKeon, Auburn, N.Y. (posted online)

O’Neill is not just a New Yorker’s New Yorker, he’s an Irishman’s Irishman.

– John H. Schwall, New York, N.Y. (posted online)

Interesting read, thank you.

Thank you for the great article about Galway by Gerry O’Shea. I am a Galway girl myself and what I love about Galway is that even though it is classified as a city, it still feels like a town. Great to read so many positives.

– Paula Mitchell, Galway, Ireland (posted online)

The Irish Nightingale of the Civil War

(November / December 2018)

I was privileged to work for the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati from 1993-2001. Their history is fascinating and they had (and still do) women who are outstanding across the board.

– Judy Neal (posted online)

– Henry Doohan, Donegal, Ireland (posted online)

Delightful piece by Gerry O’Shea. Extremely thoughtful and well researched. I intend to be in Galway in June, and will take counsel from your informative writings.

– Glenn O’Barbi (posted online)

Long-Lost James Connolly Play May be Found (March / April 2019)

Recently you had an article about a newly discovered James Connolly play. He is my great-great-grandfather, and reading this article made me think of a series of people from Irish history I have painted, including this one of James Connolly.

– Danny Coyne, Warwickshire, England (posted online)

The Choctaw Tribe and the Irish Famine

(September / October 1995. Posted to Facebook 3/23)

As the son of an Irish immigrant, my family was in Ireland at the time of the famine and I am forever grateful and forever on the side of all indigenous people, not just the Choctaw, against all that attack them – government and corporation. – Bob Timlin (posted online)

What a beautiful story. I have to admit this is the first time I ever heard this. What an amazing act of kindness from – Monica Gilligan (posted online) people who had so little.

Congratulations from one Jimmy O’Neill to another!

– Jimmy O’Neill, Santa Maria, C.A. (posted online)

Perhaps starving on the Trail of Tears they knew the pain – Bonnie Carruth (posted online) and suffering.

Thanks to all who serve. It’s really a thankless job. Thank you officer, for all you do.

Praise for Irish America

– Bridget Jacobus (posted online)

Great magazine for someone with Irish ancestry or an interest in Ireland.

– Michael Bragg, Glen Jean, W.V. (posted online)

Sláinte! Rainy Day Comforts (March / April 2019) My favorite and a most common occurrence: “mizzlin,” a Seamus Heaney word for a combination of mist and drizzle.

– Ann Marie Brett, Greenwich, C.T. (posted online)


I like “soft” rain. Our tour guide used that a lot. Just sounds nice.

– Kathleen Reilly Acker (posted online)

“It’s raining cats and dogs” or “it’s bucketing down out there” lol.

– Rita Abbott, Greystones, Ireland (posted online)

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Your Voice is Needed in Brexit Deliberations

n your “Trailblazers Past & Present” column in the March / April issue, you cite examples of Irish Americans who played a decisive role in the Good Friday Agreement and on immigration issues. You rightly state that “your voice is needed” to remind today’s generation that “America has a vital role to play.” Senator George Mitchell, whose father was born to Irish immigrants, exemplifies the type of man whose voice and skills are sorely needed today. (“George Mitchell, A Keystone of the Good Friday Agreement,” IA April / May 1999) As Brexit flounders and morphs into Flexit with changing goals and demands, Senator Mitchell must wonder what is next in store for Northern Ireland. As peace negotiator of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast 21 years ago, Mitchell made it possible for people of the six counties of Ulster to live untroubled and for all of Ireland to be united in its economy without any border. It’s those pesky six counties in the North of Ireland that continue to be the primary problem for the United Kingdom as it crashes out of the European Union. The Brexit dilemma remains: how can England withdraw from the European Union and retain a frictionless open border between the Republic of Ireland and the part of the U.K. called Northern Ireland? The answer is: it cannot do so without addressing the ancient problem of why does an English border exist inside Ireland in the 21st century? The irony of this dilemma is that these Brexit deliberations are stretching toward the month of May, which marks the 850th anniversary of the first landing of Anglo-Norman forces in County Wexford, Ireland. The arrival of Strongbow, agent of the king of England on May 2, 1169, was arguably the single most formative event in Irish history. Henry II became the first reigning English monarch to set foot on Irish soil, by which act he formally brought the island of Ireland under the English crown, a constitutional relationship that endures to the present day in Northern Ireland, with six counties of Ulster attached to the U.K. Trinity College Dublin is hosting an Invasion 1169 conference in May to review this foundational moment in the shared history of Ireland and Britain. Jimmy Cagney captured this formative chapter of modern Irish history in his poem written while in Dublin to film Shake Hands with the Devil in 1959: The men of Tyrone and all the six counties (Intransigent seems to describe them).

Supply all the bounties from all those counties. So England continues to bribe them. Elizabeth I, the queen called virgin, Set up the haves and have-nots By usurping the lands of the old Irish clans And gave them to Anglos and Scots. Essex and Raleigh and Cromwell, All Englishmen of distinction, Had an overall plan for the old Irish clans And the overall plan was extinction. The British Empire, upon which the sun never set, has been stripped of its dominions, colonies, protectorates, and mandates in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. As England severs its relationship with 27 countries of the E.U., it clings to the adjoining land mass of two small conquered nations – Scotland and Wales – and maintains a fragile grip on the six counties in Northern Ireland. On the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement, Sen. Mitchell pointed out “that a new generation which never knew the Troubles…were coming to adulthood and had no memory of how bad things had been at the height of the conflict.” Leaders of every political persuasion fear that Brexit may reignite those savage days of memory where the scar of the border in Ireland has yet to fully heal. Angela Merkel (Germany) and Emmanuel Macron (France) have joined in solidarity with Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar and vowed that they will do everything possible to protect the Good Friday agreement and avoid the emergence of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The United States through its Marshall Plan rebuilt a modern and united Europe, one of the greatest foreign policy triumphs in U.S. history. This laid the groundwork for formation of the European Union. The United States has played no part in the Brexit deliberations. Neither an ambassador to Ireland nor special envoy to Northern Ireland has been appointed since President Trump took office. Although Seamus Heaney reminds us that “No poem or play or song can fully right a wrong inflicted or endured” (“Cure at Troy”), it would come as no surprise “to think it could be Brexit that finally gets the British out of Ireland” as Patrick Radden Keefe wrote recently in the New York Times. Only then will Brexit’s Irish dilemma be resolved – and “The longed-for tidal waves of justice rise up, and hope and history rhyme.”

Pat Fenton

is a court officer who grew up in Windsor Terrace and wrote a play set in Farrell’s Bar in Brooklyn called Stoopdreamer.

Geoffrey Cobb

is a teacher of social studies and ESL at the High School for Service and Learning in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Tom Deignan

has written for The New York Times, Washington Post, and Star Ledger, and authored the book Coming to America: Irish Americans.

Ray Cavanaugh

is a freelance scribe from Massachusetts. His mother comes from Kerry, and his father is a few generations removed from Wexford.

Kristin McGowan is a former intern for Irish America and current freelance writer living in Glen Rock, N.J., with her family.

Peter Quinn

authored the awardwinning book Banished Children of Eve as well as a series of historical detective novels.

Rosemary Rogers

is an author of eight books and a former music producer. She is currently working on a TV project about saints.

– Robert F. Lyons, Kennebunkport, Maine

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, visit us online at, or write to us:

Ellie Shukert

Email (, comment on our Facebook page (, tweet at us (@irishamerica), send a fax (212-244-3344), or write to Letters, Irish America Magazine, 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 1606, New York, NY, 10001. Letters should include the writer’s name, address, and phone number and they may be edited for clarity and length.

co-authored War Brides of World War II (1991) with Barbara Scibetta. They are both daughters of war brides.


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Police investigating the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry have arrested four people under terrorism legislation.


he four males – aged 15, 18, 38, and 51 – were arrested in the city on Wednesday morning, May 8, in connection with the killing. The suspects have been taken to the Serious Crime Suite at Musgrave PSNI Station in Belfast, where they are being questioned by detectives. Ms. McKee, 29, was shot dead while observing riots in Derry’s Creggan estate area on Thursday, April 18. The New IRA, a dissident paramilitary group opposed to Northern Ireland’s peace process, says its members killed her by accident when firing at police. The senior officer leading the investigation, Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, said: “As part of this morning’s operation detectives carried out searches at four houses in the city and arrested four people in connection with the violence which was orchestrated on the streets of Creggan on the evening of Lyra McKee’s murder. “They are currently in custody where they are being questioned. “I want to thank the public for the widespread support we have received to date, including more than 140 people who have provided images, footage and other details via our dedicated Major Incident Public Portal.” McKee’s death united people and politicians in shock and grief. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, British Prime Minister TOP: N.I. policeman Theresa May, and political leaders from all the in riot gear. Northern parties were in attendance in St. INSET: Lyra McKee, who was killed while Anne’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Belfast observing a riot in for her funeral service on April 24. Derry.



he repair and conservation of the Malahide Casino building is nearing its completion. A historic 18th-century cottage orné, the building had been vacant for a number of years and had fallen into disrepair. Construction began on the restoration and redevelopment in April 2018, and the beautifully restored thatched roof is now visible to the public. In addition to the roof, internal repairs, and upgrading of services, the conservation of the Cyril Fry Model Railway is underway, and is being installed in its new permanent home in the casino building. The Railway is a working miniature railroad display, initially constructed in the 1920s-1930s and developed and modernized to become the largest model railway collection in Europe. The casino has been a Malahide landmark for over 200 years. The restoration project was funded by Michael Gaffney, a local farmer who was active in the community. Gaffney died in 2013 at age 90, leaving more than €17 million in his will. The casino is one of many projects he funded. “I am delighted to see the refurbishment of this much-loved building,” said mayor of Fingal Anthony Lavin. “Over the years, the people of Malahide have watched anxiously as it fell into disrepair and it is thanks to Michael Gaffney for his generous donation and Fingal County Council that we were able to conserve this unique and magnificent landmark.” – M.H.

– Aidan Lonergan / The Irish Post / May 9, 2019


historic Irish Second World War coastal landmark has been painstakingly restored by volunteers in Dublin. For six months, a team of up to 35 volunteers met on Hawk Cliff in Dalkey, Dublin, and worked tirelessly to restore a picturesque sign displaying the word “Eire” in giant white letters. One of 80 signs built along the Irish coastline during the conflict, the signs were designed to warn Allied and German pilots alike that they were flying over neutral territory. 10 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

The sign was uncovered by members of the Dalkey Tidy Towns Committee. With the help of a committed group of volunteers they were able to clear up the site, lifting and cleaning up to 100 tons of stone before laying weed killer on the site. The stones were then returned to the site, restoring an incredible part of Irish history in the process. Now fully restored and set alongside the number seven, the sign is one of five still visible from the air. A similar sign in Bray was restored by another group of volunteers. – Jack Beresford / The Irish Post / May 9, 2019

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u.K. and ireland aGree Common travel area

he governments of Britain and Ireland have agreed on a deal to preserve the Common travel area (Cta) shared by the two countries after Brexit. the memorandum of understanding guarantees the continuation of reciprocal rights enjoyed by British and Irish citizens under the CTA, which dates back to 1922. Those rights include the free movement of people between Britain and Ireland, but also access to social security, healthcare, and education. Irish citizens also have the right to vote in U.K. general elections and hold office there, while these privileges are reciprocated for the estimated 30,000 Brits living in Ireland. The provisions of the CTA do not, however, relate to goods or customs issues – a sticking point of the ongoing Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and European Union. The agreement comes after more than two years of negotiations between London and Dublin to ensure that even if Britain leaves the E.U. without a Brexit deal, citizens will continue to enjoy their current reciprocal rights and privileges. The two governments have agreed to maintain existing arrangements on social insurance, child benefits and pensions and they are working on new arrangements to ensure that British and Irish citizens will continue to have equal access to public health and education services in both countries. – Aidan Lonergan / The Irish Post / May 8, 2019


SeamuS Heaney’S 80tH BirtHday CeleBration

orld-renowned artists gathered in Bellaghy, northern ireland, on Saturday, April 13, for “in new light: an occasion to mark What Would Have Been Seamus Heaney’s 80th Birthday.” It was held at the Seamus Heaney Home Place, a literary center celebrating the life and literature of the Nobel Laureate, who passed away in 2013. One of the artists in attendance was acclaimed arab-american composer mohammed Fairouz, who presented the U.K. and Ireland premiere of “Anything Can Happen,” a classical choral piece he composed centered around three of Seamus Heaney’s poems. It was performed by the internationally acclaimed Codetta Choir, featuring Milena Simovik on viola. Glenn Patterson, director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queens University, introduced the evening. Producer, arranger, and musician neil martin opened the celebration with a musical performance, followed by Northern Ireland actors Bríd Brennan and adrian dunbar conducting intimate readings of Seamus Heaney’s most beloved poems. The audience reaction was very positive. “I came home from the Home Place last night feeling that we had witnessed the performance of a lifetime,” said Jim Holland. “Saturday's concert was superb. It was a very fitting celebration of Seamus Heaney's birthday. You could tell from the buzz afterwards that everyone felt the same,” said Maura Johnston. In other Heaney news, the BBC announced in early April that a feature-length film exploring the life and legacy of the poet is in the works. A release date is still to be announced. – M.H. LEFT: Bríd Brennan, Adrian Dunbar, and Neil Martin at “In New Light; An Occasion To Mark What Would Have Been Seamus Heaney’s 80th Birthday.”

Great iriSH SonG StamPS


2 and The Cranberries are among notable Irish musicians featured on a new set of stamps celebrating great Irish songs. the Cranberries’ global smash hit “Dreams” is included along with u2’s “With or Without You,” “Danny Boy” by John McCormack, and “On Raglan Road” by Luke Kelly. Each of the songs have been chosen by An Post (the Irish postal administration) because of the way they celebrate Irish identity and culture. An Post will present the songs featured on the stamps in a special live performance in the GPO, curated by Other Voices. The songs will be performed by an array of Irish musical and vocal talent including John Sheahan, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Glass House String Quartet, Declan O’Rourke, Wyvern Lingo, Jack O’Rourke, May Kay Geraghty, and the Discovery Gospel Choir. “the set of four stamps underscore the richness of irish musical heritage, the songs’ origins ranging from 17thcentury musical airs to rock music, poetry, and folk ballads,” Debbie Byrne from An Post Retail said. “the stamps are a celebration of creativity and of the power of song to tell important human stories, which are at once Irish and universal.” “We know these beautiful stamps will be popular with fans of music all over the world.” The Great Irish Songs stamps are available at Irish post offices nationwide and online at A limited edition souvenir box set of the stamps is also available at the same site or at Dublin’s GPO, Philatelic Bureau. – P.H. MAY / JUNE 2019 iriSH ameriCa 11

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KerryGolD sales exCeeD €1 Billion Malachy McAllister with his family in a 1996 photograph.

mCallister Can stay for now!


t the request of many prominent politicians, including senators Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham, acting Department of Homeland security secretary Kevin mcaleenan has intervened to postpone the deportation of former irish national liberation army (inla) member malachy mcallister. McAllister, 59, was jailed for seven years for attacks on Royal Ulster Constabulary officers during the 1981 hunger strikes. He did not participate in any further paramilitary activity after being released in 1985. After a loyalist gun attack on his home in Belfast in 1988, he fled to the United States and now runs two businesses: a construction company in New Jersey and an Irish pub in Manhattan. Although he sought asylum in 1996, McAllister’s application has been repeatedly denied by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, which still classifies his previous activity as “terrorist” in nature, despite the U.s.’s strong support for the Good friday agreement and northern ireland’s peace process. McAleenan has made a decision “in accordance with standing policy” to put a stay on the deportation for a further six months for the purpose of allowing the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsay Graham, and other members of Congress to pass a private bill allowing McAllister to remain in the United States, where he has lived for decades. He and his late wife have several children and grandchildren. “Despite being a prima facie example of the greatness of the American dream as a land of second opportunities, the McAllister family continues to live their lives in one-year, and recently sixmonth, intervals,” the Ancient Order of Hibernians said in a statement, continuing, “Let Malachy McAllister and his family enjoy the peace and security that America has symbolized for generations of immigrants.” – M.H.

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lobal sales of Kerrygold butter and dairy products have exceeded €1 billion in revenue per year, a first for an Irish food company. the irish Dairy Board – now Ornua – owns the internationally recognized Kerrygold brand, which is the number one brand in Germany, the now number-two butter brand in the United States, behind Land O’Lakes, and enjoys leading market share positions in many of its export markets. Pilgrims Choice – the number two cheese brand in the U.K. – is also one of their brands.  An Bord Bainne, a semi-state organization, was established by the Irish Government in 1961 “to promote and facilitate the exportation of milk and milk products from grass-fed cows.” In 1973, it became a limited cooperative – the Irish Dairy Board. On March 31, 2015, the board transformed its corporate identity from the Irish Dairy Board to Ornua, the name of which comes from the Irish ór nua, meaning “new gold.” The company has grown immensely in the decades since its founding, with over 7.5 million packets of butter now being sold worldwide each week, but the recipe itself has not changed at all; it retains the same distinct, rich flavor. Róisín Hennerty, Ornua’s foods managing director, said, “While Kerrygold holds a unique place in the hearts of the Irish people, we are especially proud that the brand has captured the hearts and imagination of consumers all over the world.” – M.H.

James Connolly Visitor Centre opens in Belfast


t a ceremony on Friday, April 19, president of ireland michael D. Higgins officially opened Áras Uí Chonghaile, the new James Connolly Visitor Centre, providing a new space for discovery, education, study, work, meeting, and socializing on the Falls Road in West Belfast, only yards from where Connolly lived. Connolly, a labor leader, was executed for his part in the 1916 Rising. A James Connolly pageant parade assembled in Conway mill, processed down falls road and arrived at the Visitor Centre, where Higgins then delivered a speech. Included in the parade were hundreds of Trade Unionists from across Ireland, Britain, and the The President and Mrs. Higgins United States, proudly carrying their union banners. It also featured a brass band, historical period speeches, and women and girls dressed in mill worker costumes. General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress frances o’Grady, Mayor of Belfast Deirdre Hargey, and terry o’sullivan, the general president of liUna, gave speeches. Frances Black and Terry O’Neill gave musical performances. – M.H.

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he shipwreck of the RMS Lusitania has been gifted to a museum in Kinsale, County Cork, exactly 104 years after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915 during the first world war. The Lusitania, a Cunard liner, was the largest ship in the world when it was sunk this thing forever and I’m by the German submarine. It went down going to be 91 at the end in 18 minutes, 11 nautical miles off the of this month, and it is Kinsale coast, killing 1,198 passenger about time I have some and leaving 761 survivors. new people responsible Gregg Bemis, the American businessfor carrying on the man who has owned the salvage rights to research and the explothe wreck since 1982, signed the donaration and the recovery of tion agreement with the Old Head of artifacts for the museum.” Kinsale Museum on May 7, the anniverIn 2017, the museum sary of the tragedy. opened a Lusitania Bemis, who initially hoped to make Gifting the Lusitania: Pictured (left to right) memorial garden money from the scrap metal of the ship, Old Head of Kinsale Museum chairman J.J. complete with a 20-meter-long bronze became obsessed with finding proof that Hayes; secretary Con Hayes; Gregg Bemis sculpture in honor of the victims. the Lusitania was secretly carrying war owner of the Lusitania; and Richard Martin, With the help of Bemis’ incredible supplies from then-neutral America to solicitor, at the signing ceremony. donation, it is now hoped that a full-scale Great Britain when it was sunk, told “living museum” can be built to allow the Lusitania’s story and RTÉ’s News: “Today we are finally coming to a close of my relahistory to be shared. – P.H. tionship with the Lusitania. I’m getting too old to continue with


TOP: The set of Winterfell. ABOVE: Game of Thrones reenactors gather outside Castle Ward in County Down, a prime location for the Stark family.


he world’s most popular show,” Game of Thrones, may have wrapped up, but that doesn’t mean you’ve seen the last of Westeros. HBO plans to convert several of the series’ filming locations in Northern Ireland into tourist destinations in an attraction called Game of Thrones Legacy, with a target opening date sometime in 2019. Winterfell, Castle Black, and King’s Landing are some of the sets the network is considering opening up to the public. There will also be a formal studio tour of Linen Mill Studios, with exhibits of material from the series, such as costumes, props, weapons, set decorations, art files, and models, as well as interactive digital displays to showcase the visual special

effects used in the series. The project will be “on a scale and scope bigger than anything the public has ever seen,” said HBO. Previous Game of Thrones attractions include the Touring Exhibition and the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience. “HBO is thrilled to celebrate the work of the Game of Thrones creative team and crew by preserving these locations and inviting fans to visit Northern Ireland and explore Westeros in person,” said Jeff Peters, HBO’s VP of licensing and retail. John McGrillen, CEO of Tourism Ireland NI, the travel marketing company working with HBO on the coming attraction, called Game of Thrones Legacy “a game-changer for Northern Ireland on the global tourism level.” – M.H. MAY / JUNE 2019 IRISH AMERICA 13

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e may look back on 2019 as the moment the entertainment industry was conquered by Kerry native Jessie Buckley. Earlier this year, Forbes magazine touted the Irish singer-actress on its annual list of “Thirty Under 30” personalities who are about to have a major impact on their various fields. In May, she appeared alongside Oscar nominee Emily Watson, Irish actor Barry Keoghan, and Jared Harris (Irish hellraiser Richard Harris’ son) in the HBO mini-series Chernobyl. A co-production of HBO as well as Britain’s Sky network, Chernobyl looks at the deadly nuclear meltdown of 1986, and the men and women who worked heroically to minimize the damage. Then, in June, Buckley’s British movie Wild Rose makes its way to U.S. theaters. Buckley plays a single mom fresh out of prison who still dreams of making it big as a country music star. Buckley has been knocking on the door of American stardom for a decade now, having finished second on the British talent Jessie Buckley show I’d Do Anything in 2008. After years on the stage and screen, she seems to be having a breakout moment. Down the road, look for Buckley alongside Renée Zellweger as Hollywood legend Judy Garland in Judy, and with Robert Downey Jr. in The Voyage of Dr. Dolittle.


ierce Brosnan is back for season number two of the AMC western series The Son. Based on Philipp Meyer’s 2013 novel of the same name, The Son stars Brosnan as cattle baron Eli McCullough, who is trying to make inroads into the lucrative oil business. Some have taken shots at the series for what you might call, um, deliberate pacing. But AMC thought enough of the McCullough family trials and tribulations to bring the show back for another season. (Season one consisted of 10 episodes, which are all currently available on Hulu and other streaming services.) Brosnan also remains busy on the movie front. He is currently in New York City shooting False Positive, a horror film also starring Justin Theroux (The Leftovers), Ilana Pierce Glazer (Broad City), and Brosnan Sophia Bush. Brosnan’s and Philipp completed fantasy film Meyer The King’s Daughter (directed by Irish American Sean McNamara) is still awaiting an official release date, while Brosnan’s heist caper The Misfits (with Nick Cannon, directed by Renny Harlin) is in postproduction.



