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Reps. Neal, Boyle attend Dublin forum

POSTED ON September 4th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
The visiting parliamentarians gathered in front of Leinster House in Dublin

The visiting parliamentarians gathered in front of Leinster House in Dublin

By Irish Echo Staff

An international group of parliamentarians with Irish connections has gathered in Dublin for the first-ever Global Irish Parliamentarians’ Forum.

The forum is aimed at fostering Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora by bringing together Irish-connected political representatives who serve in national parliaments and state assemblies in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France and the UK.

The U.S. was represented at the gathering by Representative Richie Neal from Massachusetts and Brendan Boyle from Pennsylvania.

Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan invited the parliamentarians to the forum, which emerged from Ireland’s recently unveiled diaspora policy.

The 44 parliamentarians also met with Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan at Iveagh House, the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to brief them on recent economic developments in Ireland.

Flanagan, who is also trade minister said his experience as minister had made it clear that friends of Ireland overseas, including parliamentarians, could be of great assistance to Irish companies seeking to do business overseas.

“At this politically sensitive time in Northern Ireland, I am also pleased to welcome some noted friends of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, such as Congressman Richie Neal, to Dublin,” Flanagan said of the senior House Democrat.

Following their meeting with Minister Flanagan, the group visited Leinster House for a special session in the Dáil chamber chaired by the Leas Ceann Comhairle (deputy speaker).

During the session the visitors were addressed by Tánaiste Joan Burton, and Minister Deenihan.

Speaking in advance of the visit, Minister Jimmy Deenihan, TD, said: “Over successive generations, members of the Irish diaspora elected to overseas parliaments and assemblies have been active spokespersons and advocates for Irish communities overseas. By maintaining close ties to their heritage, they ensured the Irish voice was heard in local, regional and national political systems around the world,” said Deenihan in advance of the forum.

“The forum will foster Ireland’s relationship with its diaspora by bringing together Irish-connected political representatives who serve in national parliaments and state assemblies in Australia, Canada, France, the UK and the USA. Among the group is Congressman Brendan Boyle – the only member of the US House of Representatives with an Irish born parent.

“I am delighted to welcome such a significant number of parliamentarians to Dublin and am excited by the possibilities such a gathering affords. I was overwhelmed by the positive response to my invitation and I am confident that this forum will further strengthen the bonds these elected officials feel with Ireland.

“This forum will allow us to brief the parliamentarians on the government’s ambitious plans to commemorate 1916, including the many events which will take place around the world.”
During their visit the parliamentarians took time to view the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin and the GAA Museum in Croke Park.

The visitors will also visited the Stephenstown Pond nature park in Dundalk which is supported by the International Fund for Ireland which is itself supported by the countries they represented.

14 powerful and expressive tracks

POSTED ON September 4th  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure, News & Views

Buttons and Bows cd

By Daniel Neely

Formed in 1983, Buttons and Bows is one of the great groups playing traditional Irish music today. Made up of Séamus McGuire (fiddle, viola), Manus McGuire (fiddle), Garry O’Briain (guitar, mandocello, piano), and Jackie Daly (accordion), the band has an impressive background, having recorded extensively and toured throughout the world, charming audiences and critics everywhere along the way. Buttons and Bows’ recently released fourth album, “The Return Of Spring,” sees the group once again at the top of its game, giving music lovers 14 tracks of powerful and expressive Irish music.

Put the album into your player and they first thing you’ll notice is the group’s lush, beautiful sound. The McGuire brothers articulate brilliantly with each other, and have the kind of wonderful rapport with O’Briain and Daly that only years of playing together provides. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find an impressive and well-heeled collection of tunes that will delight listeners.

The album opens with “Oyster Island,” a lovely Séamus original “written in the style of a French musette.” It’s an auspicious beginning and one that foreshadows a bit of what’s to come, as each musician contributes an original composition to the album. Manus is represented by the sweet, slow “Fort Dunree,” O’Briain provides “Sweet Aibhilín,” a nice waltz, and Daly gives us, “Joe Burke’s Polka,” an appropriate contribution for the Sliabh Luachra man, named after the legendary Galway accordion player.

Speaking of polkas, one of the album’s best and (for me) most interesting tracks is “The Return of Spring / Mountain Pathway.” These are a pair of Sligo (!) polkas that James Morrison first recorded in 1926, that fellow Sligo fiddlers Paddy Killoran and Paddy Sweeney recorded in 1937 (as “The Decca Polka”), and that Sligo’s own Innisfree Céilí Band (www.innisfreeceiliband.ie) recorded for their 2009 album “Music Of North Connacht.” I love these tunes, they possess great melodic depth and brilliant character, and are given a wonderful outing here.

Another great track is “An Ceo Draíochta (The Magic Mist) / The Stafford Dance,” a pair of tunes with a fascinating historical pedigree. The former was taken from “Old Irish Folk Music and Songs,” an important collection of tunes assembled by the eminent historian P.W. Joyce in 1909. The latter, however, comes from an unpublished collection of tunes collected by Stephen Grier between 1845-1883. Tunes from the Grier collection aren’t all that common (for example, you hear them on the McNamara Family’s album “Leitrim’s Hidden Treasure” and on Marie Reilly’s recent recording “Road to Glannagh”), so it’s always nice to hear one of these little gems, especially when it’s played as nicely as this is here.

I am also enjoying the “The Prohibition and the Contradiction” reels, which features a bit of Django Reinhardt-esque style in the guitar backing, and “The Templeglantine Slide / The Gallant Tipperary Boys” which are a pair of tight, lithe little slides that are a fun ride.

