Blog – Irish America Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 82361074 Astronaut Michael Collins on the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing Fri, 19 Jul 2019 22:32:12 +0000 Read more..]]> The most trusted designated driver of all time reflects on the ride 50 years after lift-off and offers wisdom to those who will be behind the wheel in years to come.


Today (July 20) marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the one where that Armstrong guy took “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” With Neil Armstrong having passed on nearly seven years ago to his next mission above and beyond, and Buzz Aldrin in the spotlight, saluting Congress at the 2019 State of the Union, we at Irish America turn our focus to the third man aboard Apollo 11, fellow Irish American Michael Collins, as the world remembers the spacecraft he successfully returned to Earth on July 24, 1969.

It was at the start of the term at Rice University in Houston, Texas, 1962, that then-President John F. Kennedy declared the United States would touch down on the Moon by the end of the decade. NASA was four years old, Michael Collins and Patricia Mary Finnegan Collins had just celebrated their 5-year anniversary, and America had just celebrated her 186th birthday. The task was daunting, but the curiosity and excitement for space exploration had been bursting in Collins’ blood since he’d read the Buck Rogers comic strips.

Apollo 11 in orbit. (Photo: NASA)

The son of a U.S. army officer, Collins was born in Rome and groomed to serve his country. After graduating from West Point in 1952, he joined the air force and while accumulating flying hours at Edwards Air Base in California, he learned that NASA was searching for a new crew of astronauts. Collins started at NASA in 1963; after six years at the job, months of careful planning, and 400 hours in command-module simulation, Command Module Pilot Collins launched an eight-day mission that over half a billion pairs of eyes watched on television screens across the globe.

As the astronaut in charge of orbiting the Moon as his crew mates, Armstrong and Aldrin, collected samples and photographs, Collins spent nearly 24 hours alone in space – at times going hours without radio connection. The most crucial part of the mission was ensuring Aldrin and Armstrong connected back to the main spacecraft. When describing the steps that had to be taken in order to correctly execute the reunion of two vehicles in space, Collins writes in his book, “Against all instinct, one must apply thrust away from the direction of the target, drop down into a lower, faster orbit, and then transfer back up into the original orbit as precisely the right point in the catchup trajectory…” After successfully picking up the lunar explorers, complete with 48 pounds of moon rock and soil samples, the trio was on its way back to the familiar blue oceans, brown land, and white clouds of Mother Earth.
Upon successfully landing in the Pacific Ocean at 16:44 (4:44pm) local time, the crew was led into a quarantine that lasted 18 days. After that, the three most famous men in the world at the time embarked on an international tour that hit 28 cities in 25 countries over the course of just 38 days. While on tour, Collins realized the feat of Apollo 11 was much larger than the trio, NASA, and even the U.S., “I was amazed that everywhere we went, people would say, ‘we.’ ‘We did it.’ We, you and me – the inhabitants of this wonderful Earth – we did it.”

Interviewed July 14 on CBS Sunday Morning by Jeffrey Kluger, Collins said, “I hark back almost daily to John F. Kennedy. I felt that we were fulfilling, if successful, his mandate. And I was just thrilled to be a piece of the whole thing.”

1961 – JFK announcing to Congress his plan to have a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. (Photo: NASA)

Kluger asked Collins, “Do you at all regret not having closed that final 60 miles, and left Collins boot prints on the Moon?”

“No,” he replied. “I’d a liar or a fool if I said I had the best seat on Apollo 11. But I felt that I was an important part of it. When I was behind the Moon I later discovered I was being described as, oh, lonely, lonely, lonely. I was happy back there. I had my own little domain. And actually, going down and touching the Moon, eh, that was not high on my list.”

Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin converse with then-President Richard Nixon while onboard the U.S.S. Hornet’s mobile quarantine unit. (Photo: CBS)

Astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a space shuttle, talked about Collins’ feat in an email to Irish America, “Michael Collins had an extremely difficult job. He knew he would not have the opportunity to actually walk on the Moon, yet he supported the mission from lunar orbit. He was very focused on maintaining that the Apollo service module was in great shape, while orbiting the Moon, so it was ready to take the crew back home. He also had to be ready to react in an emergency. This took a very humble person. Also, obviously his intelligence and discipline made the mission a great success. I recommend people read his book, Carrying The Fire, written in 1974. It is one of the best books written on the Apollo moon program! I read it while I was an Air Force pilot, and found it very inspirational!”

In 2019 the book was re-released with an updated preface in which Collins reflects on the world he finds himself in now. His wife of 57 years, Patricia Mary Finnegan Collins, whose father was born in County Mayo, passed away just over five years ago.

Now a resident of Florida, Collins reflects on his twenty-plus years of retirement as “fun and fulfilling in many ways. Watching my family grow, all doing well, has been paramount, but beyond that come fishing, reading, chasing the stock market, and exercise, exercise, exercise.” As it just so happens, Collins still talks about space exploration with excitement and curiosity – expressing immense interest in future plans to explore Mars. He speaks of the investment from the private sector with enthusiasm, citing Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos as men who can make anything cheaper and faster may also be the people who can make reaching Mars a reality.

However, when reading Collins’ words, one can easily gather that his views on education are extremely near to his heart. He is an adamant supporter of well-rounded intelligence and continues to visit universities – MIT being his go-to. When it comes to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Collins believes that while imperative, it is not a complete education alone. He suggests adding English as a pillar to make the acronym STEEM, stressing that if proper knowledge on how to effectively deliver a message is never learned, it won’t matter what the equations express.

