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Irish aid being pulled in many directions

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

Sherlock jpg (2)
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.

GOAL working in quake stricken Nepal

POSTED ON April 30th  - POSTED IN News

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GOAL’s Darren Hanniffy in Kathmandu

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Irish aid agency GOAL has joined relief agencies from around the world in the earthquake-devastated regions of Nepal.

GOAL teams on the ground in Nepal are rushing emergency supplies to some of the worst-affected regions around the capital, Kathmandu, following Saturday’s devastating earthquake, said a release from the agency which has offices in Dublin and New York.

With eighty to ninety percent of towns and villages destroyed in many of these remote areas, concern continues to rise for survivors who have yet to receive any form of humanitarian assistance, GOAL said.

“GOAL is now moving essential provisions such as emergency relief kits, shelter materials and hygiene kits into these areas as rapidly as possible,” said GOAL’s Emergency Coordinator, Darren Hanniffy who is in Nepal.

“These villages are extremely difficult to access and spread across a vast geographical landscape so logistics and distribution will be our biggest challenge. We are drawing on the assets of GOAL’s operation in India to circumnavigate the log-jam in Kathmandu by bringing supplies over the border from India and into these areas.

“We need to reach these people as quickly as possible. While the situation in Kathmandu remains extremely serious, people there are currently being reached with aid; the same cannot be said for those stranded in outlying villages.”

The death toll in Nepal now stands at more than 5,000, while more than 10,000 people have been injured. There are warnings that the number of deaths could rise to more than 10,000 once rescue teams reach remote regions.

The UN estimates that as many as eight million of Nepal’s 28 million people have had their lives disrupted by the earthquake. The 7.9-magnitute temblor, which struck less than 50 miles from Kathmandu has destroyed homes, temples and other buildings.

“The earthquake epicenter is in a densely populated area in Gandaki, near Pokhara. Major structures have collapsed and there are gaping cracks in roads. Hospitals are overwhelmed in this already impoverished nation,” said GOAL CEO Barry Andrews.

“This is the worst natural disaster to hit Nepal in 81 years,” he said.

Those who wish to donate to GOAL’s Nepal Earthquake relief effort can do so by visiting the GOAL website at www.goalglobal.org.

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.

Cycling the world for a cause

POSTED ON April 27th  - POSTED IN News

Breifne Earley
Breifne Earley stopped off in New York during his round the world cycle.

PHOTO: PETER MCDERMOTT

By Peter McDermott
pmcdermott@irishecho.com

Breifne Earley is not counting his chickens exactly, but, all going well, he will win the World Cycle Race toward the end of June in Greenwich, London. He started out from the same place on March 1 of last year with six others, all of who dropped out or were disqualified.

“I’m not an athlete, and I’m never going to be an athlete, but this will be a nice accolade,” he said.

By any measure, though, Earley, a native of the small village of Leitrim in County Leitrim, is already a winner. He successfully battled low-esteem and depression, which led him to the brink of suicide four and a half years ago, and now has an increasingly high profile as a campaigner on suicide prevention.

He is flying back to Ireland today, after completing the North American stages of the World Cycle Race, and begins the Cycle Against Suicide in Belfast, which goes north to Malin Head, then heads south to Mizen Head and turns back for the finish in Dublin. Along the way, Earley and other speakers will bring a message to young people: “It’s okay not to feel okay. And it’s more than okay to ask for help.”

“We’re encouraging people to talk about how they feel,” Earley said. And a more general message to all is: “Basically talk to people and listen to their response.”

Earley’s own personal crisis came to a head on the first weekend of October 2010. He had been struggling with depression for over two years. “My relationship with a very nice girl had broken up,” he said. “The only thing I ever talked about was my negative work environment. I was somebody that nobody wanted to be around. And I felt people would be better off without me.”

He contemplated ending his own life, but three things, he believes, combined to make him change course. The first was a text from an uncle who’d lost a child to leukemia, reminding him of the anniversary. “I remembered the devastation that that had caused,” he said. The second was an idea from a cousin from the other side of his family. He’d attended her wedding without a date the previous day and so she recommended he go to cookery classes. “It’s a great way to meet women,” she told him. And the third came to him alone in his Dublin apartment on the Sunday watching “The Bucket List,” starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. He vowed to write his own bucket list.

