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Haass to chair North talks

POSTED ON July 11th  - POSTED IN News & Views

The former United States special envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass, is returning to the North to chair all-party talks aimed at resolving controversies surrounding flags, parades and other issues from the past that continue to cause division and were not covered by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

In a joint statement, the North’s First and Deputy First Ministers said Dr. Haass was the agreed choice as chairman among the five parties represented in the power-sharing Stormont Executive.

“We are deeply grateful that an international figure of Dr. Haass’s standing has agreed to facilitate these important discussions which we hope will provide long-term and sustainable solutions that are in the best interests of the community,” Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said.

Haass has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations since July, 2003. He succeeded George Mitchell as the U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland and was in turn succeeded by Mitchell Reiss.


POSTED ON July 10th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Eileen & Pat Glover, Lucan (540x720)Eileen and Pat Glover would have been glancing skyward at the azure sky but the Leinster Hurling  Cup was even brighter. The avid Dub fans had a close look at the cup outside their West Dublin home.


Pigs aren’t quite flying yet but temperatures in Ireland these past few days are sky high and climbing higher with the possibility of hitting 90 degrees.

And as if times weren’t strange enough, Dublin hurlers won the Leinster championship to match the county’s footballers.      The teams, famous for their sky blue uniforms, last accomplished this double in 1942. And it was not just hurlers and the weather that were making big headlines these past few days. Irish sports stars were turning up the heat on their rivals, most notably in France where golfer Graeme McDowell won the French open in Paris, his third title of the season. Down south in the Pyrenees, meanwhile, cyclist Dan Martin captured Sunday’s stage in the Tour de France for the U.S. Garmin-Sharp team.      As for the weather, the sunshine looks set to continue for a few days yet. Monday was the hottest day in Ireland since 2006 and even higher temperatures are expected by week’s end.

Met Éireann confirmed a temperature of 28.7 degrees at Oakpark, County Carlow on Monday. That’s 83.6 Fahrenheit.  The weather has been good news for farmers, as well as those who simply want to soak up the sun and pretend for a few days that Ireland is Spain, or some other Mediterranean hotspot.

Irish entrepreneurs relish U.S. retreat.

POSTED ON June 28th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Competitive Edge By Maura Kelly

     It has been called “the ultimate mind meld for business leaders” by those involved.

     For seven days in June, 110 Irish entrepreneurs had the opportunity to engage with top U.S. CEOs, economists, political advisors and change agents in Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, and New York, this while attending the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year CEO Retreat.

     All of the participants embarked on the supercharger retreat with one goal in mind – to return to Ireland reinvigorated and expand their businesses on a domestic and international level.

     The journey for twenty-four of the CEOs started when their companies were short-listed for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (EOY) 2014 Award.

     EOY is a global recognition program for entrepreneurs run in 140 cities in over 50 countries.

     The Irish EOY program, now in its sixteenth year, was created to recognize talent and innovation across the island of Ireland and it includes finance, technology, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

     All of the finalists and seasoned entrepreneurs on the retreat have created new jobs and opportunities, both in Ireland’s tough economy and abroad.

     I had a chance to meet and talk with several CEOs at the residence of Consul General Noel Kilkenny during the New York leg of the trip.

     Fresh off the plane from South Bend, Indiana, the group was truly energized by the panoramic views of Manhattan and the Empire State Building from the Consul General’s 52nd floor residence.

     “”The aim of this year’s CEO Retreat is to challenge and inspire Ireland’s entrepreneurs to think in new ways and unlock their success and strategy on a global level” explained Frank O’Keeffe, Partner-in-Charge of the EOY program.

     “We want Ireland, north and south, to become one of the best places in the world to do business. We’ve just arrived from Notre Dame and we have a strong connection there. They are known as the fighting Irish in sports and the individuals here have a fighting Irish spirit and it’s played out in business.”

     Several of the group commented on the inspirational talk football coach Lou Holtz gave the previous night about living life to the best of one’s ability. They expressed deep admiration for the football legend and said it was a highlight of the trip.

     Some of the companies vying for the EOY 2014 grand prize in the emerging category include Sugru, whose tag line states, “The future needs fixing.” This innovative self-setting rubber is used for fixing, modifying and improving things and sells in 138 countries.

     On the entertainment front, Belfast based Sixteen South (Sesame Street Northern Ireland and Jim Henson’s Pajanimals) were in the running for two Daytime Emmy’s that same week. Datahug creates online collaboration tools and I happened to catch their pitch at a recent New York Digital Irish event.

     The applications enhance lead generation and uncover relationships and connections within a company’s network of contacts. John Rice, CEO of Jam Media, recalled his early years in New York with MTV and talked about how his U.S. experience planted the seeds for opening his own animation company in Dublin, then Belfast, and now Canada in the near future.

