April May 2005 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 22 Apr 2019 19:53:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Maureen O’Hara: The Queen of Technicolor https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/maureen-ohara-the-queen-of-technicolor/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/maureen-ohara-the-queen-of-technicolor/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:59:35 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30733 Read more..]]> 84, still fiery and wearing red, Maureen O’Hara stood before 700 guests at the Irish Film and Television Awards in Dublin last September as she accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award. Coupled with the publication of her autobiography ‘Tis Herself, Ms. O’Hara has had a good year. These remarkable achievements only make up a handful of what the screen beauty has accomplished in her long life, and are only a partial justification for Irish America to choose her as Irish American of the Year.

O’Hara, born FitzSimons, started acting at the precocious age of 6. The Dublin of O’Hara’s youth didn’t typically encourage their own to pursue the arts, but the FitzSimonses were different in this respect. Maureen’s father was a football player and her mother was an operatic contralto. Maureen’s remaining five siblings also pursued theatrical careers. Her brother, Charles FitzSimons, for instance, became executive director of the Producers Guild, and was responsible for the original Batman television series. At 14, Maureen joined the Abbey Players, where she was discovered by actor Charles Laughton, who took her to London and changed her name to O’Hara. It was there that she made her first movie, Jamaica Inn, with director Alfred Hitchcock, whom she classifies as a “charming, kind, gracious, wonderful man.”

O’Hara was revered for brawn, brains, and beauty. She was dubbed the “Queen of Technicolor” due to her shimmering red hair and hazel-green eyes, but she wanted to be more than just another pretty face.

“Hollywood would never allow my talent to triumph over my face,” she complained. In what was then a male-dominated industry, O’Hara withstood the advances and abuse of some of the most powerful men in Hollywood, including director John Ford. “We were the property of the studio, and we had to do what they told us to do,” she confessed of what it meant to work in entertainment in the ’40s and ’50s.

Ultimately, she was able to prove herself as an actress of considerable talent. On-screen, she was the one actress who could stand up to the machismo of Hollywood’s leading cowboys, most notably John Wayne. Off-stage, she could match wits with the likes of Errol Flynn and Rex Harrison.

More amazing than O’Hara’s ability to stand tall in such a world is her nonchalance about what it involved.

When asked if it was difficult to exist in an industry she classified as “absurdly masculine,” she responded, “I was accepted as a guy.” O’Hara’s strength was constantly tested. During the making of The Quiet Man, she ruptured a disc and had to have surgery. Even so, she was not to be dissuaded from performing her own stunts. “The only stunt I never did was ride,” she confessed.

But the brassy broad, who John Wayne dubbed “the greatest guy I ever knew,” didn’t limit her feistiness to her studio roles. In 1957, she filed a defamation suit against the tabloid Confidential for its libelous claim that she was seen getting frisky in a back seat of a theater.

The event marked the first time an actor won a suit against the tabloids. She set another precedent when she took out American citizenship but refused to cite British as her former allegiance because she was a citizen of Ireland. Her stand changed the naturalization process, and other Irish natives were soon able to identify themselves as such.

O’Hara also survived an abusive marriage with her second husband, Will Price, whom she eventually divorced. After Price, Maureen met and married aviation pioneer Charlie Blair, who flew the first land plane with passengers and mail non-stop from the United States to Shannon. During their marriage, Blair died in a plane crash. Maureen took over his company, Antilles Airboats, after being elected CEO and president, making her the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the United States. Maureen later sold the airline with permission of the shareholders. ♦

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First Word: The Best & The Brightest https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/first-word-the-best-the-brightest/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/first-word-the-best-the-brightest/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:58:26 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30730 Read more..]]> When we compiled our first Top 100 list in 1985, we did it to show that the Irish had not all vanished into the mainstream of American life but were still a viable ethnic group. Almost 20 years later, the Irish, despite their profound identification with American way of life, still hold a great appreciation for their Irish heritage.

Some of those honored in these pages are high profile Irish-Americans who are well-known in the entertainment field, or in politics, but as we look at the stories in this issue we see that the strength of the community comes from many different sources.