Earley, who is of medium height, weighed 277 pounds at the time. So top of his list was a plan to reduce to 210 pounds. He succeeded. “I’m 220 now, but the extra is muscle,” he said. The list also included: visit 10 countries, learn to swim, learn to cook and cycle 50 kilometers a week.

A singer, if a painfully shy one, in his childhood and youth, he undertook to participate in 10 public open-mic performances. Among the 10 sporting events he planned was a triathlon and a cycle around New Zealand. And he pledged to go on 50 dates and apply for 10 “dream jobs.”

He posted his plan on Facebook a week later, on Oct. 10 (10/10/2010), vowing to complete it by Nov. 11 the following year (11/11/2011).

“I was derided,” Earley said. It was if he’d suggested an absurd list of New Year’s resolutions in the wrong season.

After four or five weeks, he recalled, he began to feel positive effects. But he argued that every case is different. “I was lucky in that I didn’t need professional help,” said Earley, who has a computer science degree from Dublin City University.

And eventually people rallied, by, for instance, offering all sorts of free stuff, like swimming and cookery lessons. One hundred people were involved in helping him one way or another, he estimated.

As for the 50 dates – that was the item that inevitably got the most attention. He met people through online dating sites, agencies and friends’ recommendations. “The one rule was I wasn’t allowed to say no to anyone,” he said.

In six or seven instances, there was more than one date, and he is in contact still with a few of his new women friends.

He didn’t quite get his dream job, but he did find interesting work and was even head-hunted by a prominent media organization. He said he is now focused on a career in media.

Earley discovered that he wasn’t a natural at the triathlon or anything involving running, but he liked cycling. So the last part of his life “redesign,” the tour of New Zealand, was particularly enjoyable.

He cited New Zealand, Malaysia, India and parts of the United States as the highlights of his most recent travel adventure.

“I met people of all religions, colors and sexualities,” Earley said, reckoning an average of 25 people a day over 400 days. “That’s 10-12,000, and maybe I wouldn’t sit down with four of them for a pint.”

In New York, he was hosted by Irish Network USA and guided around the city by Gerry Flood, a friend of his father’s from Leitrim. The Bergen County resident is also deeply involved in charity work, as his American Special Children’s Pilgrimage Group travels to Lourdes annually.

“They link up there with groups from Ireland and the UK,” Earley said admiringly.

He added: “This year has been a great insight for me into how fundamentally good people are.”

For more information about Breifne Earley, visit www.pedaltheplanet.tv; www.facebook.com/pedaltheplanettv; He is also on Twitter @pedal_planet and Instagram @breifneearley.

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

liz-crowley
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.

