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Irish nanny could be on bail during trial

POSTED ON May 5th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Aisling Brady McCarthy

By Jim Smith
letters@irshecho.com

BOSTON — The Irish nanny who is accused of murdering a young girl in her care in 2013 may be released on bail today after being in prison while awaiting trial for more than two years.

Aisling Brady McCarthy’s trial has been delayed once again based after Middlesex Superior Court Judge Maureen Hogan’s decision last week to order the medical examiner to “re-review” all of the medical evidence in the case, some of which may shed new light on possible causes of the child’s fatal injuries.

If McCarthy – a native of County Cavan – is released on bail for the duration of the upcoming trial, she will likely be ordered to wear a GPS bracelet.

She has been held on $500,000 bail since she was first incarcerated at Framingham State Prison in January 2013, this following the death of one-year-old Rehma Sabir.

Doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston discovered retinal hemorrhaging and concluded at the time that the child’s injuries stemmed from “abusive head trauma,” but McCarthy’s lawyers claim that she had no role in the infant’s death and that other medical factors may have played a role.

Investigators had found blood-stained items at the apartment, including baby wipes, a blanket and a pillow. The stains were evidently from internal injuries and not from lacerations.

Defense lawyers have argued in pre-trial conferences that doctors had given insufficient weight to other possible causes of death, such as old injuries the child may have received while out of the country in the care of her family.

The 36-year-old nanny was living illegally in the U.S. at the time of the child’s death, having overstayed a 90-day visitor visa which had been issued in 2002.

After doctors at Children’s Hospital determined that the baby had suffered “abusive head trauma,” Dr. Alice Newton, medical director of the Child Protection Team, said in court documents that these could be caused by “violent shaking” or by “impact to the head, either by directly striking the head or causing the head to strike another object or surface.”

One piece of evidence discovered at the apartment was a missing piece of wall plaster next to the baby’s changing table, which was consistent with forceful impact against the wall by the corner of the table.

During the arraignment in early February 2013, McCarthy’s lawyer, Melinda Thompson, said that her client “has no idea what happened to this child.”

Irish aid being pulled in many directions

POSTED ON May 4th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Minister Sean Sherlock (r) meeting with Concern CEO Dominic McSorley in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Irish Aid photo.

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Ireland’s relationships with the countries of the world is manifested at many levels.

But what has become especially prominent in recent years is a twin-pronged approach that can be summed up thus: “trade and aid.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs is, of late, also the Department of Trade.

“Aid,” too, could be easily tagged on to the department’s current title.

Ireland is not a superpower, not a big and powerful country.

But it is rich and prosperous compared to many of the world’s nations and sees this position of privilege as a primary spur for giving aid and comfort to less well-off countries, or countries that suffer sudden calamitous disasters.

So it was of little surprise that the Irish government announced in recent days that it would continue to spend “at least” fifty percent of Irish overseas aid in the world’s poorest countries.

Ireland, said the Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion, and North South Co-Operation, Seán Sherlock, is among the most effective countries in the world at targeting aid at those who need it most, “a policy we are committed to pursuing in the coming years.”

Minister Sherlock made his remarks to coincide with Global Citizen Earth Day, organized in Washington, D.C. by the ONE Foundation. Ireland’s Ambassador to the United Nations, David Donoghue, made the announcement in Washington on behalf of Ireland.

“I am proud to commit that Ireland, through Irish Aid, will continue to spend at least fifty percent of our aid budget in the least developed countries and to do as much as we can on aid. We will work with our partners in Europe and beyond to convince them to do so too,” Minister Sherlock said.

Given the state of affairs in a number of countries and regions of late, there is no doubt that every cent that Ireland has set aside for overseas aid will be spent.

In recent months, Irish relief aid has been allocated to parts of the world as far apart as West Africa (to combat the Ebola crisis) Syria, where the civil war continues to rage, even as the country suffers the appalling depredations brought upon it by ISIS, Libya, and now Nepal, devastated in a recent days by a major earthquake.

Ireland has dispatched thousands of blankets, tents, tarpaulins, jerry cans and other urgent supplies to assist families affected by the recent earthquake in Nepal, this according to a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade release.

Over 63 tons of Irish humanitarian supplies will be distributed by Irish Aid’s NGO partner, Plan Ireland, in the Kathmandu-Makwanpur area, focusing on those most severely affected, and those living in temporary settlements or in the open air since their homes were destroyed, said the release.

