“The New York City Pension Funds have once again used the leverage of their share ownership to successfully spur change in how companies conduct business in Northern Ireland,” Liu said.
“There is no place for discrimination of any sort in the workplace. By adopting the MacBride Principles, Art Technology has affirmed its commitment to promoting fair work practices. I look forward to working closely with the trustees of the (pension) systems in advocating for more companies to adopt these very important principles,” Liu added.
The resolution was filed in December, 2009 by Liu’s predecessor, Comptroller William Thompson, on behalf of the pension funds, and was officially withdrawn by Comptroller Liu after he was notified that Art Technology had agreed to adopt MacBride. Collectively, the New York City Pension Funds hold 721,464 shares of Art Technology Group common stock, valued at $3,123,939 (as of March 9, 2010).
The resolution called on Art Technology to adopt the anti-discrimination guidelines named in 1984 after the late Irish statesman, Nobel laureate, and founder of Amnesty International, Sean MacBride, to serve as benchmarks for U.S. corporations operating in Northern Ireland.
Over the past 18 years, the New York City Pension Funds have successfully reached MacBride-based agreements with 93 companies with facilities in the North.
The New York City Pension Funds are comprised of the New York Employees’ Retirement System, New York City Teachers’ Retirement System, New York City Police Pension Fund, New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, and the New York City Board of Education Retirement System.
The Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister had a hugely significant vote in his political pocket, one that he was losing no opportunity to present as a major turning point in the drawn out peace process.
And in elevating the importance of the recent vote in favor of devolved policing and justice powers, McGuinness was also taking the opportunity to lavish praise on the role that Irish America has played in the political process that is underpinning the effort to secure a lasting peace.
Speaking to reporters in an interview in New York last Thursday, McGuinness said that there was a “very strong and very powerful” relationship between the Obama administration and political leaders in Northern Ireland.
In tandem with this, McGuinness asserted, the bonds between the Irish people and Irish America had never been stronger.
While there might be differing ideas on how best to proceed, he said he felt that “all the main sections of Irish America” were now united behind the peace process.
“The attention we get, not just on St. Patrick’s Day, but all year round, is testimony to those bonds,” McGuinness said.
The phone call made by former president Bush to (British Conservative Party leader) David Cameron, said McGuinness, had clearly showed that U.S. involvement was “not a charade or put-on” but a genuine and sincere commitment.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations had a lot to be proud of in the context of progress in recent years. America’s role, nevertheless, was changing, McGuinness opined.
This changing role had, he said, been best articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in saying that the focus of U.S. involvement, “at our request,” was shifting from the political to the economic.
“Peter and I had a tremendous conversation with Hillary Clinton,” said McGuinness.
Part of that conversation had focused on an extension for the International Fund for Ireland – due to sunset this year.
“Everybody needs to benefit from peace,” said McGuinness, who expressed the view that assistance from the IFI was still needed “in areas of deprivation and inequality” in the North.
Secretary Clinton, he said, had been “very supportive” in responding to his and First Minister Robinson’s pitch for an extended IFI and had promised to “talk to people.”
McGuinness added that there was “not a blade of grass” between himself and Robinson with regard to the necessity for tackling social disadvantage.
McGuinness was also effusive in his praise for the U.S. economic envoy to the North, Declan Kelly, who had “hit the ground running” and was busy making the case that the economic downturn actually made Northern Ireland a more attractive place for U.S. investment because of its comparatively low cost base.
This case would be presented again in the now planned one-day investment conference to take place in Washington in the fall.
Disputing the view that his relationship with Peter Robinson was not as close as that he enjoyed with Ian Paisley, McGuinness said he had been “hugely concerned” when Robinson’s recent family difficulties had emerged into public view.
“I don’t like to see any family go through difficulties,” said McGuinness. He said that he had been concerned for Robinson as a human being, and not just over any impact those difficulties might have posed for the political process.