Overseas Irish let down again says Daly

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

2/10/2008 Irish Financial Banking Crisis
Senator Mark Daly Photocall

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

The Irish government is “utterly failing” Irish citizens living abroad when it comes to voting rights, this according to Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Irish overseas and diaspora, Senator Mark Daly.
The diaspora will have not an opportunity to vote in the next election for Seanad Éireann, despite Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s promise of a “democratic revolution,” said Daly in a statement.
A working group set up by the government to examine the matter of Seanad voting rights last week recommended that Irish citizens in the North and overseas should have voting rights in Seanad elections.
The Working Group on Seanad Reform was chaired by former leader of the Seanad, and current chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Maurice Manning.
It was set up by Enda Kenny after the proposed abolition of the Seanad/Senate was rejected in a referendum vote. Kenny committed his government to implementing any reforms proposed.
“While there might be a desire to implement the proposals, given that votes for emigrants have been promised for a long time, the sheer logistics of what is involved would probably require a much longer run-in period,’’ the Irish Times, citing a government source, reported.
The seeming lack of urgency in moving towards Irish citizens in the North and overseas voting for a small number of Seanad seats was described as “another big disappointment for Irish citizens living abroad,” by Senator Daly.
“They should not be treated as second-class citizens and should be given a vote and a voice in the election of senators at the time of the next election. Unfortunately, this government has completely disenfranchised this group of people because reforms will not be enacted in time and instead will only apply to elections held after the next Seanad members are voted into office,” he said.
“Following the last general election the government committed to increasing the voice of the Irish diaspora. The Constitutional Convention, which Fianna Fáil was extremely supportive of and participated in, was tasked with examining the possibility of extending voting rights to the diaspora.
The convention decided in September 2013 voting rights should be extended to our diaspora. This was a strong a positive step forward because the members of the convention were drawn largely from the public themselves,” Daly said.
And he added: “In the French Senate there are twelve senators elected to represent French nationals living abroad. In an Irish context a reformed Irish Senate is one way to ensure that Irish citizens who live abroad and in the North have a voice in Leinster House.
“I am urging the government to expedite the reforms needed to secure voting rights for Irish citizens living overseas. Quite frankly they have been waiting long enough and the government should step up to the mark.
“Unfortunately this government has taken little or no action and shown little interest in progressing this. Fianna Fáil recognizes the important contribution our diaspora makes towards Irish life.
“In our reform proposal for Seanad Éireann, published in 2013, we committed to ensuring that the diaspora would be directly represented in Seanad Éireann. This would be an important first step to give our diaspora the recognition that they deserve.”
Sinn Féin spokesman on the diaspora, Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, was critical of the actual proposals from the working group.
He said the proposals for Irish citizens living abroad fell far short of what people wanted and deserved.
“The fact that it won’t even be delivered in time for the next Seanad election gives this the whiff of another Fine Gael/Labour pre-election promise which won’t be delivered upon,” Ó Clochartaigh said.

SEAL hero Michael now honored in Ireland

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

Murphy jpg
Michael Murphy

By Ray O’Hanlon
rohanlon@irishecho.com

Michael Murphy has been remembered on his homeland American shore.

His heroism in Afghanistan has been recorded in a book and a movie.

A U.S. Navy destroyer bearing his name sails proudly with the Pacific Fleet.
Now Michael Murphy’s name will have a permanent home in Ireland, specifically at a new post for U.S. military veterans in Kinsale, County Cork.

The post has come about as a result of American veterans living in Ireland, and there also being a number of Irish citizens who have served with the U.S. military.

It is being run by the recently formed Irish Veterans organization and the post, the group’s first, was over the weekend formally named in honor of Lieutenant Murphy.

Irish Veterans is open to anyone in Ireland who has served with overseas militaries but, not surprisingly, service in various branches of the the U.S. armed forces is especially prominent in the membership ranks.

Long Islander Murphy lost his life and won the Congressional Medal of Honor fighting in the Afghanistan war that directly followed the 9/11 attack on America.

It was in a 2005 firefight against the Taliban that Lt. Murphy exposed himself to enemy fire in an effort to secure fire support for his vastly outnumbered four-man team.

Two of Murphy’s comrades were also killed that day. One survived. Murphy’s men were all awarded the Navy Cross, thus making the unit the most decorated in the history of the SEALS.

In addition to his Medal of Honor, Murphy was also the recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Murphy was the first service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, and the first member of the U.S. Navy to receive the award since the Vietnam War.

The heroism displayed by Murphy and his comrades against overwhelming odds was portrayed in the movie “Lone Survivor.”

Irish veterans asked Murphy’s parents, Dan and Maureen, for permission to name the post after their son. Permission was readily granted and so, with a plaque to tell all who come and visit, the “Navy SEAL LT Michael P. Murphy Irish Veterans Post #1” has come into being.

“This became a big deal and the Navy, Naval Special Operations community, the American Embassy, and the Irish Navy, all became involved,” said Dan Murphy.

A contingent of crewmen from the USS Michael Murphy, the former commanding officer of the Arleigh Burke Class destroyer, Tom Shultz, other naval personnel and the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, were all expected at the dedication.

The dedication was yet another proud moment for the Murphy family.

“Michael was known as the ‘fiery Irishman from New York,’ said Dan.

The weekend’s events included an inaugural fundraising dinner for Irish Veterans that also benefited the Michael Murphy Foundation.

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