Archive : Category

Gilmore hails free trade move

POSTED ON February 20th  - POSTED IN News & Views


Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, has welcomed the announcement by President Obama that the United States will launch talks on a comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union.

President Obama made the announcement during his annual State of the Union address last week, dubbing it a “comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

“Securing a negotiating mandate for a comprehensive free-trade agreement with the United States was a top priority for the government when we established the jobs and growth agenda for the Irish Presidency of the EU,” said Gilmore, referring to the current six-month Irish presidency of the European Union.

“This now opens up enormous untapped potential for a new phase in Europe’s economic relations with the U.S. I anticipate that these negotiations will begin during the Irish Presidency, and we will of course make the most of Ireland’s close relationship with the U.S. to get talks off to a good start. I look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with our U.S. colleagues as we begin working on this together,” the Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) said.

Now’s the time

POSTED ON February 20th  - POSTED IN News & Views


Calls grow for Oscar to honor Maureen O’Hara

By Ray O’Hanlon

Oscars will be flying around the room at the Academy Awards this weekend, but unless there’s a big surprise in the wings one of them will not be ending up in the hands of screen legend Maureen O’Hara.

And that has fans the world over crying foul.

“It is a great time to renew Maureen’s case for a lifetime achievement Academy award. Everyone in Ireland is behind her and millions of fans worldwide. She would be a worthy successor to the last two recipients, Lauren Bacall and Eli Wallach,” Des MacHale, who teaches at University College Cork and is chairman of the Quiet Man Movie Fan Club, told the Echo.

“It was not just her Quiet Man role. There was also ‘How Green Was My Valley,’ ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ ‘Rio Grande,’ and ‘The Parent Trap,’ to mention just a few. I have campaigned for years, but to no avail. Maureen has given so much to the film world and has never received even a nomination,” said MacHale.

As well as being a fan, MacHale is the author of “The Complete Guide to the Quiet Man,” “Picture the Quiet Man” and “A Quiet Man Miscellany. He was born and grew up in County Mayo, just a few miles from where “The Quiet Man” was filmed.

MacHale’s renewed effort is in part spurred by the fact that Maureen O’Hara now lives with family in Utah, a relatively short flying distance from Los Angeles. And while the star who once owned an airline isn’t flying every day, she is anything but grounded.

The John Wayne Birthplace in Winterset, Iowa, in a recent announcment, said it was thrilled to announce that “screen legend Maureen O’Hara and her family” will be joining us in Winterset, Iowa on May 24  and 25 for our annual John Wayne Birthday Celebration.”

Added the announcement: “O’Hara, who starred with Wayne in “Rio Grande”, “The Quiet Man”, “The Wings of Eagles”, “McLintock!” and “Big Jake,” considered Duke her best friend and, in this public farewell to her legions of fans, she’ll discuss their life-long friendship.

“The two-day event will feature all aspects of Wayne’s film career including the U.S. Cavalry, cowboys, World War II and, of course, Ireland. In tribute to Miss O’Hara, this year’s dinner gala will reprise many of the highlights of last year’s Quiet Man celebration (and feature) music from the classic film performed by Irish songstress Catherine O’Connell, Chicago’s Shannon Rovers Pipes and Drums, and champion Irish dancers, the Fabulous McKay Sisters.”

“If not this year, the Academy of Motion Pictures should be planning right this week to honor Maureen at next year’s Oscars,” said Des MacHale.

Leaders renew assault against BC subpoenas

POSTED ON February 13th  - POSTED IN News & Views

By Irish Echo Staff

The leaders of three main Irish American organizations have renewed their offensive against the U.S. Justice Department subpoenas aimed at the Boston College Troubles archive.

The two year battle has involved a challenge by the Belfast Project researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre against what they and the organizations say is the misuse of the U.S-UK Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish American Unity Conference and Brehon Law Society further point to twenty members of Congress “who not only share their concern, but question Britain’s commitment to the Irish peace process.”