So many times the work of everyday heroes goes unnoticed, and so we made an effort to highlight the extraordinary contributions of some you might not have heard of, such as Jeanette and John Murphy who have adopted 23 children with Down Syndrome, and Grace Devaney, a nurse for the Irish relief organization Concern Worldwide who works in Sudan. By honoring these and others in community service, we applaud all of you who do your best to make the world a better place.

Every year we are struck anew by the diversity of the people who make our list, and the many wonderful stories that come our way. From quarterback Tom Brady to swimmer Kelly Crowley, who won a gold medal in the paralympics, the Irish are well-represented in sports. So too are they a force in the world of literature and media. From Jimmy Breslin, who has devoted his life to commentary, to Carol Higgins Clark who is following in her mother’s mystery writing footsteps, there are many writers on our list who make us proud.

There are those who made our list simply because they make us happy through their music, such as Kevin Burke, the Irish fiddle player, or through their acting ability, such as Brían O’Byrne, or playwright John Patrick Shanley, who brings such wonderful theater to the stage.

And there are many wonderful people on our list in the fields of medicine and education, who remind us what can be accomplished with courage and conviction.

We are proud to name Maureen O’Hara as our Irish American of the Year, not just for her many wonderful performances but because she remained true to her Irish roots and her feisty nature. She refused to put down “British” as her former nationality when she became an American citizen in 1946. (Ireland didn’t become a Republic and leave the British Commonwealth until 1949). Her stubborn resistance caused a change in the immigration proceedings, and shortly thereafter natives of Ireland were no longer identified as British in the naturalization process.

Extremely proud of her Irish heritage, Maureen served as grand marshal of the 1999 New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. As she walked up Fifth Avenue, the crowd called out “Mary Kate” to her after her role in The Quiet Man. When the film was made in 1952, Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Europe. “Ireland is now richer than America. For most of Ireland’s modern history, Irish people went to the richer country in America and sent remittances to poor relations back home. Now, we have U.S. companies in Ireland sending remittances in profit checks back home,” according to Dan McLaughlin, chief economist of Bank of Ireland.

It wasn’t always so, of course, and there are many on our list who helped Ireland through leaner times by supporting the arts, and education, and promoting peace in Northern Ireland.

In the following pages we offer you a glimpse of some of the brightest stars in the firmament of Irish America. As we celebrate being on top, let us remember the road we traveled and let us continue to point the way for others. ♦

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News From Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/news-from-ireland-3/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/news-from-ireland-3/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:57:17 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30736 Read more..]]> Setbacks Send Sinn Féin Reeling

Having been at the center of the peace process and made huge electoral gains north and south of the border, the year has begun disastrously for Sinn Féin. A series of unrelated events has put the party under intense scrutiny for its policy and attitude towards crime and paramilitary violence.

Public interest in the case of the so-called `Colombia Three’ simply evaporated when it was learned that three Irish Republicans facing long sentences for allegedly assisting left-wing FARC rebels in Colombia were no longer in custody. Their whereabouts are still unknown. The case had created an international headache for Sinn Féin, particularly in Washington, where the Bush Administration shows little enthusiasm for associates of FARC.

If the party needed to move on, much worse was to follow. Police investigations into criminal operations run by the IRA are underway and various discoveries have tainted Sinn Féin by association. Minister for Justice Michael McDowell, an outspoken adversary of Sinn Féin, accused its Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris TD (parliamentary deputy) of being members of the IRA Army Council. All three refute this allegation.

In December the peace process stalled on decommissioning and crime issues. Shortly afterwards the Northern Bank in Belfast was cleared out in a £27 million heist. Without presenting any evidence Hugh Orde, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), claimed the robbery was an IRA operation.

Relations between the Dublin government and Sinn Féin deteriorated when Taoiseach Bertie Ahem intimated that Sinn Féin leadership knew in advance about the raid. He added that IRA punishment beatings, held in check during negotiations, had since resumed in Belfast.