“The Return Of Spring” is a tremendous, tasteful, and sophisticated album. The music is well curated and delivered with great artistic nuance and expressive depth from beginning to end. It is another wonderful album from a band with an impeccable track record of excellence – definitely one for the collection. For more information, visit www.buttonsandbowsmusic.ie.

Daniel Neely writes about traditional music each week in the Echo.

 

 

 

Back to where it all started

POSTED ON September 3rd  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
AOH National President Brendan Moore (left), Rev. Raymond Nobiletto, New York Past State President Jim Burke, and current AOH New York State President Tim McSweeney, stand in front of St. James Church before a plaque commemorating the founding of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America.  Photo courtesy New York State AOH website.

AOH National President Brendan Moore (left), Rev. Raymond Nobiletto, New York Past State President Jim Burke, and current AOH New York State President Tim McSweeney, stand in front of St. James Church before a plaque commemorating the founding of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America.
Photo courtesy New York State AOH website.

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Irish Americans are renowned for their interest in their places of origin back in the old country.
For the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, visiting its own point of origin doesn’t require a journey across the Atlantic to the island of Ireland.

Manhattan Island will suffice.

A few days ago, AOH National President Brendan Moore, New York State President Tim McSweeney, Immediate Past New York State President Jim Burke, and Albany Division 5 Treasurer, Bernie Harney, undertook a tour of St. James Church in Lower Manhattan hosted by Rev. Raymond Nobiletto, Pastor of the Church of the Transfiguration.

The Transfiguration Parish recently acquired the St. James Church building, where the AOH in America was founded in May of 1836.

The Sanctuary of St. James has not hosted a mass in over four years and has fallen into disrepair, said a report on the New York State AOH website. Workers are removing the ceiling of the Sanctuary, as it is in danger of total collapse.

Many other rooms and the basement of the building are in need of restoration.

Fr. Nobiletto’s goal, according to the website report, is to transform the Sanctuary into a multi-use community center and recreation area for the parish school. The basement of the building will become a science lab for the school.

The AOH delegation briefed Fr.Nobiletto on how important a place that St. James holds in the history of the Hibernians.

Now future meetings will be planned with Fr.Nobiletto to discuss the role the AOH can play in preserving what is for the Hibernians a historic and most special place.

And with regard to 1836, the AOH National Website, in a section on the birth of the order, states that “in 1836, according to The Miner’s Journal, a newspaper in Pennsylvania’s Schuykill County anthracite coalfield region, and other newspapers, journals and verified sources of information, we have learned that a contingent of miners from a local group called the Hibernian Benevolent Society traveled to New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade.

“While there they met with a group of New York Activists from the St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society. The subject of the meeting is not recorded, but since nativist activity was becoming a national threat, it is not difficult to imagine the Irish seeking to coalesce several societies into one major defensive organization.

“Thus was born The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). In several versions of their own history, written and expanded over its lifetime, reference is made to the founding of its first Division at New York’s St. James Church on May 4, 1836 – less than two months after the historic meeting of the New York and Pennsylvania activists.

“Coincidentally, another Division was formed at the same time in the coal-fields of Pennsylvania. Local tradition notes that one Jeremiah Reilly of Cass Township, Hecksherville, Schuylkill County, PA started the first AOH division there, but no records have been found to authenticate this.”

‘Borders’ puts down a marker

POSTED ON September 3rd  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure, News & Views
BLEK

The work of John Blek (leaning forward) and the Rats probes the dark and the light.

By Colleen Taylor

John Blek and the Rats sounds like it might be parodic band name, but this is one Irish ensemble to take seriously. Blek and his Rats know good folk music, and they use their musical talent to produce poetic, powerful, oftentimes haunting tracks. Their latest album, “Borders”—officially out in just a couple weeks—is the band’s best and most complex yet.

Blek is the songsmith and lead vocalist, supported by musicians Anna Mitchell, Robbie Barron, David Murphy, Brian Hassett, and Cian Heffernan. The band’s first album, “Leave Your Love at the Door,” was received to great critical acclaim in Ireland two years ago. In the interim John Blek released a solo album, “Cutting Room Floor,” and the band has toured all over Ireland, the UK, and Germany.

The band’s latest album, “Borders,” however, couldn’t be more different from their first. While “Leave Your Love at the Door,” represents prototypical country-Americana music, “Borders” is a darker, more thought-provoking, de-countrified collection. I prefer the sound Blek has created in “Borders.” While the Rats of “Leave Your Love at the Door” sound like a band imitating their favorite country musicians, “Borders” is something more distinctly their own—a unique creation. What’s more, this album involved a more grand-scale production than their first. Recorded in Cork with a host of interesting folk instruments and carefully orchestrated harmonies, “Borders” sounds clean and multi-faceted. With this album, Blek wrote something both more contemporary and differential from your typical country-Americana genre. There’s more “alt” in this sophomore record as well, but not at the expense of a pure folk style.

“Borders” qualifies as highbrow folk music. By removing the overpowering country twang from his music’s new stylings, Blek has highlighted his original lyrics, which are rich in metaphor and brave in subject matter. Blek is unafraid to write on the tough topics, and he particularly wanted the theme of “Borders” to be cohesive and challenging. The stories of the album’s songs vacillate between and probe the dark and light moments of human existence—life as well as death, good as well as bad. The lyrics explore topics like addiction, domestic abuse, and mental illness. There is even a song about funeral home director who falls in love with a corpse (Blek is adept at black humor as well). The song “Brothers” depicts the struggles of organized religion. Finally, the keynote track on the new album, “Wandering Child” is, as the title might suggest, about a missing child. In its accompanying music video that the band recently released on their website, a hitch-hiking girl gets picked up and her narrative deteriorates into tragedy.