The first of three airlifts, worth over €500,000 in total, was dispatched from the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Dubai, where Ireland pre-positions supplies for use in global emergencies.

Irish Aid – the government aid arm and the Irish equivalent of U.S. Aid – also has pre-positioned emergency humanitarian supplies in Accra in Ghana, Brindisi in Italy, Panama City in Panama, and Subang in Malaysia. The supplies are held within airport complexes.

The Irish government also has a Rapid Response Corps, a roster of highly-skilled and experienced volunteers who make themselves available to deploy, at short notice, to work with Ireland’s UN partners in disaster stricken parts of the world.

The Corps currently comprises over 90 individuals with specialized skills in logistics, engineering, water and sanitation, humanitarian coordination and protection.

Those skills are currently being put to the test in Nepal.

“The government of Nepal has requested international assistance and Ireland is responding to the best of our ability. These emergency airlifts will focus on the most vulnerable,” said Foreign Affairs Minister, Charlie Flanagan.

“My department is monitoring the situation closely and, as needs assessments come in and a fuller picture of humanitarian needs emerges, we will consider what further assistance we can provide, including further stocks airlifts. We are also liaising with our UN partners to deploy highly skilled members of Ireland’s Rapid Response Corps,” Flanagan said.

“We need to ensure that the right aid is delivered to the region to assist in the efforts in a meaningful way. These supplies are designed to have immediate impact and we are monitoring this situation closely,” added Minister Sherlock.

Two days after the earthquake, Minister Sherlock announced initial funding of one million euro to provide life-saving assistance to displaced Nepalese families.

Exhibition’s evocative CD creates sense of majesty

POSTED ON May 1st  - POSTED IN News & Views

 

IRELAND Crossroads CD COVER IMAGE(1)

By Daniel Neely

There is exhibition happening right now at the Art Institute of Chicago called “Ireland: Crossroads Of Art And Design, 1690-1840.” It opened on St. Patrick’s Day, will run through June 7 and includes over 300 objects from public and private collections that showcase the decorative and fine arts of Ireland of that period. Although I’ve not been to the institute to see it, I have heard its companion album, “Ireland: Crossroads Of Art And Design, 1690-1840 – The Music,” which was made specially for the exhibition. It is a breathtaking companion piece and it’s my great pleasure to write about it here this week.

The CD is a blend of old and new intended to reflect the exhibition’s themes as well as the period it covers. The musicians charged with making this album happen were the great fiddler Liz Knowles (www.lizknowles.com), who curated a number of compositions from period manuscript collections, and the legendary Liz Carroll (www.lizcarroll.com), who contributed a number of specially commissioned original compositions. Both have exquisite taste and throughout the album create a sense of majesty that I feel successfully evokes the spirit of the time.

Joining them in this endeavor is a powerful lineup of musicians, including harpist Catriona McKay, keyboardist Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill (Bothy Band), flute player / uilleann piper Kieran O’Hare (who, like Knowles, is a member of Open the Door For Three), pianist Martin Fahey (who, like Knowles and Carroll, was involved in the album’s production), bassist Trevor Hutchinson (Lúnasa), and percussionist Jackie Moran (Ensemble Galilei). These musicians appear in various solo and group combinations throughout the album and deliver brilliantly.

As one might imagine for an exhibit that explores eighteenth century Ireland, the music of Turlough Carolan figures prominently. McKay’s take on “Carolan’s Concerto” is graceful and captivating, Ní Dhomhnaill version of “Carolan’s Farewell to Music” is deeply compelling and Knowles’s work on the lament “Sir Ulick Burke” is utterly beautiful. Although each of these tracks is thoroughly enjoyable on its own, together they indeed tell a compelling story in music about eighteenth century Ireland that surely fulfills the exhibition’s aims.

The album’s ensemble tracks complement these solo features well. Tracks like “The Lough Derg Cross / A Tale Of A Tub / The Potter’s Wheel,” “Irishtown” and “Planxty Charles Bunworth / Rose And Kathleen’s Slip Jig” (all Carroll originals, btw) all have great energy, are smartly arranged and do an excellent job of expressing the values and sentiment of the time. They are well done and wonderful to listen to.

