Sandy aid from Chicago Lakefront to Jersey Shore
By Ray O’Hanlon
Congress might be reluctant to pony up for Sandy relief but, as has been evident in recent weeks, huge numbers of regular folk have been only too willing to give their time, energy and money to those whose lives were turned upside down by the storm.
Add two more to that roll of honor, one a New Jersey college student, the other her aunt in Chicago.
Tess McGuire, a 20 year-old Rockaway native and student at the College of New Jersey, is the director of fundraising for NJ Strong. This is when she is not studying for final exams, or working at a pet store in Ewing.
On weekends, Tess assists fellow Rockaway native Lindsay Donald and her brother Stephen, who together formed NJ Strong (NJ Strong.net) – this after Lindsay created a Facebook page to gauge interest in assisting in hurricane relief.
The response was overwhelming, so in order to keep things legitimate, and show their seriousness, they applied to become an incorporated non-profit organization.
Much of their effort has been directed towards cleaning up and delivering supplies gathered at drives that NJ Strong has organized.
NJ Strong, according to a release, is committed to bringing people to the Jersey Shore to do cleanup every weekend until the job is done.
These “Warrior Weekends,” said the release, have been growing and the organization has mobilized about 200 volunteers in five different locations and has worked on preparing 30 homes for reconstruction.
Hundreds of miles away in Chicago, meanwhile, Tess’s aunt and godmother, Kathy O’Neill, was horrified by the images she saw of the storm. O’Neill, a West Orange, New Jersey native, loved to visit the Jersey Shore when she was young and lived for a few summers in Wildwood Crest.
After the storm, O’Neill was concerned about her family and her many friends who live on the east coast.
As a publicist, stage manager, and large-scale special events producer, she knew she could tap into her many friends who were performers and ask them to help.
Her fundraiser, “From Lake Shore to the Jersey Shore” was held before Christmas in Chicago. It raised $1,700 on the night with more donations promised. O’Neill gathered musicians, actors and performers for a cabaret-style evening to support victims to support some of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. All donations were slated to go to the FoodBank of Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
“I’m proud of Tess and her friends at NJ Strong. Everyone in Chicago who knows me knows how proud I am of growing up in New Jersey and what a big part of my life it is. A benefit is the very least I can do, for now,” O’Neill, who is also Public Relations Manager for Chicago’s Irish American Heritage Center, told the Echo.
By Paul Ainsworth
GARDAI are preparing for a loyalist rally in the center of Dublin linked to the ongoing row over the removal of the union flag from Belfast City Hall.
Since councilors voted to only fly the British flag on 17 “designated days” on the building, loyalists have organized hundreds of protests, many of which have descended into rioting and violence.
Now one group is aiming to take its protest south of the border, with the bizarre demand that the Irish government remove the tricolor flag from
Leinster House. The man behind the rally – set for Saturday the 12th – is South Armagh loyalist Willie Frazer. Frazer previously led a horde of loyalists to Dublin in 2006 for the “Love Ulster” rally.
In an ironic twist, the tricolor will not be flown on the date of this weekend’s foray. It is only flown on designated days over government buildings.
“This is not about swamping Dublin or bringing 500 or 600 people down. It’s about making our point in a peaceful manner. We will ask sarcastically that the Irish tricolor is lowered at the demonstration to give Irish people a sense of how we feel,” said Frazer.
Frazer, who remains an outspoken critic of power sharing in the North, is one of several self-appointed individuals behind a new “People’s Forum” aimed at offering leadership for those involved in union flag protests.
Meanwhile, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore condemned those behind the rioting in Belfast, which has even seen shots fired at police.
“These attacks over the past three days are not the mark of legitimate protest but are the actions of a small group who want to bring Northern Ireland back to a darker
past,” Gilmore said.
By Anthony Neeson
A talented Tyrone minor footballer has been charged with murdering his father at the weekend
Aloysius Hackett, 60, a former chairman of St. Macartan’s GAA club in Augher, was found dead at his home on Aghindarragh Road in the village on Friday night.
His son, Sean, has been charged with his murder. He initially told police that he had returned home to find his father’s body. He later said he had shot him, a court in Omagh heard.
Hackett, 18, has been granted compassionate bail to attend his father’s funeral. The bail conditions state that Mr. Hackett is not allowed access to a mobile phone or the internet while traveling to and from the funeral and is only permitted to speak to two chaperones, including a solicitor and GAA manager Mickey Harte. He is also not allowed to speak to immediate family members.
