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Mystery of the I-95 Shillelagh

POSTED ON July 30th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Shillelagh jpg
The I-95 shillelagh awaits its owner

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

It can only be hoped that the owner was driving on Interstate 95 and not walking beside it.

But if driving, the owner rapidly put miles between himself, or perhaps herself, and a well-used shillelagh.

Jerry McParland was driving what may well be the busiest highway on the planet.

He was returning from Florida to New York with his wife Donna when he pulled into a rest stop somewhere in the Carolinas, perhaps South Carolina but maybe North Carolina.

Either way, he remembers the stop less for its precise location than what he found in it.

“It was there in the ground, in a parking space, a walking stick,” Jerry told the Echo.

“And I looked at it again and realized that it wasn’t just any old walking stick, but a shillelagh,” he said.

Jerry, whose New York home is in Long Beach, Long Island, is, like many Irish Americans, well familiar with the famed Irish Blackthorn walking stick which, in former times, was often used for tasks other than perambulation.

Jerry and his wife checked around the rest stop for the owner, but nobody claimed the shillelagh.

So they brought it back to New York and contacted the Echo hoping that, like them, the owner might be a reader, or that a reader might know someone who recently misplaced a shillelagh on a journey north, or south, along I-95.

“It has a distinguishing characteristic,” said Jerry of the lost shillelagh.

This characteristic is in addition to a strap at the holding end visible in the photo above.

Jerry is keeping that additional characteristic secret so as to make sure that if anyone gets in touch claiming the stick he can be sure the person is indeed the owner.

“I’m hoping that the owner, or someone who knows the owner, reads this and can get the shillelagh back,” he said.

The owner, or anyone who think they might know the owner, can contact the Echo at (212) 482-4818.

McGuinness, Villiers in U.S. as North crisis simmers

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

Collision jpg

North Secretary Theresa Villiers.

By Anthony Neeson
asneeson@irishecho.com

It looks like it will be a case of he said, she said.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness is in the United States this week to seek support for a resolution to the crisis threatening the political institutions in Northern Ireland.

The Deputy First Minister arrived on Tuesday for meetings with the congressional Friends of Ireland on Capitol Hill, the State Department and other senior administration officials.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers is also in the U.S. and in a series of meetings is expected to counter the message being disseminated by McGuinness.

Speaking ahead of his talks, Mr. McGuinness said the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, which have underpinned the peace process for almost two decades, are facing crisis.

“This is an extremely grave situation and I would urge all those with a stake in this process to make every effort to find a resolution which secures the power-sharing administration,” he said.

“In order to redress this crisis, we require an imaginative and innovative solution, which recognizes the particular challenges faced by our administration. That means ensuring the institutions are politically and economically viable and able to meet the needs of a society emerging from a long and bitter conflict.

“To date, that has not been forthcoming from the British government and they need to be persuaded that a new approach is required.

“It is my hope that the U.S. administration, which has been a key ally since the inception of the peace process, can help convince the British government of the gravity of the current situation and to end their current approach which threatens to undermine the incredible progress we have made.”

Villiers, by contrast, will be insisting American pressure should be directed at Sinn Féin to accept reduced budget cuts.

And Stormont Finance Minister, Arlene Foster, has also criticized Sinn Féin warning that there would be “a real crisis” in the political process if the party doesn’t concede on welfare cutbacks.

The DUP minister said McGuinness was “wasting his time” on his U.S. mission.

Foster said her message to McGuinness was: “sort it out and get on with governing Northern Ireland in a responsible fashion.”

The Irish Times, meanwhile, summed the situation up with the headline: “Villiers and McGuinness in US PR battle over political deadlock.”

Catherine Burns laid to rest in her native county

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

Reburial jpg
Fr. Benny Fee praying at the grave in Clonoe, County Tyrone

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Catherine Burns is this week at rest in her native County Tyrone.

Her remains had been flown to Ireland by Dr. William Watson, one of the leaders of the Duffy’s Cut excavation project in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

She is the second of the more than fifty Duffy’s Cut victims to be given a reburial in Ireland, the other being Donegal native John Ruddy.

Burns was just 29 when she died at Duffy’s Cut in 1832.

The cause of death was likely cholera, though murder at the hands of nativist gangs was also a possible cause.

Her resting place was unmarked and forgotten until Dr. Watson and his team from Immaculata University began work on the site in 2003.