When asked the question on everyone’s mind – “How was the Moon?” – Collins reflects, “My primary recollection is not that of the Moon. It is of the Earth as seen from 230,000 miles out…it’s a fragile place and we need to do a better job of taking care of it.” The words were ripe beyond the year in which they were initially uttered and are reminiscent of a statement from JFK’s speech, mentioned earlier: “We meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hate and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.”

The countdown to the next world-breaking exploration may be closer than we think, but let us not forget the contributions from the past that have sketched the trajectory for the future – and may we learn from it. Irish America congratulates the achievements of Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, NASA and humankind on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s blast-off.  ♦

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This Man Is the Future of Medicine Fri, 21 Jun 2019 18:10:11 +0000 Read more..]]> Award-winning neurosurgeon, immunologist, and inventor Dr. Kevin Tracey will give the keynote address at Irish America’s annual Healthcare / Life Sciences 50 dinner on September 12 at the Metropolitan Club in New York City.


Irish America magazine will host award-winning neurosurgeon and immunologist Dr. Kevin Tracey, an explorer on the frontier of a new, hybrid field – bioelectronic medicine.

Dr. Tracey, who is the president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, launched a new field of bioelectronic medicine that uses device technology to control cell behavior using electrical signals that prompt nerves to stop inflammation.

Understanding the body-brain connection and how they signal each other is the future of medicine, and Dr. Tracey’s spectacular discoveries have huge potential for new drug-free approaches such as pinpointing the vagus nerve as the signaling agent between the body and the mind.

200,000 years after the anatomic evolution of man, Tracey may know more than anyone ever has about the marvelous machine known as the human body. How and why? Let the man explain. “We have long known that the nervous system communicates with the body. We can now learn the language by which it communicates, which enables us to fine tune how we help the body heal itself.”

Join Irish America magazine in celebrating Dr. Tracey’s work, and take advantage of this amazing opportunity to hear him speak at the annual gala dinner honoring the best Irish-born and Irish-American leaders in Health Care and Life Sciences. For more information, contact or click here.

This year’s honorees include such extraordinary individuals as Dr. Barbara Murphy, chair of the Department of Medicine for the Mount Sinai Health System; Dr. Thomas J. Lynch, chief scientific officer and executive vice president at Bristol Meyers-Squibb; Gavin Corcoran, executive vice president of research and development at Axovant; Dr. Patricia Broderick, known as “the Dynamite Stick” for her unflagging determination, and as the creator of the Broderick Probe; and Nobel Prize-winner Dr. William Campbell, creator of Mectizan, a medication that defeats parasites causing river blindness.

You too can be involved in the honoree selection – send in your nominations for consideration to

The Feinstein Institute is the research branch of Northwell Health, comprised of 50 research labs and 4,000 staff members. The institute has conducted 2,500 clinical trials and filed more than 230 patents, and publishes 1,300 research papers per year under Dr. Tracey’s leadership.

Last year our keynote speaker was Mike Mahoney, chairman and CEO of medical device firm Boston Scientific. You can view his speech here, as well as read a more in-depth synopsis of the event here.

See the 2018 Healthcare / Life Sciences 50 list of honorees here♦

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Fathers of Influence Fri, 14 Jun 2019 22:00:16 +0000 Read more..]]> In honor of Father’s Day, a collection of remembrances from Irish and Irish-American daughters on their fathers, many of which came from Irish America interviews.


Eileen Murray, co-chair of Bridgewater Associates


“My dad was in WWII, and Korea. He wanted to go to Vietnam, but did not. He felt that when the country needed you, you better stand up and go serve it, and he was heartbroken by what happened in WWII to people in the concentration camps. He never really talked about it at all to me, but I think war impacts young people. He earned two purple hearts, two bronze stars, and one silver star. My dad was a great guy. He was a very, very well-read man, and he was a doer.”

– Interview by Patricia Harty, September / October 2018

Eileen Collins, the first female pilot and first female commander of a space shuttle


“When I was a child, my dad would take us to the airport or the glider port. We’d sit on the hood of the car and we would watch these gliders take off. And even at summer camp and all through the summer I watched these gliders fly overhead and I thought, ‘I’d really like to do that someday.’” 

– From her remarks upon being inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2016

Fionnula Flanagan, Broadway star

“My father would latch on to impossible schemes. I remember him going to the GPO one night with his last ten shillings, actually, my mother’s last ten shillings, so he could send a telegram – this was after the Nasser coup – to some Egyptian Army man he had met saying, ‘We are in solidarity with you. It was signed: The secretary of the Irish Egyptian Friendship Society. My mother asked, ‘What is the I/E Friendship Society?’ and he said, ‘We are.'”

Edna O’Brien, Author

“My father wasn’t a tender man because of his own childhood. He was made an orphan when he was very young and he was brought up by other people. He had this rage in him. He had this uncontainable anger.”

– Interview IA November 1986

Rose Kennedy, daughter of Boston mayor John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald

Rose as a child with her father.

“I had a wonderful youth; my father gave me the stimulation of travel [and] zest – curiosity and interest and enthusiasm for life.”

– From her memoir Times to Remember, 1974. Rose Kennedy was the wife of businessman and U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain Joseph P. Kennedy and mother of nine children, including President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy. 

Eileen McDonnell, chairman and CEO of Penn Mutual


My father taught me early on that God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason, to listen twice as much as you speak. We used to call him “the Quiet Man,” like the movie. He was a quiet, good listener, but when he spoke, he spoke profoundly.”