On Tuesday, Omagh Magistrate’s Court heard that Hackett was being treated for depression and had asked a friend to obtain a gun for him twice
in the last two months. Mr. Hackett did not look at his family during the hearing.
An appeal by the prosecution against compassionate bail will be heard later.
By Larry Kirwan
So, the Pecker Dunne finally bit the dust. Must have been one hell of an ailment that laid him low, for neither wind, rain, rough living, or a rake of alcohol made much dent in him in his heyday.
Though born in a tinker’s caravan outside Castlebar we always considered Paddy Dunne one of our own. Perhaps, it was because so many traveling families hailed from Wexford but our town was more welcoming to Pavees than most; and yet, in his classic song, Wexford Town, Pecker wasn’t shy about identifying the veiled local hostility he experienced.
I can still recall the cut of him as he stood outside the L&N Stores on South Main Street, banjo slung over his broad shoulders, eyes flashing, voice plaintive or harsh depending on the song, but never acknowledging the coppers or silver that we tossed in his busker’s cap.
Pecker had a rare air of danger about him and Wexford people knew better than to stare, or expect thanks.
I once followed him up Corn Market into Kielty’s bar, one of the few pubs that served drink to travelers.
He stood apart, eyes locked on the top shelf bottles. Though he was invariably courteous, there was a remoteness to the man: you could tell he had little problem enjoying his own company.
I never spoke to him although we were on nodding terms. In truth, I was awestruck for he had written “Sullivan’s John,” a song to die for. It tells of a man who leaves his father’s farm and goes off “with the tinker’s daughter far along the road to roam.” Unlike “Raggle-Taggle Gypsy” and other merry romps, it gives a much starker account of the consequences of such behavior – and from the Pavee perspective.
There are people who say that Pecker never wrote the song – just as there are those who pronounce that Shakespeare was too lowborn to have written his great plays. But someone constructed this masterpiece, so why not a traveling man who knew more about the ways of the road than any academic or “buffer” (Pavee word for settled person).
Pecker hailed from the “hidden Ireland” as Daniel Corkery called it. You could still experience that universe when I was a boy. It was in the air at country fairs and point-to-points where hucksters hawked their wares, and you could sense it in the songs of buskers like Maggie Barry who entertained outside GAA grounds on big match days.
Pecker was a man apart even in that world because of his wild looks and the chip he wore so brazenly on his shoulder. John Huston latched on to that immediately and cast him in “Sinful Davy.” He knew Paddy Dunne was his own man and his powerful essence would light up the screen.
Though he had the look of a Mexican revolutionary, yet, when he played the banjo, his music reeked of the Irish countryside. His voice, a powerful instrument, spoke of a different time far removed from the lace-curtain gentility of small towns or Grafton Street posturing.
He was the toast of folk-singing Dublin for a while and looked like he was on his way, as they say, but while he appreciated the easy money, he wasn’t someone who could be trusted to say the right thing. There was always that otherness to him. I suppose deep down he didn’t care to place his trust in those who weren’t from his background.
Sinatra used to defiantly croon that he did it his way. The Pecker never needed to make a song and dance about such claims for he was the real deal and everyone knew it. Besides, he wrote “Sullivan’s John” and in so doing gave us buffers a rare glimpse into the shrouded life of the Pavee.
You had to see him as a young man with his back up against the L&N Stores, banjo in his arms, eyes blazing, singing songs from God knows where. He made small-town Ireland a more interesting and imaginative place.
They don’t make them like the Pecker Dunne any more.
By Anthony Neeson
Over 100 people have been arrested and over 60 police officers injured since loyalists began their protest over the removal of the Union flag from
Belfast City Hall.
On Monday night, loyalists rioted for the fifth consecutive night in East Belfast, with the PSNI claiming that members from the Ulster Volunteer
Force (UVF) were behind the disturbances.
During Monday night’s trouble, which came after a protest outside Belfast City Council – meeting for the first time since the historic December 3 decision – plastic bullets were fired in the east of the city and water canon was used to disperse rioters. Rioters used hatchets, a sledge hammer and petrol bombs to attack police and their vehicles.
At the weekend, there was special sittings of Belfast Magistrates Court to deal with those arrested.