One of the album’s most hauntingly beautiful tracks is “[It Was] A Magic Mist That Came Over Me One Night And Put Me Astray,” performed by Emer Mayock (flute), Aoife Ní Bhriain (fiddle) and Mick O’Brien (uilleann pipes). This piece appeared on that trio’s 2013 album “Tunes from the Goodman Manuscripts” as “Ceó Draoigheachta Sheól Oidhche chum Fághain mé,” although this version (if I’ve understood correctly) was recorded for TG4’s 2014 Gradam Ceoil broadcast. It has a slightly different feel, but rivals the other recording in terms of quality.

The CD comes with a wonderfully informative booklet. Most of it was written by Fahey, although Knowles, Carroll and O’Hare contribute tune notes for select tracks, Nancy Hurrell and Ann Heymann offer short statements about harps in the exhibition and Karol Mullaney-Dignam provides an interesting essay about the Irish country house. Included in the booklet are beautiful photographs of objects in the collection, arranged to match their place in the exhibition. (Incidentally, Fahey told me that the use of sound in this exhibit was first at the Art Institute and that all the feedback on the role of the music thus far has been overwhelmingly positive.)

This is a spectacular album. It features a beautiful mixture of old and new music from one of the most elite gatherings of musicians you’re likely to find. While this album easily stands alone on its own musical merits, it’s a wonderful thing that an album of this incredibly high standard was produced for a museum exhibit – it sets an important example.

I highly recommend this album. Unfortunately, as it stands now, the CD is only available for as long as the exhibition runs (again, it closes June 7) and it is only available at the Art Institute’s bookstore or through its website, www.artinstituteshop.org. Move quickly if you want a copy of this great album – it won’t be around forever!

Daniel Neely is the Echo’s traditional music correspondent.

Concern reaches deep into Nepal quake zone

POSTED ON May 1st  - POSTED IN News & Views

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.Concern’s Emergency Response Team leader Ros O’Sullivan (l) and logistician Graham Woodcock in Kathmandu planning the distribution of essential shelter and hygiene packages to 10,000 families in some of Nepal’s hardest-hit districts. Photo by Concern Worldwide.

 

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Even without a massive earthquake, Nepal presents formidable challenges to those who want to travel to its remoter towns and villages.
A topographical map quickly shows why.

Though a single country, Nepal is comprised of a multitude of valleys hemmed in by mountains.
And these mountains are not necessarily the High Himalayas.
What pass for the foothills of the Himalayas are themselves formidable ranges.

So much so that if you wanted to select a country in the world where you would absolutely not want a major earthquake to happen, Nepal would be right at the very top of the list.

A few days ago such an earthquake happened.

It was a monster and large swathes of Nepal have been devastated.

Against this chaotic backdrop, the international and Irish-founded humanitarian organization, Concern Worldwide, is preparing to distribute an initial package of shelter and relief supplies to 10,000 families in four of the ten hardest-hit districts following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the country on April 25.

Concern has partnered with two national organizations to carry out the distributions in Sindulpalchowk, Dolakha, Ramecchap, and Gorkha districts.

“We are focusing on reaching vulnerable and isolated communities that are yet to receive assistance and our top priority will be to give people shelter as well as hygiene items, blankets, water purification tablets, and other relief items,” says Ros O’Sullivan of Concern Worldwide’s Emergency Response Team who is now in Kathmandu.

“We are sending prepositioned emergency supplies from Mumbai and Delhi and are working with local partner organizations to purchase additional materials,” O’Sullivan said.

According to Concern, which has sent personnel to Nepal from both Ireland and its New York office, getting materials into the country and around the affected districts will be extremely challenging, as air traffic at the airport remains congested and road travel can take days.

Concern said it will be working with two local organizations that have deep experience and networks in these areas so that items can get out as quickly as possible.

“Damaged infrastructure and roads, rubble, and landslides will make reaching mountainous and more rural communities extremely difficult. Even before the earthquake, land density in Nepal was one of the poorest in South Asia, with over one-third of people living in areas that are four hours away from an all-weather road,” said Concern in a statement.

The earthquake, the worst the country has seen in 80 years, affected 39 districts. An estimated three million Nepalese are displaced, though the true scale of the disaster is still unknown. Priority needs currently include shelter, clean water, food, and medicine. Rain is forecast in the coming days, underscoring the need for emergency shelter like tents and tarpaulins.