While the music of John Blek and the Rats is not traditionally Irish in any sense, there is something quintessentially Irish in the album’s lyric and symbol, literarily speaking. The tragedy that crops up in some of the songs can be interpreted as a contemporary spin on the ballad tradition. For instance, while the best song on the album, “Wandering Child,” sounds like it belongs at Woodstock, the lyrics might be more at home in an Irish poetry anthology. Whether Blek realizes it or not, his song descends from his culture’s poetic tradition, as a modern-day, musical riff on W. B. Yeats’s “The Stolen Child.”

In the coming weeks, “Borders” will hit the shops and online music stores. Give it a listen. It signifies one of the best things I love about the folk music tradition in Ireland, traditional and otherwise: the extraordinary marriage of word and chord, lyric and chorus. This album is great writing and great folk music too. Check it out at: johnblekandtherats.com.

Colleen Taylor writes the Music Notes column each week in the Irish Echo.

Molly’s life spans an ocean and a century

POSTED ON September 3rd  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Molly O’Hara at 103 years young.

By Áine Ní Shionnaigh

County Cavan proudly boasts the oldest County Association here in the US. A more important boast however, is that of one of Cavan’s natives; Mrs. Molly O’Hara (nee McGovern) who recently celebrated her 103rd birthday. I was privileged to be invited to Molly’s Manhattan home last week where she resides with her son Pat. Her daughters; Gabrielle and Angela also live nearby. It is heartwarming to see Molly in the sunset of her years in the midst of her warm and friendly family where she remains the center of all the chat, conversation and craic, of which there is no shortage in the O’Hara household.

In April 1912 ‘the new wonder of the world’, The Titanic, departed Cobh and sped steadily westward towards a destination it would sadly never reach. As the world struggled to absorb the news of this tragedy, deep in the glen of Mully Lower, Glangevlin, Co Cavan, Elizabeth and Philip McGovern were facing their own struggles; raising an expanding family on poor land in a country desperately trying to escape the claws of Colonialism. That summer, on the 15th of August, their daughter Molly was born. Little did they know that 60 years later, Molly too would follow the course of the Titanic and follow five of her six children who had already immigrated to the US.

Molly and Donald O'Hara

Molly and Donald O’Hara

In 1941 Molly met and married Donald O’Hara. Together, on a small farm in Moneygashel, Blacklion, Co Cavan, they raised 6 children: Pat, Gabrielle, Angela, Susan, Dano and Maureen. Sadly Dano and Maureen were both taken long before their time and are no longer with us. Together Molly and Donald ran the local shop and post office. This was a time in Ireland when the local shop and post office nurtured and harnessed a great sense of community and camaraderie in rural areas. Molly was an integral part of life in Moneygashel; supporting the community in their joys and sorrows, operating the one telephone that linked the parish to the outside world, receiving the telegrams which more often than not signaled bad news, delivering the long awaited letter from America, describing life more brightly than it actually was but enclosing the life changing few faded hard earned dollars which provided a second chance for another sibling to emigrate. In later years, Molly brought her Cavan charm and this great sense of community to the parishioners of St Joseph’s parish in the Bronx where she volunteered for many years.

Painting by Molly's son Pat of the O'Hara homestead, which was also the local post office and shop.

Painting by Molly’s son Pat of the O’Hara homestead, which was also the local post office and shop.

As the kettle is being boiled for yet another pot of tea, I take advantage of the break in conversation to absorb some of the wonderful paintings by Molly’s son, Pat which depict various places in Cavan and its surrounds which played a big part in Molly’s life. One beautifully depicts the post office and shop in Moneygashel, framed by the evening slanting sun. My eye is immediately drawn to ‘The Rainbow Ballroom’ in Glenfarne, Co Leitrim, which borders Co Cavan. This is ‘The Ballroom of Romance’ made famous worldwide by William Trevor, whose short story on same illustrates the harsh economic realities of Irish life at this time. It has better memories however for the O’Hara household who are all steeped in music, singing and the show band era. Molly’s son Dano (RIP) travelled the world as lead guitarist with renowned country western singer Philomena Begley and started his career performing here in ‘The Rainbow Ballroom’.

However much romance may have been in The Ballroom, it was not enough to sustain Cavan natives in their own county. Emigration is and always has been a huge part of life in Co Cavan. It is an inland county in the province of Ulster and is part of the Border region, untouched mostly by the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger which gives it an appealing quality but sadly ensures that the strong history of emigration continues. In the 1940s and 50s the Irish government did little to boost the performance of the state in either economic or social terms. De Valera’s closed economic policies were a failure resulting in economic stagnation and a huge wave of forced emigration. This emigration devastated the social landscape of many Irish counties particularly counties with less economic resources such as Cavan. One by one, Molly’s children were forced to leave with hope in their hearts for a better life in a country that would provide them with employment, lifelong friendships and love and enable them to live life to the fullest. They brought their talent of music and singing across the ocean with them. Pat and Gabrielle became well known on the NY social scene with their band ‘Blue River’.