Three police officers were also injured during the Monday night violence. It brings to sixty-two the number of PSNI officers who have been injured since the protests began.
Condemning the violence PSNI Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, said senior UVF member had been involved in orchestrating violence during the protests in East Belfast. He said day-to-day policing was being affected by the flag protests.
On Tuesday British secretary of state, Theresa Villiers, called for an end to all street demonstrations.
Ms. Villiers said: “It’s not acceptable that those who say they are defending a union flag are actually doing it by hurling bricks and petrol bombs at
police. It’s disgraceful, frankly. We will not be able to get a solution if Belfast and Northern Ireland are being held to ransom by protesters.”
SDLP policing spokesperson, Conall McDevitt, said political unionism bears a “heavy responsibility” for the “chaotic and distressing scenes” on the streets.
“These protests no longer have legitimacy when we have seen a consistent spiraling toward unlawful, violent and destructive scenes which shame the city of Belfast and have very little support in the wider community.”
By Anthony Neeson
An SDLP politician is the latest member of a political party in Northern Ireland to receive a bullet in the mail.
A letter addressed to Mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone was intercepted at the Royal Mail sorting office in Mallusk, County Antrim. It contained a bullet and a sympathy card.
Mr. McGlone is just the latest politician from his own party, Sinn Féin and Alliance to receive a death warning since loyalists took to the streets after Belfast City Council voted not to fly the Union flag all year round. Sinn Féin, the SDLP and Alliance voted to remove the flag.
Mr. McGlone described those behind the threat as “faceless fascists.”
He added: “This is obviously not something that is a pleasant experience, for me or my family; however, those who sent it will not put me off doing my job – that is representing the people of Mid Ulster. I would like to pay tribute to the staff at the Post Office and the PSNI for their professionalism and vigilance in dealing with this matter. I will leave this in the hands of the CID.
“I’m acutely aware that a number of other elected representatives – from my own party and others – have had similar threats and attacks on their homes and properties, they have come through this and I will come through this stronger. Democracy will come through this stronger.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists said that a letter containing a bullet had been addressed to a Belfast-based newspaper reporter.
The NUJ said it was intercepted by the PSNI and was sent following the journalist’s reporting of the loyalist rioting.
Alliance MP Naomi Long, party leader David Ford and councilor Gerardine Mulvenna are among those sent bullets in the post since the flag dispute erupted. Sinn Fein MLAs Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey also received letters containing bullets.
By Jim Smith
BOSTON — Edward M. Kennedy Jr. has announced that he will not be a candidate in the Massachusetts special election to fill the seat of Senator John Kerry, who has been nominated by President Obama to be secretary of state.
In a press statement, the 51-year-old investment banker and lawyer said, “Although I have a strong desire to serve in public office, I consider Connecticut to be my home, and hope to have the honor to serve at another point in my future….I am extremely grateful for all the offers of support that I have received.”
Powerful Democrats are now coalescing around the Senate candidacy of U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, a 36-year veteran congressman from Malden who late last week received the support of Kerry himself and from Vicki Kennedy, widow of the late senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Markey’s grandparents were immigrants to the U.S. from County Monaghan, and in 1995 he traveled with President Clinton to Dublin and Belfast.
Democratic party leaders are evidently hoping to avoid a contentious primary over the coming months, one which could weaken an eventual candidate in a race against presumptive Republican candidate Scott Brown, who retains widespread popularity despite having been beaten by Democrat Elizabeth Warren in the November senate race.
But the rallying around Markey is not sitting well with some other potential Democratic candidates, particularly Congressman Michael Capuano, who expressed his chagrin in a recent pres release.
“It seems that the big names of our party are trying to choose our nominee for us….If I make this run…it will be from the streets up, and not from the elite down,” Capuano said.
Rep. Stephen Lynch of South Boston has also had his eye on the race, and he is expected to announce his intentions in the coming days.
In her endorsement of Markey, Vicki Kennedy described the 66-year-old congressman as “the best person to continue in the tradition of John Kerry to serve our commonwealth in the U.S. Senate.”
She has not publicly ruled out the possibility of serving as an interim senator in the months leading up to the special election. Under state law, Governor Deval Patrick is required to appoint an interim senator once a vacancy occurs.
The winner of the special election, which will likely occur in June, will serve for the remainder of Kerry’s term, until 2014, and could also run for a full six-year term in the 2014 midterm elections.