By Tom Deignan


hree of Ireland’s most T bankable male stars are in summer-popcorn-movie

mode, with action flicks coming out in June. First, Michael Fassbender is among the stars of X-Men: Dark Phoenix. Fassbender is back – along with James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence – as Magneto in this latest entry in the durable X-Men franchise, which features the mighty misfits forced to go up against one of their own. While on a mission, Jean Grey-Summers (Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner) is struck by a mysterious force, which seems to have affected not just her body but her mind in potentially deadly ways. Looking ahead, Fassbender is slated to appear in Kung Fury II, a follow-up to (deep breath here) a short Swedish film from a few years back, which paid homage to 1980s martial arts and police action movies. Meanwhile, Liam Neeson is among those in a new reboot of the Men in Black movies, to be released June 14. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson have replaced Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as alien hunters in Men in Black: International. Neeson plays the head of the organization fighting to save the planet, which is now based in London. Down the road, Neeson plays a good bad guy alongside Irish American Kate Walsh in the thriller Honest Thief, then the Ballymena native goes home to Northern Ireland for the romantic drama Honest People, written by Belfast native Owen McCafferty. Finally in June, Cillian Murphy appears in the June 21 release Anna, written and directed by Luc Besson (Lucy, Taken, Taken 2). Anna features Russian model Sasha Luss in the title role as an unlikely killer. “Beneath Anna Poliatova’s striking beauty lies a secret that will unleash her indelible strength and skill to become one of the world’s most feared government assassins,” as IMDB put it. For a certain kind of Cillian Murphy fan, of course, the only thing that matters is the release date across the pond for season five of the British crime saga Peaky Blinders, which should be coming soon. Until then, catch up with seasons one through four, all currently streaming on Netflix.

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here is an old summertime saying that the weather sometimes gets “hot as hell’s kitchen.” So August is a fitting time for the release of The Kitchen, starring Irish American and two-time Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy, as well as Domhnall Gleeson, Brian d’Arcy James, and Elisabeth Moss. Set in the bad old days of 1970s Manhattan – in the West Side neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen – the movie explores what happens when several top Irish crime bosses get arrested. The wives, as it turns out, are just as enterprising as their husbands, and take over their various criminal activities. Based on the graphic novel by Olli Masters and Ming Doyle, The Kitchen will be released on August 9. After that, look for Melissa McCarthy in a high-concept comedy-drama called Super Intelligence, in which her character hears voices coming from household appliances. It turns out she is the subject of a test posed by a highly evolved form of technology – and may or may not hold the fate of humanity in her hands. Super Intelligence hits theaters December 20, 2019.


orthern Ireland is the setting for a N wide variety of streaming TV these days. First, on Netflix, there is the sur-

prise hit Derry Girls, featuring SaoirseMonica Jackson as Erin and Louisa Harland as her

cousin Orla. Students at a Catholic school, these girls and their pals are attempting to navigate not only typical coming-of-age struggles, but also the violence of the 1970s Troubles. Season two of Derry Girls has aired already in the U.K. and should arrive in the U.S. soon. A more serious, post-Troubles look at Northern Ireland is The Fall, starring Irishman Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson. A gruesome but gripping crime drama, a long history of violence lingers over all three seasons of The Fall on Netflix. On the documentary side, The Miami Showband Massacre (on Netflix) explores a fascinating, forgotten musical moment – but also a terrible tragedy – while No Stone Unturned (available for pay on various streaming services) revisits the Loughinisland massacre of 1994, and what appears to be a disturbing cover-up.



t was hard not to chuckle at a recent letter to the editor in the New York Times Book Review, which seemed to be what passes for fighting words in the literary world. But the letter also contained a fascinating bit of news for fans of Irish-American master writer Flannery O’Connor. It seems that author Donna Leon recently said in a Book Review interview that O’Connor was her favorite “overlooked or underappreciated writer.” Ben Camardi, the literary agent for the Mary Flannery O’Connor Chari-

Mary Flannery O’Connor

table Trust, could not let that go unchallenged. “O’Connor’s writings are in print in many languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Polish, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, Croatian, Serbian, Hungarian, Romanian, Greek, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian. There have been several major conferences [on O’Connor’s works] in Rome, Dublin, and Chicago over the last few years, with others scheduled in future,” writes Camardi. Then comes the big news: “There are movie / television option / purchase agreements in place, and books, articles, and monographs by scholars and academics abound. A major documentary [on O’Connor], now in the final editing, will soon appear.” A 2017 documentary that aired on PBS was widely described as the first in-depth look at O’Connor’s life on film. A follow-up would be eagerly embraced by O’Connor fans, who are fascinated by her deep, complex Catholicism, her isolated life, and her early death. I should add that there are many, many such fans of the writer, whose ancestors hailed from County Tipperary. MAY / JUNE 2019 IRISH AMERICA 15

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he 150th anniversary of connecting the First Transcontinental Railroad was commemorated in a two-day celebration in a remote spot in the Utah desert called Promontory Point, where the final spikes connecting the track’s east and west branches were hammered into place on May 10, 1869. The railroad was six years in the making, with the physical labor conducted largely by Irish and Chinese immigrants. Irish Ambassador to the United States Dan Mulhall was a special guest at the commemoraTOP: The A.J. Russell tion, which honored specifically the manual Image of the celebration workers that constructed the railway, with the following the driving of the last spike at PromonIrish contribution numbering approximately tory Summit, Utah on 10,000 men. May 10, 1869: the “Theirs was a magnificent contribution to completion of the First the making of modern America,” said AmbasTranscontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. sador Mulhall, speaking at a dinner that the HiMontague, Central Pacific bernian Society of Utah hosted to mark the Railroad, shakes hands occasion. “Those railroad workers were drawn with Grenville M. Dodge,

from the six million Irish immigrants who crossed the Atlantic between 1840 and 1900, escaping from famine and seeking better lives for themselves and their families. They and their descendants became Union Pacific Railroad part of the fabric of modern America,” he said. (center right). The ambassador toasted all the laborers whose efBecause of temperance forts were a significant step in making a fiercely inpromotion at the time, timidating and dangerous land mass traversable, the liquor bottles held in the center of the picture which brought the country closer together in both were removed from travel and communication. some later prints. The iconic railway was constructed by two RIGHT: The Last Spike, separate companies: the Union Pacific company painting by Thomas Hill moving inland from the east, and Central Pacific from (1881). the west. The arduous labor earned an average monthly wage for the Irish of about $45, while the LEFT: Ambassador Dan Mulhall toasting the Irish monthly wage for a Chinese worker averaged laborers who helped about $30, an unfathomably low rate by today’s build the railroad. standards, especially considering the tremendous effort that led to productivity as high as laying 10 miles of track in a single day. – Mary Gallagher




Devastation after the earthquake in Nepal.

Long after a disaster stops “trending” and the media leaves the scene, we stay behind to finish what we started and help the most vulnerable. Whether we’re responding to a natural disaster, epidemic, or conflict. Our work isn’t just about showing up - it’s about following through. Please donate:

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Ciarán O’Reilly, whose turned 60 the day before, conducts the guests in their “Happy Birthday” serenade.

Monica McWilliams and Ed Kenney.

Patricia Harty. Judy Collins and Arturo O’Farrill.


Adrian Flannelly and Niall O’Dowd.


Esteemed guests including Judy Collins, Fionnula Flanagan, JFK Trust members, Sean Connick, Willie Fitzharris and Eamonn Hore, N.I. politician Monica McWilliams, and Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day parade Brian O’Dwyer were invited to join this year’s inductees: John Dearie, Adrian Flannelly, Terry George, Charlote Moore, Arturo O’Farrill, James O’Neill, and Ciarán O’Reilly at a gala luncheon at the Pierre Hotel on March 14.

John Patr wife

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Terry George, Fionnula Flanagan, and Consul General Ciarán Madden.

Eamon Hore, Willie Fitzharris, Judy Collins, Patricia Harty and Sean Connick, CEO of the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience in New Ross, where the Hall of Fame is located.

Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly.

James O’Neill with his sister Sheila and his mother Helen.

Loretta Brennan Glucksman and Aine Sheridan.

Deputy police commissioner Robert Ganley, grand marshal Brian O’Dwyer and his sister Eileen Hughes.

Orla Carey and Maureen Carey.

John Dearie is pictured with his sons John Patrick (far left) and Michael (far right), his wife Kitty, and singer Judy Collins (center).


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he Irish Film Institute (IFI) was at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York in April to launch its Irish Independence Film Collection, a culturally significant compilation of newsreel material from the early 20th century. With over 150 films in total, the footage, which features Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, and Queen Victoria to name a few, gives fascinating glimpses into life in Ireland from 1900-1930, as it entered and endured a period of great conflict in its history. It releases a prolific look into the lives of those fighting for independence a century ago. Because the only footage of the pivotal events during this period, which include the Easter Rising, War of Independence, and the Civil War, was filmed by non-Irish news agencies, it has been held abroad ever since. Much of it was not available to the public since it was initially screened as news-

Anglo-Irish Treaty. Decades before the 1950’s widespread adoption of television, newsreels like these were the only source of onscreen news available to the public, allowing them to see what was happening in their country, as opposed to reading about it. “During this decade of centenaries, it’s particularly important that we reevaluate how events in Ireland were presented to the general public: the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War,” said Ciara Chambers, lecturer in contemporary film and media at University College Cork. “This is our history,” said Ross Keane, CEO and Director of the Irish Film Institute, at the New York launch. “These are some of the most important events of the birth of our nation, brought together for the very first time. “To see real footage of real history of real people, living out our shared story is something that needs to be treasured, preserved, and never forgotten,” he said. The Irish Film Institute provides audiences throughout Ireland with access to the finest independent Irish and international cinema, preserves and promotes Ireland’s ABOVE: Mary moving image heritage, and provides Reed, Ross Keane, Loretta Brennan opportunities for audiences of all ages and backreels in cinemas at the time, which adds to the Glucksman, Ciarán grounds to learn and critically engage with film. significance of this distribution to digital platforms Madden, and The Independence Film Collection can be viewed where anyone and everyone can access it. Jackie Davis. for free on IFI’s online platform, the IFI Player. The video, much of which was in bad repair, was TOP: Dame Street In his speech at the Irish Consulate, Keane collected from sources around the world, including in Dublin, 1915 said, “I would really appreciate people helping to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. spread the word about the IFI and our work in Painstakingly restored, it includes Queen preserving Irish culture and heritage, so please find links to Victoria’s visit to Dublin in 1900, King George and Queen the video from the night.” He also asked people to support Mary’s visit to Dublin in 1911, Irish crowds welcoming the IFI through the American Friends of the Arts in Ireland home Countess Constance Markievicz after her release ( from prison, Éamon de Valera visiting Boston in 1919, Terence MacSwiney’s funeral in Cork in 1920, and Michael – By Maggie Holland Collins addressing a large crowd after the signing of the 20 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

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he Irish American Partnership announced a special grant of $10,000 to Ahalin national School in County limerick during its annual New York Business Leaders Breakfast on April 10, 2019, in honor of Limerick native Michael J. Dowling, who is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest integrated health care system in New York State. Dowling delivered a keynote address to an engaged LEFT: Boston Police audience, which comprised over 160 leaders in healthcare, Commissioner construction, media, technology, finance, and legal William Gross; Éire services. “Education, for me, has been the key to whatever Society Gold Medal success I have had,” said Dowling, who also highlighted the recipient Kathleen M. O’Toole; and partnership’s vital work in supporting education and comMassachusetts munity development across Ireland, adding, “This organiState Police zation is relatively small, but your impact is huge. You are Colonel Kerry changing lives and that is extremely, extremely important.” Gilpin. hree hundred guests attended the Éire “The grants that you give to schools today, to the kids to Society of Boston’s dinner at which broaden their perspectives, give them this idea that there are other Kathleen M. O’Toole, former Massachusetts things out there. You know that there are kids that will succeed and Secretary of Public Safety and former boston Police be leaders in the future, Commissioner, was recognized as the 2019 Gold and take on responsibiliMedal award Recipient. ties that otherwise may The award was presented at the Gold Medal dinner never be possible.” and awards ceremony, which took place on Saturday The CEO of the Irish evening, April 27, 2019 at the Seaport Boston Hotel. American Partnership, The Gold Medal is awarded annually to a person Mary Sugrue, said, “It is or persons who exemplify the best of Irish culture our privilege to support and ideals. It is presented to those who have made Michael dowling’s significant contributions in their field of expertise, former primary school which benefit society. in County limerick. Kathleen M. O’Toole is a career police officer and With this gift, the school lawyer with an international reputation for principled, effective leadership and reform. She was the first female commissioner of the boston Police department when she was appointed in February 2004. In 2014 O’Toole became Seattle’s first female chief of police, and served until 2018. During O’Toole’s time there she led a major transformation project, which addressed all requirements of a settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city, and introduced to the force cutting-edge business practices and operational strategies, reducing crime and enhancing community trust. TOP: Tommy Dwyer of O’Toole’s career also brought her to Ireland. In Clune Construction and Michael Clune, chairman 1998, she served on the Patten Commission, the  of the Irish American independent commission on policing for Northern Partnership. Mike Clune Ireland, established as part of the Good Friday will begin a musical instrument loan scheme for presents Michael DowlAgreement. In 2006, she left the Boston Police its students, creating a more inclusive environing with a check for Ahalin National School. Department to move to Ireland. She was the first ment where all students can enjoy the benefits ABOVE: Former Irish Chief Inspector of An Garda Síochána (Irish police) of learning a musical instrument.” Ambassador to the U.S. reporting to Ireland’s Minister for Justice and Consul General of Ireland New York Ciarán Anne Anderson, Michael Dowling, CEO of the Equality on changes to improve efficiency in line Madden, Head of the New York Office of the Irish American Partnerwith the best international practices. She returned Northern Ireland Bureau Lorraine Turner, and ship Mary Sugrue, and to the U.S. to take up her position in Seattle in former Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne New York Consul Gen2014. – I.A. Anderson were also in attendance. – M.H. eral Ciarán Madden.







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he Ireland Funds 44th annual New York Gala raised over $2.3 million for Irish charities and causes. Actress Saoirse Ronan, Verizon’s Ronan Dunne, and Bridgewater Associates’ Eileen K. Murray were honored at the 2019 gala, which was held at Chelsea Pier New York on May 2. “Tonight’s gala is such a testament to the unwavering bonds between New York and Ireland,” said John Fitzpatrick, chairman of The Ireland Funds America. “This annual gathering is so much more than just a celebration. It is a chance for our supporters to express their care for Ireland through philanthropic partnership with the Ireland Funds. Thanks to them, we are able to identify and invest in outstanding Irish organizations that strengthen the island of Ireland. We are immensely grateful to our supporters and tonight is a great opportunity to say thank you.” ABOVE: Kyle Clifford, vice president of Development of The Ireland Funds America; Caitriona Fottrell, the Ireland Funds vice president and director, Ireland; honoree Eileen K. Murray, co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates LP; honoree Ronan Dunne, executive vice president & president of Verizon Consumer Group; honoree Saoirse Ronan, Academy Award-nominated actress; and John Fitzpatrick, chairman of The Ireland Funds America.



n Tuesday April 16, 2019, Dónal Clancy and Rory Makem performed in a special concert at the Tommy Makem Arts and Community Centre (TMAC) in Keady, County Armagh. The center is just a stone’s throw from the Makem homestead where their fathers, Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem, met for the very first time 64 years ago. Tommy died in 2007 and Liam in 2009, but they live on in the music they created together. (Their last appearance on stage together was at Irish America’s Irish of the Century dinner in late 1999). The duo’s sons, Dónal and Rory, are themselves acclaimed musicians

and singers with several years of performing at sold-out venues across the U.S. and Canada, as well as England, Scotland, and Ireland. The April 16 event was a very special evening of music and reflection, as the sons shared stories of their fathers’ illustrious musical careers and joined with other musicians in singing the great ballads and folk songs that the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, the most popular Irishmen in America in the 1960s, had made famous. For information about TMAC, call +44 28 3752 1810 or  email

LEFT: Rory Makem and Dónal Clancy, who are carrying on the musical legacy of their fathers, Tommy and Liam.

ABOVE: Fans and musicians gather at TMAC for an evening of music and reflection.


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those we lost |

by Mary Gallagher

Bill O’Donnell

(1935 – 2019) ormer newspaper reporter Bill O’Donnell died in April, aged 84. A beloved and dedicated member of the Irish community in Boston, O’Donnell proudly held dual citizenship in Ireland and the U.S., and offered a great example of the strong connection between Ireland and the United States. O’Donnell was born and raised in Boston, and after attending Saint Clement’s School in Medford, he went on to Somerville High School, Suffolk University, and then Boston State College. He later served in the Marines during the Korean War, though he refused military honors when planning his funeral service, telling his family, “I never got shot at!” After his family, Bill’s priorities in life were Boston’s Irish community and respecting his own heritage. He visited Ireland a number of times, and kept his community informed on the events of the Troubles during his tenure as the editor of Boston’s Irish Echo in the 1980s. Journalism proved to be his life’s work, as he went on to offer a monthly column in the Boston Irish Reporter in the 20 years before his death. Outside of his work, he was a president of the Eire Society of Boston and a member of the Irish Cultural Center and the Charitable Irish Society. “I was truly amazed by his knowledge of Ireland and the complexities of our politics,” Ann Mullan, a friend of Bill’s who immigrated to Boston from Ireland in the 1980s, told the Reporter. “Bill’s example taught me as an Irish-born person to admire and respect Americans of Irish descent.” O’Donnell is predeceased by his brother Steven and his parents, William, Sr., and Anne O’Donnell (née Flaherty). He leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Jeanie, and daughter Erin.


Lyra McKee

TOP: Bill O’Donnell CENTER: Lyra McKee ABOVE: Laura Brennan

(1990 – 2019) elfast investigative journalist Lyra McKee died in April, aged 29. While covering riots in Derry for a piece on the perils of frontline reporting, McKee was caught in the fire of dissident New IRA members, who claimed they were aiming at police. She was well-respected for her thoughtful, in-depth studies on the effects of the Troubles and IRA ceasefires in the current millennium in Ireland. McKee was born and raised in the ’90s in North Belfast’s “killing fields,” where roughly one-fourth of the violent fatalities took place during that grieffilled period. Her close proximity to the violence made her a witness to its effects and fueled her determination to see them brought to the limelight. While attending St. Gemma’s High School in Belfast, she began publishing at 14 with an article in the school paper.



She would become known for her research pieces, including “Suicide Among the Ceasefire Babies,” published by Mosaic in 2016, revealing that suicides in Northern Ireland had increased at an astonishing rate since the last IRA ceasefire – more in the 16 years since than in the three previous decades of brutality altogether. A book that McKee was working on, The Lost Boys, focuses on young males who were abducted and killed during the Troubles, and the killers who are still at large. The book will be published posthumously. “Her life was a shining light in everyone else’s life,” said her partner, Sara Canning, at a vigil held for Lyra in Derry. “Her legacy will live on in the light she’s left behind.” McKee is survived by Sara; her mother, Joan; and her five siblings, Gary, Joan, Nichola, David, and Mary.

Laura Brennan

(1992 – 2019) PV vaccination advocate Laura Brennan, whose passionate activism was driven by her own experience with the disease, died in late March. Making the most of the time she had after her terminal prognosis of cervical cancer, Brennan launched a determined campaign in September 2017 to encourage vaccinations against the virus that caused it. Brennan worked with Ireland’s Health Service Executive to spread awareness of the vaccine and its benefits, establishing an online video campaign and appearing on the Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy. “This illness is devastating, and it’s going to take my life, but the good news is there’s a vaccine you can get that prevents it,” Brennan said in her campaign, which helped bring HPV vaccinations up by 18 percent in less than 18 months. She was invited by the World Health Organization to promote the vaccine throughout Europe, and her efforts saw her named Clare Person of the Year, honored by UCD, and the recipient of a mayoral reception from the Clare County Council. County Clare mayor Michael Begley praised Brennan’s efforts to alert Irish parents to the dangers of the disease. “Telling one’s story to a public audience is often the most difficult thing to do. In doing just that, however, Laura opened a debate, gave a voice to the silenced, and generated a better understanding of what is a serious issue that affects so many.” The Irish Republic’s Minister for Health Simon Harris spoke publicly on the effects of Brennan’s zealous campaign. “Thanks in no small part to her sheer determination, the uptake of the HPV vaccine has increased among young women. The State owes her a debt of gratitude,” he said. “Amazing doesn’t do justice to her or her courage.” Brennan is survived by her parents, Bernie and Larry; brothers Fergal, Colin, and Kevin; and a grateful generation of young Irish women.