– Interview by Patricia Harty, January / February 2019

Kathleen LynchCOO for UBS Americas and Wealth Management Americas.

“My father used to critique my writing and tear my essays apart, which is kind of funny because one of my early jobs was as a speechwriter. I remember I was studying for the LSAT, and he said ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘Well, I thought I would be a lawyer.’ He’s like, ‘Don’t be a lawyer. You want to go work on Wall Street!’ So I went to Bucknell University and got my degree in business, and I interviewed with Merrill Lynch, and you know, I haven’t looked back.

– Interview by Patricia Harty, October / November 2014

Sheila Hartnett-Devlin, Director Mannington Mills Inc.

“One of the things that I think makes me pretty good at what I do is a love of reading, and I know that came from my father because he used to read to us every night when he came home from work and go through our homework with us.”

– Interview by Sarah Buscher, 2000. Devlin was executive VP and chair of global investment at Fiduciary Trust Intl. at the time of the interview.

Anjelica Huston, Actress

“He loved it because it was wild – and because he loved horses. He loved to hunt. He liked the people. He liked untamed places. And Ireland had a good deal of that. There was something sort of untamable about the earth itself. And he was an adventurer. He liked places that weren’t normal and compact. I always have this image of him on a horse galloping around the countryside.”

– Actress Anjelica Huston on her father, director John Huston’s attraction to Ireland. (IA interview 1991). Anjelica was two when the family first moved to Ireland.

Patricia Harty, Irish America Editor-in-Chief


“I adored my father. He was by no means perfect. He was witty. He told a good story. Enjoyed a few drinks. Loved his horses. And his peace and quiet, and somehow he managed to keep us all in check without raising his voice.

He loved to walk the marshy fields of the part of the farm called Toorianne with its streams and bog cotton and wild strawberries. Coming back from one of those walks, I remember him telling me, as if he’d been touched by magic, that he’d heard the curlew (now nearly extinct). He believed in, or at least made us believe in ghosts and the banshee, and gates that would never stay shut. He liked good clothes and his shoes well-polished, not by himself, of course. He had a good voice and was disappointed that we were ‘all tone deaf like your mother.’ But most of all he was kind. He would pile whatever kids needed a lift home from school into the car, and as one of them, now a mother herself, recently told me, he never differentiated between his own and the other kids – it was penny bars all round.”

Rosemary Rogers, Author

Picture taken by the New York Daily News for its pictorial series called The Correct Thing, the subject line for this particular segment being “tipping bartenders.”

“My father, Michael Rogers, born in 1900 (or 1903, accounts vary) grew up in County Longford. Needed on the farm he left school, forever, after age 10 and left Ireland, forever, in 1926. The farm boy with the thick brogue managed to land a job at the  swanky, showbizzy Astor Bar and kept it for over 35 years. In his spare time he memorized hundreds of poems and oddly, excerpts from the Almanac; he finally finished his education by taking his daughters — every Saturday — to all the museums and libraries New York had to offer.”

Maggie Holland, Irish America Assistant Editor & Social Media Coordinator

My dad and I at an Atlético Madrid game.

“My bedtime stories weren’t fairytales about princesses in faraway lands; they were my dad’s tales of growing up one of seven kids in the foggy lands of San Francisco’s Sunset District. I didn’t beg him to tell the one where Rapunzel lets down her hair, but the one where his brother Johnny got up at 11pm to use the bathroom and my dad thought it was morning, not taken aback by the darkness because his route began at 4 or 5, so he started his paper route, couldn’t find the newspapers on the corner, looked all over the neighborhood, and got locked out of the house. “Tell the underwear story!” I’d plead (named because Johnny eventually opened the door in his underwear). His stories quickly became canonical, and he never got to say the punch line alone.

In fact, the only time I was allowed to swear as a kid was shouting the line of Frank Garcia, my dad’s boss at the butcher shop where he worked through high school and college, after my 16-year-old father forgot to shut the meat fridge the night before: “HEY PUNKASS!!!”

“Mags, most of life is looking forward to things, and then sharing stories about it afterwards,” my dad told me last summer as I drove him to the American Bull to see an old friend and tell him about my brother’s wedding. “Now, should I start with how Pat lost his vows?” ”

Mary Gallagher, Irish America Assistant Editor / Sales, Event, & Advertising Coordinator

“My dad always has a joke at the ready (even when no one wants to hear it), and no one laughs harder at him than he does. He gives pats on the back that make you wince with pride for earning them – and for living through them.

He’s also one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever known, supporting us for years on 12-hour night shifts driving city work trains with very little complaint. An instinct for humor, the thickest of skins, and a dogged attitude that things have been and could always be worse – gifts from our Mayo and Donegal forebears – shine through in the broad tower of fortitude and strength that is my father. 

His enthusiasm for us and everything he loves knows no bounds, especially where his faith is concerned, and I hope to be able to say at the end of my life that I lived even part of it as joyously and as gratefully as Frank Gallagher lives his every day.”

Anne Sweeney, Former President of Disney-ABC Television Group

Anne Sweeney’s father, Donald.