Meanwhile, the Boston Herald was reporting Tuesday that speculation is mounting that Scott Brown might forego a bid to return to the Senate and instead mount a campaign to become governor of Massachusetts.
Politicians have condemned the planting of a bomb under a policeman’s car in Belfast.
The viable device was placed under a serving officer’s car in the east of the city with dissident republicans being blamed for the attempted murder.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “It is very fortunate that this device was detected before it exploded and that no one was killed or seriously injured.
“Initial investigations would indicate that this was a viable device placed below an officer’s car sometime in the last 48 hours.”
ACC Hamilton added: “Our belief is that this attempted murder was carried by those opposed to peace from within dissident republicanism.
“They don’t care who they attack, they don’t care who they kill. They are simply anti-peace and determined to carry on bringing pain and devastation
to families and communities by maiming and killing,” he said.
The SDLP’s policing spokesperson, Conall McDevitt, condemned the attack, describing it as a “cynical and deplorable act.”
East Belfast DUP MLA, Robin Newton, said the attack was an attempt to murder.
“Those who placed this potential bomb have nothing to offer the community except heartache and sorrow,” he said.
“They have no strategy and no support from the people of Ireland who have voted for change to be made through the democratic process. These actions will achieve nothing except bring misery and hurt to another family. Thankfully, no one was hurt in this incident.”
There are many individual gatherings in the year of The Gathering. Some of them are based on county allegiance and Leitrim is first out of the blocks in reaching out to its sons and daughters in America.
And the county is using a catchphrase familiar to all who use social media in order to draw attention to its planned Leitrim Roots Festival in September, 2013.
Generally, “LOL” is taken to mean “laugh out loud” or “lots of love.” You can now add “Love Our Leitrom” to the popular retort/greeting.
The festival organizers led by Leitrim Genealogy Centre, Leitrim Tourism, and Leitrim’s local authority, hope that the new meaning catches on for those with Leitrim roots around the world.
Organizers of the festival estimate that there are many as one million people in the U.s. alone with a link to Leitrim which may or may not end up in social media use as “LTL.”
“2013 is set to be an incredible year when The Gathering Ireland takes place I’m delighted to see that Leitrim will be at the heart of the Gathering with the Leitrim Roots Festival,” said the Irish government’s minister of state for tourism, Michael Ring.
“This festival is an opportunity for visitors and tourists to come back to the community of their ancestors, rediscover historical places, re-connect with their communities, and renew their bond with Ireland.” he said.
The festival is being designed to give visitors the opportunity to engage with on-site genealogists and local communities, and to find out more about the county their ancestors came from. The festival will also feature cultural events including music concerts, heritage lectures on roots-related topics and tours of county which, in the eyes of many, is one of Ireland’s less traveled gems.
“We are looking to use a modern day cultural term to capture and promote our historical and cultural links of the county. The festival will be of great interest to people young and old whose ancestors came from County Leitrim, or people who were born in County Leitrim. But I must highlight we also welcome people wanting a genuine Irish experience not just those of Leitrim ancestry, said festival organizer, Joe Lowe.
Some Leitrim facts: Leitrim suffered a considerable population decline during the Great Famine and this decline continued up until the 1990s.
The population fell from 160,000 in 1847 to where it stands today at 31,798. Economic growth in Ireland in the last decade has meant that the population has shown an increase for the first time in over a century and a half.
* “Lovely Leitrim” was the title of a song that swept to the top the hit parade in Ireland in the early 1960s. It was sung by one of the top show band singers of the time, Larry Cunningham. It was composed by a Leitrim exile in New York, Phil Fitzpatrick. The song is about a Leitrim exile in America, dreaming about his “Lovely Leitrim” and his desire to see his native land again.
* In April 2006, Leitrim Genealogy Centre organized the first ever Leitrim Roots Festival. It was deemed a wonderful success with people coming from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland and Iceland for the week-long event.
On the closing night, Larry Cunningham and his band provided the music and he finished the evening with a by singing his signature “Lovely Leitrim.”
More on the Leitrim Roots Festival, which runs from Sept. 20 to 28, can be found at www.leitrimrootsfestival.com or check out @LeitrimRoots on twitter.
By Ray O’Hanlon
Dublin — It was a few days before Christmas and thoughts of “The Gathering” were stirring in the mind of Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, and the man who will be keeping an especially eagle-eye on visitor to Ireland numbers in 2013.