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Martin Nelis

(1963 – 2019) artin Nelis, the son of former Sinn Féin M.P. Mary Nelis, died in early May in a cycling accident at age 54. Beloved for his commitment to public service and volunteer work, Nelis was a pillar of his community in Pleasant Hill, California. Born to parents Billy and Mary Nelis (née Elliott), young Martin was one of nine children growing up in Derry. After graduating from Queens University Belfast with a degree in engineering, he left Ireland in 1989 for the U.S., where he would work first as an IT technician, then briefly as a congressional aide before embarking on his long-term career as a public information officer in California – first in Suisun City, then in Pleasant Hill. A love of community made Nelis an active resident of his adopted home. He took part in the Measure K campaign to raise money for a new library for the town, helped organize events, and launched the Summer By the Lake concert series – which was dedicated to his memory this year. “There’s been a huge tear in the community fabric,” said Nelis’ friend and Pleasant Hill mayor Tim Flaherty. “He became so involved in virtually every public aspect, like community events. Martin was incredibly bright and witty, and a true Irishman.” Nelis was predeceased by his father Billy and his brother Peter, who also died in a traffic accident. He is survived by his mother Mary; siblings Donncha, Liam, John, Patrick, Cathy, Declan, and Frank; and children Aidan, Fiona, and Deirdre.


Tim Conway

(1922 – 2019) mmy Award-winning comedian Tim Conway died after a long illness at age 85. A veteran of classic TV sketch comedy The Carol Burnett Show, Conway had a talent for making people laugh with a movement or facial expression that earned him countless fans in the U.S. and abroad. Tim was born in Willoughby, Ohio, to parents Dan and Sophia, immigrants from Ireland and Romania, respectively. In an interview on the Christopher Closeup podcast, he shared his experience growing up with dyslexia. “People couldn’t wait for me to get called on to read because I would put words into sentences that were never there. They thought I was being funny, I guess, so they would laugh at me. And I just continued that through life,” he said. “I still do.” After a stint in the army – in which he “defended Seattle from 1956-1958” – Conway embarked on a career in entertainment and caught on quickly, becoming a regular on The Steve Allen Show. From there he moved on to McHale’s Navy (1962-1966), where he perfected an affectation of lovable incompetence as Ensign Charles Parker. He then launched two of his own short-lived series (Rango and The Tim Conway Show). He joined The Carol Burnett


Show in 1975, making it his life’s mission to make his fellow cast members break into laughter, whether as vaguely foreign and harried boss Mr. Tudball or the painfully slow and put-upon Oldest Man. In the foreword to Conway’s autobiography, What’s So Funny?: My Hilarious Life, Burnett praised his instinct for humor. “His sketches with Harvey Korman deserve a spot in whatever cultural time capsule we’re setting aside for future generations,” she wrote. “Maybe there are other performers as funny, but in my opinion I can’t think of anybody funnier.” Conway shared his hopes for humanity on the Closeup podcast. “I hope a lot of people have the same opportunity to take the same route I did – to see life as humorous and enjoyable,” he said. “I think God has placed me in several positions, which I have found humorous. I find humor in life itself, and I can hardly wait to thank Him in person.” Conway is survived by his wife Charlene; children Kelly, Corey, Jaime, Tim Jr., Jackie, Pat, and Shawn; and granddaughters Courtney and Sophia.

Sally O’Neill Sanchez

(1950 – 2019) uman rights activist Sally O’Neill Sanchez died in a car crash on a mission in Guatemala at age 68. Her dedication to furthering the cause of humanitarian development with the organization Trócaire made her a treasured friend to many. One of eight children to Charles and Mary O’Neill, young Sally was raised in Coalisland, County Tyrone. Her powers of relating to others surfaced early on in her talent for languages and debate. While enrolled at Belfast’s Garnerville College, O’Neill traveled to South America. She encountered Trócaire workers assisting needy Peruvians in the Amazon, and embraced their work as her own. O’Neill worked on the front lines of many human rights causes – among her most notable assignments was translating for Saint Óscar Romero six weeks before his death. “She embodied our values and through her courage and commitment to human rights touched the lives of so many people,” said Trócaire chief executive Caoimhe de Barra. “I was with Sally last week in Guatemala. Despite having officially retired, she remained a driving force for human rights in Central America.” She added, “Although we still cannot believe she is gone, we know that she left an incredible footprint on the world.” O’Neill was graced with the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award in 2011, and in 2017 she received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Ulster. O’Neill is survived by her husband, Roger; their children Xiomara, Rhona, and Roger; and by her siblings Patrick, Thomas, John, Kate, Anne, Gemma, IA and Margaret.


TOP: Martin Nelis CENTER: Tim Conway ABOVE: Sally O’Neill Sanchez


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“Over 100 years after James Connolly was executed, his values, his ideas and the example he gave us in life are as inspiring and relevant as James Connolly, 1900. ever. Our mission in this center is to ensure that a new generation of Irish citizens and those who visit us from across the world are introduced to James Connolly and his ideas.”

– From the mission statement of Áras Uí Chonghaile, the new James Connolly Visitor Centre, on the Falls Road in Belfast, which was opened on April 19.

Circa 1880: The Silver Mining Boomtown of Leadville, Colorado. Extensive mining works can be seen on the hill that raises on the far side of the Town.

“Seamus Heaney is a cultural colossus who created some of the most powerful, beautiful, and resonant poetry of the last 50 years. This film promises exceptional intimacy and poignancy. I am so delighted the family has agreed to share their memories of him for the BBC Two audience.”

– Patrick Holland, controller of BBC Two, announced in early April that a feature-length film in the works will explore the life and legacy of the late Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney.

“The Leadville Irish were among the earliest Irish in Colorado and the western U.S. Through hard work in extreme working and weather conditions, many prospered, but so many also died in a remote location, far from family and loved ones, and lay forgotten until recently. I am delighted that the new memorial will name and remember those Irish who lie in Leadville and give them the dignity they deserve, and highlight to future generations the history of Irish in Colorado and the western U.S. 

– Ambassador Dan Mulhall, who, on April 13, visited the site of a new memorial which will be dedicated to the thousands of Irish who died in the silver mines in Leadville, Colorado, in the late 19th century.

“America will continue to stand with you in protecting the peace that the Good Friday accords have realized. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accords, including, but not limited to, the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.”

Seamus Heaney.

– U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressing Ireland’s parliament in Dublin on April 17 in relation to Brexit, saying that Congress would block any new trade deal with the United Kingdom if Britain’s exit from the European Union threatens the peace in Northern Ireland.

“HBO is thrilled . . . to celebrate Northern Ireland’s pivotal role in the life and legacy of [Game of Thrones] and share its culture, beauty and warmth [which] is also a huge inspiration behind these Legacy projects.” – Jeff Peters, HBO’s VP of licensing and retail, on the proposed HBO plan to convert the Northern Ireland sets into tourist attractions. The set of Game of Thrones. 26 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

Help us tell the story Quinnipiac is home to Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, with the world’s largest collection of Famine-related art. Help us share these historic treasures with the world.

Become a member today!

3011 Whitney Avenue | Hamden, Connecticut For more information, please visit or call 203-582-6500

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Ways&Means Richie Neal’s extraordinary journey from a working-class neighborhood in Springfield, Massachusetts, to Washington, D.C., and one of the most powerful jobs in American politics.

Ulster University's Magee campus in Derry. Congressman Neal was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws for his outstanding contribution to peace and conflict resolution across the island of Ireland and for profiling Irish concerns throughout his congressional career.

By Niall O’Dowd

n November 7, 1960, Mary Garvey Neal, who had roots in Ventry, County Kerry, took her son to the Springfield, Massachusetts, town hall. It was very late and Richie Neal, then 10 years old, would never forget that evening. He was there to witness one of the last campaign stops of Senator Jack Kennedy during the final frenetic days of the race against Richard Nixon for the presidency. Inspired by the passion and fire he witnessed, Richie Neal decided there and then that he wanted to be a politician. It’s incredible to think, as he now sits atop the House Ways and Means Committee in one of the most powerful jobs in American politics, that the influence of Jack Kennedy still lives on. Neal himself has a wonderful American story. He lost his mother to a heart attack in 1962 when he was just a young boy, and his father, a school custodian, died not long after. He and his sister were orphaned, raised by an aunt and grandmother. He remembers how they gave all the love they had, put him on the right track in life, and practiced good Catholic values. He was following his dream, too. He became councilman in Springfield, then mayor, and then at age 38, took the House seat of Ed Boland, his political mentor, in 1988. He has held it easily since, often with no opposition, a reflection of his popularity back home. His path to the leadership of Ways and Means was elongated, but thanks to a combination of retirement and defeat of those ahead of him, he arrived in January 2019 at the head of the most important committee in Congress. Three future presidents – James Polk, Millard Fillmore, and William McKinley – served as Ways and Means chairmen, while the very first occupant was Thomas Fitzsimons, a native of Ireland who also represented Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. His portrait, overlooking the commit-


tee room, was proudly pointed out by Neal. Our interview took place in that same august setting of the Ways and Means Committee meeting room, passing through extremely tight security on the way. As always, Neal was modest and relaxed. He is a worker bee letting others take the limelight – with the exception of one issue: his beloved Ireland and his justifiable pride in the American dimension to the Irish peace process. As head of the Friends of Ireland committee, he is an indispensable friend of Ireland and Irish America. Of course, there is the little matter of the president’s tax returns, which it falls to Neal to seek. There is no grandstanding or cable news appearances or screaming demands for them, just a heads-down, get-the-facts manner. That is Neal’s way, and it has landed him at the top in American politics, wielding enormous power. We began by discussing his amazing journey.

When I saw Jack Kennedy the day before the election in 1960. He finished in three communities, Waterbury, Connecticut; Springfield, Massachusetts; and Boston, and if you’ve ever seen the film footage of him finishing in Springfield and Boston, as you might expect, he got a hero’s welcome. But seeing him that day – my mother was smart enough to keep us home from school – on the steps of Springfield City Hall, I remember that sense of inspiration and aspiration that I felt, the hope and ambition to do something. Also, my family would have known Congressman When did politics first beckon?

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made my way up, seat after seat, every two years. And I was lucky that I got a committee early on because the infrastructure in Massachusetts was pretty good. I came through a system where personal loyalty was a very important consideration. You had Joe Moakley [South Boston politician who was chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Rules], Tip O’Neill was just leaving, Eddie Boland had just left and I took his seat and got on a committee very early in my career. You came from a very humble background, a very tough one, because your mother and father both died when you were young. So how did you cope with that?

I was lucky to have an aunt and a grandmother. They were both great. And I also think it’s interesting that they were very Catholic. So we were never adopted. No social worker ever came to check on us. And the grandmother, she was one of fourteen, so I think her attitude was, “wWhat’s another mouth at the table?” My aunt was devout. Remember those days they used to cover their heads when they went to Mass? We said the rosary at night. There is much controversy right now as it relates to some of what happened in the Church, but for my aunt, grandmother, and my mother, the Church to them in those days was everything. It was an anchor.

Eddie Boland. My mother in particular always knew someone who was running for the register of deeds or the city council because that was the way up. And it was a great time of ascendancy in politics. There was a succession of mayors, six or seven in a row, whose parents or grandparents were Irish-born. The Democratic party in particular was the beneficiary [of the Irish]; they brought the right infusion of energy. And there was a great alliance between unions and the Democratic party. From city councilman to one of the most powerful men in America: where did it all go right?

Part of it was ambition. I was thirty-eight when I first got elected to congress. I think I worked at least as hard, if not harder than everybody else. I had a good constituency that I inherited from Eddie Boland. He retired in 1988 and I took his seat. I think I certainly was patient enough. I kind of

Not really. It wasn’t exactly as though the neighborhood had a lot. My aunt had a pension, Mass Mutual. We had a little bit of life insurance that my father left, about $10,000. That was it. And we had the genius of Roosevelt’s social security survivor’s benefit. It was about $119 a month for each one of us. It wasn’t a lot, but we lived as a family. Did you know you were poor?

TOP: Congressman Richard Neal in his Washington, D.C., office. LEFT: Congressman Neal on a visit to Stormont with Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and former congressman Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.) CENTER: Congressman Neal and former president Bill Clinton. RIGHT: Gerry Adams on a recent visit to Congressman Neal’s office.

My paternal grandmother was born in County Down. On my mother’s side, her grandparents were born in West Kerry – Ventry. Irish was the first language for the West Kerry people. Springfield was the next parish over. You went where the others went before you, and they came here. In Holyoke, which is close by, they all came from Mayo. We were all from Kerry. And I think that they were very, How far back do your Irish roots go?


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LEFT: 1916 Garden of Remembrance at Forest Park in the city of Springfield, M.A. CENTER: Congressman Neal at the border in Northern Ireland in April 2019. RIGHT: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meeting with Congressman Neal in Washington, D.C., in March 2019.

very, proud of it. And it wasn’t as though they were going to Irish rallies or anything like that. But they knew of their traditions, they knew who they were and that they came from a pretty ancient culture that was comprised of great achievers. If you asked those people whereabouts they were from, they never said Ireland; they said they were from Kerry. You first got involved in the North when you were a councilman.

The first time I got involved was in 1981 when Bobby Sands died [on hunger strike]. That’s when I took up a position because people in my community were pretty outraged. You know, those guys were dying on hunger strike, and Margaret Thatcher’s response was that they were criminals. My first or second speech on the House floor after I got elected was on the use of rubber bullets [in Northern Ireland]. The first time I went to Ireland was around 1983; I went to visit relatives in County Down. In those days it was a militarized state. There were 30,000 British soldiers in an area the size of the state of Connecticut. You couldn’t go from street to street without being monitored. Helicopters circled no matter where you went. I was on a bus with Speaker of the House Tom Foley, and they boarded the bus. They had the big armaments and they had night vision – it was dark when we got on the bus – and they searched it. When you look back at how the North and the Republic were colonized, and you look at the history, [you’ll see] that until the Rising, it was truly an argument about subjugation. You’ve been very involved in the Friends of Ireland Committee over the years.

Yes. I’m proud of the American role in the Good Friday Agreement. This is our agreement, too. We’re the backstop. The British Embassy used to come up to the hill to meet with those of us in the [Congressional] Friends of Ireland. These were not pleasant meetings. But when the Good Friday Agreement came about, Tony Blair applauded us right here at the British Embassy. I remembered his quote all these years later. He said, “We’ve been great friends, 30 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

America and the United Kingdom. We generally agreed on just about everything, but there was one issue we disagreed on: Ireland.” He said, “There was a time when I thought that the Friends of Ireland were a hindrance, but you helped us get through this.” People forget that the Friends of Ireland was born of the purpose to try to compete with the money that was being used for gun-running. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who founded it in 1981, said that the idea was just to kind of offer a competing vision. So now you can go and say that the Friends of Ireland position is “No Border.” You can have the Speaker of the House say, “I agree!” I think people have forgotten that. The Good Friday Agreement was everything, because it was Belfast / Dublin, and institutions would be created that would be All-Ireland institutions. I saw [the importance of] that after we just left Derry, where that young woman [Lyra McKee] was murdered recently. The idea that an Irish prime minister would go to the funerals... And sit next to each other. You know, there was a time when the Irish prime ministers didn’t go. The British prime minister didn’t go. And I think that the Good Friday Agreement and the elimination of the border was so important. And leaders of the D.U.P.

Yes. On the trip over, I mentioned to Nancy Pelosi my concern that they would try to talk us into avoiding the border. And she said, “We are going to the border.” And she went, and stood there. She walked across it. And nobody was confused when she was done talking about American foreign policy in relation to Brexit, saying that Congress would block any new trade deal with the U.K. if Britain’s exit from the E.U. threatened the peace in Northern Ireland. We were advised that if the North goes [leaves the U.K.], then Scotland will go. And our response was, “It’s self-determination.” The Good Friday Agreement says that there could be a referendum question

Did you visit the border on your recent trip?

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a different time, I mean, if you remember when Roosevelt and Churchill were a great collaboration, World War II, and how America was destined to make the difference. Roosevelt pointed out that this was about advancing democracy, supporting our allies, but not a return to empire. He pointed out that we’re not going back to that. There’s a group in London, England, who ran in a local election on a no-Brexit platform and won 704 seats. It’s the same in Britain, if the Labor party leader would only realize it, but he won’t take the chance.

When we met Jeremy Corbyn, he seemed to agree with everything we said about Ireland and the border. But whether or not he’s strong enough to do something about it, we’ll have to see.

[on a united Ireland], and the greater number will prevail. At the right moment. In the local elections last week, Unionist parties went from 246 to 202.

You see what’s happening. But this has not been going on for two years. This has been going on for thirty-five to forty years. It’s demographic. Of the six counties, there [are] four now that have a nationalist majority. The people who have been against Brexit [have] successful agrarian interests in the North. And the reason they are against it is because they like selling their products in the Republic of Ireland. In the heyday of Ulster, or the North, part of the argument that the unionists used was that they had a higher standard of living in the North than the people in the Republic – not true any more. And you look at the resiliency of the Irish economy, from where they were [to] where they are now. How it bounced back. I think that without that border, people in the North look at it and they say, “You know what, if there is a true departure now from the European Union, it’s not bad for us to be Irish citizens.”

Yes. Vigorously so. Oh, yes. And I think part of it is that you’re going to be reminded who has been against Brexit. Do you think you’ll see a united Ireland?

Yes. I think it is going to be born of necessity. If you are on the unionist side, it’s time to make the best deal you can. If you are on the nationalist side, you have to not do to the unionists what was done to you. Are you optimistic about peace talks?

An honest broker is needed. I think that one of the problems we have had is that we thought there was going to be a successor to George Mitchell. It’s not going to happen. There’s only one Mitchell. Not only that: you look at how strong Blair was at the time. He really put something into it. And Bill Clinton really put something into it. Sometimes you need the strong men and the strong women to make the deal. The Irish government, during those years, was in favor of propping up SDLP. And the British government was in favor of propping up the D.U.P. And when the deal became inevitable, the toughest people made the deal [the nationalists and the loyalists]. Do you still think they need an American envoy?

I am surprised to hear that sort of talk in this day and age. The world has moved on, by decades. He clings to the notion of “empire.” There are those who make this argument for a return to How did you get on with Brexiteer Rees-Mogg?

Let me ask you about the current day. What surprised you about the job, now that you have it?

Trying to manage a lot of the personalities is not easy. I always felt very comfortable on the policy stuff; I was smart enough to pay attention over the years. And I like reading long pieces about it, and hearing what everybody has to say, but boy, managing the strong personalities. I think that our job is to educate the public, not to entertain them. I think entertainment has seeped into politics; there’s this kind of, “I got to get out there,” before thinking through what you want to say, and I just resist that. The reality is, he won. And I think that we can have plenty of sharp disagreements, but I’m hopeful that even in this incendiary atmosphere, we can find some common ground on a handful of issues. We need to find an agreement on infrastructure, and we’ve got a big issue coming up with the multipayer pension plans in the Midwest. You’re in the ring with Trump, how are you doing?

There’s not too many other Democrats talking like that. It seems to be lines in the sand.

Yes. But I also have a different responsibility as chairman of this committee. We have to deal with taxes, trade, tariffs, Social Security, Medicare, management of the public debt, pensions, and welfare. I don’t have the luxury of not trying to fix these pension plans. They’ve got to get fixed. I paid a lot of attention to it over the years. I understand why the Fed should be independent, and not have the president’s acolytes being appointed. You have great expertise in financial matters.

I don’t know him well enough, but I think that in the age of theater, he’s an actor. I think that he probably enjoys this. I also think that this didn’t just happen – that we’ve been coursing through this for years. I think more entertainment has seeped into the political arena. It’s all instant opinion. There’s no deep breath, there’s no stepping back. There’s a lot of talking, and a lot less listening. And I think that the country has a lot of serious challenges in front of it. And I would like to think that some of this could calm for a period of time to get some of these big things done. Before you know it, by the time you get to the fall, we’re a year out from another presidential election. We’re exhausted from the last one, because it’s gone on. So what do you think of Trump as an individual?

I’m going to wait and see. I’ve got friends all over, with the job

Who do you like on the Democratic side?


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I’ve got. I think that we need to nominate the most electable Democrat. So that’s the bottom line. The problem we have today is that we’ve now seen two elections where we’ve won the popular vote and lost the presidency. It is scary, and I think that part of this is that we need a mainstream Democrat.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, Ambassador Dan Mulhall, and other Irish government representatives meet with Congressman Neal in his Washington, D.C., office in March.

I don’t think that they’re going to be voluntarily turned over.

So in terms of the tax returns, will you get them?

How far will all this go? Will it eventually go to the Supreme Court?

It could.

Well, I think that the law is very clear on this. It says, “Shall furnish, upon request,” and there is no sense, on my part, of malevolence here. There are eight successive presidents over forty years that have voluntarily released their forms. All the way back to Richard Nixon, they asked that their forms be reviewed. I don’t understand why, after the president said during the course of the campaign that he was going to voluntarily give up the forms, and then he said he was under audit. Now the IRS commissioner says, “It doesn’t make a difference; you can release the forms anyway.” But we’ve been very careful in preparing a court case. That’s why you don’t see me doing the bombast, and you don’t see me running to the cable shows. The House counsel has said to me, “You’ve got to be careful how you do this. You can’t do the shows, because you’re the petitioner in the court case, so you’re likely to be a witness.” But even the Supreme Court surely can’t rule in his favor.

