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Marching from Mid-Tyrone to Midtown

POSTED ON August 28th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
The Páistí Ná Fingréine Loughmacrory Accordion Band

The Páistí Ná Fingréine Loughmacrory Accordion Band

By Evan Short

A County Tyrone-based accordion band that is playing a leading role in revitalizing a rural part of the county is to march in the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade next year.

The Páistí Ná Fingréine Accordion Band (aka the Loughmacrory Band) traces its lineage to the early 1970s but had largely ceased to exist until 2009 when the McElduff family decided to reconstitute it in order to give local young people something to do in an area of Ireland that has suffered heavily from the economic downturn.

Fast forward six years and not only has the band led the Tyrone Senior GAA Football Team out for a crucial match, but they are now to play their part in the greatest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world as a guest of the Tyrone Association of New York.

Marion McElduff will be among the 120-strong group making the journey and she says it is extra special for her as she was one of the few who were there in the early days almost fifty years ago.

“I remember the early years of the band and always loved being a part of it. Years ago we would have travelled all over and there would have been events on almost every other week. Obviously times have changed and in 1987 there was a short revival, but really in the past year things have almost felt back to what they were in the early days,” she said.

Marion’s husband, Aloysius, said there was huge excitement at the upcoming trip.
“We are all buzzing about it with myself, Marion and my daughter Eimear all going to New York,” he said.

We were in New York a number of years back but to be playing in the Loughmacrory Band on St. Patrick’s Day in New York is something you could only have dreamed of. The past year has been great and the official opening in Loughmacrory was very memorable for the band and indeed all the community.

“We will no doubt have to meet plenty and really put in the practice now. It will be busy but I think everybody within the band is just that excited about what is coming up in 2016.”
One of those who will also be travelling to New York with the band is local Sinn Féin politician and chair of Loughmacrory Community Association, Declan McAleer.

He said it was another leap forward for the band that help cement its future.

“This is a massive step for the band and, in an era where the community is a hive of activity in a vast range of sports and other activities, the fact that a small mid-Tyrone village will be represented at New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is another massive headline in a short space of time.

“At the minute, there is 120 of us departing for New York on 15th March for five days.

“We are very thankful to Owen Rodgers and the members of the Tyrone Association in New York for hosting the band and helping with the logistics of the trip.

“We are all really looking forward to joining with the association for the parade on 5th Avenue. It will be a memorable day in the life of our community.”

A million for a child in a million

POSTED ON August 27th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
Cian jpg

Cian McDonnell-Lynch

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

It’s a lot of money, but what value a young boy’s life?

A family in Ireland has launched an urgent international appeal to raise €1 million ($1.16m) to fund a major life-saving operation for their four-year old son to be carried out in Boston.

The parents of Cian McDonnell-Lynch of Carlanstown, Kells, County Meath, who suffers from a rare disorder, flew their son to the U.S. on Thursday of last week.

This week, Cian is being assessed to determine if he can receive a double lung transplant.
The potential cost of the operation is expected to be just under one million euro but the after-care treatment could be double that fee, a cost which the family cannot afford.

According to Mandy Shipp of the local fundraising committee, “This is a do or die situation. If this operation is not carried out, he is unlikely to live beyond Christmas.”

The four-year old suffers from Revesz Syndrome, a rare genetic form of Dyskeratosis Congenita, which effects one child in every one million.

Revesz Syndrome is the failure of the bone marrow to produce normal blood cells.
Cian is believed to be the only child in Ireland suffering from the condition.

In March 2011, at the age of one, Cian was declared totally blind and shortly thereafter was diagnosed as having deteriorating bone marrow.

In 2013, he underwent a successful bone marrow transplant operation in Crumlin Children’s Hospital in Dublin.

“We were really optimistic following that operation that his condition was not going to weaken any further. He went to playschool after that and we thought the worst was behind him,” said Mandy Shipp.

However, earlier this year, Cian began to struggle with his breathing.

In January Cian spent five weeks in hospital where he was eventually diagnosed with microscopic pulmonary arteriovenous malformation which equates to tiny pinholes in his lungs.

Crumlin Children’s Hospital referred Cian’s case to Great Ormond St. Hospital in London where they specialize in transplants for children.

Doctors in London deemed Cian as being an unsuitable candidate for a transplant.

However, doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts indicated recently that they might be in a position to formally assess Cian’s current position.