Said the groups in a statement: The confirmation of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State and the elevation of Senator Robert Menendez to chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, two who have opposed the subpoenas, has given new strength to the cause.

“These leaders, Kerry & Menendez,” stated National President of the AOH, Brendan Moore, “have shown a willingness to listen to our arguments and to test our sincerity

and credibility. When presented with documentation regarding threats to the Irish peace process and to the corruption of American laws, they have recognized our good


The Brehon Law Society’s Robert Dunne said: “The Cameron government efforts to violate American treaties, policies and rights will not end with the death of Dolours Price or the Moloney and McIntyre litigation decision, but with a Senate hearing on the MLAT and the British corruption of its purpose. To that end we have written to Senator Menendez and to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the opportunity to be heard.”

Attorney Thomas J. Burke Jr., National President of the Unity Conference added: “We invite Americans to join us in expressing to Attorney General (Eric) Holder and to

Secretary of State Kerry strong opposition, not only for this political misuse of the MLAT, but to British efforts to undermine U.S. policy in support of the Irish peace pact.”

The subpoenas have been issued by the Justice Department in response to requests originally filed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Kenny hails ‘historic’ debt deal

POSTED ON February 13th  - POSTED IN News & Views


By Sean Lehane

Ireland’s bank deal with the European Central Bank is an “historic step on the road to economic recovery,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

The Dáil passed emergency legislation in the early hours of Thursday morning which lets Ireland defer by forty years the bill for its most controversial bank bailout.

Under the plan, the debt taken on by Ireland to finance the IBRC – previously Anglo Irish Bank – rescue will be swapped for long-term government bonds.

The original debt was set to cost Irish taxpayers €3.1 billion euros each year for the next 10 years, with the next payment this March.

Repayment of the debt will not now begin until 2038, and will not be complete until 2053.

The interest rate on the new debt has also been cut to three percent from the previous eight percent.

The legislation was voted through after a stormy session in the Dáil where the plans were attacked for their swift timeframe and lack of detail.

Kenny told the Dáil: “The remnants of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide – stains on our international reputations and dents to our national pride – have now been removed from the financial and political landscape.

“Their closure bookends a tragic chapter in our country’s history. The annual promissory notes payments are gone.”

He added: “We have replaced a short-term, high interest rate overdraft that had to be paid down quickly through more expensive borrowings, with long-term, cheap, interest-only loans.”

Mr. Kenny said there was a long way to travel back to prosperity. However, he said, it was “a vastly better deal.”

Reaction to the move varied from Criticism in the Dáil, praise from ratings agency Standard and Poor’s to anger in the streets of Dublin and other cities and towns.

Said the ratings agency in a statement: “In our opinion, the exchange of promissory notes, which the Irish government had provided to Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, for long-dated Irish government bonds, should reduce the government’s debt-servicing costs and lower refinancing risk. We believe the success of the exchange increases the likelihood of a full return by Ireland to private financing and, therefore, of Ireland successfully exiting the EU/IMF bailout program, at the end of 2013.

We are therefore revising our rating outlook on Ireland to stable from negative.”

Meanwhile, over 100,000 people joined street protests to voice their anger at the huge cost of the Irish bank bailout. Trade unions, which organized the demonstrations, say the European banking crisis has so far cost each Irish resident €9,000 compared to a European average of under €200.

Protesters took to the streets in marches organized by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Sligo, Limerick and Waterford.

The largest event took place in Dublin, where up to 25,000 people gathered.

Speaking in Dublin’s Merrion square, Congress General Secretary David Begg said the situation where Irish people were paying 42 percent of the European banking debt burden was not fair. “If you read some papers yesterday you would think we had achieved economic salvation and our problems were over. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

“New deal, same problem, 1.8 million people cannot possibly pay off a bank debt burden of €64 billion, especially a debt they played no part in running up. There is nothing fair about this deal.”