I was watching FOX News last night. The guy said you should be allowed to view them, but not take them away.

Well, that’s what actually happened with Richard Nixon and Joint Tax. You would have professionals review these. It’s not like you would have, you know, just the Ways and Means members, so I think that the answer, should we be successful, is the Joint Tax 32 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

Committee, which is made up of attorneys, tax attorneys, accountants, and economists. I think that that would be a good sounding board.

I don’t know what he’s hiding. I think that the idea that he wouldn’t submit to the same sort of test that the others have had is the challenge. The challenge is that I don’t even start with a malicious intent. My attitude is: let’s just take a look at the forms; we’re interested in seeing how the IRS conducts an audit. That’s the legal basis of the request. I think that that’s fair. What do you think he is hiding?

Do you think Trump will make it through his presidency without impeachment?

I think Speaker Pelosi would rather have an election than an impeachment. I think she’s right. You also have a presidential election now that’s, what, sixteen to seventeen months away? I was here during the Clinton impeachment and opinions shifted pretty vigorously on that. People forget, when Clinton left, two-thirds of the American people approved of the job that he had done. I was pretty impressed, because I was a big supporter. Be careful what you wish for. The other thing: be careful, only because you had in the Clinton case – you had the prosecutor, you had the press, you had the Republicans, and you had Clinton, and the people said, “Of the four, we’ll take Clinton.” I mean, you’re known by your opponents sometimes. And the people that were involved in that at the time, they totally miscalculated, and I think [that’s why] Speaker Pelosi would rather have an election than an impeachment. Hypothetical: President Warren calls on the phone and says, “I want you as ambassador to Ireland.”

As opposed to the Ways and Means chairmanship? I’ll stick with the Ways and Means chairmanship. Speaker Pelosi said to me when we were over there, “Did you ever think of running for one of those national offices?” Then she caught herself and she said, “Being chair of the Ways and Means Committee is better, isn’t it?” And I said, IA “Yes, it is.”

A striking tale of the enduring Irish-American spirit “Irish Above All combines the myths and magic of Ireland with the grit and energy of Irish-American Chicago in the first half of the 20th century.” —ROMA DOWNEY, acclaimed actress, producer, and New York Times bestselling author

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wild irish women |

by Rosemary Rogers

“Oh! star of Erin, queen of tears, Black clouds have beset thy birth, And your people die like morning stars, That your light may grace the earth.” “Stars of Freedom” 1981, by IRA volunteer Bobby Sands, M.P. H-Block, Long Kesh Prison Camp


A Most Sorrowful Mystery



atching Bobby Sands die in 1981, much of the world realized, finally, that the young IRA soldier and hunger striker was a freedom fighter, and the view of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland forever changed. It was no longer seen as two Irish factions fighting over who had the better Jesus, but rather a struggle for human rights. Sands’ death was another chapter in Ireland’s long history of martyrs and “blood sacrifices.” Two weeks later another I.R.A. hunger striker, one who was not allowed to die, was released from prison – Dolours Price. Dolours Price grew up with a living blood sacrifice, Auntie Bridie, who in her IRA days dropped gelignite in an explosives dump and lost both her hands and eyes. To Dolours and her sister Marion, Auntie Bridie was a hero, they dutifully lit her many cigarettes and inserted them between her lips. Rebellion was the Price family business: the father was a longtime IRA chief, the mother in the Cumann na mBan, the female wing of the IRA, and at varying times each of the Prices, including old Granny, did a stretch in prison. Dolours recalled, “Our family motto wasn’t ‘For God and Ireland,’ Ireland came before God.” Northern Ireland was created after Ireland’s War of Independence when, in 1921, the British Government passed an act that employed the Empire’s fallback “solution” – partition. Whether it’s India or Ireland, partition always leads to tribalism and religious conflict. Britain kept the northern six

counties with a Protestant majority, known as the “Loyalists”; the other, mostly Catholic, 26 counties became the Irish Republic. In Northern Ireland the Catholics, the “Republicans,” were a minority and subjected to discrimination in housing, jobs, and voting. It was Jim Crow, Irish style. In the late 1960s, rebellion broke out all over the world as the younger generation found its voice, and the dissent found its way to Northern Ireland. There, the lines of sectarian hate had already been drawn, and the increasing tension was turning violent: The Troubles had arrived. In January 1969, Catholics (and some Protestants), embracing the non-violence of Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the People’s Democracy March, modeled after his Selma march. Dolours and Marion, now college students, were among the activists marching from Belfast to Derry singing “We Shall Overcome” when they were ambushed by Loyalists and pelted with bricks, pipes and boards with nails. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) did nothing to stop the assault, instead aligning themselves with vigilante Protestants. By August of the same year, Great Britain sent its army into Northern Ireland on a “limited operation.” It stayed for the next eight years, the longest continuous deployment in the history of the British military. In 1972, British paratroopers fired on a peace march, killing 13 unarmed civilians, a day forever known as Bloody Sunday. It was a turning point in the conflict. Both sides had become radicalized and now, it was war. The new generation of Republicans formed the Provisional IRA, committed to armed struggle; the Loyalist side spawned more virulent paramilitary groups – the Ulster Defense Association, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, and the most violent, the Ulster Volunteer Force. Just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, it

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did. The British introduced “internment,” a policy where anyone with a whiff of Republicanism was imprisoned indefinitely, without trial. The Army colluded with the RUC and the Ulster paramilitaries, and together they recruited a network of informers, or “touts,” from the Catholic population. Throughout Irish history, informers were reviled, never to be forgiven, and if found out, executed. Dolours no longer saw anti-violence protest as an option. She left her classes with a rifle hidden under her raincoat, traveled to Maoist headquarters in Milan to give a speech on “British Repression,” and eventually approached the IRA demanding to be a member. She wanted to be a soldier on the front lines; the leadership met and, in 1971, Dolours became the first woman admitted to the IRA. She was 20 years old. Now named the Crazy Prices (after a Belfast department store), Dolours and Marion robbed banks dressed as nuns and hijacked cars and postal trucks. Both were glamourous and leggy in the era of miniskirts, and not above flirting with British soldiers – it helped them get past checkpoints to plant bombs. Dolours, in particular, had an ample supply of swagger and, like Che Guevara, became a symbol of radical chic. She volunteered for the Unknowns, a secret society within the secret society that was the IRA. The Unknowns were charged with transporting arms across the border, an operation that expanded to transporting touts across the border to be executed. Those 17 touts later became known as the Disappeared. In 1973 Dolours spearheaded a plan as audacious as it was doomed: the Unknowns would take the battle from Northern Ireland to England and plant


TOP: Dolours on her release from prison.

car bombs outside London landmarks, including the Old Bailey. Her team highjacked cars in Belfast and ferried them to London where they were wired with explosives. The bombs were set to go off at 2:50 and the police would get a one-hour notice before they detonated. The night before the mission, an oddly relaxed Dolours decided to take in some London theater; it was an evening where her past, present, and future intersected. The play, Freedom of the City, was by Brian Friel, a Catholic from the North, and about Bloody Sunday (Friel was a participant). The director was Britain’s “angry young man” and Republican supporter Albert Finney; the star was a young actor, Stephen Rea, a Protestant from the North and Dolours’ fellow activist in the Belfast civil rights movement. Ten years later he became her husband. The next day police were waiting for Dolours & Co. – they had been set up by an informer. But two bombs did go off, 200 people were injured, and the Belfast Bombers were arrested at the London GETTY IMAGES

ABOVE: (December 7,1971) Children jeer at British soldiers while a fire smolders in the street behind them. FAR LEFT: Dolours and her sister Marion on the peace march to Derry where they were ambushed by Loyalists. FAR LEFT TOP: One of the few pictures of Bobby Sands that exist.


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RIGHT: A screen shot from the Netflix documentary I, Dolours. BELOW: Young lovers: Dolours and the actor Stephen Rea, who became her husband.

Airport. The Crazy Prices were now the notorious celebrities, the Sisters of Terror; Vanessa Redgrave offered to pay their bail. During her trial, Dolours mugged, wisecracked and otherwise behaved badly; she and Marion received life sentences in Her Majesty’s prison at Brixton. Once outside the courtroom, Dolours announced she was going on a hunger strike unless she received political prisoner status and transferred to a Northern Ireland prison. The parents visited Dolours and Marion, now the third generation of their family’s women to be imprisoned for the Republic. Their mother warned the girls, “no tears, not in front of these people.” The somewhat arrogant Albert Price reminded his daughters of his earlier IRA mission to London (with, of all people, Brendan Behan), “I blew them

up before you did. The only thing was I didn’t get caught.” Once inside, the Prices refused food for 33 days. Then authorities, worried about the backlash if the celebrity sisters died, ordered them to be force-fed, a procedure the international community now recognizes as torture. For 167 days, four guards bound their arms and legs to a chair, climbed on top of them, and stuck rubber tubing crammed with slop down their throat. They didn’t break, their resistance worked, and they were transferred to Armagh prison in Northern Ireland. But they had lost hair and teeth and developed anorexia and were now repulsed by food, “to have food was bad, to eat food was failure and defeat.”




The anorexia had put her life in peril, and despite continued opposition from Margaret Thatcher, Dolours, weighing 76 pounds, was released from prison in 1981. This was around the same time Bobby Sands and the other H-Block prisoners were on their hunger strike, a strike that would not have been possible without the Price sisters – because of their ordeal, force-feeding was no longer an option. The British government had stated, “henceforth any prisoner on hunger strike would be allowed to die.” Out of prison, Dolours, suffering from severe PTSD, effectively ended her fight against the British Empire. She built a new life in Dublin and a new career, writing. She began dating her former friend from the civil rights movement, Stephen Rea. They married in 1983 had two sons and later, art imitating life, Rea was nominated for Academy Award playing a soulful IRA gunman in The Crying Game. Republican leader Gerry Adams left the fighting too. He moved on to politics, becoming the leader of Sinn Féin, and in 1983 began building a coalition, which included President Bill Clinton, that would lead to a treaty. In 1994, the IRA laid down their arms, a gesture that gave hope to both sides and inspired President Clinton’s speech in Derry. He quoted Seamus Heaney: “History says, don’t hope / On this side of the grave. / But then, once in a lifetime / The longed-for tidal wave / Of justice can rise up / And hope and history rhyme.” In the 40 years from 1968 to 1998, over 3,600 people had been killed, and many others maimed, in the Troubles. On Good Friday 1998, both sides in the long battle reached a peace agreement – hope and history finally rhymed. The government would now consist of Catholics and Protestants, paramilitary groups put down their arms, and the police force integrated. The treaty was a historic day for Ireland, but an unholy one for Dolours Price. The six counties of Ulster would remain part of the United Kingdom, prompting Dolours to announce that she had not

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endured torture and “the pangs of hunger strike just for a reformed English rule in Ireland.” The Good Friday Agreement led her to question her wartime activity: were her crimes in the name of Ireland now even justified? Was her cause still righteous? Was she a murderer? Dolours was further incensed as Adams, with a straight face, denied he was ever in the IRA. She refused to accept the obvious – that his political expediency was the cost of peace. Adams had to talk out of both sides of his mouth since the Brits couldn’t be seen negotiating with a “terrorist” and, just as importantly, he was the only person who could persuade the IRA to put down their arms. In 2001, the Belfast Project, an oral history of the Troubles sponsored by Boston College, began recording secret interviews with participants on both sides of the conflict. Former combatants conducted the interviews and participants were promised confidentiality: their stories would be sealed until after their death. As the Belfast Project proceeded, attention shifted to the Disappeared who were taken over the border to be executed and buried. Their families demanded the remains, and a commission was set up to locate the bodies. Of the 17 Disappeared, there was only one woman, Jean McConville, a single mother of 10 who was abducted in 1972 and never seen again. Dolours was the driver who drove her over the border to County Monaghan. For years Dolours had been haunted by her IRA past. By 2003, she was divorced and struggling with depression, PTSD, alcoholism, and an addiction to prescription drugs. She was arrested for forging prescriptions and shoplifting vodka. Trying to exorcise her demons, she started talking. First to the media in Ireland and the U.S., then to the Belfast Project, and finally spilling everything in a 2010 documentary, I, Dolours. In I, Dolours, she admitted to taking Jean McConville over the border, bringing her to an empty grave, and witnessing her execution. Her orders, she said, came directly from Gerry Adams. After the British government subpoenaed her interview from Boston College (so much for the college’s promise of confidentiality), Adams was arrested for Jean’s murder, but released after four days of questioning. During those four days, tremors ran through the region; it was only held together by a fragile peace. In 2013, Dolours Price was found dead in her home from an overdose of sedatives and antidepressants – a desultory end to a woman of such passion. It wasn’t a suicide, according to the coroner, but rather

“death by misadventure,” fitting for a woman who led a life of adventure and whose name means “sorrow.” At her funeral, Bernadette Devlin gave a eulogy that spoke to Dolours’ torment, “…forty years of cruel war, of sacrifice, of prison, of inhumanity… broke our hearts, and it broke our bodies and it makes every day hard.” Now, a popular tourist activity in Northern Ireland is gawking at trouble spots of the Troubles


where the blood hasn’t dried and the bitterness on both sides is palpable. Other former war zones – Rwanda, Bosnia, South Africa – have worked at reconciliation, but not so with the notoriously grudge-holding Irish. Then along came Brexit, a profoundly stupid and wrong-headed move driven by the dying gasp of British Imperialism. Oddly, the U.K., or the “Mainland,” as it’s known to Loyalists, managed to have forgotten one of its extant colonies, Ulster. Brexit has placed a new fear in Northern Ireland: fear of a hard border, a return to fighting, soldiers, and sandbags, or at the very least, a soft border subject to endless custom wars without the protection of the E.U. But there’s another possibility. A new referendum could result in Northern Ireland joining with the Republic to create a United Ireland. This would mean that, after 800 years, there would be no British presence in Ireland, something else Bobby Sands wrote about in “Stars of Freedom,” shortly before he died. But this Celtic star will be born, And ne’er by mystic means, But by a nation sired in freedom’s light, And not in ancient dreams.

ABOVE: Dolours Price’s coffin is carried by her son Oscar and ex-husband Stephen Rea.



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Irish-American War Hero and Superspy “WILD BILL” DONOVAN: By Geoffrey Cobb

“Wild Bill“ Donovan had many fascinating friends, including Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond – the fictional, globe-trotting superspy. Donovan’s real-life feats, however, surpassed even Bond’s wildest exploits. Perhaps no other Irish American served his country more daringly, yet Donovan’s largely clandestine service to America is still greatly underappreciated. orn in 1883 into poverty, the son of a County Corkborn railroad superintendent in Buffalo, New York, William Joseph Donovan combined rakish good looks with a first-rate intelligence. Rare amongst IrishAmericans of his generation, Donovan inherited his father’s allegiance to the Republican party. Excelling in his local Catholic school, Donovan first went to a local Catholic college before transferring to Columbia University, where he starred as the football team’s quarterback. Admitted to its law school in 1905, Donovan was a classmate of his future boss, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but the two were not friendly. Returning to Buffalo, Donovan forsook the IrishAmerican First Ward, spending his time in posh Protestant circles and joining a prestigious Buffalo law firm. Soon admitted as the first-ever Catholic into the Saturn Club, Buffalo’s most prestigious club, Donovan courted and married Ruth Rumsey, the


attractive Protestant daughter of Buffalo’s richest man. Donovan, though, was too restless just to practice law. Eager for military service, he and his Saturn Club friends formed a National Guard cavalry troop, known as the Silk Stocking Boys, which was soon dispatched to Mexico, chasing Pancho Villa in vain across the hot and dusty Mexican landscape. When America entered the Great War in 1917, Donovan was commissioned as a major in “the Fighting 69th,” a regiment of poor Irish toughs who, despite their heroism in the Civil War, were notorious for their fist-fighting and hard drinking. Donovan weeded out the troublemakers, putting his imprint on the unit by hand-picking 2,000 smart, athletic, and agile men. Becoming infamous for his demanding physical training of the recruits, in which he also took part, Donovan once asked his exhausted men what the hell was wrong with them. One of them replied, “We are not as wild as you are, Major Donovan,” and the name stuck. Donovan befriended the 69th’s famous Canadianborn chaplain Father Duffy, whose statue still graces New York’s Times Square. Duffy admired Donovan’s fearlessness in battle. Donovan wore his medals in battle to encourage his men, even though they made him a target for snipers. On July 27, 1918, Donovan proved his valor while leading his men across the Ourcq River. Hemmed in by machine guns on three sides, Donovan refused to cower, even though the 69th lost 600 of 1,000 men, including three-quarters of the officers. For his bravery, Donovan won the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s secondhighest award. Soon, Donovan again displayed his courage, fighting in the thick of battle on October 14 and famously shouting, “They can’t hit me and they won’t hit you!” Wounded the next morning, Donovan refused to be evacuated and continued commanding his men, even after American tanks retreated from the withering German fire. Awarded the Medal of Honor, Donovan’s letters about the engagement, published by newspapers, made him a national hero. Upon being awarded the Medal of Honor, Donovan became the most decorated soldier in U.S. history, winning, amongst other orders, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, and several foreign awards. The Fighting 69th, or what was left of it, returned to a hero’s welcome and a ticker-tape parade up Fifth Avenue. Using his newly found fame, Donovan, along with

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businessmen and lawyers who traded tips on the increasingly ominous European situation. Amazingly, before World War II, the U.S. government had no foreign spy agency, leaving it unprepared for the upcoming world war. In 1939, with Britain facing war, its foreign intelligence service MI6 began looking for American allies and spotted one in Donovan who, despite his Irish background, was an anglophile. In July 1940, Donovan flew to London to meet Colonel Stewart Menzies, the chief of MI6, and Winston Churchill, whom Donovan greatly impressed. Returning to Washington as the Battle of Britain raged, the proBritish Donovan told Roosevelt that Britain could survive only with America’s help. In January 1940, Donovan sat in a radio studio plugging The Fighting 69th, a new Hollywood movie. The film, starring James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, and George Brent as Donovan, put him back in the spotlight just when President Roosevelt needed someone with Donovan’s European experience. Roosevelt liked Donovan and trusted his intelligence, even though Donovan was a Republican. In July 1941, FDR established the Office of the Coordination of Information (C.O.I.), naming Donovan its director. After Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt again turned to Donovan, adopting Donovan’s blueprint for a secret American intelligence service based on the British model and appointing him to run the agency, called the O.S.S.: the Office of Strategic Services. Quickly, Donovan created a massive spy network fighting a worldwide, clandestine war. Occupying the rank of Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., started the American Legion, LEFT: Major General William two-star general, Donovan slept little, continually J. Donovan, director of the which quickly evolved from a group of war veterans O.S.S., and Colonel William flying abroad on secret missions. Ever the soldier, into the most influential American veteran group, Harding Jackson in April 1945. Donovan even defied orders, landing at Normandy with over a million members and local posts across on D-Day while barely avoiding capture by German (WWI) Donovan as a the country. Donovan became a hero with a national ABOVE: soldiers. Donovan’s O.S.S. nevertheless played a lieutenant colonel with the following. huge behind-the-scenes role in winning the war for 165th Regiment in France in Returning to Buffalo to practice law, Donovan September 1918. the Allies. soon grew bored of private practice and won At the end of the war, America was in transition. appointment as a U.S. attorney in Buffalo. Prohibition laws then Donovan and the American Legion pushed the GI Bill, the most existed, but his Saturn Club openly flouted them; nevertheless, far-reaching education program in American history, through Donovan declared the “law is the law,” and ordered a raid on the Congress, allowing millions of veterans a college education. America club by sledgehammer-wielding federal agents. Damned by the also knew it needed a foreign intelligence agency and Donovan influential club members, Donovan was effectively driven from hoped to be named by FDR’s successor Harry Truman to head the Buffalo, much to the consternation of his wife’s WASP family. newly created Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA. However, TruMoving first to Washington, D.C., in 1924, he became assistant man, a loyal Democrat, did not share FDR’s high opinion of Donoattorney general at the Justice Department, but his career was van, instead naming one of Donovan’s spies, Allen Dulles, to run the blocked by anti-Catholic discrimination. Donovan then came to CIA. Deeply disappointed, Donovan went to Nuremberg, where he New York in 1929 to start his own lucrative Wall Street law firm, played an important role in providing evidence in the prosecution of which made him a millionaire. Ever restless, he ran unsuccessfully former Nazis. for governor of New York in 1932, surprisingly proving to be a poor For the remainder of his life, Donovan longed to run the CIA, but stump speaker who drew resentment from many Irish voters for President Eisenhower also denied him the job, instead naming him looking and acting like the rich Republican he was. Spending ambassador to Thailand, where Donovan first began to show signs lavishly, Donovan was always on the move, shuttling between his of the dementia that quickly grew worse. Hospitalized in 1957, Washington mansion, his duplex on New York’s Beekman Place, Donovan suffered hallucinations, imagining the Red Army coming his summer home on Cape Cod, and his Virginia country home. over the 59th Street Bridge, while often wandering onto the street in His wanderlust increasingly took him to Europe and Asia, where his pajamas. In his last days, Donovan received a hospital visit from he wrote reports for clients on the investment climate. In 1939, he Eisenhower, who called Donovan “the last hero.” When Donovan met Spain’s Generalissimo Franco on the front lines of the Spanish died on February 8, 1959, the CIA cabled its station chiefs around the Civil War, where he observed Nazi Germany’s frightening use of world: “The man more responsible than any other for the existence its weapons and warplanes. He also visited Italy’s Mussolini, who of the Central Intelligence Agency has passed away.” Today, was impressed by Donovan’s war heroics. Ostensibly traveling for Donovan’s statue stands in the lobby of the CIA’s headquarters in business, Donovan in fact gathered intelligence for a secretive Langley, Virginia, a tribute to the Irish-American war hero who private organization known as the Room, a group of international single-handedly created America’s foreign intelligence capability. 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stories archive |

by Ellie Shukert

Irish War Brides


Thousands of Irish women found love during WWII with American servicemen based in Northern Ireland and Britain. Once the war was over, the women faced a new challenge – life in America.