Adams and McGuinness reacted angrily to Ahern’s intimation that they knew anything about the IRA robbery. Sinn Féin might have been able to counter the PSNI but the brutal murder of Robert McCartney in a Belfast bar added significantly to their difficulties. McCartney, a father of two from a family of Sinn Féin supporters, was knifed to death following an argument with local IRA men. Witnesses were intimidated from giving evidence but sisters of the dead man have courageously spoken out to demand justice. The IRA denies involvement.

Days later a major money laundering operation was cracked open by the Criminal Assets Bureau. Some £2 million, possibly part of the Northern Bank haul, was recovered from a farmhouse in Cork. Significant amounts of cash were seized in other raids around the country with suspects arrested on charges of IRA membership. At the same time the Special Criminal Court in Dublin jailed five men for four years for IRA membership after being caught in possession of weapons, fake gardai uniforms and Sinn Féin promotional material.

Sinn Féin has tried to distance itself from IRA activity in general and these events in particular. However as we go to press, its response to so many charges of criminality has not satisfied political parties, north or south. Until the party’s stance on criminality and violence is credibly clarified, the peace process is bound to stay on hold for some time.

McAleese Makes Public Apology

President of Ireland Mary McAleese apologized to Ulster Unionists for remarks she made during a radio interview. Speaking on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, McAleese suggested that Nazis had cultivated hatred of Jews by promoting sectarianism at an early age.

She said the Nazis had given “to their children an irrational hatred of Jews in the same way that people in Northern Ireland transmitted to their children an irrational hatred, for example, of Catholics; in the same way that people give to their children an outrageous and irrational hatred of those who are of different color and all of those things.”

Her comments provoked outrage among Unionists, and the Orange Order canceled a scheduled meeting with McAleese. Realizing her faux pas the President attempted to make a full apology. “What I said I undoubtedly said clumsily,” she admitted. “I should have finished out the example…It was never my intention to simply blame one side of the community in Northern Ireland.” She accepted criticism that she should have referred to both Catholics and Protestants on the matter of sectarian prejudice. “That is what I should have done if my head had been screwed on properly and clearly I made a mistake for which I am desperately sorry.”

Burke Sent to Jail

Ray Burke, left, once a leading figure in the Fianna Féil party, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for tax offenses. The north Dublin politician, formerly a close associate of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, failed to make tax returns on undeclared income of more than 100,000 euros over a ten-year period from 1982-91.

Burke’s fall from grace began when he appeared before a state tribunal investigating illegal payments-to-politicians. He was found to have received a number of illicit payments, although prior to the tribunal he persistently denied any wrongdoing, even when he vehemently resigned his Dáil (Irish parliament) seat in October 1997.

The 61-year-old Dubliner held a number of key posts in government, including portfolios at the Departments of Finance and Foreign Affairs. In his circuit court ruling, Judge Desmond Hogan noted that Burke had been a legislator involved in passing the 1983 Finance Act “under whose provisions he is now prosecuted.”

The maximum sentence for tax offenses is five years. But Judge Hogan deemed a six-month verdict was sufficient. He indicated that Burke is now tax compliant, has already paid penalties to the Revenue Commissioners, and was reported to be in ill health. The first ex-government minister to be jailed on criminal charges, Burke was taken to Arbour Hill Prison. An application for the state to pay his tribunal legal costs was refused, leaving the once powerful politician owing fees in the region of 10 million euros.

Kenny Addresses Student Shortfall

James C. Kenny, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, spoke at several Irish universities to promote the J-1 summer visa program. J-1 was a traditional favorite for Irish students as it permitted visa holders to live and work legally in the U.S. for up to four months. However, a combination of factors has prompted a spectacular decline in numbers. USIT student travel agency in Dublin reported a drop in applications from 6,500 to 2,800 last year.

“By the end of the J-1 season [last year] we were pretty disappointed,” said Ambassador Kenny. “What we hope to do is get the numbers back up to where they were. I hope that we can make it easier and more welcoming for people to come experience [the U.S.] because I’m telling you it is a hugely important issue for us in America.”

Students cite a variety of reasons for turning away from the program.

Ireland’s improved economy means it is just as easy to find summer work at home. Other destinations, such as Australia and continental Europe, are also attracting students in greater numbers. Significantly, some students have opted out because of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because of stringent new security measures for applicants. J-1 students must have an interview at the U.S. embassy in Dublin (for which they are charged 100 euros) even though they are only applying for a summer visa. Mandatory fingerprinting at airports has discouraged others, while restrictions on final-year students also reduced the number.