Irish getting early foot in visa door

POSTED ON February 13th  - POSTED IN News & Views


By Ray O’Hanlon

There’s no first come, first served when it comes to immigration reform.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t get a word in, and at least a figurative foot in the door.

And that’s what the Irish government is doing, this according to a report in the political newspaper, The Hill.

With a reported nine people emigrating every hour, a sense of urgency in the Irish capital is understandable.

According to The Hill, foreign governments are working hard to shape the debate on immigration reform as momentum for a comprehensive bill builds in Congress.

While the issue routinely comes up in talks between foreign leaders and the executive branch, embassy officials are ramping up their outreach to Congress and the White House in order to take advantage of the best hope for reform in years.

“A number of countries with significant immigration ties to the United States – notably Mexico, Ireland and several Central American nations – have been making their concerns known while doing their best to avoid meddling in domestic affairs,” the report said.

While the report primarily concentrates on Mexico and several Central American countries, it points out that “other countries” are acting to preserve their historic bonds with the United States.

“Ireland, in particular, has pressed for years for a path for legalization for the 50,000 Irish who are in the country illegally,” the report states.

Ambassador Michael Collins brought the issue to the attention of Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, a leading House immigration reform advocate during a meeting on Capitol Hill.

Stated the report: “Congressman Gutiérrez is a great friend of Ireland,” the embassy told The Hill.

“Ambassador Collins was delighted to meet with him for a discussion about U.S. immigration issues, on which the congressman is a key figure.”

The Hill account continued: “And Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore told the Irish Parliament on Tuesday that he will ‘hold a series of telephone discussions with key U.S. senators over the coming days’ about the issue.

It concluded: “Immigration is also expected to be high on the agenda when Irish leaders make their annual visit to the United States for St. Patrick’s Day, on March 17, an embassy source said. Ireland also hopes to be eligible for a greater number of immigrant visas allowing the Irish to stay and work in the country legally.”

Finucane murder ‘a dark moment’

POSTED ON February 13th  - POSTED IN News & Views

By Anthony Neeson

The murder of solicitor Pat Finucane was far worse than anything alleged in Iraq or Afghanistan, the High Court in Belfast has heard.

Last week, Mr. Justice Stephens heard how Sir Jeremy Heywood, now British cabinet secretary, referred to Mr. Finucane’s 1989 murder as “a dark moment in the country’s history.”

A review into Finucane’s murder and published in December confirmed British agents were involved and that it should have been prevented.

Sir Jeremy also questioned whether the British prime minister, David Cameron, believed it was right to “renege” on the previous Labour government’s commitment to hold a public inquiry into the killing. The Finucane family are challenging that decision.

The remarks were contained in an emailed correspondence between the top civil servant and another senior British government official and were revealed as lawyers for the Finucane family pressed for complete disclosure of notes or recordings from a series of ministerial meetings.

Opening the family’s application for discovery of the documents, Barry Macdonald QC said the case was about past and present abuse of state power.

He said the first instance involved the murder of a solicitor perceived to be “a thorn in the side” of the government, police and security services.

“Secondly, it’s about abuse of power in 2011 by the current government when it decided to renege on a solemn commitment to conduct a public inquiry into those events in 1989.” He added: “The applicant, Mrs. Finucane, knows the name of the person who pulled the trigger. The question is who was pulling the strings?”

Mr. Macdonald detailed an email Sir Jeremy sent to Simon King, a private secretary to the prime minister, ahead of a ministerial meeting in July 2011.

“Does the prime minister seriously think that it’s right to renege on a previous government’s clear commitment to hold a full judicial inquiry?” he asked.

“This was a dark moment in the country’s history – far worse than anything that was alleged in Iraq/Afghanistan. I cannot really think of any argument to defend not having a public inquiry. What am I missing?”

A reply email stated that the prime minister “shares the view this is an awful case, and as bad as it gets, and far worse than any post 9/11 allegation”, the court heard.