“My father’s family, the Sweeneys, are from a village in County Mayo. My mother’s family, the O’Connells from County Kerry, and her father’s family, the Tormays, emigrated from a thatched cottage in Kells, County Meath. My widowed great-great-grandmother put three of her nine children on a boat to America to live with relatives in Pennsylvania. My great-grandfather, Hugh Tormay, was just thirteen when he made that trip, leading his six-year-old brother and his four-year-old sister into the unknown. When I thought about how much courage it took for those kids and the incredible sacrifice their mother made to give them an opportunity for a better life, I realized it wasn’t unique to our family. It was just one of the countless stories of Irish immigration to the new world. Hugh Tormay and his siblings were just three of more than one million people who left Ireland during the mid-nineteenth century. And Ireland’s economic downturns in the ’30s and the ’50s and the ’80s sent more people far from home.”

– Keynote remarks at the 2010 Business 100

Mary Higgins Clark, Author


“On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2011, as the parade goes up Fifth Avenue I will be thinking of the father who came over with five pounds in his pocket and who died when I was only eleven, the mother who encouraged my dreams of being a writer by treating every word I wrote as though it was scripted by the angels, the brothers I loved so dearly and lost so young, the Irish ancestors I never knew who sent their children to seek a better life knowing they might never see them again. They’ll all march with me.”

– Interview by Patricia Harty, February / March 2011

Mary Beth Keane, Author

“His physical strength was his currency, and when he wasn’t working he kept busy around the house. I’d go home on a given weekend to find he’d built a deck, or had cut down a dead tree and dug the giant root out of the ground. Once, because it needed to be moved, he crouched under an ancient piano and lifted it on his back while my mother shouted ‘Willie! You’ll kill yourself!’ My sisters and I clapped and cheered.”

– From her article in Irish America entitled “Parkinson’s Disease: My Father’s Strength,” August / September 2014.  

Marian Fairweather, Irish America Art Director

<em>Marian Fairweather and her father, Joseph W. Hall.</em>

Marian Fairweather and her father, Joseph W. Hall.

“Every Sunday my father would spend the morning making homemade bread. It was a recipe he got from his Irish mother, Mary Coneely Hall. Dad said she learned it from her mother and he was carrying on the tradition. It gives me such happy memories remembering the whole house smelling wonderful and the butter melting on the warm slice right out of the oven. When my grandmother passed away he made a batch and brought a loaf as an offering during her funeral mass.” ♦

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Rolling Thunder’s Last Ride Fri, 24 May 2019 19:04:29 +0000 Read more..]]>  

“America will never be destroyed from the outside.
If we falter and lose our freedoms,
it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

– Abraham Lincoln (quote on the home page of Rolling Thunder’s website)


The Rolling Thunder “Ride for Freedom” will ride through D.C. one last time on Sunday, May 26.

After 31 straight years Artie Muller, founder and executive director of the “Ride For Freedom,” said that this week’s Sunday ride will be the last.

Rolling Thunder Chapter 3, New York members (from left): Eugene Tebordo; Doug Finney, the president of Rolling Thunder Chapter 3, New York; an unidentified male; Andy Komonchak, executive director of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor; Felicia Moon; John Lovell; and Ken Gross.

Rolling Thunder, which annually draws hundreds of thousands of riders to the nation’s capitol over Memorial Day weekend, was founded in 1987 to pay homage to the nation’s veterans, and to lobby for full accountability for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action of all U.S. wars.

The first ride to the Vietnam War Memorial in 1987 was a small affair. The second year brought out 2,000 riders. In 2018, an estimated 500,000 motorcyclists took part.

Ken Gross, a Rolling Thunder biker who died two years ago on May 25, 2017, due to a head injury from a bad fall.

Artie Muller blamed rising costs – the Pentagon charges $50,000 for the morning’s use of its parking lots, and porta potties cost up to $200,000, and “He’s tired.” He told Steve Hendrix of the Washington Post that all the years of hassle that the group has received from Pentagon officials and Park Police has added up.

In a post on the Rolling Thunder website after last year’s ride, Muller, who served in the 4th U.S. Infantry Division in Vietnam, complained about the continued mismanagement of the annual demonstration by Pentagon officials and the D.C. Police.

Terry Elia, a magistrate in Highland, N.Y., passes Ken Gross’s flag to his partner, Robin Evanilista, after Ken’s death.

“Thirty-one years and these departments still continue to hassle our organization and supporters. Despite planning meetings, agreements and exorbitant permit fees, these D.C. agencies do everything they can to divert and complicate our event. They are taking away our constitutional right to demonstrate for the POW/MIA issue and veterans’ rights. The Pentagon officials now dictate our event corporate sponsors, not being allowed in the North Pentagon Parking Lot because they are too commercial. Our demonstration has always been peaceful, consisting of veterans, active military, and supporters. It is an asset to the Washington, D.C., economy, and I’ve been told by D.C. police that the crime rate goes down when our supporters are in town! [After] 31 years of hard work by the organization coordinating this demonstration each year, [we] wish that the Pentagon officials and park police could try to work with us, not against us!”

Muller has said that the intention now is to replace the D.C. gathering with smaller Memorial Day rides around the country.

Biker Charlie Alongi.

Many of Rolling Thunder’s members are veterans, but it’s not a requirement. What is required is the member’s involvement in raising funds for Rolling Thunder Charities, which helps U.S. Military troops and their families in needs of financial help.

There are 90 chapters across the country.

Biker John Lovell.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS: Irish America’s longtime photographer Kit DeFever, who took these photographs, got involved with Rolling Thunder through his work with Honor Flights Network, a non-profit organization created to honor America’s veterans for their sacrifices. The group flies veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials, and to attend the funerals of other veterans in Arlington National Cemetery, the United States military cemetery.