As part of a recruitment drive, Ambassador Kenny conducted a series of seminars at leading third-level colleges in Dublin and Cork. The seminars were well attended, but the ambassador’s success in reversing such a strong decline will not be measurable until later this year.

Save the TARA-SKRYNE Valley

The Hill of Tara in Co. Meath, dates back over 5000 years to the Neolithic age and is acknowledged as the traditional seat of the High Kings of Ireland. However, its immeasurable importance seems lost on the Irish government which has approved a scheme to divide the Tara/Skryne valley with the M3 motorway. Members of the Save Tara/Skryne Valley Campaign, pictured above, are calling on the government to re-examine the decision. To sign a petition opposing the M3, log on to www.taraskryne.org

Possible End to Artists’ Tax Haven

A review of tax legislation for artists living in Ireland has been called for by an inter-party finance committee. Oireachtas committee chairman Sean Fleming highlighted figures from the Revenue Commissioners showing that 28 artists who earned 62 million euros between them in 2001 claimed tax exemption for that year.

Tax breaks were introduced by former Taoiseach (prime minister) Charles Haughey in an effort to assist artists on low incomes. Some 1,323 artists currently benefit from the scheme, the majority of whom exist on modest means. However, the finance committee suggests that the scheme is open to abuse when highly successful artists, such as rock stars or bestselling novelists, remain out of the tax net even when living as millionaires. “This must stop,” warned the chairman. Based on the committee’s recommendations, a cap will be placed on earnings, so that artists whose incomes exceed that limit will be subject to tax.

ESAT Young Scientist

Patrick Collison, pictured left, from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary was named the ESAT Young Scientist of the Year. Runner-up last year, the 16-year-old Collison, studying at Castletroy College, Limerick, developed CROMA, a new computer programming language particularly suited for use on the web. As part of his prize Collison will represent Ireland at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Moscow in September. Patrick’s younger brother, John, placed third in the junior section of the contest.

Irish Times to Move

The Irish Times is set to relocate from D’Olier Street in Dubin city center to a more modern eight-story glass building on nearby Tara Street. It will be a big change to the city’s landscape, as the Times has occupied its triangular brick premises since 1895. The newspaper moved its printing facility to Citywest on the outskirts of Dublin a couple of years ago. ♦

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News in Brief https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/news-in-brief-6/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/news-in-brief-6/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:56:17 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30738 Read more..]]> TAOISEACH Bertie Ahem led a 200-strong trade delegation to China in an effort to increase trade and develop investment opportunities between the two countries.

Contacts between Dublin and Beijing have increased significantly since 1998, and last year Chinese premier Wen Jiabao and vice-premier Huang Ju visited Ireland. Irish businesses foresee expanded opportunities in the steady market growth of China. Last year Ireland imported 2.3 billion euros worth of goods from China and exported goods worth 577 million euros. Most exports were from Irish-based multi-nationals, and the focus of this trade mission was to raise the export market for indigenous Irish companies…

CORK City illuminated the new year with a huge fireworks display to launch its program as European Capital of Culture. Organizers have planned a diverse range of activities, performances and exhibitions with a vast array of local, national and international attractions. To mark the accession of 12 new member states to the EU, organizers will dedicate each month to an accession state. Cork’s city center has been transformed under a massive 198-million euros investment scheme. Patrick Street and the quays along the River Lee have been extensively upgraded as part of preparations for what promises to be a very busy year in what locals call “the real capital”…

MALLOW, Co. Cork will soon operate the only sugar processing factory in the Republic of Ireland. Dr. Scan Brady, chief executive of Irish Sugar, announced that the Carlow town plant, the oldest sugar factory in the country, would cease production in March with the loss of over 300 jobs. The company took its decision on the basis of upcoming EU reforms which they predict will adversely affect sugar production in Ireland. However, critics say that the decision should have been deferred until those reforms were finalized.