Concern Worldwide worked in Nepal from 2006 to 2010, focusing on livelihoods, water, sanitation and nutrition. The organization has been an early responder in a number of earthquakes in the region and globally, including the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
More at www.concernusa.org/NepalAppeal

Some Irish have secured visa waivers

POSTED ON April 29th  - POSTED IN News & Views

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By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

America need not be a place of confinement for the undocumented Irish.
It is possible to obtain visa waivers permitting travel back to Ireland, and, critically, a return to the United States.

But Ireland trails a number of countries in terms of securing visa waivers according to figures compiled by the U.S. State Department.

A list of the top twelve waiver-winning countries for the past three fiscal years shows Ireland in eighth place in each of those years.

In fiscal 2014, Irish applicants were granted 118 waivers, though there were also 280 refusals.
Ireland trails Mexico which is in first place with 8398 waivers in fiscal ’14, though Mexican applicants were also refused 35244 times.

Interestingly, the second place in the waivers-gained table, at 2211, is occupied by “Great Britain and N. Ireland,” which would presumably mean that some Irish passport holders from the North secured waivers to travel.

The figures were obtained by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform which has been campaigning for an end to the three and ten year exclusion bars that hover over the undocumented Irish.

Also ahead of Ireland in the table, and beginning with third place, were Australia, Bermuda, Colombia, Norway and New Zealand. Immediately trailing Ireland in the list were Germany, the Dominican Republic, South Korea and Japan.

Waivers that remove the three and ten year bars are a matter for U.S. embassies and consulates.

In a “guidance” document for such diplomatic outposts, the State Department highlights the discretionary powers that embassies and consulates retain in the matter of waivers.

The document states in part: “ The Congress, in enacting INA 212(d)(3)(A), conferred upon the Secretary of State and consular officers the important discretionary function of recommending waivers for nonimmigrant visa (NIV) ineligibilities to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for approval.

“You should not hesitate to exercise this authority when the alien is entitled to seek waiver relief and is otherwise qualified for a visa, and when the granting of a waiver is not contrary to U.S. interests.

“The proper use of this authority should serve to further our immigration policy supporting freedom of travel, exchange of ideas, and humanitarian considerations, while at the same time ensuring, through appropriate screening, that our national welfare and security are being safeguarded.”

In cases where waivers are granted it is often the case that the applicant might be a parent of U.S. citizen children, even though the applicant, he or she, might be undocumented.

The visa waiver issue has come to the fore in recent months.

ILIR, as well as other reform campaigners in organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Chicago Celts for immigration Reform, have been raising the issue with U.S. officials.

ILIR wrote U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, on the issue, as did the Irish government’s Department of Foreign Affairs in a letter dated February 24th last.

2015 Irish American Small Business Event

POSTED ON April 29th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

padded wagon

The Irish American Small Business, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015 | 6pm – 9pm


Irish Echo Small Business Awards




The Irish American Small Business Awards will honor the entrepreneurs and business leaders who form the backbone of the American economy. The Irish Echo will recognize those in the hospitality industry as well as start-ups, mom-and-pop operations and fast-growing companies. The award winners may be relative newcomers or established icons, retail or wholesale, global or local, web or bricks-and-mortar. What they all have in common is a belief that the customer comes first, and a pride in their Irish heritage.

or sponsorship opportunities contact Mairéad Tully 212-482-4818 Ext. 113 or e-mail mtully@irishecho.com

For details of how to advertise in our commemorative supplement, click here

  

Film documents the legacy of Project Children

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

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Denis Mulcahy Project Children photo.

By Kevin Brady
letters@irishecho.com

A major documentary on the impact of Project Children, a charity that has brought thousands of Catholic and Protestant youngsters to America for a break from Northern Ireland’s Troubles, will hit the big screen in the U.S. and Ireland this year if filmmakers can raise enough funds to finish the film.

Originally planned as a small documentary for BBC Northern Ireland, the film’s producers believe the story has such a potential appeal to a wider audience that they now plan to create a feature-length film.

Documenting the program’s growth seemed an overwhelming task at first, said producer/director Des Henderson of Alley Cat TV, an award-winning independent film production company based in Derry.

The film, which Henderson hopes to screen at film festivals towards the end of the year, is supported by BBC and Northern Ireland Screen (the same group backs “Game Of Thrones”) and has an international distribution deal in place.

What they don’t have are funds to finish the film.

“This is our final push to raise funds to finish the film to the standard we think the story deserves,” said Henderson.