DeFever’s current project is photographing surviving veterans of World War II. It’s a project of some urgency. “We are losing hundreds of our World War II veterans every day,” he said in a phone conversation with Patricia Harty. “I’m glad to do what I can to make sure our heroes are remembered, and that their sacrifices are recorded.”  ♦

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Striking Gold – Transcontinental Railroad Turns 150 Fri, 10 May 2019 22:43:00 +0000 Read more..]]> Irish contributions to American history received a special recognition this week. The 150th anniversary of connecting the First Transcontinental Railroad was commemorated in a two-day celebration in Utah May 9 and 10 at Promontory Point, the state landmark where the Golden Spike connecting the track’s east and west branches was struck on May 10, 1869. The railroad was six years in the making, with the physical labor conducted largely by immigrants – Irishmen making up a hefty portion.

The Last Spike, Thomas Hill, 1881.

Irish Ambassador to the United States Dan Mulhall was a special guest at the commemoration, which honored specifically the manual workers that constructed the railway, with the Irish contribution numbering approximately 10,000 men. These laborers often risked life and limb in this back-breaking endeavor to advance American transportation, symbolically binding the nation even closer than before the horrific devastation of the Civil War, in which many of the Irish men had fought for the Union.

“Theirs was a magnificent contribution to the making of modern America,” said Ambassador Mulhall. “Those railroad workers were drawn from the six million Irish immigrants who crossed the Atlantic between 1840 and 1900, escaping from famine and seeking better lives for themselves and their families. They and their descendants became part of the fabric of modern America, but they never forgot their ancestral Irish homeland. Their achievements in America have been a perennial source of inspiration to the Ireland they left behind,” he said.

The Hibernian Society of Utah hosted a dinner for the occasion on Thursday evening, at which Ambassador Mulhall offered his remarks and honored the contributions and sacrifices made by the Irish and other workers, including Chinese immigrants, Native Americans, Mormons who had settled in the west, and African Americans in their first years of emancipation.

The ambassador toasted the laborers, whose efforts were a significant step in making a fiercely intimidating and dangerous land mass traversable, and brought the country closer together in both travel and communication, investing their personal ambitions in the foreign land where they had come to make them a reality.

Golden Spike, preserved at the California State Railroad Museum. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The iconic railway’s first spikes were driven in 1863 during the Civil War, and over the following six-year period, more than 2,000 miles of track was laid entirely by hand over rugged terrain, including the Sierra Nevada mountains. The iconic railway was constructed by two separate companies: the Union Pacific company moving west from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific company moving east from Sacramento to meet in the middle. The arduous labor earned an average of $3.00 / day for a single worker – an unfathomably low rate by today’s standards. But that certainly did not undercut the enthusiasm of each side – both groups worked tirelessly to beat each other’s record for track-laying.

The Central Pacific concocted a plan to lay 10 miles in a day. Eight Irish tracklayers put down 3,520 rails, while other workers laid 25,800 ties and drove 28,160 spikes in a single day: April 28, 1869. Less than two weeks later, at Promontory Summit, Utah, the golden spike was hammered into the final tie.  ♦

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Going Greener: Mary Robinson on Climate Change Fri, 05 Apr 2019 14:30:09 +0000 Read more..]]> Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson spoke frankly on her ideas for how Ireland should combat climate change on the inaugural episode of University College Cork’s podcast Plain Speaking, on March 27. In her discourse with program host Eoin Hahessy, Robinson covered a multitude of related issues facing Irish and global society, ranging from how to cut out the use of fossil fuels without destroying the livelihoods of workers in those industries to encouraging and making the most of activism in the younger generation of Irish citizens to reduce emissions and embrace alternative energy sources.

Robinson elaborated on the importance of Ireland being proactive in environmental protection. “Ireland is a small nation; we don’t have a huge industrial base, but we have to play our part,” she said. “Indeed, some of the small islands and the least developed countries are the most ambitious because they’re going to be the most affected by what happens elsewhere.”  ♦


Click here to hear the podcast in its entirety.

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Music and Merriment at Irish America’s 2019 Hall of Fame Fri, 22 Mar 2019 20:29:41 +0000 Read more..]]> On Thursday, March 14, hundreds gathered in the Cotillion Room of the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan for Irish America magazine’s 10th annual Hall of Fame luncheon. This year’s inductees were lawyer, public servant, and peacemaker John C. Dearie; broadcaster Adrian Flannelly; Academy Award-winning director Terry George; Irish Repertory Theatre founders Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly; Grammy Award-winning musician Arturo O’Farrill; and NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. Each inductee received a Waterford Crystal Lismore bowl.

The event began with a cocktail reception in the Regency Room, where the honorees and guests mingled and took photos with Irish America founders Patricia Harty and Niall O’Dowd.

At noon, the inductees and guests made their way into the adjoining Cotillion Room and were seated. Niall O’Dowd welcomed everyone and introduced Adrian Flannelly, host of The Adrian Flannelly Show, which has been on the air for the last 50 years. Flannelly acknowledged his cousin Brian O’Dwyer, the prominent lawyer, immigration lobbyist, and Grand Marshal of New York City’s 2019 St. Patrick’s Day parade, as well as other family members who were in attendance, and he thanked his wife, Aine Sheridan, saying she was “the person who actually made the radio show a success. She refuses to be associated with 50 years of broadcasting because she claims she wasn’t born at that time.

Adrian Flannelly speaks to the group gathered in the Cotillion Room for the 2019 Hall of Fame inductions.