The Carlow sugar plant has been in operation for almost 80 years…

MOUNT JOY Jail is set to close when a new prison is constructed north of Dublin by 2008. The government purchased a 150-acre site in Thorntown, on the outskirts of Ashbourne, Co. Meath for 30 million euros and plans to defray the cost of the transfer by selling land on which the old prison is built.

Mountjoy has been the subject of sustained criticism as an outdated Victorian facility creaking from inadequate facilities and overcrowding. There is speculation that the Central Mental Institution in Dundrum will also switch to the new facility. On heating of both projects, Thorntown residents were a little less enthusiastic…

COLM Murphy, the only person convicted in connection with the 1998 Omagh bombing, was released pending retrial after winning his case at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Dublin. The three-judge court upheld two legal challenges — possible contamination of gardai (police) evidence, and prejudice because of Murphy’s prior convictions — and ruled that his conviction for the Co. Tyrone bombing was “unsafe.” A date for retrial has yet to be set. Twenty-nine people, including a pregnant woman with unborn twins, were killed by the Omagh blast when the “Real IRA” detonated a bomb in the town center…

THE government’s digital research center in The Liberties area of Dublin suffered a blow when the prestigious MediaLab Europe announced it would close, with the loss of 50 jobs. MediaLab was set up five years ago in a partnership between the Irish government and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A company statement cited difficulty in attracting corporate sponsorship as the main reason for its failure. “MediaLab Europe was a risk that was worth taking but just didn’t work out,” said Noel Dempsey, Minister for Communications. The Digital Hub project is situated in The Liberties near the Guinness brewery at St. James. The Hub has attracted about 40 research companies and will now seek a replacement tenant for MediaLab…

BUNDORAN and Buncrana are short-listed as possible sites for a proposed aquarium in Co. Donegal. The County Council has plans to build a 6 million euros facility modeled on the successful Dingle Ocean World Centre in Co. Kerry. The Council conducted a feasibility study, which endorsed the plan’s profitability with a projected 100,000 visitors every year. ♦

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Oscars and Golden Globes https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/oscars-and-golden-globes/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/oscars-and-golden-globes/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:55:29 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30740 Read more..]]> The Hollywood award season is in full swing, and the Irish are making their usual strong showing. Up for an Academy Award for best screenplay is Hotel Rwanda, which also was up for a Globe as best drama. Rwanda, written by Terry George and Keir Pearson, and directed by George, is the story of a hotel owner who takes in over a thousand Tutsi refugees in their struggle against the Hutu militia. (See story page 34)

There were also multiple nominations for those of Irish ancestry in the Golden Globe Awards. Liam Neeson was nominated for best actor in a motion picture for his role in Kinsey. Neeson played the title role of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, a pioneer in the research of sexual behavior.

The consequences of sex is also the topic of British actress Imelda Staunton’s role in Vera Drake, for which she was nominated. Set in the mid 1950s, Drake grapples with the issue of unexpected pregnancies for the less fortunate in a difficult time.

Staunton traces her Irish roots to Mayo. Her parents emigrated to London from Bohola just before she was born.

The special effects and sound were a key part in the popular appeal of Spiderman 2, and Kevin O’Connell is certainly getting the respect he deserves. He is up for the Oscar in the sound mixing category for his work with the webbed wonder. O’Connell orchestrated the sound so that the Marvel superhero had an aura of omnipresence. The audience never knew where or when he would enter a scene, making for a thrilling viewing experience.

Valli O’Reilly also worked behind the scenes, and she is up for the Oscar for best makeup. Her work was on the new movie Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. This box office smash is based on the popular children’s books of the same name. Differing from usual Nickelodeon fare, the film is quite dark and depicts very gothic looks, which O’Reilly beautifully represented.

For costume design, Alexandra Byrne certainly made a name for herself, gamering an Oscar nomination for her work on Finding Neverland. This film depicted the story of J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. There were two major aspects Byrne had to incorporate. As well as the period costumes for Barrie, and the four small Davies boys with their widowed mother, she also had to design the plays within the movie. The film’s tagline is “Use Your Imagination,” and Byrne did just that. ♦

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Making the Universal Story https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/making-the-universal-story/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/making-the-universal-story/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:54:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30742 Read more..]]> Colum McCann’s writing is so intensely visual that adapting his work to the visual realm is a delicate task indeed. This year, Gary McKendry, a young director from Northern Ireland, succeeded in the task with help from Colum and several pints of Guinness at their favorite Irish pub. The pair have been so successful in their efforts that they have secured an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Short Film (Live Action).