Producers have launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter.com to help finish the project.

They hope the campaign will spread the word about the film to the wider Project Children community and raise some much-needed cash.

“We have always thought of this as a big film, as a feature documentary, unfortunately with that goes crazy finance and we need to act fast so we are,” Henderson said.

The Kickstarter.com campaign is trying to raise $220,000 and it went live on April 13. Search for “Project Children” on the site or follow the link www.kickstarter.com/profile/projectchildren

Donors will have a chance to see some of their own stories on the big screen through links on the site that allow host families and Project Children alumni to upload videos of themselves talking about their experiences.

There are also “all sorts of rewards built in to the campaign that people can buy in return for a donation to the film,” Henderson said.

These include rights to stream the finished film online to prints, t-shirts, an associate producer credit in the film, and tickets to the premiere as well as a chance to meet with Denis and the film’s producers and director.

Project Children was founded in 1975 during the height of The Troubles when Denis Mulcahy, his brother, Pat, Duke Hoffman and a few friends sat around a table in Greenwood Lake, a small town in upstate New York, lamenting the lives of youngsters growing up on the violent streets of Belfast.

The Mulcahy brothers had grown up in County Cork and immigrated to New York where they joined the New York Police Department.

Determined to do something to help, they held a fundraiser at the local American Legion post, raising $1,600 to bring six youngsters, three Catholic and three Protestant, to Greenwood Lake, for a six-week vacation away from the bombs and bullets.

“It was amazing the amount of young kids that were getting hurt getting hit by plastic bullets. There was a great need to get kids out of Northern Ireland at that time,” said Denis, a former New York City bomb squad detective who would go on to became the reluctant face of the program.

“So we came up with this idea that bringing these kids out might have some kind of effect on them.”

Lauded by presidents, prime ministers and movie stars, the program expanded across the U.S in the years that followed, flying more than 23,000 children across the Atlantic to stay with 16,000 host families in the U.S.

The program was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Project Children smoothed the way for the peace process in Northern Ireland before there was a peace process in Northern Ireland,” said Congressman Joe Crowley.

“There were a lot of grudges being built on that shed blood (during The Troubles) and he (Denis Mulcahy) knew then that it was the right thing to do for the children and he knew then that if he did it enough he would not only save some individual lives and create some different futures but it might move the country,” said former President Bill Clinton in an interview for the film.

“He would probably never admit it. He was just a good man doing a good thing to help children.”

Henderson’s former teacher, Barry Lynch, first planted the idea for the film.

“Barry, who was basically responsible for me perusing a career in television, called me and starts telling me the story of Project Children and Denis,” Henderson said.

Lynch had done some fundraising for the charity.

“The story was incredible. I never knew any of it. I assumed Project Children was a church or governmental organization. I never had any idea of the backstory.”

Pat Mulcahy said that although some did not want Project Children to succeed in the beginning, its success in opening dialogue is an enduring legacy.

“Isn’t it better to light a penny candle than curse the darkness and when you light 23,000 penny candles you have a massive light,” Mulcahy said.
A trailer for the fledgling film is available on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP8OfL3DB-o).

Search for “Project Children Documentary” on the site to watch the five-minute preview.
Although Project Children is entering its final year, the program’s internship program, which sees Northern Ireland students spend eight weeks in the U.S. gaining experience in their field of study, will continue.

Editor’s Note: Reporter Kevin Brady was one of the first six children involved in the Project Children program. Brady started his career in journalism at the Irish Echo and today works as a reporter in Florida.

Higgins, Flanagan for Gallipoli ceremonies

POSTED ON April 24th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

5/4/2015. Easter Rising Commemorations
President Michael D. Higgins inspecting an Irish army guard of honor during last month’s Easter 1916 commemorations in Dublin. Photocall

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Gallipoli is long associated with the horrific losses suffered by the ANZACS, soldiers from Australia and New Zealand.
But more than 3,000 Irish soldiers were lost in what was one of the bloodiest campaigns of World War I.

And the sacrifice of those Irishmen, who came from every corner of a pre-partition Ireland, will be remembered this weekend when President Michael D. Higgins and Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Charlie Flanagan, travel to Turkey for the opening of centenary commemorations marking the start of what was, in broader terms, known as the Dardanelles campaign.