Beryl Lynch and Charles Colvin, who married in 1944.


group of workers on the docks serenaded the passengers with “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and “Come Back to Erin.” The sirens of other ships in the harbor wailed while the 314 Irish brides waved, held up their 140 babies, and sang “Auld Lang Syne” through floods of tears as the Henry Gibbins, a 12,000-ton U.S. Army transport vessel, sailed away from the Herdman Channel, Belfast, on March 7, 1946. This was the first of three shiploads of brides from Northern Ireland and Éire to embark for the United States. Many had married GIs as early as 1942. The majority of the women were in their early 20s. The youngest bride was 17, the oldest 45, with three grown daughters in tow. At night, mothers slept in upper berths and babies beneath in the lower, where a screen was constructed to prevent them “falling out on their noses.” Days were spent listening to Red Cross personnel lecturing from A Short Guide to the U.S. on “The GI Bill of Rights,” “Becoming a Citizen,” and “Currency Differences.” Although $75,000 had been spent on reconversion, the Gibbons, which carried 2,900 troops at a time during the war, was no luxury liner. However, The Northern Whig, a newspaper from that time, made much of the lavish menu aboard ship, which included “as many old-fashioned shell eggs as they liked.” No more coupons, points, and rationing for the brides. There was more meat, eggs, chicken, and fresh fruit than they’d seen in years. Unfortunately most of the women would be too seasick to enjoy the feast. Seasickness was aggravated by their intense excitement at rejoining their husbands, regrets about leaving their families and homeland, and apprehension as to whether or not they would get a hearty welcome from in-laws in America. Marion (Callendar) Carlson, from Belfast, got a terrific welcome when she arrived in New York aboard the James Parker in May 1946. “We were met by American Red Cross people,” she remembers. “They had big placards, ‘Welcome Irish War Brides,’


and a GI military band played Irish tunes.” Other brides who weren’t so lucky remember being met by hostile groups of American women shouting, “You stole our husbands,” and “You stole our boyfriends.” By March 1945, U.S. naval officer T.J. Keane had disclosed that 25 percent of the men under his command had married women from Northern Ireland. The greatest number hailed from areas where the largest numbers of American troops were stationed, Cookstown, Derry, Coleraine, Kilrea, Portrush, and Belfast. U.S. Immigration tables for the period from December 28, 1945 through 1950 account for 1,466 Irish war brides and three war “grooms,” but in fact there were many more. Those figures don’t take account of the 30,000 Irish and English brides transported secretly while the war was still on. Although authorities after the war predicted that 80 percent of marriages between GIs and foreign women would fail, the opposite has proved true. Esther (Canning) Munger, her husband, and their five children can chuckle when she tells about her Irish friends who “had a bet on when I came to this country that I would be back home in six months.” Esther, from County Wexford, was only 17 when she married, having met her future husband at a birthday party in Lincoln, England. Her parents told her she “was too young, that he was not Catholic, and that America was too far away.” Parental fears and misgivings at the time were understandable. As one war bride put it, “Going to America was like going to the moon!” In all likelihood, parents might never see their daughter again, or be able to help her if the marriage failed. One woman from Coalisland, County Tyrone, who had met her GI while working as a waitress in a hotel in England, sailed secretly aboard the Mauritania in February 1945 during wartime, along with 500 other brides, 200 babies, and 1,500 wounded soldiers. She remembers how they “took a zigzag course on account of U-boats.” “Because of the U-boat threat,” another war bride aboard recalled, “I wasn’t allowed to notify anyone that I was on my way. All our written material had been censored – even my Bible – and was put into sealed packages which we weren’t allowed to open until we got to the U.S. There were no pressmen on the dock; it was all hush-hush because the war was still on.” Another bride who came over secretly with 13 other women during the war remembers that puzzled soldiers aboard who saw these unaccounted-for women in the officers’ dining room and lounge started rumors that “the girls onboard were there for the entertainment of the officers.” The next day, it was announced that they were war brides. Most war brides still marvel at how easily attracted they were to those Yanks in their smart uniforms, smelling of Old Spice, generous to a fault. Marion Carlson, who met her Yank at an American

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Red Cross event, feels that basically there wasn’t really all that much difference between Irish and American men, “except Americans seem[ed] to treat women nicer, sending flowers, candy, and the like.” According to Lillian “Betty” (Kearney) Frantz of Belfast, who met her husband on a blind date while working in England during the war, American men were “better dressed,” but “failed to use a knife and fork properly when eating, failed to open doors or light a cigarette, but treated women like queens.” Some Irish women served in the British A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service) during the war and met their American husbands on the job. “Both of us worked in the Headquarters Allied Armies, Italy,” says Phyllis (Boyack) Lancaster of Clonmel, County Tipperary. Although she often found GIs to be “loud and brassy,” she also thought them “more outgoing” than British men. At her wedding in October 1945, Phyllis wore an often-borrowed wedding gown, on loan from a Canadian women’s group to members of the A.T.S. Many wartime gowns were fashioned out of parachute silk. Gauze bandages were transformed into wedding veils. Jean (Campbell) Corda, of Lisburn, County Antrim, who met Pvt. Elmer Corda at the movies in her hometown, remembers “three of us girls married Americans in the same church by the same minister on March 27, 1943.” Not long after they settled in Oregon, rising waters from the Columbia River broke a railroad dike and flooded their town. For a while, their only shelter was a tent. Elmer told Jean he wouldn’t blame her if she packed up and went back to Ireland. Jean told him that World War II brought them together and she wasn’t about to let hell or high water chase her away. “We had our struggles,” Jean admits. “We didn’t have a lot when we first came, but we managed. You go up the hill and get kicked back down, then you go back up again. My mother used to tell me that when

one door closes, another always opens up.” “I wouldn’t do it again!” says Sally Kastl of Belfast in her clearly Irish brogue. She hasn’t forgotten that she “cried for five years” from homesickness. However, her mother-in-law, an English war bride from World War I, provided some understanding. Getting a job with Michigan Bell Telephone Company as an operator helped Lillian Frantz get through her homesickness. In 1953 she was promoted to management and retired after 28 years of service. “The terrible heat in Oklahoma,” was the worst thing at first for Marion Carlson to get used to. She, too, found satisfaction in a career and a happy marriage. Sally, now a proud grandmother, is still as fiery as ever. She lives with her husband Frank in San Francisco, where neighbors have dubbed her “the mayor of San Bruno Avenue,” because of all the letters she writes to the city council and her involvement in political affairs affecting her neighborhood. As much as Sally misses her homeland and Irish family, leaving was a liberating experience for her. “I had red hair down to my hips; Mother didn’t believe in cutting hair. First thing I did was get it cut!” A friend who traveled recently in Ireland told me he stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, where he asked the proprietor about the photo of a Yank he spied on the parlor wall. “It’s me,” he answered. He turned out to be one of an unknown number of GIs who chose to stay in Ireland with his Irish bride. On December 28, 1945, Public Law 271, known as the War Brides Act, was passed by Congress. The act facilitated the entry of alien spouses of U.S. servicemen by granting them nonquota status. This act remained in effect for three years, until IA December 28, 1948.

TOP: Three hundred and fourteen Irish war brides arrive in New York aboard the Henry Gibbins in April, 1946. BELOW: A page from our 1991 archives.

Ellie Shukert is the author of War Brides of World War II, published by Penguin Books. This article was published in Irish America in April 1991. War bride Sally Kastl passed away in 2004.


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Irish Saloon The LasT

By Pat Fenton

ABOVE: Three of New York’s finest chroniclers, Jimmy Breslin, Pat Fenton, and Pete Hamill have a last round in Farrell’s saloon in the spring of 2016. Breslin died a year later on March 19, 2017.


arrell’s Bar, on the corner of 16th Street and 9th Avenue in Brooklyn, has been in the same location in Windsor Terrace since 1933. It was the very first bar to open in New York after Prohibition. The writer Pete Hamill once said: “Of all the bars of the neighborhood my father might stop into, Farrell’s was the one he kept returning to until the end of his life.” It’s the last Irish saloon left in a neighborhood where gentrification has moved rapidly. Once within a five-block area there was one on almost every corner: Langton’s, McCauley’s, Val’s, McNulty’s, Kerrigan’s, O’Neill’s, Lanahan’s, Devaney’s, and Connie’s Corner. What kept most of them open for so long, all through World War II and into the ’50s and early ’60s, was simply a celebration of Irish working-class life in their back rooms, celebrating first holy communions and confirmations. They were places to ease the pain of mourning at a time when neighborhood wakes lasted as long as three days, and places to find out who was hiring. The Irish of the Windsor Terrace that I grew up in during the ’40s and ’50s made their livings working the docks of nearby Red Hook. Men with names like Towey, Welsh, Walsh, and Maloney worked as trolley car operators on the McDonald Avenue line that ran out of the car barns on 19th Street and 9th Avenue.


“Red Mike” Quill (the founder of the Transport Workers Union) represented them. Others worked as sandhogs and ironworkers. Some worked as gravediggers at Greenwood Cemetery over on 20th Street and 9th Avenue. Many became cops or firefighters. There were once nine movie houses a short distance from each other between Windsor Terrace and Park Slope. Many of the women of the neighborhood worked in them as ticket takers, others, like my mother from Williamstown, Galway, worked as domestics at private houses on Fuller Place near Holy Name Church. Some worked in the factories that once lined nearby 18th Street like the walls of an ancient village. Or they worked in one of the two laundries in the neighborhood, the Cascade Laundry on Prospect Avenue near 9th, and further down Prospect, the Pilgrim Laundry. Somehow the women managed to juggle raising large Irish families containing as many as eight kids with the grueling work of a steamed-filled laundry room. Over the years the writers Pete Hamill and Jimmy Breslin became a part of the lore of Farrell’s and the neighborhood. Many films and beer commercials were shot using it for interior and exterior shots, and they still are. Congressman Peter King was known to campaign here years ago, and still occasionally stops in for a beer.


An old-time bar in Brooklyn, Farrell’s has served as a community center since the 1930s, and is the last marker of what was once a thriving Irish neighborhood.

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Jimmy Houlihan spent many years working behind the stick at Farrell’s before Eddie Farrell sold the legendary saloon to him and two other bartenders, Danny Mills and Timmy Horan, in the late ’90s. Houlihan, who is now the sole owner of the bar, has continued to carry on the charitable traditions that Eddie was known for. He realized that something special, something rare had been passed along from the Farrell family to him, Danny, and Timmy, so he keeps the tradition of giving and caring for the neighborhood of Windsor Terrace going. Each year he organizes numerous fundraisers to help the local Catholic church and school. And if you ask him, he’ll tell you that it doesn’t matter to him if you are new or old to the neighborhood – if you need help, Farrell’s will help you. Once, after the pastor of nearby Holy Name Church mentioned to him that the paint was peeling off of the walls of the classrooms of Holy Name Parochial School, Houlihan volunteered to paint it. In a scene straight off of the pages of a Frank Capra script, he rounded up over 300 people, most of them patrons of his bar, and they all showed up with their own paint brushes and ladders. They painted the school for free over the course of a weekend – all 35 classrooms. The story spread all the way to Washington, where U.S Rep. Charles Schumer entered it into the Congressional record. The writer Denis Hamill called it a Brooklyn version of an Amish barn-raising. When I asked Pete Hamill, who recently moved back to Brooklyn, about going back to Farrell’s Bar, he paused, and then he said, “Pat, I would only see ghosts if I went back there.” The last time he did go back to Farrell’s was in the spring of 2016. He was there to shoot part of a documentary that Jonathan Alter was producing about him and Jimmy Breslin, called Deadline

Artists. I remember being in there that afternoon writing about it. As he sat toward the front of the bar, Jonathan Alter asked him what music he associated with Farrell’s when he looked back on his drinking days there. The question seemed to float in the air for a while as he thought about it. “Early Rock ’n’ Roll,” he answered, as he stared toward the wide front window of the bar. Once, when he was a younger man, home from the Navy, he could stare out that window onto 9th Avenue and it would be like he was looking at a picture of his old Holy Name Parochial School yearbook: all the faces he remembered through his life would be going by, like they always did. And if he thought hard enough, memory would bring back an image of him as a young boy hurrying by the bar on some cold winter Sunday morning, carrying his altar boy surplice folded under his arm as he headed toward the first mass of the day at Holy Name Church on the hill. Over the years these images of youth would play on and on in the wide front window, changing slowly with the decades passing, eventually ending. In their place now, new images appear: images of nannies pushing strollers and young “hipsters” jogging by, as the swirl of time continues its slow movement over 9th Avenue. But inside Farrell’s Bar, time seems to stand still. The old hammered tin ceiling that so many generations of fathers and sons drank under is still there.

TOP LEFT: The original “Farrell’s” sign was blown down during a blizzard in 2011. The owners had an exact replica made of it, and they hung the old sign on a wall in the back of the bar. TOP: Farrell’s saloon which has stood on the corner of 9th Avenue and 16th Street since 1933. The window display included a NY Giants Budweiser sign, and a notice for an upcoming event at Holy Name church. ABOVE: The making of Why Farrell’s?. Filmmaker Jay Cusato is pictured left, next to crew member Jake King with camera.


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ABOVE LEFT: Jacky Malone sits where he always sat: at the very end of the bar. Friends and family held a wake for Jacky when he passed away in 2017. ABOVE RIGHT: Farrell’s owner Jimmy Houlihan working behind the bar.

So are the long thick mirrors behind the bar that reflect the images of white-aproned bartenders carrying out the ritual of bringing large buckets of ice up from the basement, and dumping them over the coils of the taps. Like they always have. Farrell’s serves only two beers on tap, Budweiser and Stella Artois in large quart containers for $8.00. In the ’40s and ’50s, they served only one beer, Rupert Knickerbocker. They still use what looks like cut-down baseball bats to crush the ice and move it around the taps. Longtime bartender Michael O’Donnell, who knows much about the history of Farrell’s, told me that when Timmy Horan passed away recently, the ice bat he used for so many years was buried with him. A talented, award-winning local filmmaker, Jay Cusato from Park Slope Films, has been working on a documentary about the bar. Asked why did Farrell’s stand the test of time, he said, “It’s basically the same bar as it was in the 1930s.” He is calling the documentary Why Farrell’s? Over the years, Farrell’s has become a place where the oral history of Windsor Terrace is stored. It’s a history of a neighborhood that was once teeming with Irish working-class families, a history that few of the “hipsters” moving into the neighborhood know about.When they drive across the Prospect Expressway, they have no idea that once there was another part of Windsor Terrace here, parts of it buried underneath the concrete of the highway now. In the late ’40s, Robert Moses started construction on the Prospect Expressway, a massive highway project that ran through Windsor Terrace and displaced over 1,000 families, most of them Irish and Italian working-class.



TOP: Why Farrell’s? filmmaker Jay Cusato and writer Pat Fenton in front of the original Farrell’s sign.

That part of Windsor Terrace once stood like a small town on its own. Irish women of the neighborhood went off to work in the factories of 18th Street that are now all gone. There was the Lucky Penny variety store on the corner of 9th Avenue, and a few doors down there was a barber shop, and Frank’s Italian restaurant, all rowed up like a scene from an Edward Hopper painting. And across the street, on the corner of 19th Street there was Gus’s Diner. Gladys Mastrion, who moved over to Staten Island some years ago, comes back often to Farrell’s. If you ask her about the Prospect Expressway and Robert Moses, she will tell you that her grandfather lived at 373 19th Street his whole life and that “in 1952, Moses took his house and gave him $2,000 for it. “ Memories of what once was in Windsor Terrace, history, and tradition are slowly fading with time. Not long ago I attended what will probably be the last Irish wake in the neighborhood. The wake, which took place in Farrell’s Bar, was held for Jacky Malone, a retired NYPD officer I grew up with. For over 40 years you could usually find him standing at the same spot at the back of the bar next to the old phone booth. After living most of his life just a few doors down from Farrell’s, he moved upstate to be closer to his family. When he died in 2017, they posted information on Farrell’s cork bulletin board about a memorial service that would be held for him at nearby Holy Name Church. His sister Snooki brought his ashes down from Lake Luzerne in a polished wooden box. After a funeral mass and a police honor guard ceremony, the crowd formed into a procession, and they all walked down 9th Avenue to Farrell’s Bar. Snooki led the way, carrying Jacky’s ashes with her. Inside Farrell’s, there was food spread out on tables, the juke box was playing, and you could hear the roar of a large crowd of Jacky’s friends and family as they called up memories of their times with him. His sister Snooki walked back to the spot where Jacky always drank and placed his ashes on the bar. Pints of beer and Jameson’s whiskey were ordered, and soon the afternoon took on the mood of a Joycean wake. Like Pete Hamill, whenever I go back to Farrell’s now I see ghosts. When I stand where Jacky Malone once stood, and stare into the wide mirrors we both stared into when we were young, I can still hear him asking me, “You still writing all that crap for the newspapers?” And I would smile and say, “Yeah, Jack, I’m still writing all that crap for the newspapers.” And he would turn and smile back at me, knowing he had just paid me the highest compliment that you could get in Farrell’s – no matter how long you were gone from the bar, you were still part of Farrell’s enough to be teased. Then he would say to the bartender, IA “Give Pat a beer.”

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Bronx Irish Catholic RECOLLECTIONS OF A

In the 1950s, the Bronx was a melting pot of immigrants and firstgeneration families: Jewish, Italian, and Irish alike. Peter Quinn shares his story of what it was like to be a Bronx Irish Catholic, commonly referred to as a B.I.C.


“Breathes there the man, with soul so dead, / Who never to himself hath said, / This is my own, my native land! / Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d, / As home his footsteps he hath turn’d…”

ative land means different things to different people. To some it’s a nation with well-defined borders, like France or Sweden; to others, it transcends borders, à la Ireland or Korea. For many, I think, the term native land invokes something more intimate and parochial: a patch of earth that, no matter where life takes us, stays synonymous with home. For me, that place is the Bronx of the ’50s and ’60s, a lower-middle- / middle-middle-class agglomeration of apartment houses, single-family homes, and small businesses sprawled between the Long Island Sound to the east and the Hudson River to the west, a socalled bedroom borough whose north-south subway lines transported inhabitants to and from jobs in Manhattan. Reeking of exhaust and incinerators, the Bronx was chockablock with pizzerias, German and Jewish delis, and Irish bars; blessed with spacious parks, a worldclass zoo and botanical garden; and possessed of the Ruthian diamond – the crown jewel of major league baseball – Yankee Stadium. The skyline looming to the south was the imperial city – a dream-big place, proximate yet far away. Ours was the workaday, no-illusion city, its concrete precincts filled with cops, firemen, pipefitters, clerks, mechanics, motormen, taxi drivers, teachers, housewives, shop owners, wire lathers, civil servants, and union members, the everyday people who kept the place running. Solid, stolid, often the butt of jokes (“The Bronx, no thonx,” wrote Ogden Nash), the borough was a small-scale Yugoslavia: ethnic enclaves interspersed with areas in which, though physically mingled, groups lived psychically and culturally apart. Jews, by far the most numerous population, branched out from the Art Deco stem of the Grand Concourse. Highbridge, Kingsbridge, and Woodlawn were heavily Irish. Fordham, presided over by the Jesuit Gothic of the eponymous university, was bordered to the west by the well-heeled Irish parish of St. Nicholas of Tolentine and to the southeast by Belmont, a tight-knit Italian village of modest apartment


– Sir Walter Scott

buildings and meticulously tended one- and two-family homes. The once-Irish / Jewish South Bronx filled with newly arrived Puerto Ricans and African Americans. The East Bronx was a trifecta of Jews, Irish, and Italians. Riverdale, in the borough’s northwest corner, felt like an appendage of suburban Westchester County. Fieldston, adjacent to it, was a privately owned enclave of privilege and palatial homes. Home to almost a million-and-a-half people, the borough had only one real hotel, the Concourse Plaza. It was often referred to as “the Bronx’s Waldorf Astoria” – a description more aspirational than exact, which is not to say it wasn’t a fine place to spend the night. Around the corner from where my wife was raised and a Mickey Mantle home run away from Yankee Stadium, the Concourse Plaza is at the center of the 1956 movie The Catered Affair, a tale of working-class Irish-Catholic parents in conflict over their daughter’s wedding reception. In an improbable feat of casting, the taxi-driving, Irish-Catholic dad is played by Ernest Borgnine, the daughter by Debbie Reynolds, and the mother by Bette Davis, whose attempt at a Bronx accent is somewhere between a misfire and weird. (Barry Fitzgerald, her brother, has a rich Irish brogue, a discrepancy left unexplained.) The movie was based on a television play by Bronx native Paddy Chayefsky, who the previous year had won the Academy Award for best screenplay for Marty, another Bronx tale with Ernest Borgnine in his Academy Award-winning role as an Italian-American butcher. I recall Marty receiving accolades from relatives and neighbors. Scenes shot in the Bronx and mentions of places like Fordham Road and Arthur Avenue sprinkled Hollywood stardust over the borough’s prosaic precincts. As opposed to Marty, which had a ring of authenticity, The Catered Affair was a blatant attempt to piggyback on the success of its predecessor, with Irish characters substituted for Italian. The screenplay was written by Gore Vidal who, if pressed, could probably have located the Bronx somewhere between Montreal

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Nuns teaching school children to skip rope.

and the Upper East Side. The movie earned mostly Bronx cheers. We Bronx Irish defined ourselves as much by parishes as neighborhoods. I was from St. Raymond’s, in Parkchester, in the East Bronx. Founded in 1842, it was the first Catholic church in Westchester County. (The Bronx became a separate county in 1914. The five boroughs of New York City are coterminous with state counties.) In the burial yard in front of the church were three towering Celtic crosses, monuments to the half-century reign of a triad of Irish monsignori. Despite all belonging to the genus of B.I.C. (Bronx Irish Catholic), we at St. Raymond Elementary School considered ourselves distinctly different from our counterparts in the neighboring parish of St. Helena’s. A planned community of 12,000 apartments spread across 171 buildings between seven and 13 stories, Parkchester was created by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, which also financed construction of Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. Parks and open spaces were strategically placed. The main means of transportation were subways and the extensive system of city-owned bus lines. But in anticipation of a rapid increase in car ownership, there were multistoried garages and copious parking spaces. Parkchester’s residents were overwhelmingly Jewish and Catholic – Irish in the main. The few Protestants who lived there were regarded with curiosity. Up until the 1960s, Metropolitan Life excluded African Americans from both Stuyvesant Town and Parkchester. This was of a piece with the intransigent residential segregation that prevailed (and still prevails) across large swathes of the city. Desperate to increase the supply of middle-class housing – at least for whites – New York’s progressive mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, reluctantly went along. (Ironically, the oval at Parkchester’s center once contained the ballfield on which the Negro League’s Lincoln Giants played their home games.)