“It was remarkable in all ways. Fr. Benny Fee said Mass and there was a great turnout for the reburial,” Dr. Watson told the Echo.

“It’s miraculous. This whole thing’s miraculous. I was sitting in the church and it was kind of like an outer body experience. I couldn’t believe it was happening. The choir, the sermon, the trappings of the mass, the whole community out. It’s just overwhelming,” he earlier told reporters covering the reburial.

He praised the effort by Clonoe Parish and the crowd that turned out for the funeral.
“This is incredible. It’s a lot of people, and good people,” he said.

According to a report in the Belfast Telegraph, it was not known exactly where in County Tyrone that Catherine Burns was from. But Fr. Fee, Clonoe’s parish priest, said that “all of Tyrone belongs to Catherine Burns.”

The young immigrant’s remains were carried into the chapel by three women from the parish who are also called Catherine, along with a researcher from the Duffy’s Cut Project.

According to the report, during his sermon, Fr. Fee said it was an “awesome privilege” for the people of Tyrone to welcome Catherine Burns home.

He said she had set off for America because she had “no other choice”, adding: “she could stay at home and starve or she could gamble on taking the ship across the broad Atlantic and with a bit of luck, catch the tail of the American dream.”

Catherine’s square box-shaped coffin was buried beneath the Tall Cross of Clonoe, a few meters from the parochial house where a Tyrone flag was flying next to an American flag.

Catherine Burns had sailed to America on the John Stamp out of Derry. Others of who would become known the Duffy’s Cut Irish were on board the ship.

In the summer of 1832, 57 Irish laborers died while building the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad between Malvern and Frazer, not far from Philadelphia and at a site that, in recent years, became known to the wider world as Duffy’s Cut.

Duffy’s Cut is on land immediately adjacent to a railroad track used by SEPTA and AMTRAK.

From before the start of the excavation work, Dr. Watson and his colleagues believed that the deaths were caused not just by cholera, the reason reported at the time, but by murderous attacks carried out by local nativist and know nothing gangs.

Remains unearthed during the years of the Duffy’s Cut excavation have confirmed this view.
By no means all the Duffy’s Cut dead have been accounted for.

Dr. Watson and his team are now preparing to extract core samples for an estimated fifty men buried in a mass grave at the site, just yards from the railroad track.

Surf’s up and on the up in Ireland

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

Surf jpg
Ricky and Chris Martin.

By Evan Short
letters@irishecho.com

Is surfing the greatest Irish American invention ever?

When George Freeth, born to an Irish father and Hawaiian mother, first came to prominence in 1907 for his seemingly miraculous ability to stand on a plank of wood and ride it onto the shore through the waves, he became a national sensation and the sport quickly caught on.

Now a little over a century later, two men from the Irish seaside town of Portrush are aiming to revolutionize the multi-billion dollar industry by reinventing the way surfboards are made.

Ricky and Chris Martin run the “Alive Surf School” in the small County Antrim town.

Frustrated at how flimsy current surf boards are, they decided to go about building their own more robust versions.

Fast forward three years and they have just come second in a competition that saw almost a thousand companies compete to meet and discuss their idea with Richard Branson.

Ricky, 35, told the Irish Echo that their hard work was finally beginning to pay off.

“The PR we got from the ‘Pitch to Rich’ competition has just been phenomenal,” he said in reference to a competition initiated by Branson.

“Even though we didn’t win it got our name out there and we are getting enquiries from all around the world about our ideas.

“Just the other day we got an email from a surf school in the Caribbean. We were bitterly disappointed not to have won ‘Pitch to Rich,’ but we gave it a really good shout and did the best pitch we could.”

So what is it that Ricky and Chris have invented?

“What we are doing is addressing something that’s a major problem in the surfing industry. I run a surf school and my biggest expense each year is the replacement of surfboards.

“We established that the main problem with surf boards is the use of adhesives, and how over time the adhesive deteriorates and destroys the board.”

This deterioration can happen very quickly according to Ricky.

“We were contacted by a guy from Lahinch (County Clare) who had bought five new surf boards for his school and in less than three weeks they started to fall apart.”

The brothers’ reinvention of the surfboard involved doing away with adhesive altogether, and bonding the surfboards foam via heat.

This leads to more robust boards that can last up to ten times longer than the existing models.
In addition, all material used is recyclable – making them the only company in the world able to claim one hundred percent green credentials for their board.

