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Irish Rail extends free travel to overseas seniors

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

“It certainly is a very good thing,” said the Rev. Colm Campbell, who has worked as a chaplain to older Irish emigrants in New York.
Visiting seniors can reserve free rail travel by going to or by calling a local LoCall number to book a free Golden Trekker Ticket when in Ireland.
Irish Rail, which is also known as Iarnr

Hardwick has a go at MSG

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

In time, the Dubliner would join the long line of Irish emigrants who’ve decided to have a go in competition at the ground floor level – the New York Daily News Golden Gloves. And, so far, it’s worked out very well for the heavyweight.
Tomorrow night Hardwick, a native of Coolock in Dublin City, gets into the ring at Madison Square Garden for the final of this year’s Gloves.
“I am getting enormous support,” said the 25-year-old bricklayer. “Even lads who don’t know me are getting behind me. It’s a huge lift.”
Hardwick dedicated his victories in the novice category in February to his friend best Warren O’Connor who was fatally stabbed in Dublin the previous month when he asked people to turn down the noise at a neighbor’s party.
The Yonkers resident was one of 50 who signed up to compete in the heavyweight division.
“I wanted to keep busy,” he said of his decision to keep training after his shoulder injury had healed. “And I enjoy doing it. You can hit a bag and relieve stress.
“I do it for overall fitness and to keep myself off the streets,” Hardwick added.

Fall trade conference for D.C.

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

The announcement followed discussions held at the State Department last week between Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, North Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster and Kelly.
The one day conference, will be, according to a statement, “a highly targeted initiative aimed at bringing together the leaders of some of the largest international companies already operating in Northern Ireland with potential investors and other partners.”
A date for the event, which will be hosted by Secretary Clinton, will be finalized in the near future. The hosting of an economic conference dedicated to promoting investment in Northern Ireland and trade between that region and the United States further underlines Secretary Clinton’s belief that economic investment is the best means to build on the political progress that has been made in Northern Ireland in recent weeks and months, the statement added.
The North has attracted more than 800 new jobs in the last six months from international companies, including last week’s announcement by Massachusetts-based Q1 Labs to create up to 50 new jobs in software services in Belfast, it continued.
“”This investment conference is yet another indication of Secretary Clinton’s commitment to building on the peace process in Northern
Ireland and further underlines the U.S. government’s support for the immense progress that has been made in the region in the past several
months”, said Envoy Kelly.
“We stated repeatedly in the last several months that if stability could be guaranteed in terms of the political institutions in Northern Ireland through the successful completion of negotiations on the devolution of policing and justice, then a great opportunity would
exist for the region to move forward quickly with a range of initiatives in the area of economic investment.
“This conference is the latest in a series of initiatives we have undertaken as part of this mission to shine a light on northern
Ireland and all it has to offer as a superb location for foreign direct investment,” he said.
Kelly pointed to a trade mission with representatives of over a dozen companies visiting the U.S. during St. Patrick’s week. They were in the U.S. he said, to showcase what they have to offer to potential investors and partners in the United States.
“Events are taking place in three cities in four days and the world’s attention is focused in a positive way on Northern Ireland this St. Patrick’s day because of all that has been achieved in recent weeks to help move the political institutions forward,” Kelly said.

Yes, a great day

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

As is the case every year, the visitors from Ireland came in droves, many of them on political and economic missions, but also just to have a look at how America marks its very own big Irish day.
The hard times that are in it would lead us to believe that there would be a crimp or two in the celebratory plans of all too many, but that sure wasn’t evident at the White House on St. Patrick’s night; it wasn’t evident on Fifth Avenue earlier in the day, and it wasn’t evident in countless towns and cities across the fifty states.
And as for those parades! The number of them around the nation keeps growing and it is interesting and encouraging to see the pride that organizers of parades take in the longevity as much as the length of their particular marches.
Yes, we have Philadelphia snapping at the heels of New York in the oldest parade stakes, but many, many other parades are now proudly proclaiming a history stretching back in some cases just a handful of years – but laying claim to a history nevertheless.
This is important because, and especially in economically challenged times, people, communities and those who divvy up budgets do sometimes need reminding that there is more so some traditions than just the dollars and cents aspect.
That said, financial reality is hard to ignore, even if just for a day. In the case of the New York Parade there is seemingly an increasing need for community and corporate sponsorship for an event that continues to grow, this despite the city’s stated desire to cut the length of the parade in future years and restrict its time on the avenue.
Good luck with that. It will be interesting indeed to see how New York City and the parade organizers deal with next year’s march, the 250th consecutive, an event that, in easier economic times, would be expected to be the biggest and longest ever. Already there have been calls for the 250th to be given an exemption from the new restrictions. It will be interesting indeed to see what is decided in the coming months.