     The next day, World EOY 2013 winner, Hamdi Ulukaya, wowed the group when he shared how he started Chobani Greek Yogurt with nothing but a subway coupon and 25 cents in his pocket. Within five years he grew his company to $1 billion in sales and now employs over 3000 staff. Later that day, Jim McCann of 1-800-Flowers recounted his unique journey from start up to leader in the floral trade.

     The EOY CEO Retreat doesn’t limit itself to seeking excellent in all things business, it also promotes giving back.

     Michael Carey, chairman of Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, explained the genesis of “Soul of Haiti” to me.

     “Soul of Haiti is a charity that started in 2007 after the EOY CEO Retreat visited Haiti. We were so moved by what we saw, we decided to set up the charity on our return to Ireland.”

     Carey added: “We utilize the philosophy of social entrepreneurship and rather than focus just on relief work, we help stimulate business and employment in Haiti so that the people can start providing for themselves and build their own future.

     I think the EOY Twitter feed sums up the week nicely: @EOYIreland  “What a trip, we’re now bringing our 110 Irish entrepreneurs back home re-invigorated and ready to get back to business with a bang! @bubblebumukltd tweets – “An incredible fanfreakingbubbletastic week with @EOYIreland in Notre Dame and NYC. Thank you.”

     Ireland’s 24 finalists will face off against each other for the grand prize at the EOY Gala Night in Dublin on October 24th. The overall winner will then go on to participate in the World Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monte Carlo in June 2014. Good luck to all.

     You can follow Maura Kelly on Twitter @MauraKellyMedia

Senate passes immigration reform bill

POSTED ON June 27th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

By Ray O’Hanlon


Reform backers fell two votes short of the “Magnificent 70,” but the margin of victory was nevertheless impressive.

The United States Senate voted 68-32 Thursday for S.744, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.

The bill includes a provision that would allow 10,500 renewable E-3 visas for the Irish with no sunset.

Passage of the bill represented a big win for the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” the members of which crafted the measure, and a particular triumph for the bill’s lead Democratic sponsor, Senator Charles Schumer who penned the Irish E-3 provision.

The reform debate now shifts to the far more uncertain ground that is the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mayoral chain caught the president’s eye

POSTED ON June 18th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views


President Obama and Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtin Ó Muilleoir chatted for several minutes Monday when they met in Belfast.

The mayoral chain had caught the president’s eye and he joked about how he might get his hands on a similar symbol of high office. 

Maureen O’Hara takes a final public bow

POSTED ON May 31st  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

By Ray O’Hanlon


Maureen O’Hara surrounded by family and friends including (l-r – back row): John Nicoletti, (her biographer), Charles FitzSimons, her nephew, Conor FitzSimons, Maureen’s grandson. Front row has great grandchildren, Everest and Baylee, and Conor’s wife, Elga FitzSimons Photo by Barton B. MacLeod.


She kept her promise.

Screen star Maureen O’Hara traveled from Boise, Idaho, to Winterset, Iowa last weekend to honor fellow Hollywood legend John Wayne in his birthplace.

A John Wayne museum and learning center and museum is planned for the Iowa town, and the project now has the best possible blessing from O’Hara, who made five movies with the late actor, including the iconic “The Quiet Man.”

Wayne was born in Winterset on May 26, 1907.

It was O’Hara’s first ever visit to Winterset, and it was also billed as her last large scale public appearance.

O’Hara was greeted by fans during the weekend as the town featured O’Hara and Wayne films in its movie theater.

“I hope they don’t forget,” O’Hara said of the well wishers.

“If they forget me, I might get mad at them, because I am still here,” the 92-year-old actress said.

O’Hara lived in West Cork for a number of years, but is now settled in Idaho close to family members.

Fans the world over have been campaigning to have Hollywood award her a lifetime achievement Oscar at next year’s Academy Awards.


Judiciary Committee passes reform bill

POSTED ON May 22nd  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Judiciary Committee passes reform bill

The Senate immigration reform bill, S.744 or the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act to give it it’s full title, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday by a vote of 13 to 5.

The bill, which contained a provision that would offer 10,500 annual “Schumer” visas to the Irish, now goes to the Senate floor and backers are hopeful that the full Senate will take it up after the Memorial Day congressional break, that being the first week in June.