The campaign against the Ottoman Turks – who were allied with Germany and Austria Hungary – opened on April 25, 1915 and was centered in the Gallipoli peninsula, part of modern day Turkey.
It lasted until January, 1916 when allied forces that included British, French, Australian, and New Zealand troops were withdrawn to Egypt.

The Irish soldiers were attached to Irish regiments in the British army and they played a significant role in the fighting – with casualties to match.

Most of the Irish were killed in the bitter battles that took place in August and September 1915.

But their deaths were virtually scrubbed from the Irish historical record in the years after the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence.

In recent years, their role in what was a disastrous campaign from the allied perspective has been highlighted in a number of ways, not least by a critically acclaimed book, “Field of Bones,” by Irish author Phillip Orr.

Prior to President Higgins and Minister Flanagan traveling to Turkey, a ceremony was held earlier this week at the War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, Dublin.

The event, according to an Irish Times report, was to mark the completion of the conservation work on memorial books listing the World War I Irish war dead.

Minister of State Simon Harris represented the Irish government at the ceremony.

In honor of the minister, said the Times report, pages containing the names of young men called Harris who died in the war were left open for him to read. Three Irish soldiers named Harris perished in the Gallipoli campaign and in fighting that continued afterwards in the Balkans.

Private John Harris of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers was listed as killed in action in the Balkans on September 23rd, 1916. Another private John Harris of the Royal Munster Fusiliers was killed in action in Greek Macedonia on October 3rd, 1916, while Norman Harris, corporal with the Australian Imperial Fusiliers, was killed in action in the Dardanelles.

Sean Connolly of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association stated that 3,400 Irish men died in the campaign, which cost the lives of 7,000 Australians and 2,000 New Zealanders.

Historians point to the ANZAC losses as the cause of an awakening, in the years after the war, of a new national consciousness in both Australia (where roughly a third of the population has Irish ancestral links) and New Zealand.

Connolly said an aspect of the campaign that was overlooked was that after their evacuation from Gallipoli, the soldiers of the 10th Irish Division were involved in fighting with the Serbs against the Bulgarians, and also in Salonika (now northern Greece).

A memorial cross in honor of the division today stands at Rabrovo, in what is now the independent country of Macedonia.

Minister Harris said that for too long the Irishmen who died in the First World War had not been properly remembered, or their sacrifice understood, but this had, thankfully, started to change in recent years.

It’s Mayo Day….in Buffalo

POSTED ON April 23rd  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

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Assemblyman Michael Kearns and Padraic Walsh showing the Mayo colors as they look forward to “International Mayo Day” on May 2.

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Buffalo might not be the first U.S. city to come to mind in the context of Irish immigration to America.

But it should come to mind.

The second largest city in New York State has a rich Irish history, a slice of it laid bare in the recently published book “Against the Grain: The History of Buffalo’s First Ward,” by Tim Bohen.

The links between Buffalo in particular, and Western New York in general, and the island of Ireland, are many and varied.

But it’s the specific tie between Buffalo and County Mayo that that have lately come into focus with the announcement, by New York State Assemblyman Michael Kearns, that links have been established between Irish Network Buffalo, and Mayo County Council Enterprise and Investment Unit.

Suffice it to say, the flow of good will between the western reaches of the American state and Irish county is going to be a strong one – literally.

Assemblyman Kearns, whose roots trace back to Westport in Mayo, is a member of the New York State Assembly and represents the 142nd Assembly District, which spans South Buffalo, half of the city of Lackawanna, West Seneca and Orchard Park, all within the state of New York.

“With our region experiencing significant investment, and our young entrepreneurs evolving and being creative, the time could not be better to establish solid links with an international partner such as Mayo County Council,” Kearns said in a statement announcing the new relationship.

“To acknowledge this connection through Irish Network Buffalo, it is with great pleasure that I announce Niagara Falls will turn the green and red of Mayo in celebration of the first ever International Mayo Day on May 2.

“What better way to celebrate than by turning one of the natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls, to the county colors of our new international partner.”

Kiltimagh native, and chairperson of Irish Network Buffalo, Padraic Walsh, warmly welcomed the new link.

“What fantastic news that Niagara Falls will be illuminated in the green and red of County Mayo so to help us celebrate our connections with Mayo County Council,” Walsh said.