Parkchester was built on the site of the old Catholic Protectory, which was founded in 1863 by Archbishop John Hughes, the Ulster-born hierarch who established Fordham University, initiated the building of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and made the New York Irish into a political as well as religious constituency. The Protectory housed orphans and abandoned children, mostly Irish, whom the Children’s Aid Society had begun shipping west on “Orphan Trains” to be settled among God-fearing, Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Bordering Parkchester, Morris Park to the west and Castle Hill to the east were heavily Italian. A step behind in terms of assimilation and economic advancement, Italians generally preferred houses with small gardens rather than apartments. Parochial schools brought us together. Friendships blossomed and so did fights. I remember the schoolyard of St. Raymond’s as an asphalt Serengeti where the weak were bullied and Irish toughs battled Italian toughs. (Pugilistically inept, I did my best to be inconspicuous.)

JFK’s campaign stop at the Concourse Plaza Hotel. Credit: The Bronx County Historical Society Collections.


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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Irish dancehall, the Bronx 1954 by George S. Zimbel. Courtesy International Center of Photography (ICP). Children at a picnic table in Van Cortlandt Park playing games, October 1, 1939. Courtesy of Parks Photo Archive. First commencement at Keating Hall, Fordham University, June 10, 1936. Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., prepares to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the students from the Flynn School for Irish Dance at his annual Bronx Irish heritage celebration. The event took place on March 14, 2012, at the Rambling House in Woodlawn, and drew a crowd of more than 150 from all corners of the Bronx.

Sometimes the rivalries were humorous. One Italian carting company emblazoned on its garbage trucks “We Cater Irish Weddings.” When I heard talk of “intermarriage,” it referred to Irish-Italian nuptials. It wasn’t until later that miscegenation escalated into ethnic meltdown and bred a new strain of Hiberno-Mediterranean offspring notable for their good looks. Over the years, I’ve heard from Jewish Bronxites about suffering verbal harassment (epithets like “kikes,” “sheenies,” “Christ-killers”) and physical abuse from, as one friend put it, “Irish pogromists.” Without doubting their accounts, that wasn’t my experience. Through all my years of parochial school, I never heard anti-Semitic professions by teachers or clergy. We were told it was our sins that nailed Jesus to the cross. If either of my parents suspected we were cursing or bullying Jews, retribution would have been swift and severe. Yet I had no Jewish friends. We lived separately together. Still, one thing shared by gentiles and Jews was a familiarity with Yiddish. To be a Bronxite was to schlepp and kibitz, and to understand the difference between a schmuck and a mensch. I had no acquaintance with Jewish girls, except one. We rode the 20 BX bus together, she to Walton Girls High School in Kingsbridge, me to the all-male Manhattan Prep in Riverdale. I sat in the back with my school buddies, she in front with her classmates. The first time I saw her, I was smitten by her thin and graceful figure, clothes loose and flowing (our style then was tight), thick black curls (the fashion was long and straight) – an early-blossoming flower child. It was part of growing up in the Bronx to figure out, as quickly as possible, a person’s tribe. I identified her Jewishness in the same way, if she bothered to notice, she perceived my goyishness. We never spoke. And then, one September, she was gone, off to college, I presumed. I spent months bereft. Recently, for the first time in 50 years, I rode a bus along the old route, and it all flooded back, my


lonely-hearts Bronx tale, unbridgeable worlds in the same borough, on the same bus. My first ancestors arrived in New York when Margaret and Michael Manning fled the Great Famine. Margaret Manning, their daughter and my paternal grandmother, was born in 1863, in the village of Fordham – at that time part of Westchester County – and baptized in the university church. (It was then called St. John’s College.) My grandfather Patrick Quinn, a union organizer, was born in Tipperary in 1859. His family emigrated to New York in 1870. He married Margaret Manning, a seamstress, in St. Brigid’s Church on the Lower East Side in 1899. They moved to the Bronx in 1914, where they bought a small house in the West Farms neighborhood which, despite its name, was absent all things agricultural. Contrary to the notion of Irish obsession with ancestry, my family showed little interest in the past. My mother had an active disinterest, routinely tossing out documents and obfuscating or bowdlerizing the fate of relatives who fell victim to impoverishment or their own misbehaviors (or both). The primary focus of my parents and grandparents wasn’t on the Irish past but the American future, and their children’s role in it. My father recalled that as a boy on the Lower East Side he shared a room with his older brother in which they rarely stayed. My grandparents hosted relative after relative as they arrived from Ireland, until none were left to bring over. If my grandfather heard anyone sentimentalizing about the old country his instant riposte was, “If you miss it so much, why don’t you go back?” Romantic Ireland didn’t ring very convincingly in crowded tenement rooms. Catherine Riordan of Blarney, County Cork, landed at Castle Garden in 1888. (It would be four years before Ellis Island opened and processed its first immigrant, Annie Moore, also of County Cork.) Though Catherine claimed to be 18, it’s more likely she was 15 or 16 and lied about her age so she could join her older sister as a domestic and begin sending remittances home to finance her siblings’ journeys. She stayed in maid’s work until she met James Murphy, a native-Irish speaker from near Macroom, who worked as a mechanic at Yorkville’s Rupert Brewery. My mother, Viola Murphy, the last of their six children, was born on the top floor of a four-story walkup on 149th Street in the Bronx. Coming of age in the 1920s, my parents belonged

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to the first truly modern generation. Electricity rolled back night and blazed the Great White Way. New appliances alleviated the burden of ancient drudgeries. Movies and radio revolutionized entertainment. Cars and airplanes shrank old barriers of distance. Credit and the installment plan made commonplace what were once luxuries. People’s expectations rose exponentially. The population of the Bronx tripled to 1.2 million in 1930 from 400,000 in 1910. Progress and prosperity were presumed, with America in the vanguard, and Jazz Age New York ahead of all. While none of my grandparents went beyond primary school, my parents graduated from college. My father received a B.S. in civil engineering from Manhattan College (despite its name, it’s in the Bronx) and worked on the construction of the IND subway while attending Fordham Law School at night. My mother was a classics major at Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale. They met in 1928 at a parish St. Patrick’s Day dance in the Bronx. They loved nightclubs, the theater – musicals, the Marx Brothers, Shakespeare – and reveled in the speakeasy hubbub in which my mother’s bartender brother was much admired for his skill as a mixologist. The presumption that they had escaped their ancestors’ world – a chronicle of unhappy endings that culminated in starvation and migration – was rocked by the Crash of ’29 and the Great Depression. My mother lost her small savings as a teacher when the Edgewater Savings Bank folded. Her immigrant father lost his life savings, the accumulation of 40 years working in a brewery. Pensionless, he worked until he died. My two aunts, one a teacher, the other a secretary, stayed unwed and at home to support my grandmother. Though he had an engineering and law degree, my father struggled to find a full-time job. He volunteered with the local Democratic Club. Edward J. Flynn, the formidable Fordham-educated leader (a.k.a. “The Boss”) of the Bronx Democratic organization and a confidante of Governor Franklin Roosevelt, took a liking to him. Flynn sent my father to the 1932 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as part of a contingent that worked behind the scenes to keep the New York delegation in line for FDR. My father campaigned hard for FDR, speaking around the city from the back of a flatbed truck. In 1936, he was elected to the State Assembly. A week after the election, eight years after they met, my parents were married. My father spent the rest of his life in Bronx politics, serving in the assembly until 1944, then a term in the U.S. Congress (he was one of the two congressmen from New York who rode FDR’s funeral train to Hyde Park), and the rest of his career as a judge of the municipal court, chief judge of the city court, and a justice of the

State Supreme court. He was at home in the Bronx, in the parish in which he grew up. His obituary in the New York Times states that his “associates described him as a witty and brilliant man who loved to sing Irish songs and tell Irish stories.” My father and mother were both fine singers and dancers. The songs were mainly from Broadway shows or The Great American Songbook, the dances foxtrots and waltzes, not reels and jigs. The “Irish songs” weren’t folk tunes but Irish-American favorites like “Harrigan,” “Galway Bay,” and their all-time favorite, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” (lyrics by Jewish songwriter E.Y. Harberg). The stories my father excelled at telling – stories salted with theatrical mastery of dialects – rarely involved Ireland (when they did, they were ghost stories) and rose instead from his life amid the mishegas of Bronx politics. I took for granted that the Irish-American world my family existed in for over a century would remain as it was. The election of John F. Kennedy as president in 1960 felt like a capstone. Shortly before the election, Kennedy spoke at the Concourse Plaza. My father, running in his last election for the State Supreme Court, also spoke. Afterwards, Kennedy traveled up the Grand Concourse on the back of a convertible, a quaintly distant, pre-Dallas image. My friends and I stood in front of the Loew’s Paradise, a movie palace that has since then been stripped and defaced, and helped swell the panethnic delirium that arose when Kennedy mounted a platform in front of the long-vanished Sachs Furniture and Krum’s Candy stores. Permanence of any kind is the grandest of illusions. What was different about the Bronx was the velocity with which the illusion crumbled. The origins of the Bronx as one of the city’s five boroughs (the only one on the U.S. mainland) were obscure even to Bronxites. I heard passing mention among my elders of “annexation” and “consolidation,” but the hardedged, unremitting brick-on-brick streetscapes disguised its overnight transformation from pastoral to metropolitan and made it seem pretty much the same since the Dutch had forcibly evicted the peaceable, innocent Lenapes. The centrifugal swirl that memory insists descended suddenly, like a fast-moving storm, had been building for some time. The pharaonic schemes of Robert Moses carried traffic around and across the Bronx to Long Island and New Jersey. The fund-starved, once-efficient public transit system creaked and sputtered. FHA mortgages spurred the upwardly mobile, suburban aspirations of would-be homeowners and at the same time maintained and abetted the enduring injustice of residential apartheid that condemned minorities to a decaying, substandard housing stock. Economic change drove social change, and reinforced it. Vatican II altered our unalterable church. Priests and nuns molted back into civilians. Parishioners moved away. Once-thriving parishes became MAY / JUNE 2019 IRISH AMERICA 49

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enfeebled. Rock ’n’ roll and the sexual revolution made the generation gap seem more like a chasm. Crime, and fear of it, escalated. The Concourse Plaza became a welfare hotel. The celluloid Bronx of Marty and The Catered Affair, the home of good-hearted working-class stiffs, descended into Fort Apache, The Bronx – a crime-ridden wasteland ruled by drug addicts and crooked cops. Formerly a synonym for low-rent blah, the borough was now “the burning Bronx,” a global synecdoche for urban ruin. The future fled the Bronx. Friends moved away or never returned from college. Soon enough, I followed, serving as a VISTA volunteer in Kansas City. Beckoned by the beautiful and new – everything the Bronx wasn’t – I felt the lure of California. It was then, for the first time, I thought about we had considered lost forever or, worse, what I was leaving behind: the saga of the Athave never even missed, may be restored if lantic passover from poverty and subservience we are patiently attentive to our inner promptto steerage and immigrant tenements; those who ings.” made it, those who didn’t, those whose names I In the early-morning hours and in the time knew, those I didn’t. I turned my footsteps home I could game or grift from my corporate day and returned to New York. job, I began trying to reconstruct what I I attended Bronx Catholic institutions from ABOVE: John F. Kennedy, front row could of my ancestors’ immigrant world. It kindergarten to the last stages of a PhD. Though center, at Riverdale Country School gradually dawned on me that the history I circa 1927. Credit Riverdale Country they were all founded or largely staffed by Irish School. The Kennedys lived in the sought belonged to lives too unimportant to and Irish Americans, my first encounter with upscale Riverdale section of the Bronx record, people who suffered history rather Irish history was in a college course on Victo- in the late 1920s. than recorded it: servants, laborers, anonyrian Britain. The past was a blur. It was as if we mous poor, ordinary moments that weren’t TOP: Author Peter Quinn (right) with emerged from the shadows and fully entered his twin brother Tom and his father, written anywhere, the intricate tangle of exhistory when we came to the Bronx. istences shrunk to generalities, statistics, acNew York Congressman and New York My threadbare connection to Michael Man- Supreme Court judge Peter A. Quinn. cidental mention, a census line. ning, my great-grandfather, was my father’s Despairing of history, I decided to venture memory of him as a blind old man, quiet and gentle, who never into the terra incognita of fiction and attempt a novel set during the talked about what led him to emigrate other than to say that he would Civil War Draft Riots, an epic explosion – part race riot, part insurnever think about going back “until they hanged the last landlord.” rection – that tore New York City apart and exposed the perennial, Except that he was born in pre-famine Ireland and emigrated before often feral struggle among those at the bottom of American society. the Civil War, all I knew of him was a line in the census – “occupaI copied paragraphs from novels I admired, scribbled the begintion: laborer” – and the place of his death on January 10, 1910: 296 nings of the story I wanted to tell. I researched, wrote, despaired, East 7th Street, a long-ago demolished tenement. I later learned the rewrote, deserted, returned, persisted across an entire decade. I disname Manning was an errant transcription of Mangan that, for what- covered in fiction truths I didn’t in history. I grappled with the power ever reason, stuck. The rest was silence. of the past to bolt in place the exoskeleton that supported and shaped When I returned to New York, any research I did was lack- – sometimes misshaped – expectations and relationships far into the adaisical and accidental. So was my career. I worked as a Wall future. I came to grasp the human need to forget as well as to reStreet messenger, a court officer in Bronx Landlord & Tenant member. I learned that what goes unspoken, unacknowledged, has Court, an archivist at the New York Botanical Gardens (natives the greatest sway of all. Everything around me, parish, school, polalways refer to it as the Bronx Botanical Gardens), et al., until I itics, religion, the Bronx I grew up in and carry with me, sprang from found my way to a graduate program at Fordham. I was a graduate and contained what came before. The past never goes away, I realassistant to the late Maurice O’Connell, a scholar of Irish history ized; it only goes ignored or denied. and descendant of Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator – a towering My characters became my companions, comrades-in-arms, soulfigure in that history. mates, a company of aspiring, compromised, lustful, decent, cowI traveled to Ireland and studied there. Though I felt an intimate ardly, ruthless, compassionate, befuddled human beings – Irish, connection to the land and people, I confronted the fact it wasn’t African Americans, old-stock New Yorkers – that I gathered under home and I didn’t belong. On one occasion, I took my mother to her a phrase from a prayer I said since childhood: “banished children of father’s village. Not a trace of the family remained. The journey my Eve.” Some were imaginary, some reconstructed from random facts ancestors made was final and irreversible. Caught on the hyphen and fragments inherited from my family, some, like Stephen Foster between this small island to the east and the vast continent to the and John Hughes, real. west, I recognized that my native land was the interspace on I listened as they mumbled, murmured, shouted, revealed themAmerica’s Atlantic ledge. selves. They prompted me, guided me, led me through the vale of Why the past means so much to some and not much – or nothing tears and weeping, laughter and rejoicing, that each generation travat all – to others is hard to figure. At bottom, I think, it involves els in its own way. They gave me back the past and reminded me of history as therapy, as a key to understanding self as well as society, what I thought I didn’t know. They taught me that the borders of our IA as a restless desire to uncover what we don’t know about our- native land are the borders of our hearts. selves, however partial or fractured that must be. Perhaps that hope was best captured by New York novelist and memoirist Kathleen Hill when she wrote, “our journey toward understanding the selves Previously published in the December 14, 2018 issue of Commonweal. 50 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

A new book from Irish Academic Press

Being New York, Being Irish

Reflections on Twenty-Five Years of Irish America and New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House Edited by Terry Golway

Through deeply personal essays that reflect on their own experience, research and art, some of the best-known Irish writers on both sides of the Atlantic commemorate Glucksman Ireland House NYU's 25th anniversary by examining what has changed, and what has not, in Irish and Irish-American culture, art, identity, and politics since 1993. Contributors include Alice McDermott, Dan Barry, Colum McCann, Colm Tóibín and Marion R. Casey.

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For Faith & Country All Hallows High School, a Catholic boys’ high school in the South Bronx, has a colorful history, from the sons of Irish immigrants who it was opened for to the minority students it now serves. Principal Seán Sullivan has made sure over the years that it is still one of the top Catholic high schools in the nation. By Tom Deignan

RIGHT: All Hallows student Brandon Bello. OPPOSITE PAGE: TOP: All Hallow students in Ireland for a 10-day conference at Maynooth University on leadership. BELOW: Back row (left to right): students Christopher Denis, Adonte Hudson, Gabriel Gutierrez, Joshua Figueroa, and Noel Vasquez. Front row (left to right): Michael Alemar, Bryce Williams, Berllyb Sabez-Garcia, Brandon Bello, Watner Osorio, Rancel Fermin, Dealbert Shephard, and Patrick Hansrajrin. Principal Seán Sullivan is on the far right with the baseball cap.


hen you walk through the doors of All Hallows High School, the first thing you’d better do is turn right. Or turn left. But you’d better turn, or else you’ll step on the beloved golden seal which bears the school’s name and motto – Pro Fiede et Patria… “For Faith and Country.” As generations of graduates will tell you, walking on the seal is frowned upon. “I remember my first year as vice principal,” current principal Seán Sullivan said during a recent visit to the school. “This poor freshman walked [across the seal], and I told him, ‘Don’t you see what that is? That’s the grave of Al Hallows, he’s buried there,’” Sullivan recalled with a laugh – before adding that the following day, the deeply remorseful boy returned


with his mother, who was bearing flowers. Which pretty much sums up what All Hallows has been about for over a century: families, respect, and a reverence for the past. “I’ve seen the first Irish Christian Brothers school,” Sullivan says, referring to the one opened by Edmund Rice on Waterford’s New Street in 1802. “It’s eerily similar to this one.” Walking the halls of All Hallows can be a touch jarring: there are rows of blue lockers and classroom doors swung open, all familiar enough. But then there is the imposing, life-size marble statue of Blessed Edmund Rice at the end of the hall. (The case for Rice’s sainthood is currently being made at the Vatican.) When the bell rings, the mostly black and Hispanic students in dress shirts and ties move quietly to their next class – occasionally stopping to

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at Maynooth University. Sullivan’s parents came to the U.S. from Cork, and his mother was actually in Ireland while pregnant with him. But she flew back to have the baby in the U.S. “I don’t think she trusted the doctors over there,” Sullivan says with a laugh. Aside from fundraising, Sullivan says the biggest day-to-day challenge is simply getting the students

shake hands with Principal Sullivan. But as they move, they walk past rows of photos of past school principals and presidents – almost all of them Irish or IrishAmerican. Yet despite such obvious contrasts, Sullivan and other leaders at All Hallows note that today’s students have much in common with past graduates. And though you might think today’s students would have little interest in history in general, and Irish-American history in particular, a visit to the school proves otherwise. “These kids really understand the historic ties,” notes Sullivan, whose office is teeming with photos, posters, statues, and other assorted knick-knacks reflecting his passions for Ireland and baseball – which is fitting since, after stepping off the 4 train at 161st Street, you have to walk past Yankee Stadium to get to All Hallows. The school’s current building has been operating on 164th Street since 1930, located across from a park named after poet and journalist Joyce Kilmer – a high-profile supporter of the Irish independence movement which culminated in the 1916 Easter Rising. If you look closely at the building’s exterior, you will see images of George Washington as well as Saint Patrick. School sweaters bear the school’s mascot (the Gael) and colors (blue and white, reflecting the traditional sporting colors of Waterford), as well as a shamrock. And when former Irish president Mary McAleese visited the school in 2012, she was understandably impressed by the school’s chapel: the altar’s marble is from Connemara, and the stunning stained-glass windows, by celebrated Irish artist Harry Clarke (1889-1931), are essentially priceless. Two of the school’s annual highlights are also deeply Irish. First, of course, is the staff-student march up Fifth Avenue in the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day parade. And second is the annual summer trip to Ireland. Up to 12 All Hallows students – typically those who are most dedicated to their schoolwork as well as community service – go to Maynooth University every year to attend a 10-day conference on leadership. “We always tell the kids: ‘Look, there’s going to be a culture clash,’” says Sullivan of the conference attended by students from all over the world – including troubled spots like Belfast and Palestine. “But very quickly…they find the commonality.” He adds: “There’s just an ocean between them. That’s all.” One All Hallows graduate, named Robert Rivera, liked Ireland so much he decided to attend college there. He’s currently enrolled

into the building every day. Adversity comes in many forms on the streets of the Bronx. All Hallows serves as a refuge from all that. Along the same lines, one thing that has changed over the years, Sullivan notes, is the level of social and emotional guidance students receive, to go along with healthy doses of academics and discipline. “[The students] know they have people here who are going to listen and who are going to help,” says Sullivan. While visiting All Hallows, we also encountered a group of seventh-grade students from a charter school who may one day enroll at All Hallows, learn about Edmund Rice, and perhaps even visit Ireland. If they looked closely at the walls, they would have noticed not only Kelly green shamrocks, but also photos honoring “students of the week.” And amidst the many students with first names like “Kaheem” and last names like “Rodriguez,” they might also have noticed a name that could well have belonged to one of the former, white-haired principals – but in fact belongs to a current student: Phillip O’Flynn.