To reinvent the surf board is one thing, but what makes Ricky and Chris’ achievement even more impressive is that neither of them have any background in engineering.

“We were both reasonably inept when it came to the technicalities, but Chris locked himself away and is now a bit of an expert in heat bonding technologies.

“We also got a lot of help from local engineering companies and Queen’s University Belfast and the Northern Regional College.

“But my brother Chris thinks not being engineers has helped us a lot. We kept being told what we wanted to do wasn’t technically possible, but because we wouldn’t take no for an answer we kept going.”

Surfing in Ireland has grown dramatically in the last decade with over a hundred surf schools now offering lessons around the island.

Ricky, who runs the “Alive Surf School” says the reason is the quality of the waves.

“The surf scene in Ireland is huge and on various levels. On a professional level, Ireland has got best waves in the world outside Hawaii, and is now known for it.

“The whole of the west coast has world class waves – and hundreds of them. In the last ten or fifteen years Ireland has produced a number of world class surfers.

“I run the Alive Surf School and the level I work with would be beginner, and that would be anyone from the age of four up to 88.”

For more information on Ricky and Chris and their surfboards visit www.skunkworkssurfco.co.uk.

A transatlantic helping hand for the undocumented

POSTED ON July 23rd  - POSTED IN News & Views

Families jpg
Pictured in Donegal Town at the launch of The Families of the Undocumented Irish in America are members of the group, including the Chairperson Michael McMahon (center) and politicians Phil Flanagan MLA (left), Councilor Martin Kenny (second from right) and Senator Marc MacSharry (right).

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

A new organization has been established in Ireland to campaign on behalf of the undocumented Irish in America.

The group, called “The Families of the Undocumented Irish in America,” is chaired by Michael McMahon from Bundoran, County Donegal.

“For far too long, successive Irish governments have sat on their hands and failed to support their citizens living in America,” said McMahon, who was recently in New York visiting his undocumented children.

“The current American administration has exhausted all avenues to introduce comprehensive immigration reform at this stage, but I am hopeful that the issue will resurface during, and after, the coming presidential election campaign, McMahon said.

“However, there exists a mechanism for the Irish government to involve itself in resolving the plight of the undocumented Irish in America through a visa waiver scheme, which would remove the three and ten year unlawful presence bars for undocumented citizens.”

McMahon stated that “thousands of families across Ireland have been failed by this current government.”

He said that Mexico had received 58,000 waivers in 2011 alone, this according to the New York Times.

This, he said, was all because the Mexican government pursued it with the American administration.

Other countries like Israel, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Australia already participated in the waiver scheme.

Continued McMahon: “Despite knowing about the existence of this visa waiver scheme for over four years – which could have been the solution for a significant number of our undocumented citizens in America – the Irish government has failed to seek this option for our people.

“We believe that he Irish government should immediately explore the potential for the introduction of a visa waiver scheme for undocumented Irish citizens living in America.

“In March of this year, a briefing was held in Dublin for TDs, Senators and MLAs and a clear call was made of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to raise this issue with the American Embassy in Dublin.

“Contact was made with the embassy, but it only came from a secretary within the department and not from the minister himself. We are left asking if citizens are not worth Minister’s Flanagan’s time and effort?

“To date, Charlie Flanagan has never formally asked the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley for these waivers. An Taoiseach has also never asked Mr. O’Malley for these waivers.

“The important thing about these waivers is that they would be granted by the American Embassy in Dublin, but the Irish government must formally ask the U.S. Ambassador for them.

“Ministers do not need to go to Washington, D.C. or to New York to do this. The Irish government just needs to go to the U.S. Embassy in Dublin and formally ask for the visa waivers to be granted to eligible Irish citizens.

“I am calling for them to do that as a matter of priority and The Families of the Undocumented Irish in America will continue to put pressure on them until they do.”

Mr. McMahon said the new group would be holding a series of meetings across the island of Ireland in the coming weeks.

An initial meeting was held recently in the Bronx during Mr. McMahon’s U.S. visit, and the formal launch followed in Donegal Town.

He told the Echo that because he had children in the U.S. who are undocumented for almost twenty years, he had long been focused on the immigration issue.

“But since I heard about these waivers I knew that this is something that we, the parents and the brothers and sisters and the friends, can do in Ireland to make the difference and get our families legal.