As Molly O’Hara sits comfortably in her armchair beside me sipping tea and chatting in Irish and English, occasionally breaking into song, I can’t help but ponder on the fact that she has lived through, some of the most momentous moments in Irish and world history. When she was 2 years old, learning to walk around the cottage, World War 1 broke out and 350,000 of her fellow countrymen fought in ‘the war to end all wars’. At the age of 4, the radio in the cottage crackled with the news of a war closer to home; ‘The Easter Rising’. One year later, long before IDA Ireland and inward investment became a familiar term, Henry Ford established a manufacturing plant in Co Cork. When Molly was 16 yrs old, the first ever transatlantic flight from Europe departed from Ireland to the US. In 1972 just as Ireland was on the cusp of joining the EU, after witnessing five of her six children emigrate to the US, Molly sensibly decided to follow suit and spend her retirement happily surrounded by her children, grandchildren, one great grandchild, extended family and friends which is exactly as I found her. Refreshingly, Molly attributes her legendary longevity to being content, having a great faith, being surrounded by family and friends, steering clear of healthy foods such as fish, fruit, vegetables and water and enjoying many cups of sugary laden Irish tea !

Hours after I am originally due to leave, I reluctantly leave the couch, the company and the copious cups of tea with an assurance to Molly and her family that I will definitely return before long. As I descend the steps of the uptown subway, I brace myself to get swallowed into the evening rush. Standing on the platform in the heavy humidity of the August evening, I smile to myself as I think of Molly sitting peacefully in the room surrounded by those she loves, I think of the ‘Ballroom of Romance’, a symbol of hope and love in the midst of daily drudgery. In one moment I realize we can recreate a corner of home irrespective of where we are and peace can come in the midst of chaos. Home is where we make it once we decide to surround ourselves by people we love. Thank you Molly. Put the kettle on, I’ll be back soon for more.

Freed nanny back in Ireland

POSTED ON September 2nd  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

BH-2015-09-02-A001

By Irish Echo Staff

Free Irish nanny Aisling Brady McCarthy is back in Ireland after departing Boston Tuesday night.
Brady McCarthy, accompanied by her sister, arrived in Shannon this morning.

Before leaving Boston, and after the dramatic about face by prosecutors who dropped charges of killing a one year old child who was in her care, Brady McCarthy told the Boston Herald of her relief and also her anger after serving thirty months in jail for a murder she did not commit.

“I am overwhelmed. It has been crazy and hectic,” McCarthy told the Herald.

“Suddenly, everything is happening so fast after going so, so very slow for almost three years. I can’t wait to get home and start my life over again. My worst nightmare is finally over.

Brady McCarthy did not hold back in venting her anger over how her life had been turned upside down.

“What the Middlesex prosecutors did to me was scandalous,” she said.

“They should be ashamed of themselves. The police and (Dr.) Alice Newton, they just decided right away that I had killed the child. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I loved her and cared for her, 10 hours a day, five days a week. I would take her everywhere on day trips.

“They were wrong but it seemed that except for my family and my lawyers, Melinda (Thompson) and David Meier, God bless them, no one would listen.”

McCarthy told the Herald that what the public did not see over two and a half years of her imprisonment was the steady stream of love and support she received from other parents who had employed her, and their children she helped raise.

“They would come every week to visit me. The kids would bring me drawings and little gifts. They were a huge source of support and comfort to me. And they assured me that they would be there, to testify on my 
behalf when the trial came.”

The report stated that at the outset of the case, defense attorney Melinda Thompson came to the arraignment in Medford with $5,000 in cash to bail her out.

But when Middlesex prosecutors told the judge that McCarthy had allowed her visa to lapse, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement considered her “a flight risk,” and her bail jumped to $500,000.

Reported the Herald: “Before flying home to Ireland last night, McCarthy went through ICE to get her passport back. Both her lawyers said the immigration officials couldn’t have been nicer.

“It was as if they understood the nightmare this one Irish immigrant had lived through.”

Hilary Beirne’s parade peace appeal

POSTED ON September 2nd  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Executive Secretary Hilary Beirne (center) pictured at the 2014 parade with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and then Irish Consul General in New York, Noel Kilkenny. Photo by Dominick Totino.

New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee Executive Secretary Hilary Beirne (center) pictured at the 2014 parade with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and then Irish Consul General in New York, Noel Kilkenny. Photo by Dominick Totino.

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade Executive Secretary, Hilary Beirne, has responded to what he describes as “negative conversations” directed at himself and others at a recent meeting of delegates to parade affiliated groups in Queens convened by parade committee chairman, John Dunleavy.

And he has also called for unity in the parade as it prepares for what will be an especially standout event in March 2016, the 100th anniversary year of the 1916 Rising.

In a letter to delegates carrying the address of the parade committee in Woodlawn Station, Bronx, Beirne said he was “saddened to hear of the negative conversations arising out of the recent Parade Delegates meeting at Antun’s.”

This was a reference to a meeting called by embattled parade committee chairman John Dunleavy.

Beirne said he was deeply concerned for the parade after 28 years of loyal service, “a parade I love dearly and John Dunleavy.”

But Beirne’s letter is also critical of his longtime colleague and ally, Mr. Dunleavy.

Stated Beirne in part: “My goal is to protect the parade and the delegate organizations which are the core of the parade. I want everyone to know I have always respected and supported John Dunleavy and honor his service to the parade, otherwise I would not have worked so closely with him for so many years.

“I informed John Dunleavy in Ireland of the then-upcoming June 30th 2015 Board of Director’s conference call, and urged him to attend. Despite 10 attempts to contact him again in the days leading up to the conference call and speaking to his wife, he did not join the call.

“At this June 30th meeting, a number of unanimous votes were taken and officially recorded. John Dunleavy now wants to set aside those unanimous votes. The by-laws of the Parade Corporation were put into place many years ago, with a great deal of thought by AOH members such as my uncle Frank Beirne, John Dunleavy, Jim Barker, Johnny Lynn, Martin Kearns and others, in order to protect the affiliated organizations and the parade itself. These are the same by-laws John Dunleavy now wants to set aside.