Cardinal O’Malley to boycott Kenny and BC speech

POSTED ON May 20th  - POSTED IN News & Views

By Jim Smith

The head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, says that he will not attend May 20 graduation ceremonies at Boston College because Taoiseach Enda Kenny will be delivering the commencement address and receiving an honorary degree. “I am sure that the invitation (to Kenny) was made in good faith, long before it came to the attention of the leadership of Boston College that Mr. Kenny is aggressively promoting abortion legislation,” O’Malley said in a press statement. “Since the university has not withdrawn the invitation and because the Taoiseach has not seen fit to decline, I shall not attend the graduation.” O’Malley, who was scheduled to deliver a blessing to the graduates at the Jesuit college, alluded in his statement to the 2004 request of the U.S. Catholic Bishops that Catholic institutions “should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” BC spokesman Jack Dunn said in a press release that the college respects O’Malley and regrets that he will not attend. He said BC’s decision to honor Kenny was based in part on the “historically close relationship Boston College has enjoyed with Ireland.” Dunn also denied that there was any rift between the college and the church. “As a Catholic institution, Boston College supports the Church’s commitment to the life of the unborn.” At the crux of the conflict is Kenny’s support of pending legislation in Ireland which the bishops there have described as “a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.” Continues on page 2 The proposed legislation permits a single doctor to authorize abortion if the woman’s life is in immediate danger, requires the approval of two doctors if a pregnancy poses a potentially lethal risk, and mandates the approval of three doctors if the woman is threatening suicide during any stage of the pregnancy. It also contains conscience-clause protections for physicians, nurses, or other health care workers. “It is a tragic moment for Irish society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as an acceptable response to the threat of the preventable death of another person,” the Irish bishops wrote in a statement earlier in May. In a speech on May 1, Kenny said about the proposed abortion bill, “Our aim is to protect the lives of women and their unborn babies by clarifying the circumstances in which doctors can intervene when a woman’s life is at risk.” In his statement, O’Malley said that the graduates will be in his prayers. “I pray that their studies will prepare them to be heralds of the Church’s Social Gospel and men and women for others, especially for the most vulnerable in our midst.” On Saturday, one day after making his stunning announcement, O’Malley gave the commencement address at Regis College, a liberal Catholic college west of Boston. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of laws degree during the ceremonies.


D.C. 9.30 a.m.

POSTED ON May 20th  - POSTED IN News & Views

By Ray O’Hanlon

The notice on the committee website is all about business.

That the future of millions of people, many thousands of Irish included, will be dependent on what follows over the next three weeks or so is not evident in the bland text.

It states: “The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its next executive business meeting at 9:30 am on Thursday, May 9, 2013, to consider S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The bipartisan legislation was introduced on April 17. The first amendment circulated to the bill is the Sponsors’ Amendment, which is expected to be offered at the next executive business meeting.”

The bill, in its current form, offers a path, albeit a long and tortuous one, to millions of undocumented and illegal immigrants. By some estimates, there are 50,000 Irish nationals in this total, most of them living in the shadows for many years.

The judiciary panel is chaired by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, long seen as a friend of Ireland and the Irish.

But while there is bipartisan support for S.744, hostility also lurks in the legislative long grass.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Republican opponents of legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws “are readying an offensive intended to hijack the newly released bill as the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday begins a review that will offer the clearest sign yet of how difficult a path the legislation faces.”

The report suggested that Republican critics “could offer hundreds of amendments to try to reshape the overhaul.”

Backers such as Senators Charles Schumer and Dick Durbin, both members of the so-called “Gang of Eight” who crafted S.744, are hoping that the bill emerges from the committee in at least roughly recognizable form.

For this to happen they will need support from GOP members such as Senator Lindsey Graham and hope that his GOP colleague, Alabama’s Jess Sessions, will pull at least some punches.

Members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, are working on their own version of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.


GFA symposium at Cooper Union

POSTED ON May 17th  - POSTED IN News & Views

By Ray O’Hanlon

26/4/2012 George Mitchell Speaking at IIEA     It caused discussion when it first saw the light of a Belfast day fifteen years ago and it still generating argument and discussion today.

The Good Friday Agreement, more formally known as the Belfast Agreement, is fifteen years on the job this year and to mark the anniversary the man who steered it to political birth, former United States Senator George Mitchell, is headlining a symposium on Thursday, May 23 at Cooper Union in Manhattan.

That day marks the exact 15th anniversary of the ratification of the agreement on May 23, 1998 in which the people of Ireland endorsed the pact in separate referenda on each side of the border.

In addition to Mitchell’s address, there will be a panel discussion that will feature, among others, members of Congress Richard Neal and Joe Crowley. Also lined up for the panel discussion is Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice.

Admission to the symposium is free but because of limited seating in the Cooper Union Great Hall/Foundation Building, tickets are being issued by organizers.

The event, which will run from 6 to 9 p.m. is being sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Brehon Law Societies, Irish American Unity Conference, additional Irish American organizations, and the Cooper Union Office of Continuing Education.

The Good Friday Agreement is the underpinning for the power sharing government in Stormont currently being led by the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.

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