“I’ve been coming to America to visit my children for the weddings and my grandchildren’s christenings and all the rest for years and years, but it’s about time that this situation changed, and we can do it from Ireland.

“Our children and families might be out of sight but they’re never out of our minds. We the families and friends will be the voice and the vote in Ireland for the Irish undocumented in America.”

McMahon said he wanted to encourage people interested in joining the new campaign, or lending it a hand, to get in contact by email at irishundocumented@gmail.com, or on Twitter @IRLUndocumented.”

After balcony collapse, tributes, prayers, law changes, fundraising

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

After balcony collapse, tributes,

prayers, law changes, fundraising

 

 

Tribute jpg
A moment of joy for Niccolai Schuster as he met his hero, Bastian Schweinsteiger. The newly signed Manchester United midfielder has paid his own tribute to the young Dubliner by posing for a new photo while holding this one.

 

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Sadly, it is often the case that something has to go terribly wrong before it is made right.

Such has been the case with the Berkeley balcony collapse, a tragedy that was certainly preventable, but one which may well end up ensuring that no such tragedy occurs again, at least in Berkeley itself.

Just over a month since the death of six students and the serious injury of seven others, family and friends gathered in the California city beside San Francisco Bay to remember the dead, pray for the recovery of the injured, and express hope that the loss of lives and dreams were not entirely in vain.

The tributes even extended to the current U.S. tour by Manchester United, who paid their own tribute earlier this week before their game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

About fifty miles separated the playing field from Berkeley.

The gap was filled with silent thoughts and prayer as players and fans remembered the dead: Niccolai Schuster, Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Murray, Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke and Ashley Donohoe.

The Manchester United connection had been forged by Niccolai Schuster, who, despite his German roots, had grown up in Dublin.

Niccolai was a soccer fan who followed the fortunes of the German club Bayern Munich, and in particular a player with one of the most recognizable names in world soccer, Bastian Schweinsteiger, signed by United in recent days from Bayern.

It was a photo of Niccolai Schuster with Schweinsteiger that circled the globe after the Berkeley tragedy, thus reinforcing the shared sense of a loss of life, decades before its natural ending.

As for the injured? Three of the most seriously hurt are still being treated in California.

According to reports, Aoife Beary from Blackrock in County Dublin, whose birthday the students were celebrating when the balcony collapsed, continues to have difficulty recognizing her family.

She is being treated at the Santa Clara Medical Center.

Her friends, Clodagh Cogley and Hannah Waters, are also being cared for at the center.

Clodagh Cogley (21) has already proclaimed her determination to move on with her life, even if she has to spend the rest of it in a wheelchair.
As the injured battle on, sports events and concerts in Ireland have been raising funds to meet the enormous costs of treatment and rehabilitation.

And the aftermath of the balcony collapse has focused attention not just on the particular apartment building where the disaster occurred, but all residential buildings in Berkeley and beyond.

Legislators have moved to make changes, and in Berkeley have already succeeded.

An effort to bring about change in the state of California failed at the first go but is expected to be revived.

In Berkeley, the City Council voted last week to ensure that all balconies, decks and stairways, will undergo a check in the next six months and after that every three years.

The balcony that collapsed, if it had been inspected, would have revealed rotted wooden joists linking it to the building wall. This was a disaster just waiting to happen.

Berkeley’s mayor, Tom Bates, told the Guardian newspaper that he believes the new measures will prevent a repetition of the tragedy.

“Although nothing we do can erase the horrible tragedy that occurred, I believe that the strict new regulations for balcony construction and inspections adopted by the city council last week are an important step toward our goal of doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again,” Bates told the daily.

“I have been deeply moved by the tremendous outpouring of compassion and support, both locally and abroad, for the injured, and for all the families and friends impacted by this terrible ordeal,” he said.

Meanwhile, the collapse and its awful consequences are under criminal and civil investigation by Alameda County District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley, and the California Contractors State License Board.

Only a little over a month has passed since the June 16 loss of life, and the profound change in life’s course for those who survived.

Family and friends held a month’s mind last week in Berkeley.

But their collective remembrance has only started on a journey that will last lifetimes.

McGuinness for U.S. crisis talks

POSTED ON July 21st  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Martin jpg
Martin McGuinness

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Power sharing is in peril and North Deputy First Minister Martin Guinness is looking to the United States for a lifeline.