Immigrants: Then and Now

Martin Daly – “Marty” to everyone, with the exception of his Kerry-born parents – grew up in the Bronx, at a time when many of his neighbors and classmates also had parents from in Ireland. “So many of our parents were immigrants or first-generation,” says Daly, 67, a retired VP & director at CBS Network Sales. “Nobody had a whole lot of anything. But immigrant parents – I think you can make this generalization – they knew how important education was.” MAY / JUNE 2019 IRISH AMERICA 53

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LEFT: Students of All Hallows are encouraged to dress for success. BELOW: The annual New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where students and alumni proudly carry The Gaels banner.

Daly first attended St. Simon Stock grammar school on Valentine Avenue. Then, like so many fellow Bronx Irish Catholics, he went on to All Hallows High School on 164th Street, in the shadows of Yankee Stadium. “All Hallows had a lot to do with helping me navigate those incredibly difficult mine fields everyone faces during the ages of fourteen to eighteen. And growing up in the Bronx, maybe there were even more,” Daly says with a laugh. Daly graduated from All Hallows in 1970, yet remains active at the school. For the past decade, he has served on All Hallows’ board of directors, including the past five years as chairman. Daly – and many other Irish-American alumni who volunteer at the school – has watched as All Hallows’ neighborhood and student body changed drastically. Currently, the 500-plus students at the all-boys school are over 95 percent African-American or Hispanic. And yet, in other ways, things have not changed all that much. “We’re still serving the sons of recent immigrants to America… and still putting 98 percent of those young men in colleges,” says Daly. “They’re just from different islands…Puerto Rico, the Caribbean…It’s a bit of an educational miracle, really.” Despite sitting in the poorest congressional district in the country, All Hallows has consistently been named as one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the United States. It is the only city school in the Archdiocese of New York to have earned this distinction. The school routinely places its entire graduating class in fouryear colleges. The Wall Street Journal has called the school's success in this area “stunning.” If there is a “miracle” here, it’s not that schools such as All Hallows are doing this in 2019. The miracle is that they’ve been doing it for over a century. And at a time when immigration is such a hot-button topic, All Hallows – whose sports teams are still known as the Gaels – reminds Irish Americans that, not so long ago, it was their own grandparents who were “high-needs.” Ultimately, All Hallows illustrates all that can be accomplished when the dedicated children of yesterday’s immigrants work to harness the energy and passion of today’s. “All Hallows is really true to the mission of Edmund Rice,” school president Ron Schutté (Class of ’74) said. “I grew up right around the corner,” adds Schutté, who also attended All Hallows 54 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

grammar school. “When the Bronx was burning, we were still here…All Hallows really became my entire life.” Across the decades, Schutté says, the one constant has been taking “the Edmund Rice mission and putting that into action.”

The Christian Brothers of Ireland

In order to fully appreciate the work that students and staff at Catholic schools such as All Hallows do, you need to go back in time to a farm in Kilkenny, to a time when America did not yet exist, and practicing Catholicism in Ireland was more or less a crime under the notorious Penal Laws. That’s the culture into which Edmund Rice was born, in 1762. He was the fourth of seven sons, whose mother died in an accident – one of two tragedies that would profoundly alter his life and vocation. Rice initially became a successful merchant, and even got married. But then his own wife died, likely in an accident. (Many details of Rice’s early life have been lost to history.) Adrift, Rice turned to religion, at first planning to go to continental Europe. But legend has it that, one day, Rice was talking to the sister of an Irish bishop, when they came upon a group of impoverished Irish boys. “Would you bury yourself in a cell on the continent,” Rice was asked, “rather than devote your wealth and your life to the spiritual and material interest of these poor youths?” Rice decided to devote himself to serving the poor and needy in Ireland, founding what would become known as the Christian Brothers of Ireland. During the first decade of the 19th century, Rice oversaw the opening of schools in Waterford, Dungarven,

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and Carrick-on-Suir. Two centuries later, now known as the Congregation of Christian Brothers, the schools founded by Rice have served millions of “poor youths” in the U.S. and throughout the world. All Hallows was the first Irish Christian Brothers high school to open in the U.S. in 1909. By then, the Irish in America had been through painful debates over religion and education. In the 1840s, powerful New York Archbishop “Dagger” John Hughes demanded government funding for a separate Catholic education system, in part because Irish immigrants faced such severe bigotry in New York’s supposedly non-denominational public schools. The message was clear: “Education was a way out of poverty,” as John Loughery writes in his recent book Dagger John: Archbishop John Hughes and the Making of Irish America. According to Loughery, Hughes once wrote that “the time has almost come when it will be necessary to build the school-house first, and the church afterward.” In short, if immigrants and their children faced unprecedented adversity on the mean streets of New York, Boston, Philly, and Chicago, then only an unapologetically Irish and Catholic educational system would do. Soon enough, Catholic elementary schools became the cornerstones of daily parish life. By the early 20th century, high schools such as All Hallows were thriving academically as well as athletically. “Our job is to try and emphasize what is best about Catholic education…and stay true to our mission, which is to serve the poor and the marginalized,” says Schutté. Or to use the precise words of what the school considers TOP: All Hallows alumnus and board member Bill Wheatley, writer Tom Deignan, Principal Séan Sullivan, alumnus and chairman of the board Marty Daly, and the school’s president Ron Schutté. RIGHT: Former president of Ireland Mary McAleese on a visit to All Hallows in 2012. BELOW: Paul O'Connell of the Irish rugby team (he received the most caps in Irish rugby history) talking to the students. The other gentleman in the foreground is Seán Campbell, who is the head of Foróige.

“Essential Elements of a Christian Brother Education”: to stand “in solidarity with those marginalized by poverty and injustice.” And whether a student’s family hails from a small farm in Kerry, or the impoverished district along the Rio Ozama in Santo Domingo, All Hallows is now entering its second century of doing just that.

Learn, Earn, and Return

Now – as in the past – graduates of All Hallows serve as the best ambassadors for the school. “An older kid would tell your mother and father what a great education you could get at All Hallows,” said Marty Daly. “The guys you played with on the street, [in] stickball or basketball… Word of mouth about the school is strong still today among, say, the Dominican community in the South Bronx or Harlem.” “People who went to All Hallows tend to think very highly of it,” says Bill Wheatley (Class of 1962), a former executive at NBC News and current chairman of the All Hallows Foundation, which is charged with fundraising for the school. This is a crucial challenge, since most students are from modest backgrounds and receive financial assistance. (It costs All Hallows almost $11,000 to educate students, but the school only charges about $6,600 in tuition. Alumni, friends of the school, foundations, and other sources bridge that considerable gap.) Wheatley grew up in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, where there were two parishes, St. Helena’s and St. Raymond’s, and monsignors were the “most powerful men in these very large communities.” He attended Catholic grammar school, where nuns taught classes with sometimes as many as 60 students. “It was a very big change for me, going from the nuns to the Christian Brothers,” recalls Wheatley, who ultimately came to appreciate the, uh, stern discipline at All Hallows. “I wasn’t an out-ofcontrol kid, but I could use the discipline,” he said, adding, “[All Hallows] was instrumental in me having a sense of purpose. Teaching me…I could do well, as well as good, [and] make a contribution to society.” Recently, All Hallows kicked off a new fundraising campaign, reminding potential donors of its mantra: “learn, earn, and return.” If that’s not convincing, school Principal Seán Sullivan has always remembered similarly precise words from a mother who explained why she chose to send her son to All Hallows: “You’re small. You’re safe. You’re successful.” IA Edmund Rice could not have asked for more. MAY / JUNE 2019 IRISH AMERICA 55

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window on the past |

by Ray Cavanaugh

Two Words from One Irishman Who Trumpeted the World’s Superpower


“Manifest destiny...”

O’Sullivan as depicted in an 1874 issue of Harper’s Weekly.

These words, placed together, command one’s attention. They sound important, almost biblical. But they didn’t come from an Old Testament patriarch or New Testament prophet. Rather, they came from the pithy pen of a 19th-century Irishman named John O’Sullivan. His ancestors were from County Kerry and included men who abandoned plans for the priesthood in order to become soldiers of fortune. His father was a naturalized American citizen who was serving as U.S. consul to the Barbary States when O’Sullivan was born on a British warship in the Bay of Gibraltar (between Spain and Morocco) in November 1813. According to the National Cyclopedia of American Biography (vol. 12), his family had been living at a nearby military post, but after the outbreak of plague, a British admiral invited them onto his ship. O’Sullivan received his early education at a military school in Lorize, France, and then at the Westminster School in London, before matriculating at New York’s Columbia College. Upon graduation, he worked as a tutor for a few years. He also practiced law for some time, though it does not appear he was particularly interested or successful in the profession. The most notable period of his life began in 1837, when he launched a magazine called the Democratic Review. This publication was bankrolled by funds his mother received from the U.S. government as restitution for having been wrongly arrested on suspicion of piracy more than a decade earlier, as relayed by Julius W. Pratt in his article “John L. O’Sullivan and Manifest Destiny,” which appeared in a 1933 edition of New York History. Though O’Sullivan was foremost a political writer, he also clearly had literary interests. In his leading role at the Democratic Review, he published the short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The two


became good friends and O’Sullivan even served as godfather to Hawthorne’s eldest child. O’Sullivan – who was described by a contemporary as “always full of grand and world-embracing schemes” – had a wild optimism that sometimes irritated people, including Edgar Allan Poe and Henry David Thoreau. However, his magazine became influential enough to attract contributions from some of the nation’s leading writers, whether or not they enjoyed his sanguine style. The Democratic Review was also the venue that first mentioned “manifest destiny,” which came in the middle of 1845, a year that saw the U.S. embroiled in disputes about whether or not it should annex Oregon and Texas. This first mention of “manifest destiny” attracted scant notice, likely because it was obscured within a long essay, which typically is not the type of format that attracts a massive readership. However, the second mention of the phrase appeared in a December 27, 1845 newspaper editorial, a format that often received massive readership. Sure enough, this time the phrase took flight and soon saw frequent use in arguments about the expansion of U.S. territory. Though not everyone agreed with the concept of “manifest destiny,” O’Sullivan’s words gave voice to a widespread sentiment that the U.S. was a divinely guided nation, which had not only a right, but also a mission, to spread its greatness across the continent. In O’Sullivan’s view, the U.S. had a “manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.” In 1846, he sold the Democratic Review for $5,000 (about $165,000 in today’s money). That same year, he married Susan Kearny Rodgers. The couple chose Cuba for their honeymoon, according to Robert Sampson’s book John L. O’Sullivan and His Times. Aside from being a romantic location, Cuba was a place where O’Sullivan was convinced the U.S. should manifest its destiny. In April 1851, O’Sullivan was arrested in New York and charged with violating U.S. neutrality by preparing an unsanctioned attack on Cuba. He

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had hoped to liberate the territory from Spanish rule, so as to facilitate its annexation by the U.S. O’Sullivan’s strange case made it to trial, but the jury deadlocked and he was never convicted. Unfazed by this close call, but unwelcome back in Cuba, he became involved in political intrigues in Europe. Despite his rather freewheeling background, O’Sullivan managed to secure a post as U.S. Minister to Portugal during the administration of President Franklin Pierce (1853-1857). But the end of the Pierce presidency spelled the end of O’Sullivan’s tenure. It also seems to have been the last time he had a consistent occupation. In the 1860s, O’Sullivan’s political pamphlets – which supported the Confederacy and argued that the U.S. federal government was encroaching too much on states’ rights – made him unwelcome in much of America. Rather than relocate to the South, he self-exiled to Europe, and waited for sentiments to cool down in the U.S. It is unknown exactly how many years he spent abroad, but one of his surviving letters indicates that he was back in the U.S. by August 1879. According to Pratt, the last three decades of O’Sullivan’s life are veiled in “almost complete

obscurity.” What we do know is that, during this period, the U.S. continued to add to its grandeur, and O’Sullivan sunk into poverty. On March 24, 1895 – almost exactly 50 years after having coined his famous phrase – he died at age 81 in a hotel at 15 East 11th Street in Manhattan. He was buried in the Moravian Cemetery on Staten Island. There was no record of a will. He had basically nothing to leave behind anyway, at least not in the material sense. He did, however, bequeath a phrase that never ceased to echo, or to stir emotions in opposite directions. Indeed, many have found the “manifest destiny” words troubling, if not downright foul – a glorioussounding phrase used to justify an already-powerful, nation-grabbing new land, at whatever cost to the native inhabitants. But regardless of one’s historical or political viewpoints, it’s hard to deny the impact of these words. Many writers have penned thousands of articles and dozens of full-length books; their countless words, eloquent though they may be, almost invariably fade from memory in short order. O’Sullivan put together two words that resonated enough to galvanize a nation as grand as the modIA ern world has seen.

Artistic rendition of Manifest Destiny by painter John Gast in 1872.


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Celebrating Patsy McLoughlin DECADES OF IRISH DANCE:


Irish dancing is a very important part of the heritage and culture of Ireland and the Irish-American community, and no one knows that better than Patsy McLoughlin.

By Kristin McGowan

Patsy and Chris McLoughlin. Patsy is wearing her St. Patrick’s day Parade Grand Marshal sash.

atsy Early McLoughlin founded her school of Irish dance in 1968 in Inwood, New York, and now, 50 years later, she still teaches her students that Irish dance is as much about family and friendship as it is about slip-jigs and set dances. The years have “gone by in a flash,” said Patsy when we spoke on the phone recently. Much has changed in the more than 50 years since Patsy first set up her school. The Riverdance and Lord of the Dance phenomena of the 1990s took the world by storm, increasing enrollment and attracting students from different ethnic groups. “They weren’t of Irish heritage, but they loved the dance.” And the dancing itself changed. “It’s become as much a sport as an art form. You’ve got to train like an athlete if you want to be up on that top podium, as well as learn all your dance steps and make it look good,” says Patsy. Over the years, many of Patsy’s students have been up on that winner’s podium as regional and national champions. And in 1997, McLoughlin dancer Theresa O’Sullivan became the first American female to win the world championships in Irish dance. But winning isn’t everything. At the McLoughlin School, the teachers maintain a healthy balance of competition and comradery. “We don’t make kids compete. If they want to – yes, then go for it. And obviously, we’re training them to be the best prepared for that competition. But if winning takes over the emphasis on enjoyment, you lose the sense of kindness and community that is the


essence of Irish dance,” says Patsy. The number of competitions has grown tremendously since Patsy started out. There are 200 dance competitions scheduled for the U.S. and Canada for 2019. Compare that to when Patsy herself was a student in the 1950s and ’60s. “There were three or four local competitions in a whole year. You had the Gaelic League Feis and the United Irish Counties Feis, and most were held outside,” Patsy recalls with a trace of nostalgia in her voice. “There was no schedule – you went to the feis when it started in the morning and stayed all day. There were always races, music, singing competitions – the kids took part in everything. It was a whole day of activity.” Dancing competitions were announced as the day progressed, with the senior championship dancers at the end. “If the day ran long, cars would be driven up to the side stage and we’d dance in the headlights.” Results came later – four days later or longer. “My father would get up at five o’clock in the morning the Wednesday after a feis when the Irish Echo newspaper was delivered. He would come home, wake me up, and tell me I got third in my jig.” Born in Manchester, England, to Irish parents, Patsy began learning the fast-paced, hard-hitting, traditional Munster style of Irish dance at six years old. When the family immigrated – first to Massachusetts, then to New York – she continued to study dance with the legendary James McKenna who emigrated in 1903 and set up a dancing school in New York in 1910. However, when Patsy first saw the McNiff Dancers at the United Irish Counties Feis, she fell in love with the new style of Irish dance that brothers Peter and Cyril McNiff had popularized in New York: a slower-paced Northern-Irish interpretation of the dance that allowed for more complicated steps and lighter, more graceful movements. Patsy was soon taking classes from Peter Smith, a student of McNiff school. Her younger brother

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ABOVE: Shannon Corrigan and Mairead Early; Shannon and Mairead are former students who now teach with Patsy. Mairead is Patsy’s niece. LEFT: Patsy at the North Jersey Championships with McLoughlin dancer Evelyn McGowan.

Jimmy and younger sister Karen also began classes. Patsy loved the new style of dance so much that she would get to class early and help with the beginners. Eventually she ended up taking over entire classes and assisting with the school in general. “I just loved it. Having my own school was something I always wanted.” She was barely out of her teens when she opened her school, which became the Early-McLoughlin School when she married Chris McLoughlin, an immigrant from Belfast. Her brother Jimmy came on as a teacher eight years later, followed by her sister Karen Conway and fellow champion dancer of Peter Smith’s Elaine Greenan. They continue to teach together to this day. As Patsy’s own family grew, she moved to New Jersey and eventually moved her classes there, too. Currently, the school offers classes for students ranging from beginners to open championship

dancers five evenings per week in five locations in New Jersey and New York. Patsy taught her own three children to dance – her daughter Deirdre won her first national title at nine years old and her grandson competed in his first world championship this year. More than 20 of Patsy’s students have gone on to become teachers and adjudicators, some even opening their own schools. The newest dancers, however, still hold a special place in Patsy’s heart. “When the little ones come in and don’t know their right foot from their left, and you think maybe they’re never going to get it – and then suddenly it clicks and they’re dancing! I’m as proud of them as I am of the champion dancers.” At Patsy’s classes, seasoned dancers are expected to encourage and support their newest team members, and a competition achievement for one is an achievement for all. It’s that sense of family that has former students often returning to help with classes, enroll their own children, and even come back to teach. “When my daughter expressed an interest in Irish dance, there was no question but I was bringing her to Patsy,” says Linda Walsh. “She embodies it all – the dance, the culture, family and community involvement. She’s always cooking a meal or visiting someone who needs looking after.” Patsy’s caring nature is something she inherited from her parents. “Even when we lived in a threeroom apartment in the city, if there was somebody out from Ireland who didn’t have a place to stay or didn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner, they were welcome,” she remembers. Her parents drew tremendous enjoyment out of Patsy’s dancing. “My father used to come to the school dance and talk to everybody. He really, really loved it, so I guess that was where we got the love of all this from as well. I’ll never regret that they put us into dancing – it not only gave me a career, but over 50 years of friendships.” In celebration of this golden milestone, Patsy was honored at the Mid-Atlantic Region Oireachtas (Irish dance championships) and named the 2019 grand marshal of the Bergen County, N.J., St. Patrick’s Day parade. Decades of former students also gathered to celebrate her at the school’s annual dinner dance, including Cherish the Ladies’ frontwoman Joanie Madden. “I, too, took Irish dancing with Patsy McLoughlin. And I wanted to be here to say a huge congratulations to Patsy. Hasn’t she done an amazing job? What a legacy she’s created.” IA MAY / JUNE 2019 IRISH AMERICA 59

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review of books | recently published books FICTION

Milkman By Anna Burns

A month after reading Milkman, Anna Burns’ Man Booker Prize-Winning novel, vivid scenes come unbidden into my head. You too will be haunted by this book, but it’s a must-read if you really want to understand what it was like to grow up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The action takes place in an unnamed town that’s rife with violence and distrust, and every move is monitored by the security forces and the paramilitaries. The teenage narrator tries to navigate the world as best she can, but her habit of “reading-while-walking” is cause for suspicion and rumor. She has also drawn the unwanted attention of one of the community’s leading paramilitaries, and is at a loss as to how to deal with the accusations from her mother that she’s leading him on. The story is intense, at times terrifying, as you become involved in the narrator’s every feeling as she tries to make normal out of the abnormal. It adds to the fear factor that none of the characters in the book have names. She’s “middle sister,” her stalker is called milkman (small “M”), though he’s not really a Milkman. Other players include “brother-in-law,” “elder sister,” “maybe-boyfriend” and “younger sisters,” who give the story just enough humor to make it bearable. All great characters, but it’s Burns ability to place the reader inside the head of the narrator, in that internal monologue style of writing that’s familiar to readers of Fyodor Dostoevsky, that lifts this story above the norm, and makes it an unforgettable read. Burns, who grew up in Belfast, said in an interview posted by the Booker Prize Foundation that Milkman was inspired by her own experience: “I grew up in a place that was rife with violence, distrust, and paranoia, and peopled by individuals trying to navigate and survive in that world as best as they could.” Burns has taken all of that experience and turned into one hell of a book. – Patricia Harty 948 pages / $35 / Workman