He added: “What Irish America magazine brought to America is a miracle in itself, and trust me when I say that when Niall and Trish Harty arrived in this town here with even roaming out the concept of a glossy magazine, I thought to myself, ‘God, this is something I would absolutely love to be associated with.’ It’s terrific, and I’m very, very, very grateful and honored to get this award from what has brought Irish America up several notches to the top rung. Again, congratulations.”

Flannelly also congratulated fellow inductee John C. Dearie, who spent 25 years as his cohost of the radio program.

Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Irish America magazine Patricia Harty, who introduced NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. O’Neill expressed his great pride in being the grandson of four Irish emigrants. He recognized his mother, Helen, and prompted a round of applause for her raising seven kids. He joked, “Growing up, I was number four at a time when I wasn’t really sure if she knew what my name was, but that’s okay.”

“I certainly wouldn’t be standing up here if it wasn’t for the 54,000 men and women of the New York City Police Department,” said O’Neill, “and the thousands of people that have come before us. NYC was transformed, and it wasn’t transformed by magic.”

Harty then introduced a special guest, Grammy winner Judy Collins, who sang her song “Dreamers” followed by “Danny Boy.”

Following Collins, the next inductee to speak was Afro-Cuban jazz musician Arturo O’Farrill, who expressed his honor in being among the other inductees, saying, “I was deeply surprised to be informed of this induction. To find myself in the company of Commissioner O’Neill – not behind bars – Adrian Flannelly – not on the air – Ciarán O’Reilly, Charlotte Moore, and Terry George – and not in the audience! John C. Dearie and not in litigation is a huge surprise and an honor. Their achievements and accolades are the stuff of legend.”

He added: “We O’Farrills like the idea of being confusing. We like being many things: Irish, German, Mexican, Cuban, jazz, classical, Latin, New Yorker – but citizens of the world, as is the predilection of the Irish…I am grateful to immigrants and the vitality that they bring to the shores that they land on. I am thrilled to know that wherever we go we initiate dialogue and bring about change.” O’Farrill then played a one-of-a-kind rendition of “Danny Boy” on the grand piano.

Folk songstress Judy Collins poses with jazz musician and new inductee Arturo O’Farrill after each performed their own renditions of “Danny Boy.”

Harty invited everyone to enjoy their lunch as the main course was set. Later, as dessert was served, singer Niamh Hyland and guitarist Shu Nakamura performed “Fields of Gold.” Harty then introduced Consul General Ciarán Madden, who reflected, “Of all the things the Irish have brought to America – the music, the literature, the dance – the one that stands out above all, I think, is public service.”

The next inductees to speak were Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly, who together founded the Irish Repertory Theatre 30 years ago. “Most days,” said O’Reilly, “the glamor of running a theater company has to do with the minutiae of fixing a broken toilet or running out for lozenges for the actor who has gotten bronchitis, or getting on the phone to persuade an agent that his movie star client would become an even bigger star if he were to act at Irish Rep for no money. And then comes a day like today, when Irish America calls us and we get to put on a suit and tie and put on airs and come to the Pierre Hotel and mix with police commissioners and Academy and Grammy Award-winners.”

Moore then took to the microphone, saying, “If all life is a circle, this honor today is significant for me. My ancestors left County Wexford in another century, landed on these shores and made their way west to Kentucky and southern Illinois to work in the coal mines. They left with little in their pockets, but their blood was plush with heritage… It’s been a privilege to honor the heritage of a country that’s produced the finest playwrights in any language. The fact that my name will hang in the Hall of Fame in New Ross, County Wexford, is deeply meaningful to me.”

After that, O’Dowd introduced John C. Dearie, who called on Irish Americans to be more hands-on with Irish issues, saying, “What we need to do is get the CEOs and leaders in all the fields of cultures in our country – the Irish presence – to be more involved in not only the search for peace in Northern Ireland, but for the support of all of these other issues: immigration, the McGuinness Principles, the concern about Brexit and what it means for the Good Friday Agreement. That’s our challenge. Our challenge is to get activation and motivation.”

Finally, O’Dowd introduced Oscar-winning director of films such as Hotel Rwanda and In the Name of the Father, Terry George. “This room epitomizes America – Irish America,” said George, “what happened to me and what’s great about both our countries. Because gathered here is just the epitome of decency, hope, luck, and talent… This is the land of hope, the land of dreamers. I couldn’t even have dreamed the possibility of this. Clearly, my mother didn’t when she said I should get another job.”

Prominent director and new inductee Terry George shows off his trophy, which he told the group he planned to fill with fresh flowers every day.

He added: “I try to transmit the great sense of justice, humanism, passion, and caring that our nation has, to transmit that into literature and into a movement, that we can lay the foundation for generations to come to say that they can be great Irish Americans, that they can be great citizens of the world.”

Niamh Hyland and Shu Nakamura closed out the presentation, performing “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Inductees and guests finished their desserts and mingled more before departing, taking the newest issue of Irish America on their way out.

The Hall of Fame is located in Ireland aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross, County Wexford. Founded in 2010 in celebration of Irish America magazine’s 25th anniversary, the Irish America Hall of Fame honors the extraordinary achievements of Irish-American leaders, from their significant accomplishments and contributions to American society to the personal commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage and the betterment of Ireland.  ♦


For more information on our Hall of Fame and other events, contact Maggie Holland at or Mary Gallagher at

See slideshow below for more photos of the Hall of Fame!