McGuinness is expected in the U.S. in the coming days to seek support for a resolution to the crisis threatening the future of the governing Executive at Stormont, the primary political product of the peace process.

Speaking ahead of meetings with the Congressional Friends of Ireland on Capitol Hill, the State Department and the White House, Mr. McGuinness stated: “The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, which have underpinned the Irish peace process for almost two decades, are facing crisis.

“This is an extremely grave situation and I would urge all those with a stake in this process to make every effort to find a resolution which secures the power-sharing administration.”

McGuinness expressed criticism of the British government, citing it for lack of imagination and drive.

“In order to redress this crisis, we require an imaginative and innovative solution which recognizes the particular challenges faced by our administration,” he said.

“That means ensuring the institutions are politically and economically viable and able to meet the needs of a society emerging from a long and bitter conflict.

“To date, that has not been forthcoming from the British government and they need to be persuaded that a new approach is required.

“It is my hope that the U.S. administration, which has been a key ally of the peace process since its inception, can help convince the British government of the gravity of the current situation which threatens to undermine the incredible progress we have made,” McGuinness said.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, British Northern Ireland Secretary, Theresa Villiers, is also expected in the U.S. in the next few days.

Meanwhile, Mr. McGuinness has told the British government that it must recognize the unique challenges facing the North.

A Sinn Féin delegation, also including Party President Gerry Adams, Vice President Mary Lou McDonald, and former MP Michelle Gildernew, met with British Prime Minister David Cameron at Westminster on Tuesday.

Speaking afterwards, McGuinness called for a renewed effort to restore the political and economic viability of the political institutions.

“Today’s engagement was useful and I believe that David Cameron can be in no doubt about the seriousness of the crisis we are facing,” McGuinness said.

“The political structures created by the Good Friday Agreement are at the point of imminent collapse due to the British government’s austerity agenda.

“Sinn Féin will do everything in our power to prevent a collapse from happening. Others – particularly the British government – must do the same.

Added McGuinness: “But for the institutions to survive, they need to deliver for all citizens, be they unionists, republicans or others. That requires a workable budget and a new approach and new investment from Westminster.

“The British government needs to accept the special circumstances of the North, as a society coming out of conflict, which lasted for almost thirty years.

“If we are to deliver for citizens, consolidate and build on the peace, create a peace dividend, which is tangible in deprived communities which suffered most as a result of the conflict, then the Executive needs the tools and the resources to address these deep-seated issues.

“Successive British governments invested enormous, at times limitless, resources in pursuing a military agenda. They now need to bring a similar commitment to building a still fragile peace.”

Niall to the rescue….again

POSTED ON July 21st  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Niall O'Shaughnessy
The FDNY’s Niall O’Shaughnessy

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Niall O’Shaughnessy is a man you want in your corner, or to be just around the corner if you get into a spot of bother.

The Limerick native made headlines last year when, along with a fellow Irish-born FDNY member, Sean Cummings, he came to aid of a woman lying helpless on a subway track in Manhattan.

She was Irish too.

O’Shaughnessy and Cummings were both honored at the inaugural Irish Echo First Responders Awards last October.

The woman who was in danger of drowning in the Hudson River on Monday wasn’t Irish.
But her rescuer was.

Once again it Niall O’Shaughnessy of FDNY Rescue Zero One, a specialized paramedic unit trained to deal with the most serious emergencies, including water rescues.

O’Shaughnessy and his partner, Moses Nelson, were on station in their FDNY ambulance near the World Trade Center site when the call came in.

There was a woman in the Hudson struggling to stay afloat. Another few minutes and she would for sure go under.

The FDNY duo raced to the scene on Pier 25. Parks Department personnel had thrown the woman a lifebelt but she was having a hard time hanging on.

The Hudson is big water. It is turbulent, tidal and known for strong currents.

The woman called out that she was tired. There was nothing for it but to jump in as, at this point, there was no sign of a rescue boat.

“I took off my radio and boots and jumped in,” O’Shaughnessy told the Echo.

He reached the woman and made sure she was more secure on the life preserver.

“She was a little panicky when I first got to her but I reassured here that an FDNY rescue boat was on the way,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“I just told her to be strong, to trust me and to hang on with me until the rescue boat arrived.
Which it did in a matter of minutes.

“She was very grateful but also very upset,” said O’Shaughnessy of the woman he had just saved from a watery grave.

Rescued and rescuer were both taken to hospital.