And he continued: “There are 9.3 million people around the world with County Mayo roots, with many of them arriving into Western New York, and Southern Ontario. For Niagara Falls to recognize the contributions of these men and women by lighting up in green and red for Mayo Day is a credit to the Irish Diaspora from around the world.

“Where would Mayo, and Irish people be without the tireless work of Assemblyman Michael Kearns? He embraced this project from the very beginning. For our own economy to remain strong, and to grow, we need to be reaching out across the Atlantic to our friends in Ireland.

“With links established between Mayo County Council, and Irish Network Buffalo, it is a leap in the right direction, and we look forward to many years of international collaboration between Western New York and Co. Mayo.”

Irish Network Buffalo is the local chapter of the umbrella group Irish Network USA.

IN USA is the work of volunteers and helps members of the networks in a number of cities connect with their peers and to develop relationships that will foster success in business, economic, cultural and sports ventures.

Assemblyman Kearns said that the City of Buffalo, and the greater Western New York region, was excited for the future as a result of the new connection with County Mayo.

Padraic Walsh said that Irish Network Buffalo was looking forward to hosting many Mayo events in the future, while helping to promote Mayo business and tourism.

“Our group is also looking forward to welcoming County Mayo dignitaries, businesses, colleagues, friends and, hopefully, an Taoiseach Enda Kenny to our region in the future,” he said.

Consulate hosts LGBT Craic fest

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

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Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.

By Orla O’Sullivan
letters@irishecho.com
After opening the CRAIC LGBT Film Festival in the Irish Consulate last Friday, Consul General Barbara Jones returned to the mike to emphasize that the gathering should not be construed as support for next month’s historic referendum in Ireland to legalize same-sex marriage.
“Anna, Fiona and I, and the rest of the consulate staff would have to go to Ulan Bator [Mongolia] and eat salt if this was in any way understood as an endorsement by the consulate of the referendum,” Jones said. “Please understand that this is a cultural gathering.”
Jones’s footnote followed remarks by Noel Sutton, director of the annual lesbian, bi-sexual, gay and transgender (LGBT) film festival in Ireland, GAZE and by New York City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley.
Sutton urged the 60 or so attendees at the reception and screening to, “send a strong signal… by asking the people you know to come out and vote yes” in the referendum.
On May 22, “Ireland will be the first country in the world to hold a referendum on marriage equality,” he added.
Crowley alluded to the longstanding conflict over whether to allow marchers in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade walk under LGBT banners. “I can’t wait to see what next year’s St. Patrick’s Day will look like, I hope it’s more inclusive,” said the Queens councilwoman.

She added that she’s one of very few women on the New York City Council and, as one of 15 children, “I learned how to fight for what I believe in.” Jimmy Van Bremen the openly gay Majority Leader of the New York City Council was expected to attend the event, now in its fifth year.

However, Terence Mulligan, founder of The Craic Festival, told the Echo that Van Bremen had a scheduling conflict.

The LGBT films are now one of three components of The Craic Festival, comprised of the main festival of feature films and live music every March, the LGBT festival in April and a shorts’ festival, called the Wee Craic, in September. As yet, the LGBT films are not shown in a movie theatre but Mulligan said he hopes next year to have them included in the Tribeca Film Festival.
This year, five films—all by student film makers—were sent over by Dublin’s GAZE Film Festival organizers to be shown in the Consulate.
GAZE comprises dozens of films and attracts almost 9,000 people every August, its director, Sutton, said. “The festival was founded in 1993, the same year homosexuality was decriminalized in Ireland,” he added.
Leanne Byrne from Dublin, who directed one of this year’s Craic LGBT films, traveled to New York with her girlfriend, Níle Byrne from Lurgan, Co. Armagh for the occasion. Byrne’s film, “Me First” was a work of fiction created by a crew that worked for food: her granny’s Irish stew.
Not that Byrne’s “nana,” who raised her, took well to her coming out. “You’re not a f****** lesbian!” she responded, adding, in reference to a gay couple next door, “Is it running in the water?!” But, Byrne said, “She came around in a couple of weeks.”
The Craic LGBT film documentaries included “Becoming Kinky.” It showcases a young man from a small town in the Midlands who describes his path from Birr, Co. Offaly, (population: 6,000) to becoming a drag queen called Kinky. All the while he is speaking to the camera he is putting on his make-up.
“She does things I would never do and she says things I would never say. Kinky gets away with murder.” And then Kinky steps into the spotlight and up on stage.

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