“To clarify for everyone, the by-laws clearly state the parade committee has always been a subcommittee of the parent corporation, and that structure has not changed since the corporation formation in the 1990s nor did it change as a result of the June board meeting. John Dunleavy is still the chairman of the parade committee and was not removed by the board. The committee reports and is responsible to both the delegates and the corporation (parent organization) which was a mechanism put in place in the 1990s to protect the parade.

“John and I met on July 10, 2015, after his return from Ireland. At the end of the meeting I asked John to sit down with the board so that we could continue to preserve and protect the parade.”

Unfortunately, continued Beirne, Mr. Dunleavy and others had decided to enter into a legal dispute with the parade committee and the parade board of directors to overturn the votes taken according to the by-laws of the same corporation he helped to establish to protect the parade.

Mr. Beirne continued: “At the delegates meeting (in Queens), offensives were launched against multiple key parade stakeholders who have supported the parade financially and morally for many years: the Irish government, the Irish Consulate in New York, Secretary General of Foreign Affairs, Niall Burgess, the Knights of St. Patrick, NBC, Quinnipiac University, John Lahey, John Fitzsimons, Frank Comerford, the board of directors of the parade and the St. Patrick’s Day Foundation.

“The parade celebrates the presence and contributions of the Irish in America so it makes no sense to attack so many key organizers, stakeholders, and supporters of the parade as well as engage in legal action with the same corporation John helped to establish in order to protect the Parade.

“Furthermore, the negative media that is now occurring is drawing unnecessary attention of powerful individuals within NYC and New York State. We all need to be aware of what happened earlier this year to the Dominican Day Parade.

“I believe because I expressed my opinion on how to proceed, and because my view was contrary to John Dunleavy and others, they have now seen fit to attack me personally. This truly saddens me because at a meeting in May I was deeply honored when John, in front of the elected officers, asked me to run with him as co-chairman with the intention that he would step down and I assume to role of chairman.

“At this time, I respectfully ask the delegate organizations not to engage in a dispute or feed any negativity to the media as we have had way too much of that already; instead I want you to get John Dunleavy to sit down with the board.

“If we are to continue in our mission to preserve and protect the parade, the role of the committee must be to unite, not divide the Irish community. We need to build bridges, not destroy them. We need to be united if the parade is to navigate the changes in society and the political climate in order to survive.

“This is a time when we need to be at our strongest. It is vital we protect and preserve this parade that our forefathers built over the last 253 years. Our mission is a sacred trust that we hold but for a short period of time. May St. Patrick guide us through this together.”

2015 1st Irish Fest launched in Apple

POSTED ON September 2nd  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure, News & Views
jack & sarah

Jack O’Connell, who will play Jimmy the Bartender in “Stoopdreamer,” was at the launch of the 2015 1st Irish Festival. He is pictured with Sarah Fearon of the Irish American Writers & Artists. PETER MCDERMOTT

By Orla O’Sullivan

There were no performance previews at the Origin’s 1st Irish launch party, but a Tourism Ireland representative—one of several speakers who underscored the theatre festival’s importance to the Irish economy—proved something of a stand-up comic.

Billy Condon, vice president of marketing, who said, “I’ve been working for Tourism Ireland… well, since they threatened to fire me,” opened, deadpan: “I’d like to thank Thomas Moran for the use of his office.”

The office in question was the penthouse suite of Mutual of America that occupies almost an entire Park Avenue block with floor-to-ceiling windows and spectacular city views. Moran, the company chairman, and a major sponsor of the festival, was absent on this occasion, which also lacked vignettes from upcoming plays that have featured at past launch parties.

Not that 1st Irish is on the wane. Far from it, indicated George Heslin, who established the only festival celebrating Irish playwrights in the U.S. back in 2008. It has since produced the work of 122 of them.

“If you had to buy all the advertising the 1st Irish festival gets for the word ‘Ireland,’ it would cost $18 million,” Heslin said, noting that this estimate came from an independent, media-tracking company (Burrelles Luce, Florham Park, N.J.).

Condon said, “No one does a better job of bringing theatre from Ireland to the U.S. than George Heslin,” and cited various surveys indicating Ireland’s growing profile. Among them, Dublin was this year voted the second friendliest city in the world by readers of Condé Nast Traveler.

“The first was Sydney — because all the Irish went there,” Condon joked. In other surveys, Ashford Castle was rated as the world’s top hotel and Belfast’s Titanic Quarter as one of the world’s top attractions, he noted.

There’s a strong emphasis on Northern Ireland in 1st Irish, 2015, running from Sept. 2 to Oct. 4. Two theatres from Belfast are performing in the festival and there’s a symposium on the cultural impact of the North at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House (3 p.m. on Sept. 12). Belfast’s Tinderbox is at the American Irish Historical Society for one night (Sept. 24) with “Summertime” and Brassneck brings “The Holy, Holy Bus” to the National Arts Club the following night.

Norman Houston, director of the Northern Ireland Bureau in North America, a longtime sponsor of the annual September festival, noted that during the Troubles artists in Northern Ireland played a vital role in addressing issues others would not. “In the dark old days the elephant in the room was dealt with by playwrights,” said Houston, who came from D.C. to attend the gathering.

Paul Nugent, an actor who came from Dublin to perform in Brendan Connellan’s “Python” at An Beal Bocht Café in the Bronx, said, “I think the entire Irish theatre community would come to 1st Irish if they could. People in Dublin are always asking me, ‘How do you get a show into 1st Irish?’”