“Basically Boston is Cian’s last hope of survival and the fees are astronomical by Irish standards,” said Mandy.

“We need the best part of one million euro in order for him to be on the list for a lung donation.”

A group of parents and friends in the Kells/Carlanstown area have established a fund-raising committee through the ‘gofundme.com/hopeforcian” web portal and Hope for Cian/Facebook page.

At the l;ast estimate, close to €240,000 had been raised and a number of fund-raising events in the region are planned in the coming weeks.

“We need every cent we can get from wherever. We are way short of our target. We can’t let money be the reason Cian loses his fight,” said Mandy.

More details by emailing hopeforcian@gmail.com.

New York parade leaders like ships in the night

POSTED ON August 26th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
John Dunleavy

John Dunleavy

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

The two Johns have not spoken since the June 30 conference call that so utterly changed the landscape surrounding the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

But they are likely to meet when parade directors gather late in September for the parade’s annual fall meeting.

They might even meet sooner, but as of this week the newly elected head of the parade corporation, Dr. John Lahey, and the still chairman of the parade and celebration committee, John Dunleavy, are like ships passing in the night.

Both, however, would appear to be on a firmly set course, one that will result in a meeting or collision.

Dr. Lahey told the Echo that the September meeting of directors would see confirmation of a renewed parade broadcasting contract with WNBC.

It was a group of NBC employees that formed the nucleus last March of the first ever gay and lesbian marching group to take part in the parade with the approval of organizers.

Dr. Lahey said that the directors’ meeting would also include the finalizing of an invitation to a second gay group to take part in the 2016 parade, an event that will be of extra special importance given that it takes place in the 100th anniversary year of the 1916 Rising.

Lahey, who is president of Quinnipiac University, and vice chairman of the parade and celebration committee, said that parade organizers had been working with the Irish government on plans to link the 2016 New York march with 1916 commemorations.

He also said that he would not be standing for re-election to his committee vice-chairmanship now that he is heading the parade corporation, the mandated business and legal arm of the parade organization.

John Dunleavy, meanwhile, said he was planning to attend the September meeting which will likely take place at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.

Just last week he presided at a meeting in Queens attended by delegates from parade affiliated organizations.

Those in attendance, between ninety and a hundred according to Mr. Dunleavy’s estimate, heard in no uncertain terms his views on the current situation surrounding the parade.

Mr. Dunleavy has made clear his dissatisfaction with what has transpired since the conference call, which did not include his participation even though, according to Dr. Lahey, he was told about it in advance.

Mr. Dunleavy was out of the country when the call took place and described the conference call as little more than the pulling of a stunt.

The parade chairman is unhappy over the way the WNBC gay marching group found its way into the 2015 line of march.

He is unhappy over the renewal of a broadcasting deal with WNBC.

He is unhappy with what he says is his inability to now control in any way the parade’s finances.

He told the Echo that he had retained an attorney and that the attorney had written a letter to Dr. Lahey. As yet there had been no response.

He said that he was now “taking a course of action.”

Next month, Mr. Dunleavy will avail of an opportunity to relay his unhappiness to fellow parade organizers.

“I will attend the meeting,” he said.

Settlement, closure, for murdered union official’s family

POSTED ON August 25th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
Attorney Brian O’Dwyer.

Attorney Brian O’Dwyer.

By Irish Echo Staff

New York City will pay $1.75 million to the family of Jim Bishop, a former painter’s union official who was murdered on May 17, 1990.

Brian O’Dwyer and Cody McCone of the law firm of O’Dwyer & Bernstien, LLP announced that the suit brought by the Bishop family against the City of New York had been settled for the amount of $1.75 million.

The suit, which was brought in 2006, alleged that two police officers, Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito, were assassins and spies for the Mafia while they were employed as detectives of the New York City Police Department.

Bishop served for over twenty years as an official of District 9 of the Carpenters Union and during that time fought hard against Mafia influence in the construction industry.

As a result of his crusade, Bishop was targeted by the Mafia for assassination – even as he was supposed to have been under police protection, said a release from O’Dwyer & Bernstien, which is based in Lower Manhattan.

Instead, according to the release, Officers Eppolito and Caracappa arranged for police protection to be removed and provided information as to Bishop’s address.

“As a result of the removal of police protection and the tip as to his whereabouts, Bishop was murdered in Queens,” the release announcing the settlement said.