American Moonshot By Douglas Brinkley


merica’s first Irish Catholic president John F. Kennedy famously said: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing of 1969 upon us, celebrated historian Douglas Brinkley makes clear just how central Kennedy’s vision and determination were in making the moon landing a reality more than five years after JFK’s assassination. According to Brinkley, the Cold War was central to the so-called “space race” between the Americans and the Soviets. Not for nothing did Kennedy, in his famous moon speech, add that the “goal [of landing on the moon] will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” But Brinkley also spirals back in time to explore the great minds, scientific and artistic, that helped develop the technology needed to make the Apollo moon missions possible. “History has taught us that artists are often decades ahead of engineers and scientists in imagining the future, and so it was with the idea of voyaging to the moon,” Brinkley’s book begins, focusing on the famous 1865 Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon. Brinkley later adds: “Verne’s novels exemplified the optimistic spirit of their times, when the potential for industrial and technological progress seemed limitless […] It was into this cultural milieu that John Fitzgerald ‘Jack’ Kennedy was born [to] Rose and Joe Kennedy, both grandchildren of Irish immigrants.” Some readers may be surprised to learn the significant contributions one-time Nazi scientists made to the moon mission, and Brinkley understandably goes to great lengths to explore the dark pasts of figures such as Werner von Braun. Overall, American Moonshot does justice to this important moment in U.S. history. – By Tom Deignan

576 pages / $35 / Harper

Quinn’s Bar & Grill: Including the Adventures of Allison Wonderland By Patrick Carlin


hat do you get when you set a loose take on Lewis Carroll in 1970s NYC? In this instance: some gritty, zany characters, star-crossed stoner lovers, and a messy timeline. The main storyline of Quinn’s Bar & Grill takes place in 1978, in a rundown Irish bar that is about to be closed down. Dizzy Ryan is a bartender with an eyepatch and a big heart who pines for his lost love, Allison Wonderland, who fled the U.S. five years before and has been country-hopping since, finding the world is its own Wonderland if you meet the right people with a can-do attitude. Both Dizzy and Allison are artistic at heart, and the novel is full of interruptions showcasing poetry that boggles the mind and sets a new precedent for rhyme scheme. Dizzy’s vignettes describing episodes at and around the bar often pursue the grotesque joke and belly laugh over delicacy, so faint-hearted readers beware. New Yorkers will appreciate the references to locales, and readers unfamiliar with the ins and outs of Manhattan in the ’70s will find the eloquent descriptions helpful and the vivid visuals memorable, as fun characters you usually find on the margins of more mainstream tales are brought to the fore and demand your attention with enthusiastic zeal. Self-published by author Patrick Carlin, whose previous work includes Highway 23: The Unrepentant, the novel is available as an e-book via Kindle. Take a tumble through the shot glass with Dizzy, Allison, and more with this hilarious, if not-quite-safe-for-work, read. – Mary Gallagher

272 pages / $4.99 / Amazon Digital Services MAY / JUNE 2019 IRISH AMERICA 60

Celebrating Eugene O’Neill in his ancestral home area of New Ross, Co Wexford

9th-13th OCTOBER 2019 New Ross, Co Wexford, Ireland

THEATRE PROGRAMME Wednesday 9th, Welcome Reception. Introductory talk by Dan McGovern, President of the O’Neill Foundation, ‘O’Neill and Ireland’ .

Thursday 10th, Long Days Journey into Night. A Eugene O’ Neil Foundation production of Eugene O’Neill’s most famous play directed by Eric Fraisher Hayes.

Friday 11th, Glencairn Sea Plays. A Eugene O’Neill trilogy , presented on board the Dunbrody Famine Ship, a St Michael’s Theatre production directed by Paul Walsh.

Saturday 12th, Strange Interlude. A Staged reading of Eugene O’Neil’s audacious epic Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Strange Interlude is one of the masterpieces of American Theatre. This rarely performed masterpiece will be presented in two part and includes a buffet dinner at the Dunbrody Visitor centre during the interval Directed by Ben Barnes, with a top class cast of international actors of stage and screen.. Venue: St. Michael’s Theatre. Part 1: 3.30pm | Part 2: 8.00pm

Sunday 13th, The Diary of Maynard Perdu. Written and directed by the award winning playwright Billy Roche and starring the acclaimed actor/musician Peter Mc Camley. It is set in the fantastic mirrored burlesque world of the Spiegeltent where fantasy and delusion reign supreme.


An all-in tour package has been arranged to cater for those departing US on October 8th and arriving Dublin Airport am October 9th. Bus will depart airport coach Park at 2 p.m. arriving Brandon House Hotel at 4.30 p.m.

Wednesday 9th, Welcome Reception. Introductory talk by Dan McGovern, President of the O’Neill Foundation ‘O’Neill and Ireland’ .

Thursday 10th, Viking Waterford Tour. Featuring the Museum of Treasures, the historic Reginald’s Tower and enjoy a virtual reality experience of a Viking Village.

Friday 11th, Irish National Heritage Park, Wexford. Re-tracing 2000 years of Irish History in this dramatic reconstruction and re-enactment.

Saturday 12th, Dunbrody Famine Ship & Ros Tapestry. Visit the replica Dunbrody and the Irish Emigrant Story and follow it with a viewing of the famous Ros Tapestry featuring 15 separate tapestries depicting the Norman Invasion of Ireland.

Sunday 13th, Kennedy Homestead and JFK Arboretum. Visit JFK’s ancestral home, take tea with his Irish cousins followed by a visit to the national memorial arboretum and Presidential exhibit

Monday 14th, Return to Dublin airport by coach.


Chairman, The O’Neill Ancestral Trust.

Call: +353 87 271 3776

Booking deposit for festival tour: $150

www.eugeneoneillfestival .com Untitled-4 1

Festival Package: Includes: Dinner, Bed & Breakfast at Brandon House Hotel each day. Admission to all Festival events and attractions. A light Lunch will also be provided each day. Flights NOT included.


Single Supplement $200

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crossword | ACROSS

1 “There’s a dance in Billy Brennan’s ____ tonight” – line from Patrick Kavanagh’s evocative poem, “Inniskeen Road: July Evening” (4) 2 See 16 down (5) 4 A physician, in short (3) 6 (& 29 down) This Dublin-born American architect died in March (5) 7 (& 40 across) Newest Martin Scorcese movie (3) 9 Henry Ford famously produced the first one, available in one color only (3) 11 See 24 down (1, 5) 13 (& 25 down) This former federal judge was the first female judge to preside in the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. (8) 15 Supposedly Eve was created from one of these, belonging to Adam (3) 16 Irish food (3) 18 See 14 down (5) 19 Group that claimed responsibility for the murder of 21 across (7) 21 (& 36 across) Young Belfast journalist who was shot dead in her adopted Derry home in April (4) 23 See 34 across (9) 26 (& 4 down) Tuam

27 28

30 31


36 37 38

39 40

by Darina Molloy

band who wrote and sang “The Green and Red of Mayo” – subsequently adopted by legions of Mayo football fans (3) Newest Neil Jordan movie (5) “___ Mayo!” is the football supporters’ chant beloved of this west of Ireland county. Loosely translated as “Come on Mayo” (3) See 38 across (6) This pottery business was established in Fermanagh in 1857 (7) (& 23 across) He is the host of the longest-running Irish-American commercial radio shows (6) See 21 across (2,3) Irish fun (5) (& 30 across) Young west of Ireland writer who is winning plaudits and prizes alike at a galloping rate (5) Our Father: also known as “The Lord’s _____” (6) See 7 across (8)


1 One of the dogs of the legendary Finn McCool (4) 3 (& 32 down) Multi-purpose outdoor athletics

Win a subscription to Irish America magazine

facility located in NYC’s Bronx (6) 4 See 26 across (7) 5 See 12 down (6) 6 (& 31 down) Born in Belfast and raised in the U.K., he grew up to be an actor, writer, director, and producer (7) 8 See 22 down (8) 10 This G.A. city hosts the secondlargest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the U.S. (8) 12. (& 5 down) This Galway lake is the largest in the Irish Republic (5) 14 (& 18 across) Hit Northern Ireland comedy about growing up in the late 1980s and early ’90s (5)

Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than June 21, 2019. 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. The winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies accepted. Winner of the March / April 2019 crossword: Stanley Berde, Petaluma, C.A. 62 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

16 (& 2 across) St. John’s Eve a.k.a. ________ _______ (7) 17 Work extremely hard or incessantly (4) 20 ____ and all (3) 21 The most popular boy’s name in the U.S. in 2018 (4) 22 (& 8 down) First names of new baby Sussex (6) 24 (& 11 across) He

25 29 31 32 33 35 37

wrote Long Day’s Journey into Night (6) See 13 across (4) See 6 across (5) See 6 down (7) See 3 down (4) An earthy pigment, typically yellowish or brownish (5) The last game in a sports tournament (5) Greenish-blue color (4)

March / April Solution

Specializing in the best of Ireland and Irish culture, from iconic favorites to contemporary artisans.

Crystal • Jewelry • Woolens • Pottery • Home Decor Artwork • Children’s Items • Books • Music and more

Shop online at #BeMórIrish

212 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ 201.444.9230 •

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The Lace Place Edythe Preet

RIGHT: Carrickmacross lace BELOW: Edythe's lace collar

magine Ireland. What do you see? Patchwork green fields, stone walls, crystal streams, ancient ruins, horses...and lace. From manor house to country cottage, windows are draped with the delicate webwork. Sofas, tabletops, dressers, beds, and tea trays hold lacy runners, scarves, and antimacassars. Brides seem like angels haloed in billowing veils. Casual observers see only frilly bits here and there. Practical eyes note that doilies protect furniture and lace curtains let air circulate while keeping insects and peeping eyes at bay. Romantics are drawn into the spell of earlier times when frothy lace quickened the beat of a lover’s heart. Love of lace is woven into the fabric of Irish life. Its history can be traced back to a macramé fringe worn around 800 B.C. In the old hero tales, Cuchulain’s wife, Emer, was renown for her needlework skills. Saint Patrick’s retinue included three embroiderers. In the Middle Ages, knotted hair nets kept long locks tidy. In the 16th century, Europe’s ruling class wore gold and silver lace fashioned by Ireland’s men! In fact, when lace made with white linen thread was introduced in the 17th century, Mrs. Richard Barry (Lord Mayoress of Dublin 1601-1611) scoffed at the innovation, saying it looked cheap and could be blown shapeless by the wind. But it was easy to clean so it quickly became favored by both sexes. Archives in the National Museum of Ireland’s


In 1840, when England’s Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, she wore a gown of white Carrickmacross style lace, launching the “white” wedding tradition that brides have followed ever since. More than a century later, both Princess Diana and Kate Middleton embellished their wedding ensembles with Carrickmacross floral designs. Brides seeking to honor their Irish heritage can custom order handmade wedding veils destined to become family heirlooms from The Lace Gallery ( in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan. Advance planning is essential as even a fingertip veil enhanced with simple motifs will require six months or more to fabricate! Brides who admire vintage finery have another option. The Sheelin Lace Shop ( in Bellananeck, County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland offers a variety of antique Irish lace. Items include wedding veils and headpieces, bridal purses and handkerchiefs, plus christening gowns and bonnets newlyweds will treasure for their family’s future. A collection of rare exquisite pieces is displayed in the shop’s museum. For more information on classic Irish lace, Dover Publications ( offers several excellent books on the subject, including some with instructions on how to make it. 64 IRISH AMERICA MAY / JUNE 2019

Art & Industry Collection record that the first time lace-making enabled impoverished citizens to earn income dates from April 1636, when the earl of Cork paid a lacemaker 10 shillings to teach the craft to a “poor begging girl.” In 1655, the government bolstered the industry by setting tariffs on imported lace. As with any forbidden fruit, taxation made lace more desirable. Around 1740, the Royal Dublin Society en-

couraged the craft with annual judgings and financial awards for the finest work. Initially, all lace was crafted using bobbins. Designs were interwoven with fine threads around pins tacked onto paper patterns that were laid over pillows. This “pillow lace” was exquisitely fine, but it was tedious work. In 1809, the English inventor John Heathcoat devised a loom to produce fine cotton net yardage, enabling two new types of lace to emerge: Carrickmacross and Limerick. Though both styles are worked on a net base, the methods differ. In Carrickmacross lace, sheer fabric designs are appliqued on net, which is then embellished with embroidery stitches. Limerick lace designs are created by weaving fine thread through the net in a process similar to darning. In 1816, Mrs. Grey Porter, wife of the rector in Donaghmoyne (a village just east of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan) collected applique laces while honeymooning in Italy. Together with her personal maid Ann Steadman, the two needlewomen copied the Italian work. In 1820, they established a lacemaking class so local women could earn much needed income. While Carrickmacross lace had a philanthropic beginning, Limerick’s lace-making began as a commercial enterprise. In 1829, Charles Walker, a retired clergyman, opened a workshop with 24 young English women who made fine run-lace. The center boasted its adolescent workers (ages eight to 13) received

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sláinte | good cheer IRISH-ITALIAN LACE


t’s no coincidence that shamrocks are a design motif in much of the crochet lace made by Italian women on Isola Maggiore, an island on Lake Trasimeno in Italy’s Umbrian region. By the beginning of the 20th century, Irish crochet lace was renowned across Europe. In 1904, seeking a way to help island women supplement their families’ incomes, local aristocrat Marchioness Elena Guglielmi brought in several Kildare crochet teachers and opened a lace-making school. The students’ exquisite work became known as punto da Irlanda (“the Irish stitch”), and Irish crochet lace, originally devised to imitate Venetian needle lace, returned fullcircle to Italy and launched a successful cottage industry. Isola Maggiore’s lacemaking school closed after WWII, but the Irish crochet lace tradition continued as an important artistic expression of heritage. Today, a museum in the Palazzo delle Opere Pie hosts a collection of old and new lace work, and punto da Irlanda is still taught to younger generations.

“safe, profitable, and suitable employment, which will remove the indolence of apathy, poverty, misery, wretchedness, and all the unfortunate circumstances…of our unemployed peasantry”. When famine devastated Ireland (1845-47), lacemaking became a widespread cottage industry. Work was laborious, but no money was needed for tools and there were thousands of willing workers. Manor house mistresses, who learned needlework as part of their genteel upbringing, opened lace centers to help their tenants survive, then sold their products to friends and contacts abroad. During that period, two other lace-making techniques emerged. In Youghal, County Cork, Mother Mary Ann Smith of the Presentation Convent purchased a piece of Italian needlepoint lace from a peddler. Stitch by stitch, she unraveled it, studied its construction, then taught the technique to her students. But the fine work required such patience it never flourished, remaining a product of convent schools. In the fishing village of Blackrock, also County Cork, sisters at the Ursuline Convent ornamented altar cloths and priests’ vestments with lacy crochet. When famine struck, they shared the skill with their students, who became so expert at what had been considered “nun’s work” that the local economy improved. From convent to convent, the art spread through the south and into Kildare, where Mrs. W.C. Roberts opened a crochet center that sent teachers out across Ireland. Families in the mountains around Clones, County Monaghan, were particularly hard hit by the famine. Mrs. Cassandra Hand, wife of the local rector and

savvy about business, sent for one of the Kildare teachers. Using lace scraps from Spanish monasteries as patterns, they devised how to reproduce it in crochet. Their raised motifs were so popular that Clones designs were registered to protect them from imitation. It was during the Famine that Irish lace earned its legendary reputation. Clever needleworkers mastered traditional patterns, then created distinctive Irish designs. In cottages across the island, flashing needles and hooks produced a cascade of shamrocks, roses, harps, butterflies, ferns, and wildflowers. As demand for Irish lace grew, so did demand for new designs. Lace schools added drawing classes. Art colleges offered lace programs. Irish lace took top honors at international exhibitions. When boots cost 60 cents, a lace skirt inset sold for upwards of $18.00! Ironically, it was Ireland’s poorest countryfolk who outfitted the wealthy in London, Paris, and New York. Many families put away enough lace money to buy their first milk cow, assemble a daughter’s dowry, or pay for passage to America. Inevitably, inexpensive machine-made lace eroded the market for the costly handmade product. Automation ushered in by the world wars nearly tolled the art’s death knell. As the master lacemakers passed on, designs which had been closely guarded family secrets died with them until only a few remembered the craft. Thanks to the efforts of a few dynamic women, Carrickmacross and Clones lace are experiencing a revival. Sisters at the Saint Louis Convent took over the Carrickmacross lace-making center in 1888. Almost a century later, Martha Hughes became interested in the craft and founded the first modern Irish lace co-op. In 1988, the convent formally turned over their lacemaking operation. “The sisters were emotional at the ceremony” notes Martha. “They had guarded the craft for 100 years, but they knew it was time to hand the responsibility over to a new generation that could carry the tradition into the next century.” It was different in Clones. By 1989 only two elderly lacemakers could recall how to coax thread into intricate crochet lace. Concerned that the skill might be lost, Mamo McDonald of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association sought help from Marie Connoly, a local needlecraft expert. As each family had specialized in a single motif, Marie learned one by one how to make roses, shamrocks, fans, lilies, grapes, vines, Celtic wheels, and starbursts. When only the joining stitch, the Clones knot, remained a mystery, an aged villager demonstrated its 13 stitches, and Marie became the first 20thcentury woman to learn the skill. Together, Marie and Mamo founded the Clones lace guild (http://www. that sponsors annual lace-making classes.


Lace Cookies

As the name implies, these cookies have many holes and look like lace. But they’re much easier to make! 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 ⁄4 cup granulated sugar 1 ⁄4 cup light brown sugar 1 ⁄4 cup light corn syrup 1 pinch of salt 1 ⁄4 cup all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled 1 ⁄2 cup finely chopped almonds

Heat oven to 375°F. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, sugars, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat and mix in flour and almonds just until incorporated. Drop level teaspoons of the batter 4” apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, approximately 6-8 minutes. Cool on the baking sheets (8 / 10 minutes), then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. NOTE: Watch carefully when cooking, as oven temps tend to vary and sugar burns easily. Makes 36 cookies. (Personal recipe)


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photo album | the Keane sisters

Tales of New York have no interest in or tracing my roots. I know most of my DNA and it’s all Irish on my mom’s side. Her father, the son of a Ballylongford, County Kerry, farmer, was named Tom Keane. He emigrated to America sometime around 1900 – it’s believed he had to hightail it out of Ireland because of his IRA affiliation, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. Tom had crossed paths with a contemporary: another Ballylongford native, Michael O’Rahilly (The O’Rahilly), who

pictures of my grandparents, Tom and Katie, who died quite young. It’s a big hole in my heart never to have known them or what they looked like. On my father’s side, the Dobsons weren’t Irish but still had a touch of the Celt – my great-grandfather Edwin Dobson was born in Wales. After arriving in America he built sturdy upright pianos for bars and movie houses and lived in Greenwich Village on Washington Square – which is, coincidentally, where I live now. Edwin married his rich landlady and the couple had only one child: my grandfather, who would become a New York City policeman. He was, one might say, colorful, and one tough mother of a grandpa. He lived to be 100 and everyone was still

was killed in the 1916 Easter Rising (but not before writing his name in his own blood). My maternal grandmother, Katie Galvin, was born in Patrickswell, County Limerick, and accompanied her father on a business trip to – of all places – the Bronx. Fordham University had commissioned my Mulvihill great-grandfather to create its gardens. Before she headed home, Katie met the handsome Tom Keane and that was that. They married, and in keeping with Irish tradition, had six beautiful daughters, each about a year apart. Tom and Katie were considered to be a pair of lookers, but like most Irish immigrants, they were very poor and I have no pictures of them. Photography was a bigticket item in the early 1900s, and like all proud parents, they had photos taken of their girls in unbelievably fancy dresses, but none of themselves. My mom, always known as “Lovey,” was born in 1907 and I’m lucky to have a few pictures of her and an auntie as children. But I’ve always wished I had

afraid of him. Like his father, Grandpa Dobson married a woman who came from big bucks: Granny Dobson was a Gibbons, one of the founding families of Douglas Elliman, Holliday, Gibbons and Ives, later Douglas Elliman, and still New York’s foremost real estate company. My father used to walk around the Village pointing out all the fab brownstones that should have been mine. Truth be told, I have no interest in tracing my Dobson roots. Back in the day, people with money had lots of photographs taken of themselves and I have way too many of the Dobsons, some very old, including tintypes. I’m afraid all these photos show a similar trait: they were sort of unattractive folks, and some very fat ones at that. Perhaps I’m shallow, but could this be the reason I have no interest in the Dobson branch of the family? It’s especially tragic, since I IA look just like Granny Dobson.


TOP: First Communion: Lovey Keane and her sister Helen. ABOVE: Lovey Keane, 8th grade graduation. RIGHT: The photo of the Keane sisters as young women (left to right: Bobby, Cecilia, Helen, and Lovey) illustrates what a collection of beauties they were. (All of them married “well,” saving my mother, who married very, very wisely.) FAR RIGHT: Grandpa Dobson (upper left), Granny Dobson (in white), Great Granny (in black), and my dad, the little boy in front.


– Submitted by Robin Dobson

Please send photographs along with your name, address, phone number, and a brief description to Patricia Harty at Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1606, 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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Profile for Irish America Magazine

Irish America May / June 2019  

Irish America's May / June issue, featuring Congressman Richie Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means committee of the U.S. House of Represent...

Irish America May / June 2019  

Irish America's May / June issue, featuring Congressman Richie Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means committee of the U.S. House of Represent...