Last to speak was the man best placed to answer them, the festival founder and Limerick native, introduced by Origin board member Aisling Reidy as “George Heslin, the man of making connections.”

At the mike, Heslin gently admonished the crowd of 200 or so. “You’re all very far away from me,” he said. “Come in, come in, come in, it’s an Irish party.”

Fenton goes back to the old neighborhood

POSTED ON September 1st  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure, News & Views
pat fenton

Pat Fenton’s play “Stoopdreamer” opens Friday night for 21 performances at the Cell Theatre. PETER MCDERMOTT

 

By Peter McDermott

pmcdermott@irishecho.com

In a Manhattan diner one day last week, playwright Pat Fenton took out some old sheets of a legal notepad. They were given to him some 10, maybe 15 years ago by Dan McNulty, a long-retired Brooklyn bar-owner.

One had lists of names under the subheads “Gravediggers,” “Docks,” “Cab Drivers” – of which there were two types, “15th St. Hack Stand” and “Independent” – “Ironworkers,” “Sandhogs” and “Transit (Car Barn).” The last had an added note beside one individual; “Mike Quill’s rep,” it said. The names, like that of the famous union leader, were mostly Irish.

On another, there was a list of neighborhood businesses – the Pride of Brooklyn Barber Shop, Gene O’Rourke’s Coffee Shop, Joe’s Fish Store, Trunz Butcher, Meyer’s Ice Cream Store and many more. Again, there was the occasional notation, such as “until about 1938.”

All of this is a backdrop to Fenton’s Windsor Terrace-set “Stoopdreamer,” which will, beginning Friday night, have 21 performances at the Cell Theatre as part of the 2015 1st Irish Festival. The action takes place in the real-life Farrell’s Bar, the last bastion in a neighborhood that has been undergoing gentrification. A woman, who moved there in 2003, was quoted in a New York Times article in February saying: “Windsor Terrace has changed more in the last two years than in the 10 previous ones.”

The play is set vaguely in the present; its past are the decades after World War II. Things started to go awry for Windsor Terrace with the announcement, at a 1947 public meeting, of a major highway initiative. The powerful city official Robert Moses would have his way and ground broke in 1954 for the Prospect Expressway. It took out seven blocks of the mainly Irish enclave, and with them 1,252 families.

“The play is about the damage done, the lives destroyed. It’s about change and memory,” said Fenton, who lives with his wife Pat in Massapequa, L.I. “Now, the people coming into the neighborhood have no idea of that history.”

Two lives remembered in the semi-fictional storytelling at Farrell’s are those of Moon Mullins and Paddy the Hawk. Mullins was a sometime pool hustler who worked long hours at the Brillo factory. He lived for his two-week summer vacation at Fitzgerald’s Bar in the Rockaways. “It had rooms you could stay in,” Fenton said of that seaside establishment.

Paddy the Hawk sat for hours in Gus’s Diner, safe from the teasing of neighborhood children, and from there he watched the trolley cars returning from Coney Island. Sometimes, as the sharp turn was made onto 9th Avenue, one of the trolley-car lines bounced off of the overhead power wire. Paddy would then race out of the diner, for he had made it his job to hook it back up.

Of the three “Stoopdreamer” characters gathered in Farrell’s Bar, one, Janice Joyce (Robin Lesley Brown), has long ago left the neighborhood and now lives in Toms River, N.J., She is wondering if it’s possible to go home and is looking also for an old boyfriend. The second of the trio is Billy Coffey (Bill Cwikowski) and the third Jimmy the Bartender, who is played by Jack O’Connell. Secrets are revealed and there’s speculation about what might have been.

O’Connell and Fenton did readings of scenes a couple of years back at salons of the Irish American Writers & Artists at the Cell Theatre. The Cell’s founding artistic director, Nancy Manocherian, overheard and was intrigued.

“She saw something in it, a kind of urban ‘Our Town,’” he said, in reference to the Thornton Wilder favorite. “She took me aside and said: ‘I’d like to put this on.’”

And so for the second time in his varied career, he has a fully produced play – a follow-up to his Kerouac-themed “Jack’s Last Call.”

Fenton doesn’t want to sugarcoat the past. He tells people he grew up in a time of innocence, yet parts of the neighborhood could be very dangerous, and he witnessed violence first hand. So, while McNulty was never once robbed on his 3 a.m. journey home with the night’s takings, a member of the Flaherty family listed under “Docks” was murdered and his body dumped in the Gowanus Canal. He’d been high up in the union. “I remember my parents whispering about it,” Fenton said. Joe Flaherty, a longshoreman and later a prominent city journalist, was his son.

Fenton has been a court officer, court clerk and a newspaper columnist (his recent contributions to the Irish Echo include 2014 interviews with Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, a Windsor Terrace native). When he was a cargo handler at JFK, he wrote “Confessions of a Working Stiff” for New York magazine. The piece, which has been anthologized several times, got some attention from publishers who wanted him to write a book. But his priorities were holding down a job and raising his family (he has a son and daughter and will soon become a grandfather for the second time). He couldn’t find the time to be a part-time author, too.

Fenton’s working career began as a teenager at the Pilgrim Laundry in Windsor Terrace after being educated by the Xaverian Brothers at Holy Name. Pilgrim had a prison-type wall around it, he said. He joined the army after he turned 20. The 6 feet 2 recruit was sent off to train for the military police. It was 1961.

Andrew Fenton, a native of the Long Walk in Galway City, carried around a picture in his wallet of his tall MP son. “He shoveled coal for 33 years [at Con Edison] and never complained,” the playwright said.