Both Eppolito and Caracappa were convicted in 2009 of aiding and abetting the Mob in the commission of eight gangland murders, and each received life sentences in prison.

The conviction followed exposure of what was one of the most notorious cases of corrupt actions by police officers in the city’s history.

In sentencing the two, Judge Jack Weinstein of the United States District Court said: “these two defendants have committed what amounts to treason against the people of the city of New York and their fellow police officers.”

In 2005, Frances Bishop, the widow of James Bishop, retained the Office of O’Dwyer & Bernstien to seek justice for her family.

During the course of the case, evidence was developed that the first reports of the detectives’ corruption were made in 1979 and they were implicated a number of times through the 1980s.
However, they were never charged but rather promoted within police ranks.

The suit, according to the release, alleged that the city had ample evidence that the two detectives were feeding the Mob with classified information and yet no action was taken against them, thus allowing them to aid and abet Bishop’s murder, along with the seven others who were similarly murdered by the Mafia.

The city’s lawyers vigorously defended the case saying that the city had no responsibility for the murders.

After nearly ten years of litigation, Federal Judge Raymond Dearie had ruled that the case could go to trial on September 8.

But on virtually the eve of trial, the city agreed to pay James Bishop’s estate $1.75 million in compensation.

In announcing the settlement, attorney Cody McCone stated: “The heinous acts of two bad detectives does not detract from the brave service of the men and women of the NYPD. This case does show that no one can hide from justice acting under color of law.”

Attorney Brian O’Dwyer said: “We at O’Dwyer and Bernstien are delighted that we could bring justice to the Bishop family.

“The settlement can’t bring Jim Bishop back, but will provide closure to the Bishop family after ten years of hard-fought litigation.”

Milwaukee fest is biggest & best

POSTED ON August 24th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views
Two dynamos behind the stunning success of the Milwaukee Irish Fest: Patrick Doherty and Colleen Kennedy.

Two dynamos behind the stunning success of the Milwaukee Irish Fest: Patrick Boyle and Colleen Kennedy.

 

By Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
mairtin@irishecho.com

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — There are Irish in Milwaukee?

That’s often the response from — admittedly ill-informed — East Coast Irish Americans when told the Milwaukee Irish Fes is the biggest in the nation.

But with 17 stages, 200 acts, 4,000 volunteers and over 130,000 visitors, the summer spectacle on a purpose-built fairground on the shores of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, really is the daddy of them all. And last week it celebrated 35 years a-growin’.

Not that the Midwest Irish haven’t much else to crow about: the city is also home to the biggest hurling club in America while the Irish American Cultural and Heritage Center boasts one of the most impressive Irish-American archives in the country.

Performers and exhibitors at Irish Fest say the stunning success of Irish Fest is down to the famed hospitality of its hosts.

NYU professor and musician Mick Moloney — who has attended all 35 fests — reckons no other Irish festival in the U.S. treats its performers with the same respect and care as the Milwaukee Irish Fest. Evidence of that? Look no further than the hotel where the musicians are accommodated – the Hyatt downtown, regarded as Milwaukee’s finest.

Among the revered musicians hosted at the Hyatt this year were Chieftains fluter Matt Molloy, famed guitarist Artie McGlynn and vocalist John Carty as well as Novia Scotia ambassador and singer Brian Doherty — who doubles as Ireland’s Honorary Consul General in the Canadian province. Doherty told the Irish Echo: “Milwaukee Irish Fest is the biggest and best organized ‎Irish Festival in America and includes all the various performance components that make up the mosaic of Irish culture. I’m delighted to be involved.”

Kevin Gamble, director of the West Belfast festival, Féile an Phobail, has been attending Irish Fest for the past four years. “Nothing comes close in terms of engaging with Irish Americans we want to bring to Belfast for our August féile,” he said, “and we have unlimited potential in terms of forging partnerships with Irish American groups in the Midwest. For us, it’s the crossroads of Irish America and a must-attend event.”

Colleen Kennedy, powerhouse behind guest relations for the Milwaukee Irish Fest, isn’t one for resting on her laurels. She’s already planning ways to attract new exhibitors from Ireland for the 2016 celebrations.

And Executive Director Patrick Boyle said this year’s “world-class international line-up” proved a sensation.

“In 2016, festival-goers can expect to see an expansion of the Celtic Kitchen to feature the wonderful, gourmet food of the region, as well as a special cultural focus to commemorate the events of 1916 in Ireland,” he said.