New De Dannan at Joe’s Pub

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

Another criticism voiced in Ireland was that the “new” De Dannan is just a nominal transition from the Hibernian Rhapsody tour band forged by Gavin a few years ago: Kerry resident Damien Mullane on button accordion, Galway’s Eric Cunningham on bodhran, snare drum, flute, and whistle, Kerry’s Mike Galvin on guitar, and Galway’s Michelle Lally on vocal. (Hibernian Rhapsody pianist Carl Hession, another Galway resident, is the only one who didn’t make the switch.)
I can understand the deep nostalgia and fierce loyalty for the early De Dannan of Gavin, Finn, Charlie Piggott, Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh, and Dolores Keane, as well as later members Jackie Daly, Mairtin O’Connor, Maura O’Connell, and Mary Black. But pining for so-called definitive lineups of a longstanding band flies in the face of reality. Can you think of any well-established Irish traditional band with the same personnel today as at its founding? The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies, and Altan are all groups now active for a quarter century or more, and each has undergone several changes. Only Paddy Moloney survives from the Chieftains’ first lineup (fiddler Sean Keane joined on “The Chieftains 2″ album), only Joanie Madden and Mary Coogan are holdovers from the initial CTL lineup, and only Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Ciaran Curran, and Mark Kelly (part-time) endure from the original Altan lineup.
What matters is not lineup changes but what music is produced as a result of those lineup changes. If the music is good, the changes won’t matter. If the music is not good, posterity will usually seal the fate of the band.
So here’s the only pertinent question: Is the music of the new De Dannan any good? That answer has to be yes, based on what I saw and heard from the band on the night of March 15 at Joe’s Pub, a Greenwich Village destination once deemed insider hip but now just another small venue in lower Manhattan’s music scene.
Any ensemble featuring Gavin ensures itself of excellence on fiddle, and in Joe’s Pub he gave ample proof of his virtuosity. Gavin’s bowing often relies on an intense economy, with tight strokes, accents, and other embellishments yielding a powerful, protean mix of tone, detail, and imagination. His instinct for macro- and micro-improvisation is exceptional, especially when he darts from the melody and then nimbly nestles back in again after a vertiginous flight of fancy. Even when velocity occasionally overwhelms his playing, Gavin’s skill is undeniable and inescapable. A Bach piece linked to the reel “The Lads of Laois,” a medley of three barndances, the blues-inflected jigs “Red-Haired Mary / Hardiman the Fiddler,” and “Wild Irishman” all showcased Gavin’s gift for edgy invention.
The three other instrumentalists in De Dannan are proficient players. Mullane is the latest in a long line of distinguished button accordionists in the band, and his playing is a compelling partner and foil to Gavin’s fiddling. Cunningham’s skill on percussion, flute, and whistle adds depth and breadth to the ensemble’s sound, and an unnamed tune he wrote and performed on whistle indicates he also has an aptitude for composing. Galvin is the rhythm bulwark in the band who brings an extra measure of bluesy bottleneck on occasion to his guitar picking.
Michelle Lally sang a diverse repertoire of songs, including the traditional “Down the Moor”; “If You Love Me,” popularized in 1949 by Edith Piaf; and U.S. folksinger-composer David Mallett’s “Summer of My Dreams,” which former De Dannan lead singer Dolores Keane covered on her solo album “Solid Ground” in 1993.
“Heartbreak Pier,” a song referring historically to a principal emigration port in Cobh, Cork, is a mediocre take — “heartaches and roses, tissues and tears, one last goodbye for a thousand years” — on a painful subject. Lally tended to loll in its emotionalism.
She fared better on Olla Belle Reed’s “High on the Mountain,” a bluegrass staple memorably recorded by Del McCoury and the Dixie Pals in 1972. If “high lonesome” was missing from the overall vocal treatment, it still incorporated bent notes from Galvin on guitar with help from Gavin’s down-home bowing.
The band’s encore began with “My Irish Molly-O,” a 1905 song with which the Flanagan Brothers had a hit in 1928 and De Dannan had a hit in 1981. It’s a smile inducer, as is the Beatles’s “Here Comes the Sun,” performed instrumentally as a trad-style dance tune after the familiar, signature guitar opener.
In a sense De Dannan is as much a brand as a band, and keeping both alive hardly constitutes sacrilege, as some trad pundits in Ireland evidently think. The future of the brand and band will depend on audience reaction, and as a member of the audience this night, my reaction was, for the most part, positive.
Look for a new studio album, now nearly finished, from De Dannan in the coming months.