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Announcing Irish America’s 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees Fri, 01 Feb 2019 19:50:58 +0000 Read more..]]> Irish America magazine, the leading national glossy publication of Irish interest in North America, will host its annual Hall of Fame Awards luncheon on Thursday, March 14, at the Pierre Hotel in New York City.


The Irish America Hall of Fame honors the extraordinary achievements of Irish-American leaders, from their significant accomplishments and contributions to American society to their personal commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage and the betterment of Ireland. The Irish America Hall of Fame exhibition is housed in New Ross, County Wexford, at the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience.

This year’s inductees are NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill; legendary radio host Adrian Flannelly; Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer Terry George; the two co-founders of the award-winning Irish Repertory Theatre Company, Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly; Grammy Award-winning Jazz musician Arturo O’Farrill and legendary lawyer and peacemaker John C. Dearie.

The event will feature a cocktail reception followed by a seated luncheon and induction ceremony presented by Irish America founders Patricia Harty and Niall O’Dowd. The Hall of Fame inductees will each give remarks, and there will be performances by Arturo O’Farrill as well as Niamh Hyland and Shu Nakamura.

Grammy Award-winning singer Judy Collins and Emmy Award-winning actress Fionnula Flanagan will be special guests.

Irish America’s Hall of Fame, preserved at the Dunbrody in New Ross.

About the Inductees

Throughout the Irish-American community, John C. Dearie is recognized for having organized four Irish American Presidential Forums during Presidential election years. A lawyer of note, John was elected ten times to the New York State Assembly, and served as a State Assemblyman, representing his home borough of the Bronx. During his tenure, John was Chairman of the Committee on Cities, Ways and Means Committee, Housing Committee and Aging Committee, and was the sponsor or co-sponsor of countless legislation.

James O’Neill is the 43rd Police Commissioner of New York City. A hands-on practitioner and dedicated police reformer, O’Neill was instrumental in developing the Neighborhood Policing strategy, which is renewing and recasting the NYPD’s patrol function to provide greater police and community interaction and collaboration. The program has now been implemented in all residential NYC precincts and is the largest, best-funded, and best-staffed community policing initiative ever undertaken in the United States.

Adrian Flannelly is a radio broadcaster and host of The Adrian Flannelly Show since 1969. The first Irish-American talk radio show, The Adrian Flannelly Show continually presents a lively mix of interviews, music, culture and heritage, national and international news, and commentary. Flannelly serves as the Irish Cultural Liaison for the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City, adjacent to the World Trade Center and World Financial Center. In 2000, the Irish government appointed Flannelly as its U.S. Representative on its Task Force on “Policy Towards Emigrants.” He was appointed Irish Cultural Liaison to New York City Hall under Mayors Edward Koch and Michael Bloomberg. March 17, 1997 was declared “Adrian Flannelly Day” in New York City by Mayor Giuliani.

Terry George is an Academy Award-winning director, screenwriter and producer known for films Hotel Rwanda, In the Name of the Father, and Some Mother’s Son, as well as the television show The District. Much of his film work involves The Troubles in Northern Ireland. In 2010, George wrote and directed the short film The Shore, while his daughter Oorlagh produced it. The film was shot over six days outside his home in County Down and won an Oscar in 2012. In July 2013 he was awarded an honorary degree from Queens University Belfast in recognition of his “exceptional services to film and drama.”

Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly co-founded the award-winning Irish Repertory Theatre in 1988 with a production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough of the Stars. Today it is still the only year-round theatre company in New York City devoted exclusively to bringing Irish and Irish-American works to the stage. More than 40,000 audience members annually attend its productions. Moore acts as artistic director of the Theatre and has directed at least half of its shows, while O’Reilly acts as producing director.

Arturo O’Farrill is a Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist, composer, and director of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. His professional career began at age 19 performing with the Carla Bley Band at Carnegie Hall and continued as a solo performer with a wide spectrum of artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Wynton Marsalis, and Harry Belafonte. The son of Latin Jazz musician, arranger, and bandleader Chico O’Farrill, Arturo has performed in the U.S., Europe, Russia, Australia, and South America in just the last few years. He travels to Cuba regularly as an informal Cultural Ambassador, working with Cuban musicians, dancers, and students, bringing local musicians from Cuba to the US and American musicians to Cuba.

Visitors’ first introduction to the Irish America Hall of Fame.

About Irish America

Since its inception in October 1985, Irish America has become a powerful vehicle for expression on a range of political, economic, social, and cultural themes that are of paramount importance to the Irish in the United States. It has helped re-establish the Irish ethnic identity in the U.S. (34.7 million according to the last U.S. census) and highlights the best political and business leaders, artists, writers, and community figures among the Irish in America.


For ticket information, click here.

For questions about the event, please contact Mary Gallagher at

For information on the Hall of Fame, click here.  ♦

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Celebrating thePast and Present Fri, 21 Dec 2018 20:26:30 +0000 Read more..]]> Niamh Hyland sang “Silent Night” in Irish, and a hush fell over the room – a splendid room with tall windows, looking out over Central Park.

So often at Irish events, music is the thread that holds it all together, acting as the link to the ancestors across the generations, and this occasion was no different.

It was December 12, and some 250 Irish and Irish Americans were gathered for the annual Business 100 luncheon honoring Irish and Irish-American executives.

It was a grand occasion that drew people from around the country; from California to St. Louis, from Philadelphia to Boston; and across the generations from fifth- to Irish-born, each honoree with his or her own memory of someone meaningful in their lives who had encouraged them to never give up on themselves.