You can find details on the Milwaukee Irish Fest at their website.

Top cop ‘naïve’: security sources

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

 

By Irish Echo Staff

 

 

Out of his depth? PSNI Detective Supt. Kevin Geddes

Out of his depth? PSNI Detective Supt. Kevin Geddes

 

 

A PSNI detective who has been branded “naive” and “out of his depth” after he made contradictory claims about IRA involvement in the Belfast murder of Kevin McGuigan is being blamed for crashing the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Detective Supt. Kevin Geddes told reporters Thursday that “former members of the Provisional IRA” were involved in the gunning to death of McGuigan who had been linked to the murder of ex-IRA leader Gerard “Jock” Davison in May.

But in the same press conference, the mid-level cop said “a major line of inquiry for this investigation is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder.”

Cue outrage from unionist politicians and demands for Sinn Féin to be kicked out of the already floundering Stormont Executive.

This despite repeated calls by Sinn Féin for the public to help the PSNI bring to justice those behind both recent murders and public condemnation by Martin McGuinness of the gang posing as Action Against Drugs, which is believed to have targeted former IRA member McGuigan.

But this morning security sources in Belfast were briefing that Detective Supt. Geddes, a Scot, was “out of his depth” and “naïve.” “There’s no one who believes that the IRA is still a functioning armed group overseeing attacks or ordering killings,” said one source. “Geddes went off the reservation when he made that claim. However, when he said former IRA members were involved with Action Against Drugs, alongside dissident republicans and established criminals, he was on the money.”

As unionists lined up to lambast Sinn Féin and demand their removal from the Northern Ireland Executive, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly was unequivocal in rejecting any republican link to the murder of McGuigan. Describing the PSNI comments as “contradictory,” Kelly said, “The IRA has gone, it has left the stage, it made a statement in July 2005, saying it was gone. In his statement Detective Supt. Geddes said that AAD, Action Against Drugs, was the organization he believed was involved. I am a republican. I am saying this is a criminal gang. I think I may have the credibility to be able to know the difference.”

 

Guilfoyle, O’Leary’s CD is sure to delight

POSTED ON August 21st  - POSTED IN Arts, Arts & Leisure, Editorial, News

CDCover

By Daniel Neely

If it’s late August it means the Fleadh is over and congratulations are in order! Earlier in the month, Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann branches from the world over sent representatives to Sligo for the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the world’s largest traditional music festival and once again folks from North America made an extraordinary show of it in the various competitions.

Indeed, everyone who went over to compete deserves respect and admiration, however the following bunch stood out to Fleadh judges: Jake James (1st, Fiddle 15-18; Mulligan-Quinn), Brianna Brown (1st, Concertina under 12; Saint Louis Irish Arts), Eimear Arkins (2nd, Fiddle Slow Airs over 18 & 1st, Lilting, over 18; Saint Louis Irish Arts), Finbar Kantor (3rd, Fiddle Slow Airs over 18; Martin Mulvihill), Patrick Shields (3rd, Uilleann Pipes Slow Airs over 18; Mulligan-Quinn), John Paul Wick, Seamus Wick (3rd, Duets 15-18; Mike Rafferty-Joe Madden), John Paul Wick, Seamus Wick, Tim Clauss (2nd, Trios 15-18; Mike Rafferty-Joe Madden) Jim O’Dowd (2nd, Newly Composed Song any age; Mike Rafferty-Joe Madden), and Maura Mulligan (3rd, Sean Nós dance over 18; Úll Mór). Congrats to everyone! Fair play.

On the sound system this week is Bryan O’Leary (accordion) and Colm Guilfoyle’s (flute) new album “Where The Bog Is.” Taking its title from a quip Padraig O’Keeffe once made about the location of his own townland, “Where The Bog Is” contains 16 tracks of truly excellent Sliabh Luachra music.

Sliabh Luachra music is one of those deeply local styles that has an intense and dedicated following of fans. This album will be sure to delight, as it shows a born-in sense of the music, as both players from the region (Guilfoyle from Kilcummin and O’Leary from Tureencahill) and born to musical families. Not only did Guilfoyle’s mother and aunts all play, he learned also from local players like Padraig Buckley and Stephen Carroll. O’Leary, who was TG4’s young traditional musician of the year for 2014, is the grandson of the legendary Sliabh Luachra accordionist Johnny O’Leary and studied with the likes of Henry Cronin and Nicky McAuliffe.