Reform lives

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

It was encouraging to see Senator Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham outline their plans for reform in the Washington Post. And it was sobering to see the numbers of people who marched for reform in the nation’s capital on Sunday.
As with all matters in Washington these days, immigration reform is not an easy number though, unlike health care reform, it at least enjoys a meaningful measure of bipartisan support. Also, the passage of health care reform significantly clears the legislative calendar and should allow the parties, and the Obama administration, to devote proper time to an issue that can’t be allowed to simply drift along indefinitely.

Irish film reveals a breathtaking ‘Secret’

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

The film they directed, “The Secret Of Kells,” is a dazzling French / Irish / Belgian co-production that takes us back to medieval Ireland in the time of the great illuminators who toiled for decades to create brilliant biblical manuscripts a half a milennium before the invention of movable type. Their finest work, The Book Of Kells, is one of the great treasures of Celtic culture, a 9th century masterpiece depicting the four gospels of the New Testament, and Moore and Twomey’s film is set in the monastery of Kells at the time that the book was created there.
Their hero is Brendan, a cheerful young apprentice growing up in the care of his uncle, Abbot Cellach (voiced by Brendan Gleeson), a dour man obsessed with fortifying his monastery against attack by Vikings. Away from the watchful eye of Cellach, a motley assortment of monks keeps the boy entertained within the walls that constitute his entire world, as his uncle has forbidden him to leave the monastery.
A surprise visitor arrives at their gate: Brother Aidan, a legendary illuminator from the monastic island of Iona, off the coast of Scotland. Aidan (voiced by Galway’s Druid Theatre icon, Mick Lally, and drawn to look endearingly like Willie Nelson) arrives at Kells fleeing from Viking marauders who sacked the Iona cloister. Hidden in the folds of his cloak are a white cat named Pangur Ban, and the work-in-progress that will become The Book Of Kells. He takes refuge at Kells to complete the book, and his playful demeanor and genial personality charm the young monk Brendan, offering a delightful antidote to the grim tutelage of his uncle, the Abbot. Aidan sees in the boy a real talent and imagination that could help him finish the book as his eyesight fades and his hands become unsteady. To test the boy’s resourcefulness, he sends him on a mission to find ink berries for his quills, and thus begins a dizzying adventure for Brendan that sends him outside the walls and into the forest, in defiance of his uncle’s orders.
“The Secret of Kells” combines hand-drawn art and computer images in an intoxicating riot of color, deftly bouncing from three-dimensional swirls to flatter forms derived from the geometric calligraphy of the book that inspired the film. The Kells forest morphs from verdant fern fronds, spiralling dandelions and towering oaks to misty menace at sundown. Black wolves howl in the undergrowth, terrifying the berry-seeking boy til he’s rescued by a mischievous, bossy wood-nymph named Aisling (voiced by a deadpan Christen Mooney). A magical shape-shifter of the pagan order that existed comfortably alongside the new Christian orthodoxy at a more innocent time for Ireland’s churchmen, Aisling takes the form of a white wolf to protect him. With her help, the boy succeeds on his mission and quickly grows in confidence to become a skilled calligrapher.
Along the way, the film makes important points about the value and beauty of books, the eternal power of the words they contain, and the thrill of allowing a youngster’s imagination to soar unfettered in the creation of art. But the “Kells” message is presented as such exhilerating entertainment that the kids watching won’t even notice that they’re learning a very valuable lesson indeed.
“The Secret Of Kells” is currently screening at IFC at Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, and City Cinemas Village East on Second Avenue, and will be available on DVD later this year.

Close shave for St. Baldrick’s Day

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

The first St. Baldrick’s Day saw the three having their heads shaved at Jim Brady’s Tavern in the financial district.
Since the inaugural event a decade ago, and the soon after formation of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the organization has raised more than $57 million dollars for pediatric cancer research. Much of this money was collected by the more than 113,000 “shavees” at the more than 3,450 events that have taken place since 2000.
In commemoration of that first St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event, some of the original shavees will once again get bald for the cause at Jim Brady’s Tavern head-shaving event on Wednsday, St. Patrick’s Day, starting at 3 p.m.
“The battle against childhood cancer has been stepped in recent years as new treatments come on stream but fundraising is a constant necessity,” Tim Kenny, one of the St. Baldrick’s Day founders has stated.
“St. Baldrick’s raises funds for childhood cancer research by hosting worldwide head-shaving events where volunteers shave their heads to stand in solidarity with the kids who typically lose their hair during cancer treatment.
On the first St. Baldrick’s Day, the goal was to raise $17,000 by shaving 17 heads on March 17th.
Meanwhile, this Saturday, March 20, at J.P. Cunningham’s in Mahopac, “shavees” will be gathering for what is considered the big St. Baldrick’s event in Westchester County. Cunningham’s is at 156 East Lake Blvd, and the head shaving starts at 4 p.m.
The J.P. Cunningham’s event has raised over $45,000 in the past three years.