While defending Robinson, McGuinness was less than praising in his views when it came to other North party leaders, specifically Ulster Unionist Party leader, Sir Reg Empey, and the SDLP’s recently elected leader, Margaret Ritchie, both of whom are ministers in the Executive headed by himself and Robinson.
The institutions of government had never collapsed since Sinn F
And on a St. Patrick’s Day when Washington basked under a warm spring sun, Cowen also filled the main guest slot at the Speaker’s Luncheon hosted by Nancy Pelosi and at a reception sponsored by the Irish Embassy.
But it was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, resplendent in a midnight blue gown and a matching pave diamond set of earrings and necklace, who offered a final coda to those here who worked for many years on the Northern Ireland peace process.
“Peace may be officially established by a vote or an agreement, but it is the real life experiences of people day after day and year after year that cement it,” Clinton told a packed audience at the American Ireland Fund dinner the night before St. Patrick’s Day.
Nodding his head in assent was her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
“Peace has come once and for all to Northern Ireland,” Secretary Clinton declared after receiving the Fund’s annual award.
Cowen, meanwhile, had spent time in Chicago and California before making it to Washington. His ubiquitous theme: there are flexible workers looking for employment back in Ireland.
Cowen clearly has forged a genuine bond with President Obama as the two men spent time comparing economic woes their own domestic political difficulties during a private bilateral in the Oval Office.
“Certainly, in Ireland’s context, the resurgent U.S. economy will be a strong indicator of our return to prosperity,” Cowen told the president as the two men sat before the cameras with a strong early spring sun shinning through the floor to ceiling windows.
“Will you be going to Ireland, Mr. President?” this reporter asked on the Echo’s behalf.
“I would love to be going to Ireland,” President Obama replied with a full smile.
Having the Healthcare reform vote looming, just about anywhere might have been appealing to the man.
“We picked a quiet week to visit,” noted the Taoiseach dryly.
Also in Washington, North ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were recognized at all the various events for finishing the work on policing and justice.
At the start of the day, Vice President Joseph Biden had the Taoiseach and Mrs. Mary Cowen, along with some of the who’s who in Irish American Washington, over for a St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the vice presidential home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory.
Biden, an enthusiastic endorser of all things Irish, paused in the festivities to recognize the widow and daughter of the late Edward Kennedy in attendance.
“It’s kind of strange to be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day without the patron saint of all of us,” he said.
The tribute to Kennedy was echoed by the president that evening at the White House reception attended by a number of family members including his widow, Vicki.
Sadness of Kennedy’s absence part, after a decade of efforts to end sectarian strife in a corner of an island across the Atlantic, 2010 proved to be the St. Patrick’s Day where attendees could truly celebrate achievement and heritage while hoping for an economic blossoming to match the daffodil and crocus clusters that added bursts of color amid Washington’s still winterized, brown grass.
And on St. Patrick’s evening at the White House, President Obama pledged his administration’s support for the reform effort stating, “my own commitment to comprehensive immigration reform remains unwavering.”
Just a few feet away, standing directly in front of the presidential lectern, was Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform president Ciaran Staunton, who later warmly welcomed the president’s words.
Schumer and Graham’s Post piece followed a meeting both had with President Obama.
“We expressed our belief that America’s security and economic well-being depend on enacting sensible immigration policies,” the senators wrote.
And the continued: Our plan has four pillars: requiring biometric Social Security cards to ensure that illegal workers cannot get jobs; fulfilling and strengthening our commitments on border security and interior enforcement; creating a process for admitting temporary workers; and implementing a tough but fair path to legalization for those already here.”
That latter category includes thousands of undocumented Irish.
The senators further stated: “For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally, we would provide a tough but fair path forward.
In a statement reacting to the Schumer/Graham text, President Obama said a critical next step would be to translate their framework into a legislative proposal, and for Congress to act at the earliest possible opportunity.
“I congratulate Senators Schumer and Graham for their leadership, and pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus this year on this important issue so we can continue to move forward on comprehensive immigration reform,” the president said.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.