McCann killing not justified – report

POSTED ON February 13th  - POSTED IN News & Views


By Anthony Neeson

The killing of an Official IRA man – who is immortalized in one of the most iconic images of the Northern Ireland conflict – was “not justified” a new report has found.

Joe McCann was a legendary figure in the early years of the Troubles. The Belfast man was shot by the Parachute Regiment in Joy Street close to his home in the Markets area on April 15, 1972.

On the evening of internment, August 9, 1971, McCann was pictured silhouetted against the burning flames of the Inglis bakery in the Markets holding an M1 carbine and with the Starry Plough fluttering at his shoulder. It was taken during a gun battle with the British Army.

Now a new Historical Enquiries Team (HET) report on his death says: “Joe’s actions did not amount to the level of specific threat which could have justified the soldiers opening fire in accordance with the Army rules of engagement.”

The Parachute Regiment shot McCann several times as he tried to escape capture from police in the city center, a team of detectives said. He was unarmed at the time.

McCann’s daughter, Nuala, said: “The shooting of our father was not justified. It was unjustified.”

The report also stated that the review team was unable to question the officers present on that day.

“The lack of access to their identities has been a major inhibitor in being able to provide a full and comprehensive review of all the circumstances of Joe’s death.”

When a plaque was erected in 1997 at the spot where Joe McCann was shot dead, republicans of every hue attended, such was the respect that the lower Falls man commanded.

Illinois vote is good news for undocumented

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN News & Views


By Breandán Magee

The Illinois House of Representatives made history Tuesday, January 8 as it voted 65 to 46 to approve, by way of a bill, SB 957, a temporary visitors driver’s license (TVDL) for the undocumented.  The Senate had voted last month to approve the bill by 41 to 14, with one abstention.

Illinois is the fifth state in the nation after Tennessee, New Mexico, Washington and Utah to approve such a measure but the only one in recent times to make such a bold move. The bill’s passage has been hailed by immigrant advocates as a milestone for Illinois and a measure of things to come for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington D.C. Other states may take Illinois’ lead and follow.

I was in the chamber for the count. The vote is historic in its reach and is a bell weather for national sentiment on immigration reform and immigrants’ rights. The tide is turning and Americans of all political persuasions see this as a fight for human rights. I am very hopeful looking forward to immigration reform at the national level, but Illinois just made its roads safer and offers the 250,000 undocumented immigrants driving on our roads the chance to get a license and become insured.

The bipartisan bill’s passage was the result of a long campaign that kicked off in the summer and was led by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights.

ICIRR is an umbrella group of over 130 agencies in Illinois that advocate for immigrants’ rights. It counts CIIS and the Chicago Celts for Immigration Reform as long standing members.

The Irish voice was a loud one in this debate with CIIS and Billy Lawless of the Chicago Celts fielding members for days of action in Springfield and participating in mass call-ins to press legislators to back the measure. CIIS Board President Cyril Regan, and myself spent the last two days before the vote in Springfield with a contingent of grassroots supporters from ICIRR to make the final case to lawmakers that the bill was good for Illinois and for road safety in general.

The vote however was still undecided just before the House convened, with key legislators still unsure as to how they would cast their vote.

Representative Fred Crespo was one such lawmaker who was a definite no before the crucial vote. Regan and I accompanied Fr. Brendan Curran of St. Pius Parish Chicago to the representative’s office with only five minutes to sway him before he rushed off to the final session of the 97th Congress.

It turned out that Crespo, the son of a Puerto Rican Korean War veteran, had been born, baptized and confirmed in St. Pius’s and he graciously listened to the three Irishmen plead the case for the bill.

The bill’s passage would have direct impact on the over 5000 undocumented Irish men and women in Chicagoland, and has stringent controls in place to avoid document fraud.