Roots search is work in progress on Long Island

POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

On one Saturday morning each month, however, an organization dedicated to recovering family information that had been lost over the generations meets at Bethpage Public Library on Long Island.
The Irish Family History Forum begins each of these meeting with a “help” session for people tracing their ancestors. Then, a guest expert speaks on some aspect of genealogy.
Five family research enthusiasts established the organization in 1991. That same year, its current recording secretary Kathleen McGee independently set out on her own roots quest. In time, she became friendly with a couple of the founders and joined in 1993. “Over the last seventeen years I have met many wonderful people through the forum who have shared their stories with me and showed me how to research my Irish ancestry,” she said.
At first, she had success finding information about her husband’s family. “Even though he knew his grandfather,” she said, “the family didn’t know where in Ireland he was from until I discovered he came from Cavan in his marriage records.”
McGee would eventually trace him to the townland of Cloonose in the parish of Drumlumman.
“After many years of research I was able to find my great-great grandparents and their siblings arriving in the port of New York on the Ship Erin in May of 1870,” McGee said. “I found out that my great-great-grandparents were married in Dublin just days before the ship departed from Liverpool.”
Ellen Perry said she was from Wicklow and Peter Noble gave an address in Dublin on their marriage registration. Noble’s descendant would eventually discover in Irish records, using leads found in America, where he was born.
“Friends at the Irish Family History Forum suggested that I look at the records of their relatives to find more clues,” McGee said.
The key was Robert Noble, a cousin who employed Peter in his construction company in New York. Peter Noble would fall to his death at a work site, leaving behind three young children. His wife Ellen had already succumbed to tuberculosis. Robert Noble assumed responsibility for the three orphans.
McGee said: “Robert’s death notice in 1894 stated that he was a native of County Kildare and I found other family members whose records mentioned Kildare. I concentrated my search in Kildare and after researching Irish land records, church records, civil registration and census records as well as many U.S. records I discovered that Peter was born in Kilgowan, Kildare.
“My surprise came when I checked the 1901 census and found that not all of Peter’s family emigrated with him and he still had a brother living in the family home in Kildare,” she added.
McGee visited Ireland in 1998, but hadn’t yet discovered her connection to Kildare. She did go to Bath Avenue in Dublin where Peter Noble was working as a servant prior to his marriage. The house was gone but locals showed her where it had been. She also saw the nearby church, St. Mary’s of Donnybrook, where her great-great-grandparents, who died tragically young in New York, were married.
“I look forward to the day when I can visit the parish where Peter was born and see Kildare and perhaps if I am lucky meet some of the descendants of my family that remained in Ireland.
“I still continue my hunt for my grandmother Ellen’s family in Wicklow,” McGee said. “I am lucky to have a photo of her taken in Dublin before she left Ireland in 1870.”
Said Patricia Mansfield Phelan, a book editor who is vice-president for programs: “I was one of those members whose research was deadlocked. But since joining the forum a dozen years ago, I have learned the research tools that have allowed me to find that that my Nannery and Wrenn family were from Granard, Co. Longford, my Ryans from Dublin City, my Stewarts from Tyrone, my Reillys from Cavan, and my McNultys from Donegal and Londonderry. I’m still working on my Mansfields and Fitzpatricks.
“Many of our members have made similar discoveries and some have been able
to connect with relations in Ireland with whom contact had been lost over the years,” Mansfield Phelan said. “Some members have traveled to Ireland to visit their ancestral home.”

The Irish Family History Forum will have a special double presentation on this coming Saturday morning, March 20, beginning at 10 a.m. Fintan Mullan and Brian Trainor of the Ulster Historical Foundation will speak on “History of the Ulster Plantation and the 17th-Century Records Related to It” and there will be a live tutorial using online genealogy databases. It will take place at Bethpage Public Library, 47 Powell Ave., Bethpage, New York.

For more information about the Irish Family History Forum, go to


POSTED ON February 17th  - POSTED IN Archive

The Gaelic Athletic Association (New York Adult Board, New York Minor Board, Ladies Football Board) will hold their Club Forum at Rosie O’Grady’s, 52nd St. & 7th Ave., NYC) Sunday March 21 @ 2.00 pm.
If are you a member of a club, a parent of a participating child, a sponsor, a supporter, or simply interested in the future of the GAA in New York, you are invited to attend a Club Forum on Sunday March 21 at the Manhattan Club at Rosie O?Grady?s
The Forum will outline a strategic vision for the future of the GAA in New York and will be conducted by Paul O? Kelly, author of the GAA?s Strategic Plan.

Danny McKenna, Minor Board
Eugene Brophy, Ladies Football
Larry McCarthy , NY GAA

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