The Galway men of Windsor Terrace met on Sunday morning outside Sanders Theatre in their finest, the son recalled, and walked up to Holy Name Church for the 12:15 Mass. Afterwards, they went to Farrell’s.

Pat Fenton’s mother was Catherine Mitchell from Williamstown, Co. Galway. At last week’s festival launch, he mentioned this to a young Irish TV journalist preparing to interview him. She told him: “My granny was from Williamstown.”

The next day in the diner, Fenton said he couldn’t recall ever before meeting a person with connections to his mother’s village. Then a prominent member of the community was spotted at the diner’s counter. After introductions were made, it was revealed that that person had grown up on a farm three miles from Williamstown.

With “Stoopdreamer” about to open, Pat Fenton was happy to take all of this as a good omen.

“Stoopdreamer,” directed by Kira Simring, will be performed at the Cell Theatre, 338 West 23rd St., Manhattan, from Sept. 4 – 27. The shows are on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets ($25) are available at www.thecelltheatre.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[DON’T BREAK UP WINDSOR TERRACE]

 

 

CAPTION [PAT FENTON.JPG MAIN PIC]

Pat Fenton’s play “Stoopdreamer” will have the first of 21 performances at the Cell Theatre on Friday night.

PETER MCDERMOTT

 

CAPTION [JACK & SARAH.JPG]

Jack O’Connell, who will play Jimmy the Bartender in “Stoopdreamer,” was at the launch last week of the 2015 1st Irish Festival held at Mutual of America headquarters. He is pictured with Sarah Fearon of the Irish American Writers & Artists.

PETER MCDERMOTT

 

CAPTION [SANDERS THEATRE.JPG]

The men from Galway gathered late Sunday morning in front of Sanders Theatre, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn.

 

 

By Peter McDermott

pmcdermott@irishecho.com

 

In a Manhattan diner one day last week, playwright Pat Fenton took out some old sheets of a legal notepad. They were given to him some 10, maybe 15 years ago by Dan McNulty, a long-retired Brooklyn bar-owner.

One had lists of names under the subheads “Gravediggers,” “Docks,” “Cab Drivers” – of which there were two types, “15th St. Hack Stand” and “Independent” – “Ironworkers,” “Sandhogs” and “Transit (Car Barn).” The last had an added note beside one individual; “Mike Quill’s rep,” it said. The names, like that of the famous union leader, were mostly Irish.

On another, there was a list of neighborhood businesses – the Pride of Brooklyn Barber Shop, Gene O’Rourke’s Coffee Shop, Joe’s Fish Store, Trunz Butcher, Meyer’s Ice Cream Store and many more. Again, there was the occasional notation, such as “until about 1938.”

All of this is a backdrop to Fenton’s Windsor Terrace-set “Stoopdreamer,” which will, beginning Friday night, have 21 performances at the Cell Theatre as part of the 2015 1st Irish Festival. The action takes place in the real-life Farrell’s Bar, the last bastion in a neighborhood that has been undergoing gentrification. A woman, who moved there in 2003, was quoted in a New York Times article in February saying: “Windsor Terrace has changed more in the last two years than in the 10 previous ones.”

The play is set vaguely in the present; its past are the decades after World War II. Things started to go awry for Windsor Terrace with the announcement, at a 1947 public meeting, of a major highway initiative. The powerful city official Robert Moses would have his way and ground broke in 1954 for the Prospect Expressway. It took out seven blocks of the mainly Irish enclave, and with them 1,252 families.

“The play is about the damage done, the lives destroyed. It’s about change and memory,” said Fenton, who lives with his wife Pat in Massapequa, L.I. “Now, the people coming into the neighborhood have no idea of that history.”

Two lives remembered in the semi-fictional storytelling at Farrell’s are those of Moon Mullins and Paddy the Hawk. Mullins was a sometime pool hustler who worked long hours at the Brillo factory. He lived for his two-week summer vacation at Fitzgerald’s Bar in the Rockaways. “It had rooms you could stay in,” Fenton said of that seaside establishment.

Paddy the Hawk sat for hours in Gus’s Diner, safe from the teasing of neighborhood children, and from there he watched the trolley cars returning from Coney Island. Sometimes, as the sharp turn was made onto 9th Avenue, one of the trolley-car lines bounced off of the overhead power wire. Paddy would then race out of the diner, for he had made it his job to hook it back up.

 

Of the three “Stoopdreamer” characters gathered in Farrell’s Bar, one, Janice Joyce (Robin Lesley Brown), has long ago left the neighborhood and now lives in Toms River, N.J., She is wondering if it’s possible to go home and is looking also for an old boyfriend. The second of the trio is Billy Coffey (Bill Cwikowski) and the third Jimmy the Bartender, who is played by Jack O’Connell. Secrets are revealed and there’s speculation about what might have been.

 

O’Connell and Fenton did readings of scenes a couple of years back at salons of the Irish American Writers & Artists at the Cell Theatre. The Cell’s founding artistic director, Nancy Manocherian, overheard and was intrigued.

 

“She saw something in it, a kind of urban ‘Our Town,’” he said, in reference to the Thornton Wilder favorite. “She took me aside and said: ‘I’d like to put this on.’”

 

And so for the second time in his varied career, he has a fully produced play – a follow-up to his Kerouac-themed “Jack’s Last Call.”

 

Fenton doesn’t want to sugarcoat the past. He tells people he grew up in a time of innocence, yet parts of the neighborhood could be very dangerous, and he witnessed violence first hand. So, while McNulty was never once robbed on his 3 a.m. journey home with the night’s takings, a member of the Flaherty family listed under “Docks” was murdered and his body dumped in the Gowanus Canal. He’d been high up in the union. “I remember my parents whispering about it,” Fenton said. Joe Flaherty, a longshoreman and later a prominent city journalist, was his son.