Gibbons, at work in his office, which enjoys a view of the well worth visiting Dublin mountains, is about as ready as he is ever going to be for arguably the Irish government’s biggest pitch to the overseas Irish since the advent of jet air travel.
As such, Gibbons is not waiting for the arrival of the New Year.
“New Year’s Eve is day one of the Gathering,” he said while pointing out that the work behind the year-long run of Gathering events has been ongoing throughout 2012 by virtue of missions undertaken by government ministers, himself and others to the U.S. and Canada, Australia, Britain Brazil and Argentina.
“We had a great reception in Argentina,” said Gibbons who delivered the invitation to visit Ireland to that country’s portion of the worldwide Irish diaspora during a recent visit there by President Michael D. Higgins.
As the year turns, The Gathering is still an idea, a plan, a goal. At year’s end, Gibbons hopes that it will have been a major boost to the Irish economy at a time when it most assuredly needs one.
That boost, as much as €3.7 billion ($4.9 billion) when all is said and done, will come by way of a sustained rise during the twelve months of visitor numbers to the island.
“We’re looking to upwards of seven and a half million people coming here,” Gibbons told the Echo.
“Our best prospects for the kind of growth that would give us such numbers are in the United States,” he explained.
Those prospects, according to Gibbons, should be enhanced by the fact that airline capacity over the Atlantic is set to increase in the summer of 2013.
New routes on stream will include a U.S. Airways service from Philadelphia to Shannon, a United flight from Chicago to Shannon, and an American Airlines service from JFK to Dublin.
And with Aer Lingus adding another long haul plane to its transatlantic fleet, Gibbons said that the expectation was for a 20 percent increase in seats over the Atlantic during the main peak summer season.
“The new flights for Shannon is good news for Shannon, and the West of Ireland,” Gibbons said. The anticipated boost from North America is no accident, Gibbons stressed.
“We maintained a market presence in the U.S. when others pulled out, and we have a lot of people working hard for Ireland,” he said.
As such, 2013 would build on 2012 which was the “second best ever” in terms of visitor numbers from the U.S. (2007 being the best year).
That year, 2007, there were 35,000 seats a week available over the Atlantic from all airlines flying into Ireland. The summer of 2012 saw 25,000 seats on a weekly basis.
Gibbons said that for the June to September period in 2013 it was anticipated that there would be 29,000 seats a week.
“It’s a great position to be in. In terms of tours to Europe, our share of the total market is nine percent.”
This, he said, was a high proportion given that Ireland, geographically, was a small destination.
The Gathering, he said, had already been given a curtain raiser with the Notre Dame/Navy football game in the fall, but the door opener to 2013 would be the New Year’s Eve festival in Dublin.
The Gathering, he explained, was comprised of many “gatherings” throughout 2013. He was hopeful that by the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve the number of events in place will have exceeded 2000.
One he mentioned was a gathering in County Clare for everyone and anyone named “Clare.” He laughed when it was pointed out that one prominent Clare native in New York would be on the outs with regard to this gathering. The person in question is Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny.
Joking aside, Gibbons is acutely conscious of the fact that much is riding on the success of “The Gathering” given the hard economic times.
He sees tourism and leisure as being one of Ireland’s best ways back to better times.
“In the good old days,” he said with a wry smile, “it was financial services and property driving the economy. But now tourism and agriculture are again the growth sectors.”
With regard to tourism, he said, there were 200,000 jobs depending on visitors to the country, many of them in rural areas.
Gibbons places significant emphasis on the importance of social media when it comes to marketing success. Social media, including facebook and twitter, is, at its heart, a tech version of word of mouth.
And Ireland has always done well when it comes to the spoken and written word.
“Tourism Ireland has 1.1 million followers on facebook,” Gibbons said with a note of pride in his voice.
This is the second highest following for any tourist agency in the world. Australia scores the highest, but that’s another hemisphere, and a whole other story.
And even the attractions of the continent down under gave way in recent days to the opinions of up to 28,000 business and luxury travel readers who named Ireland as their favorite holiday destination overall. the readers of Fodors Guides named “The Gathering” its top must-see for 2013.
If groundwork is a key to success, The Gathering should be seen as a success twelve months from now.
Nobody will be willing it so more than Niall Gibbons.