From the floor of the House an emotive Crespo acknowledged the visit of Fr. Curran and the Irish and thanked them for their passion on the issue. In the end he voted with his conscience and voted yes. Another representative that the trio visited in the eleventh hour was Emily McAsey who had been a no on this issue and had voted consistently against pro-immigrant measures in previous votes. She also listened intently and had questions answered. She had been visibly emotional in previous meetings in her district when undocumented immigrants told their stories of parents deported after being pulled over for a traffic violation. Representative McAsey also voted yes.

In total, 65 lawmakers voted yes after listening to the impassioned debate on the House floor from those opposed and those in favor of the initiative.

Over 400,000 immigrants are deported annually and many such removals are triggered by a routine traffic stop. Anyone apprehended while driving without a license may be booked and brought back to the station where Immigration and Customs Enforcement can put a hold on him/her and begin the deportation process.

Families are torn apart and, as one advocate put it, “we are creating orphans with parents” as U.S. citizen children remain here while one or more of their parents are sent back to their country of origin.

Back in the chamber a gasp of disbelief and elation rang out from the packed public galleries as the final vote flashed up on the electronic screen. Everyone in the chamber knew that history had just been made and the tears followed amid the beaming smiles. For the bill’s supporters, it was a highly-charged crescendo to a long fought campaign.

Immigrant advocates in Illinois had been fighting for this measure for over 13 years. The last time that this proposal came up for a vote in 2007 it was defeated by a handful of votes in the House.

This time around, a strong campaign led by ICIRR and key Irish community leaders built a coalition of supporters who persuaded many legislators to vote in favor.

Key proponents of the bill included Senate President John Cullerton, Representative Eddie Acevedo, Speaker Michael Madigan, House Minority Leader Tom Cross, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, the Latino Caucus, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Pat Quinn, Former Governor Jim Edgar, Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.


“Back in the chamber a gasp of disbelief and elation rang out from the packed public galleries as the final vote flashed up on the electronic screen. Everyone in the chamber knew that history had just been made and the tears followed amid the beaming smiles. For the bill’s supporters, it was a highly-charged crescendo to a long fought campaign.”


This formidable coalition was strengthened by the support of the teachers unions, hospital associations, the labor unions, chambers of commerce, the state police association and the 130 member agencies of ICIRR.

The bill allows any immigrant in Illinois to secure a temporary visitors’ driver’s license if he or she can provide proof of residency in Illinois for the last year, a valid passport or consular ID, and pass all road tests. The license will cost $30 but will appear somewhat different to the regular IL driver’s license. It will be colored purple as opposed to the red of regular licenses.

The TVDL already exists for foreign nationals who are here on student visas or temporary work visas. It will not be valid for proof of identity to board a plane or enter a federal building and will be marked “not valid for identification.” It can, however, be used as a bond card in the event that the holder is pulled over by a police officer and given that it is the same TVDL available to foreign students and visa holders, law enforcement cannot assume that the holder is undocumented.

The Secretary of State estimates that the new licenses move will cost $800,000 in its first year, but even if only 30,000 of the estimated 250,000 undocumented drivers apply and pay the $30 fee, the initiative will be revenue neutral and may even turn a profit. This was a key provision for many lawmakers concerned about the dire fiscal problems faced by the state of Illinois.

Supporters of this bill took a moment to savor its passage, but in true form those committed to immigration reform met just two days after the vote to chart the course ahead for a federal bill to legalize the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in our country. I was among those present who declared that 2013 must be the year that Congress acts.

I believe we should be prepared in this session of Congress to see the same momentum build as in 2007, with large marches here in Chicago and in Washington, D.C. The president has stated that immigration reform will be his top priority after the fiscal cliff and we are ready to mobilize and support him in that endeavor.

The stage has now been set with Illinois’ historic passage of SB 957 and with Republicans in the U.S. Congress mouthing words of compromise on immigration reform – this after an unprecedented Latino voter turn-out in favor of Democrats and their pro-immigrant platform – the signs are good.

The Irish have been center stage in this debate as it has raged throughout the years, and they will continue to punch above their weight to do. As organizer Rebecca Shi of ICIRR said: “whatever it takes.”