O’Shaughnessy was ready to return to duty, but regulations require a check-up.

And after that the dreaded paperwork.

“That’s the first thing I thought about after it all. Oh no the paperwork,” said O’Shaughnessy with a laugh.

And there was more. The FDNY called a press conference.

Another laugh from the Limerick hero.

“I would rather jump in the river twenty times than stand in front of cameras,” he said.
But there was no avoiding the press gathering.

Still, after the questions and answers, it was early home.

Next day, however, Niall O’Shaughnessy was back on duty, all of us safer for his service.

A family gathers in Ireland

POSTED ON July 20th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Moloney jpg
The Moloney family reunion in Loughrea, Co. Galway

By Irish Echo Staff
letters@irishecho.com

Ireland, as we all know, is a place from where people depart.

But it’s also a place that lures them back, sometimes years, sometimes even generations later.
Family reunions in Ireland have become popular in recent years.

Often they are comprised of returning “Yanks” and their long lost relatives on the island.

Some reunions attracts members of the same extended family from the four corners of the globe

Often, people with the same family roots end up meeting for the first time.

One family that mustered in big numbers and from far and wide recently was a branch of the Moloney clan.

Over 150 members of the Moloney family, all descended from James and Anne Moloney, gathered in Loughrea, County Galway for a weekend that none will ever forget.

According to one of family members who helped muster the participants, Maggie Moloney Davis from New York, relatives came from all over Ireland and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and Indonesia.

The Moloneys have maintained strong links throughout the years, said reunion coordinator Ciaran Coakley, who currently lives in the UK.

The family homestead in Ross has been renovated and continues to be the force that keeps the family connected, he said.

Teresa Moloney and her son Raymond, who live in Ross, helped to make the reunion a success by welcoming all 150 cousins home.

Coakley thanked Maureen Fanthom from County Wicklow, who developed the Moloney family heritage website, and Sean Moloney, from County Galway, who coordinated the musical tribute to the Ballinakill Ceili Band, founded by his grandfather Stephen, his father Eddie and his uncle Kevin.

Maggie Moloney Davis, who was tasked with rounding up the American Moloneys, said that the gathering was an opportunity of a lifetime for generations of Moloneys to learn about, and celebrate, their family connections, and their Irish roots.

North mothballs Mitchell funding

POSTED ON July 16th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Funding jpg
George Mitchell

By Irish Echo Staff
letters@irishecho.com

Mitchell scholars will not be studying in Northern Ireland in the 2016-17 academic year.

Given severe cuts in Northern Ireland’s budget, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Employment and Learning, Stephen Farry, has informed the US-Ireland Alliance that his department will have to end funding for the George J. Mitchell Scholarship program, this according to a statement from the Alliance which runs the scholarships named after former U.S. senator George Mitchell.

“This does not affect the Mitchell Scholarship program in Ireland, only Northern Ireland. And we will not be decreasing the overall number of scholarships we will award,” said Alliance president, Trina Vargo.

“We share the minister’s view that this is an unfortunate situation. As we have been following the budgetary crisis in Northern Ireland, this news did not come as a surprise.

“For those who do not follow Northern Ireland politics, there is an overall budget impasse. The entire higher education system has suffered and universities in Northern Ireland have had to decrease their student numbers as a result,” Vargo said.

And she continued: “While this will not affect the two Mitchell Scholars who will attend Queen’s beginning in the fall, it does mean that applicants for the next Mitchell Scholarship selection round (those who will apply by the October deadline) will not have the option of selecting Queen’s University Belfast or the University of Ulster for their year of study (fall 2016-spring 2017).

“As most do not submit their applications until September, they will have time to reconsider the many options in the Republic of Ireland. For those few who have already submitted, we will review applications and if Northern Ireland universities were selected, they will have the opportunity to resubmit.

“Queen’s and the University of Ulster are great partners in this program and we know that they find themselves in much the same position. The Mitchell Scholars who have attended Northern Ireland’s universities, and all the Mitchells who have visited during their year on the island, have been greatly enriched by the experience.

Vargo said that the Alliance was working to restore the program’s North connection.

“While the timing of the selection process is such that we have had to take this immediate step, we will continue to reach out to individuals and companies that may desire to see Northern Ireland remain a part of this prestigious program in hopes that interest and resources will reverse this situation in time to include Northern Ireland Mitchell Scholars in the Class of 2018,” she said.

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