A Visit to the Irish
America Hall of Fame

Michael Dowling and Sean Connick, the CEO of the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience.

By Irish America Staff
March / April 2020

The Irish America Hall of Fame is fast becoming a travel destination in Ireland. The Hall of Fame is housed at the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience in New Ross, County Wexford. The ship, open for tours, is an exact replica of a sailing ship of that name that ferried thousands of Irish to America during the Great Hunger.

New Ross is also the port from which Patrick Kennedy set out for Boston in 1849. Though he died at 35 of cholera, leaving his wife Bridget Murphy the sole supporter of their four children (the couple’s two-year-old son, John, had also died of cholera), the family would prosper. Bridget started a small shop on the wharf on Boston Harbor, and her son P.J. left school early to help out. A smart young man, Patrick became a savvy businessman and a politician, setting the course for future generations. His great-grandson, named for the little boy who died, became the president of the United States. The Kennedy homestead is just outside the town of New Ross and is also well worth a visit.

The Dunbrody and the Hall of Fame are helping to revitalize the town of New Ross, as many of our inductees, as well as tourists to the southeast of Ireland, have made it a stopping point on their trips to Ireland. Michael Dowling, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017, recently visited and took a tour of the ship and the Hall of Fame, where his portrait hangs.

Michael’s own story is one of great achievement. Born and raised in Knockaderry, County Limerick, in a house without running water, Michael is the eldest of five children. He had to help support his family from an early age as his father was crippled with arthritis. His mother, though deaf, was a great reader, and inspired him to push further and achieve his dreams. He paid his tuition by working on the docks in New York during the summer holidays, and after graduating from University College Cork, he went on to earn a master’s degree from Fordham. Today he is the CEO of Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health system.

Michael was moved by his visit to the ship and the Hall of Fame, and encourages others to visit. 

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