That fighting Irish spirit and Celtic tenacity has brought generations of Irish immigrants to these shores in search of a better life and today’s generation deserve no less a chance at the American dream. Today, Irish proponents of immigration reform stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all immigrants in the melting pot spirit that defines what it means to be American.

Times and politics may change, but American ideals do not. SB 957 goes a long way to proving it.


Breandán Magee is the Executive

Director of Chicago Irish Immigrant Support.

Inez McCormack: an appreciation

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN News & Views


By Vinny McCormack

In 1960 an awkward lanky seventeen-year-old called Inez Murphy left her home in Cultra County Down to work as a junior clerk in the Northern Ireland Civil Service. In spite of her name, she came from a Protestant background. It is a safe bet that her fellow clerks were also almost exclusively Protestant; and a certainty that all at that

lowly level were women.

She was touched by the generosity of her colleagues who encouraged her to continue her education, and went out of their way to secure her access to textbooks for her exams; but she was perplexed that this generosity lay side by side with a contempt and fear for their “disloyal” fellow citizens. Inez was to spend her adult life seeking the generosity in people, and willing it to swamp the bitterness.

At lunch times she would attend ballroom dance classes, until her frugal resources made the choice for her: it was eat or dance, and it was a close run thing.

A cousin of hers was the last RUC officer to die in the 1958-62 campaign of the IRA. She wondered as a teenager what had brought people to kill a lad who had joined the RUC to escape life on the family farm.

In later years, my wife Inez McCormack would laughingly say that she was “the worst civil servant in the world.” Yet her A-levels finally took her to Magee College in Derry in 1964, when the fateful decision to site the North’s second University in Coleraine was taken by the unionist administration. It was her first taste of street politics, and a lesson in the nature of exclusion and abuse of power.

Challenging these were to be themes of her public life.

As her partner, I was to see sides of Inez that were unknown to most others. The awkward teenager had turned into a tall, willowy adult. On Saturdays she would go to Biba Boutique in Chelsea, and in return for modeling she would come home in a Mary Quant dress.

“Every woman should be able to buy a well designed dress for a fiver, and go out on a Saturday and enjoy themselves,” she’d say.

She understood that for women, looking good was an important part of liberation. Cheap, glamorous clothes had to be part of the deal.

On our return to Northern Ireland in late 1968 we found a situation transformed by the burgeoning Civil Rights marches.

“We were living through a historical defining moment,” she wrote many years later.

“Change was in the air, and we were on the move… Change comes about from an assertion, and ownership of the process, by those who most need the change. I am large. I contain multitudes.”


“For many years Inez had a nightshirt that had large wings coming out at the shoulder blades. It said: “Spread your Wings and Fly.” Inez showed more than a generation of women workers to value themselves, and their essential contribution to the health and educational services. She showed them how to spread their wings and fly.”


I have always thought that line could have been written specifically for Inez. She was large in every sense; large in her vision of what was possible, or as she once said, what was “utterly doable now.” The number and variety of causes she gave herself to were remarkable. She recruited members of Irish Language group Glor na nGael into her union, only to find herself confronting the power of the British state, whose attempt to politically vet the organization’s staff was not only illegal but exposed the members to threats to their lives.

Against the odds, she won.

The campaign to demolish Divis Flats showed how Inez enabled poorly educated women to challenge the humiliation of inhuman housing conditions. In that campaign the residents invited Labour MP Peter Archer to meet them. The authorities advised him not to attend, as his safety could not be guaranteed. I recall thinking, as they made their way across the rubble-strewn courtyard to the meeting, that they would make a perfect target for a sniper.

Then there were the union struggles such as the Health Service Strike of 1982; or the role she played in Mary Robinson’s visit to West Belfast in 1993. By ending the isolation of republicans, this paved the way for Sinn Féin to engage in serious talks both internally and externally; and her work in shaping the economic and social elements of the Good Friday Agreement. I recall also her acceptance of the invitation by Irish-American trade unionists to become a signatory of the Sean MacBride Principles of Fair Employment. She accepted only after great thought, and discussion with me. I advised her to accept, as she had exhausted all internal remedies for change. She gave herself to the campaign with her usual selflessness.