Both, are outstanding players. Guilfoyle and O’Leary are gifted with impeccable melodic phrasing, but what’s really interesting is how well the two articulate with each other: their ability to play unflinchingly on the same page contributes to their easy musical flow and conveys a warmth that makes the album special.

It being an album of Sliabh Luachra music, polkas and slides figure prominently and they’re all great. There are three sets of absolutely cracking slides, but the first “Where the Bog Is / Dan Jermiah’s” perhaps the most interesting of the three. Not only are they both lovely tunes, but they’re both fairly rare as well, the first coming from a Padraig O’Keeffe manuscript and the second from one of O’Keeffe’s students.

Several good polkas to write about here. O’Leary opens “Johnny Cope / …” brilliantly and all by himself, with Guilfoyle and guitarist Gearoid O’ Duininn falling in later on and adding a good gallop; “Paddy Cronin’s /…” is very nice as well. However, “John Clifford’s /…” is the one that I’m perhaps most strongly drawn to – they’re great tunes, and Guilfoyle’s tone and playing here are outstanding.

The album also sports a pair of really cool barndances, “Thadelo’s 1 & 2.” Both bounce along as barndances should, but there are some really lovely melodic touches in the second tune that set this track apart. I also really like the reel set “Billly McCormick’s/ …” quite a bit. There, Guilfoyle and O’Leary are joined by Mikie O’Gorman (fiddle), Ciarán O’Sullivan’s (banjo), and Michael O’Connor (guitar), who add a bit of power and a nice depth of sound. O’Sullivan, in particular, gives this track a particularly interesting and attractive drive, I feel.

There is one song on this album, the standout “Sweet Kingwilliamstown,” rendered by the great Brendan Begley. The performance is lovely: Begley’s voice is full of sweetness and the musical accompaniment Guilfoyle, O’Leary and Jack Talty (piano) provides adds just the right level of gravitas. Incidentally, the liner notes here do an impressive job in not just contextualizing the song within Sliabh Luachra practice, but they weave in a personal relationship to the song’s history that gives the song’s place on the album a fair bit of poignancy.

There is great youth in the music on this album, but it reflects the majesty of the old and intensely local Sliabh Luachra tradition. Guilfoyle and O’Leary have done excellent work to preserve this musical heritage in their own playing and have come up with a recording that I think documents this well. “Where The Bog Is” is a great album, one that fans of the Sliabh Luachra tradition should have. It will appeal to anyone who loves good music as well! Visit wherethebogis.bandcamp.com for more

Daniel Neely writes about traditional music each week in the Irish Echo.

Mayor shifts tone on NYC horse ban

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

 

 

Horse-carriage drivers’ spokesman Stephen Malone, left, with Council member Rafael L. Espinal Jr., who was announcing his opposition to the ban at City Hall last September. PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT

By Irish Echo Staff

Not so much a climb-down as a step back.

Whichever the case, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio clearly signaled yesterday that he has bigger priorities than pursuing the horse-carriage ban, a hitherto signature policy.

When asked by radio host Brian Lehrer why the ban has been stalled after 18 months in office, de Blasio indicated that the City Council was in the way.

“What I would say to every [ban] advocate is, you already have my vote; go get the votes in the City Council,” he said on the Lehrer show on WNYC. “Solidify the support in the City Council so we can make this change. That’s where people should put their energy.”

The message seemed obvious enough: de Blasio’s City Hall would not be doing any more arm-twisting on behalf of its own bill, which appears to have lost votes since it was introduced last year.

“The fact is, the industry has a lot of support in the City Council and among the populace,” de Blasio said. “Ultimately, you are going to see an end to the horse-carriage industry in the city. But we have to do this through the City Council, where there is a wide range of views.”

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University earlier this year showed that 63 percent of voters opposed the ban and 25 percent supported it. All three main newspapers – the New York Times, the Daily News and the New York Post — have editorialized in defense of a union-backed industry that has strong ties to the Irish and other immigrant communities.

“I think it’s a sign that he’s moving on,” Democratic political consultant George Arzt said to the Post. “I think politically most people understand that this is a losing battle on the one hand, and on the other that there are bigger issues to go after.”