The splendor of the Metropolitan Club, decked out in its Christmas finery, gave me pause. Earlier, as Niamh, from County Leitrim, and her guitarist, Shu Nakamura, who was born in Japan, did their pre-lunch sound check, I looked out the window of the ballroom.

From the height of the third floor, I could see over the horse and carriage drivers into the park. I was reminded that there was once a thriving village in Central Park called Seneca. Founded in 1825 by African Americans, the village flourished, and by the 1840s it included Irish and German immigrants.

The village midwife was Irish, a fact that struck a chord with me when I first read about Seneca in an article submitted to Irish America. I think of her helping to birth babies who would grow up to fight in the Civil War and travel beyond the confines of New York, building this great nation.

Alas, as with many Irish stories, there is a sad note. Seneca was destroyed, its villagers scattered to make way for Central Park.

I’ve heard the phrase “the great scattering” used in the context of the Irish diaspora, for indeed, we were scattered to the four corners of the world by conflict and starvation.

But, as with all great Irish gatherings, the focus on this occasion was celebrating life, and success, with a nod to past generations who helped make that success possible.

Eileen McDonnell, the chairman and CEO of life insurance giant Penn Mutual, gave an evocative keynote address that paid homage to her grandparents, all four of whom had immigrated from Ireland, and one of whom (her grandfather), was a musician from County Clare.

Her words reminded us that earlier generations, who made the journey across the ocean and across the land, to find work in mining camps and dig canals, didn’t have much in the way of material goods, but that they carried their music with them.

And on this grand occasion, Niamh’s soaring voice, paired with Shu’s guitar notes, provided a soulful connection to the ancestors. And, both being immigrants, they reminded us of our nation’s melting-pot heritage.

Beautiful.  ♦

For more on Niamh Hyland, including her new album, “Live to Love”, see:

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2018 Business 100 Luncheon Fri, 14 Dec 2018 21:54:31 +0000 Read more..]]> On Wednesday, December 12, Irish America magazine hosted its 33rd annual Business 100 awards luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. The best and brightest Irish-American business leaders, representing some of the nation’s top corporations, were honored, and Eileen McDonnell, the chairman & CEO of Penn Mutual, served as the keynote speaker.

Coming in from all over the country, and representing a range of generations from 4th- to Irish-born, the impressive group of honorees, 57 of whom were in attendance, included such notables as Don Colleran, chief sales officer at FedEx; Gerry Cuddy, the CEO of Beneficial Bank; John Saunders, the president and CEO of FleishmanHillard; and Kevin McManus, Andrew O’Flaherty and Ted Sullivan, all high-level executives at SAP.

The occasion was also an opportunity to highlight the women on the Business 100 list, who, like the keynote speaker Eileen McDonnell, have broken through the corporate glass ceiling. These included Audrey Hendley, the Irish-born president of American Express Travel, one of the largest multi-channel consumer travel agencies in the world; Michele Cusack, a first-generation Irish American who is Chief Financial Officer of Northwell, one of the largest health systems in the United States; and Julie Davis, a private wealth advisor at Goldman Sachs, who is 4th-generation. Julia credits her persistence and love for finance to the spirit of her grandfather, who taught her that you can never give up on yourself.

Paying tribute to the ancestors is an important part of Irish America’s events, and the co-founders of the magazine, now in its 34th year, Niall O’Dowd and Patricia Harty, emphasized this in their opening remarks.

“You help us honor our past and celebrate our future,” said Harty, welcoming “old friends and supporters, and the many new faces” to the luncheon. The Consul General of Ireland in New York, Ciarán Madden, also welcomed the honorees and focused his remarks on the special relationship between Ireland and America that goes back many generations.

The true highlight of the gathering was Eileen McDonnell’s touching keynote address.

McDonnell, who is the subject of the cover story in the January / February 2019 issue of Irish America magazine, paid homage to her four grandparents who emigrated from Ireland so that she could one day have a better life. She spoke of her father’s father, Terence McDonnell, who grew up on a dairy farm in the west of Ireland, but, upon arriving in New York City, had to reinvent himself. He went to work in a grocery store, and rose to become manager of an A&P store, and moonlighted as a bartender in Richmond Hill, Queens, setting an example of how “adaptability and relationship skills are transferable and oftentimes even more valuable than technical abilities,” as McDonnell recollected.

She also highlighted the accomplishments of the other honorees in the room, noting that they all have their own stories of brave ancestors who left everything behind so that their descendants could one day sit in that room.

“Great leaders recognize that success is based on the success of others, and that they are a part of something bigger than themselves,” said McDonnell.

She added, “Adaptability, strength in adversity, lifelong learning, a shared sense of belonging; while my grandparents never received recognition like we are witnessing here today, they certainly possessed many of the same characteristics that our Business 100 possess.”

“So,” she stated in closing, “a century after my grandparents arrived on these shores to become Americans, I stand here proud to call myself an Irish American and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the other honorees here today. Congratulations. Erin go bragh!”

McDonnell received a standing ovation. As did Niamh Hyland, from County Leitrim, who, accompanied by Sku Namamura on guitar, provided the entertainment.

Niamh sang “Fields of Gold” and “Isle of Hope – Isle of Tears” to kick off the program, and closed out the event with “Silent Night,” singing the chorus in Irish, and, as the final song of the day, “Wild Mountain Thyme,” with the audience gleefully joining in, singing, “Will ye go, Lassie, go!”

Beautiful. ♦

For the complete list of the 2018 Business 100, click here

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