What began as a lonely campaign, with Inez vilified at home, but galvanizing Irish-American opinion, ended with President Clinton signing the principles into U.S. law in 1998.

As with all of her struggles, what began as strategic alliances ended by forming deep and abiding friendships, like her friendship with the late Terry Enright, environmental and human rights activist.

The campaigns I have talked about only scratch the surface of her contribution. What they shared was a belief in the innate generosity of people, driven by justice, decency, equality. On our final holiday together she pinned a note to a wishing tree. It said “Love and laughter to my grandchildren.” Her last role, and her greatest and

most cherished: grandmother to Maisie and Jamie.

Once in the mid-seventies we were driving through North Belfast in a dark grim foggy evening. The weather chiming with the bitter times. She asked me to stop the car and disappeared in the direction of a dim light. She came back with a bag of shopping. I asked her what she had got. She said: “Bread, milk and sugar.” I replied we had got them all at home. She said. “I just wanted to give the shop some trade. They looked as if they could be doing with it.”

She felt that she was most effective when operating from behind the scenes. Sometimes she did so in order to protect individuals and groups who might have been at risk had their work with Inez been known. Of threats to her own health and security she was oblivious.

I believe that her remarkable record was only beginning to be recognized recently.

Inez had no religious beliefs; but she was brought up in the Church of Ireland, and she took seriously the Protestant values of individual conscience and personal responsibility. In recent years she addressed quite a number of middle class groups, mainly or exclusively Protestant, and gently reminded them of their responsibility to behave in ways that recognized the dignity of all.

How are we to sum up the many remarkable aspects of such a remarkable woman?

I said that Inez had no religious beliefs. Of course, we share a common religious legacy such as belief in Guardian Angels. In many ways, Inez functioned as a Guardian Angel to many individuals and groups. Her broad back was ready to absorb the blows meant for them.

For many years Inez had a nightshirt that had large wings coming out at the shoulder blades. It said: “Spread your Wings and Fly.” Inez showed more than a generation of women workers to value themselves, and their essential contribution to the health and educational services. She showed them how to spread their wings and fly.

Once I drove Inez to a union meeting for low paid public service employees. After the meeting Inez was energized as if electricity were flowing through her.

“That’s something I love about this job,” she said – “organizing poorly paid women.”

Inez got involved with the trade union movement when she was suspended from her social worker job in West Belfast in 1972 for daring to challenge the way desperately poor people were treated. She had the good fortune to fall in with two male English trade unionists, John Coulthard and Alan Fisher of the National Union of Public Employees. Alan was the head of the union.

He once memorably said: “Inez always tells me what she is doing. I am glad to say she always waits until she has done it.”

Alan did not hesitate to demand her release on a number of occasions when she was arrested by the British Army while on union business. At Inez’s funeral, local writer Nell McCafferty told me a story about Inez’s trade union approach.

She would get Catholic and Protestant women to talk about sex and marriage. Amid ribald laughter, they would soon figure out how much they had in common. Soon laughter would give way to serious consideration of shared experiences of pain, poverty and ill health, and a determination to defend public services with access free to all.

Inez has often been referred to as a “human rights activist” or “equality campaigner” or “trade union leader.” These were true, but she expanded these roles, finding new and original ways to explore the relationship between rights, equality and justice.

All of these flowered in her work over the last five years of her life in the Participation and Practice of Rights organization. She was so proud of the young and talented team engaged in the project. They engaged with those who had been affected by housing and health issues to effectively speak for themselves and present their cases in public forums.

Inez was an essentially private person. Of course, she was flattered when Meryl Streep played her on stage in Broadway – and she milked the publicity for all it was worth in her pursuit of equality and participation.