Animal-rights activists, and business interests with a stake in the issue, strongly backed de Blasio’s mayoral campaign in 2013 and reportedly also spent $1 million in opposing Christine Quinn, considered at one time his chief rival for the Democratic nomination.

Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals New York told AM New York that the mayor’s change of tone was “frustrating” and “disappointing.”

Daniel Dromm, a Democratic councilman from Queens and the ban’s most prominent supporter on the City Council, said to the Times yesterday, “I don’t understand why the mayor made the comments that he made this morning.”

Meanwhile, Teamsters Joint Council 16, which represents the horse-carriage drivers, told the Echo it would not be making any official statement about the mayor’s radio interview for now.

 

Novel idea

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

Christine.jp

CAPTION [KINEALY BUSHNELL.JPG]

Christine Kinealy, right, with Quinnipiac University Vice-President for Public Affairs

Lynn Bushnell in the Irish Cultural Center of New England last week 

 

By Mairtin O Muilleoir

mairtin@irishecho.com

The horror of Ireland’s Great Hunger is to be told in graphic detail in a unique collaboration between Irish America’s leading authority on An Gorta Mór and a Boston artist brought together by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

Professor Christine Kinealy — author of the devastating indictment of British government policy in Ireland during An Gorta Mór, “This Great Calamity” — has teamed up with John Walsh to present the story of the worst humanitarian disaster of the 19th century in a captivating, modern form.

“The Bad Times,” due in shops in December, was inspired by a compeling painting in Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University which boasts the world’s most comprehensive collection of art relating to An Gorta Mór. Kinealy told the Irish Echo that the painting, which shows three young peasants in the period just before Black ’47, inspired the story she wrote bringing the three young people to life to accompany the images in “The Bad Times.”

Professor Kinealy, now director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac, where she has put together a program of lectures, conferences and courses complementing the Museum, says the graphic novel will bring the story of the Great Hunger to a new audience. “Hunger and famine are with us in the 21st Century and as such it’s very pertinent to young people today and I think a graphic novel is ideal. It’s a very powerful medium for speaking to a younger generation.”

Established Irish American artist John Walsh previously authored “Go Home Paddy,” a graphic novel about an Irish Emigrant’s struggle to survive in Famine-era Boston.

You can see a Quinnipiac University video about the graphic novel collaboration online and you can follow John Walsh on Twitter at @thickmick.

badtimes_art

Caption: An illustration by John Walsh from “The Bad Times.”

Fr. Parkes looks to broader horizons for Cristo Rey

POSTED ON August 13th  - POSTED IN News, News & Views

Cristo jpg
Fr. Joseph Parkes

By Irish Echo Staff
letters@irishecho.com

The Irish American president of Cristo Rey High School in Manhattan is looking east for the opportunity to export its groundbreaking network of high-achieving schools serving economically disadvantaged children.

But Fr. Joseph Parkes, son of Irish immigrants from counties Cavan and Fermanagh, says his next port of call will be Hong Kong rather than Ireland or Britain — despite the fact that he has visited both countries to share the success of the Cristo Rey model with educationalists.

At the thirty Cristo Rey schools across the U.S., children, usually hailing from low-income immigrant homes where English is not the first language, work for a company outside of school one day a week.

Corporations that have participated in the school/work scheme include Pfizer, American Express, JP Morgan and McKinsey.

“That’s the secret sauce,” Fr. Parkes told the Irish Echo this week.

“It gives them confidence, introduces them to another world and makes them hungry for success,” he said of his students.

As president of Cristo Rey in New York and a member of the national board, Fr. Parkes devotes much of his time to making the high-level contacts with Fortune 500 companies who will open their doors to Cristo Rey pupils — and pay the school for the privilege.

He also has a firm focus on fundraising. The Cristo Rey School in East Harlem alone has running costs of just over $5 million.

But ultimately, his primary concern is to ensure that Cristo Rey pupils graduate with a firm college place offer.

And in that endeavor, the college’s graduation rates speak for itself.

One hundred percent of seniors at Cristo Rey New York earned college acceptances.
“I have had the good fortune to be invited to Belfast and to Liverpool, England, to view the education system and explain the Cristo Rey approach,” says Fr. Parkes.

“But there has been no attempt to date to replicate the Cristo Rey model there.

“However, I’ve been invited to Hong Kong in November and, despite what you might think, there’s a lot of poverty there. It seems to me to be fertile ground for the Cristo Rey approach. I really think it’s time for us to go international.”

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