 

Fenton has been a court officer, court clerk and a newspaper columnist (his recent contributions to the Irish Echo include 2014 interviews with Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, a Windsor Terrace native). When he was a cargo handler at JFK, he wrote “Confessions of a Working Stiff” for New York magazine. The piece, which has been anthologized several times, got some attention from publishers who wanted him to write a book. But his priorities were holding down a job and raising his family (he has son and daughter and will soon become a grandfather for the second time). He couldn’t find the time to be a part-time author, too.

Fenton’s working career began as a teenager at the Pilgrim Laundry in Windsor Terrace after being educated by the Xaverian Brothers at Holy Name. Pilgrim had a prison-type wall around it, he said. He joined the army after he turned 20. The 6 feet 2 recruit was sent off to train for the military police. It was 1961.

Andrew Fenton, a native of the Long Walk in Galway City, carried around a picture in his wallet of his tall MP son. “He shoveled coal for 33 years [at Con Edison] and never complained,” the playwright said.

The Galway men of Windsor Terrace met on Sunday morning outside Sanders Theatre in their finest, the son recalled, and walked up to Holy Name Church for the 12:15 Mass. Afterwards, they went to Farrell’s.

Pat Fenton’s mother was Catherine Mitchell from Williamstown, Co. Galway. At last week’s festival launch, he mentioned this to a young Irish TV journalist preparing to interview him. She told him: “My granny was from Williamstown.”

The next day in the diner, Fenton said he couldn’t recall ever before meeting a person with connections to his mother’s village. Then a prominent member of the community was spotted at the diner’s counter. After introductions were made, it was revealed that that person had grown up on a farm three miles from Williamstown.

With “Stoopdreamer” about to open, Pat Fenton was happy to take of all this as a good omen.

 

“Stoopdreamer,” directed by Kira Simring, will be performed at the Cell Theatre, 338 West 23rd St., Manhattan, from Sept. 4 – 27. The shows are on Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets ($25) are available at www.thecelltheatre.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish nanny murder charge dropped

POSTED ON September 1st  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
Aisling Brady McCarthy.  PHOTO CREDIT WBZ TV

Aisling Brady McCarthy. PHOTO CREDIT WBZ TV

By Jim Smith

BOSTON — In a stunning development, prosecutors have dropped the murder charge against Irish nanny Aisling Brady McCarthy, citing the conclusions of a recently amended medical examiner’s report which stated that one-year-old Rehma Sabir’s death may have been attributable in part “to some type of disorder that was not able to be completely diagnosed prior to her death.”

The dropping of the murder charge suggests that McCarthy may be returning to her home in Ireland soon, although it is unclear if she will face some additional charges, or be deported based upon her illegal status as a result of having overstayed a temporary visa issued in 2002.

McCarthy, a 37-year-old County Cavan native, had been accused of physically assaulting the infant on January 14, 2013, causing massive head trauma and subdural retinal hemorrhaging consistent with a violent shaking injury.

After a recent comprehensive review, however, the medical examiner concluded in her report that she was “no longer convinced that the subdural hemorrhage in this case could only have been caused by abusive/inflicted head trauma, and I can no longer rule the manner of death as a homicide.”

The report stated: “After review of additional materials including expert witness reports from the defense and prosecution, additional transcripts of police interviews, transcripts of grand jury testimony, additional medical records, DCF reports, and additional laboratory testing related to the death of Rehma Sabir, a decision has been made to change the cause and manner of death.

“These additional materials put forth several different and often conflicting opinions about the cause of Rehma’s death. While I do not agree with all of the conclusions that are drawn by the various experts they do present a significant amount of additional information that was not available to me prior to reaching my original conclusion about the cause and manner of death in this case.

“In particular the overall state of Rehma’s health and her past medical issues raise the possibility that she had some type of disorder that was not able to be completely diagnosed prior to her death.
“Review of Rehma’s coagulation and hematology testing, her history of bruising, the NIH guidelines for diagnosis of von Willebrand disease, and literature on the subject suggest to me that Rehma’s low von Willebrand factor could have made her prone to easy bleeding with relatively minor trauma. Given these uncertainties, I am no longer convinced that the subdural hemorrhage in this case could only have been caused by abusive/inflicted head trauma, and I can no longer rule the manner of death as a homicide.

“I believe that enough evidence has been presented to raise the possibility that the bleeding could have been related to an accidental injury in a child with a bleeding risk or possibly could have even been a result of an undefined natural disease. As such I am amending the cause and manner of death to reflect this uncertainty.”

McCarthy’s defense team had been arguing during the proceedings that the child had been ill for much of her infancy, had sustained prior bone fractures of unknown etiology, and had been traveling with her parents in England, Saudi Arabia, and India for several weeks prior to her death.

In her press release issued Monday afternoon, Middlesex District Attorney, Marian Ryan, wrote: “Based upon the present state of evidence, including the amended ruling from the Medical Examiner who perfomed the autopsy, the Commonwealth cannot meet its burden of proof.”

McCarthy was released from Framingham State prison on bail in May while awaiting her trial, which was expected to begin in October. She has been in home confinement and subject to GPS monitoring.

Prior to her May release McCarthy had been held in prison since her arrest on the murder charge on January 21, 2013.

Her attorney, Melinda Thompson, said her client was “put in jail for two and a half years for a crime that never occurred.”

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