Inez died in her seventieth year. In those years she showed us how to live. And in her last illness, with the help of staff at the Foyle Hospice in her adopted home of Derry, she showed us how to die.

Ali meets Fighting Irishmen in Phoenix

POSTED ON February 8th  - POSTED IN News & Views


By Irish Echo Staff

It will be a winning combination. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali will this week pay tribute to Irish boxers of yore at the McClelland Irish Library in Phoenix, Arizona.

Ali will be on hand to help open the Phoenix phase of the globally touring “Fighting Irishmen” exhibit at the library which is housed at the city’s Irish Cultural Center.

Ali’s maternal great-grandfather, Abe Grady, was born in County Clare, and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1860s. The “greatest” was, in recent years, honored by Grady’s home town of Ennis.

The Fighting Irishmen exhibit, created by New York real estate company owner, James J. Houlihan, first opened in 2006 at the Irish Arts Center in Manhattan, the venue for which it was first specifically created.

The exhibit explores the contributions of Irish amateur and professional boxers over the last 200 years, and features a treasure trove of gloves, robes, posters and a myriad of artifacts.

The exhibit was moved in 2007 to the South Street Seaport Museum in lower Manhattan. In 2008, it was featured at the John Burns Library at Boston College, and in 2009 the exhibit traveled across the Atlantic and appeared in the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, County Tyrone. In 2010, the exhibit was on display at Croke Park at the GAA Museum in Dublin and by 2011 it was at the Sports Arena at the University of Limerick.

The Phoenix exhibit will run through May on Tuesdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. plus additional times to be announced.

The opening reception will honor Muhammad Ali as well as local boxing officials and celebrities.Special guests include Bob O’Neill, Boston College Burns Library; exhibit curator Jim Houlihan, and Dennis O’Connell, executive director of the Arizona Boxing & MMA Commission. Jimmy Walker, chairman and founder of the Celebrity Fight Night Foundation, will acknowledge Ali and his wife. Head Librarian Chas Moore and library founder Norman McClelland will also be on hand for the opening which will include a video tribute to Ali and the Irish family roots of his great-grandfather, who grew up in Ennis, a sister city of Phoenix.

There are a number of items in the exhibit from Ali who fought, and won, at Croke Park in Dublin in 1972 and was honored in Ennis in 2009. the exhibit will include an array of robes, gloves, boxing bags, prints, photographs, painting and film footage of Celtic prize-fighters from 1820 to the present day.

Objects on display will include pieces from sporting greats such as John L. Sullivan, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Barry McGuigan, Freddie Gilroy, Bobby Cassidy, Gerry Cooney, Wayne McCullough, Billy Graham, Billy Conn, Frank Moran, John Duddy, Maureen Shea and many more.

Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson, honorary chair and long-time supporter of the Irish Arts Center, has also loaned personal items from his amateur boxing career to the exhibit, including the gloves given to him by Olympic boxer Freddie Gilroy.

The mission of the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix is to provide a link between the people of Arizona and the people of Ireland and other Celtic cultures.

Programs, classes, festivals, exhibitions and special events are offered in history, music, art, dance, literature, drama, crafts, language, travel, sports and traditional activities.

The center campus includes the Great Hall, cottage, gift shop, famine memorial and now the McClelland Irish Library, which opened in October 2012 after more than five years of planning.

The three-story building, which is modeled after an Irish castle, houses a book and periodical collection with several reading rooms, archive, genealogy research centre, classroom, board room, exhibition gallery and an permanent exhibition of the Book of Kells. The Academy of Irish and Celtic Studies is housed in the lower level of the building.

The center and library are owned by the City of Phoenix and operated through public-private partnership with the Irish Cultural and Learning Foundation, Inc., a non-profit corporation.

More on the library at and on the enter at For future Fighting Irishmen exhibit hosting opportunities, contact James Houlihan, Houlihan-Parnes Realtors (914)694-6070 or

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