The film, entitled Everything in This Country Must, is set in the hills of Northern Ireland. Outwardly, it is a story about a man and his horse. Inwardly, it deals with the emotional trials of those who inhabit the land as well as those who occupy it. Every aspect of the film — the setting, the music, the dialogue — possesses an understated beauty.

“For me, it was about not forcing the story, not forcing the judgement, not forcing the emotion or a point of view. I just wanted to tell the story,” McKendry said.

Both writer and director seem comfortable with the change in medium, accepting that the point of an adaptation isn’t to recreate the work word for word. “A book should only ever be a book,” Colum explained. “When you finish it, it’s done. Now make a f — king film.”

Though the duo hail from different ends of Ireland, they have a unity of vision. Mainly, neither feels it is their duty to judge the conflict, nor to make it a story exclusively about Ireland.

“There’s plenty of Irish making Irish films,” McKendry maintained. McCann concurred, “We wanted to make a film that said, `hey, there’s no answer here,’ We wanted to make a universal story about pain and dignity.”

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Irish Raise Funds for Tsunami Relief https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/irish-raise-funds-for-tsunami-relief/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/irish-raise-funds-for-tsunami-relief/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:53:22 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30744 Read more..]]> Two Irish nationals were listed among the dead in the massive toll from the December 26 tsunami in Far East Asia. The bodies of Eilis Finnegan, 27, from Dublin and Conor Keightley, 31, from Cookstown, Co. Tyrone were retrieved from the debris following the disaster. Several more Irish nationals are still missing, feared dead.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern visited Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka to personally assess the extent of destruction. Following his visit, the government raised its emergency aid for the region to 20 million euro.

That amount has been surpassed by donations from the Irish public during intensive fundraising effort across the country. Funds collected were distributed among various aid agencies with an emphasis on Irish charities like Trócaire, Concern, GOAL and the Irish Red Cross.

Here in the U.S., Irish-Americans raised money at various events throughout the country. In New York, The Irish Rep. put on an evening to benefit Concern, with Frank and Malachy McCourt, Susan McKeown, Brían F. O’Byrne, and various others performing. The Rambling House in the Bronx, meanwhile hosted a “Head Shaving” event to raise money for GOAL. Other events to benefit the victims of the tsunami included a concert by Black 47. ♦

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St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/st-patricks-day-celebrations-2/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/st-patricks-day-celebrations-2/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:52:54 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30748 Read more..]]> Chicagoeans will celebrate by dying the river green. In Boston, it’s a city holiday (officially it’s Evacuation Day). In New York City, Grand Marshal Denis Kelleher from County Kerry will lead the largest parade in the U.S. up Fifth Avenue, while Enterprise, Alabama, will host the smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world. On March 17, for the third year in a row, Patrick Donaghue will walk the block and a half from the Coffee County Courthouse to the Boll Weevil Monument and back, while holding the Irish flag over his head, and singing Irish songs.

Further north, the once important gold rush town, Nome, Alaska, celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with the Bering Sea Ice Golf Classic. On the third Saturday of March, a selection of the town’s 4,021 residents will hit the six-hole course on the frozen Bering Sea with bright orange golf balls. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which starts in Anchorage March 5, and ends in Nome 1,150 miles later, also has an Irish touch to its celebrations.

In Dublin, for the first time in its 75-year history, the parade will change direction. The traditional route from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Parnell Square has been reversed to accommodate photographers who in previous years had difficulty getting good photos because they were facing the sun. Meanwhile, in Belfast, Ireland’s second largest city, the City Council continues to deny funding for St. Patrick’s Day festivities, and it is only through the hard work of the community that celebrations take place. ♦

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Irish Eye on Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/irish-eye-on-hollywood-48/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/irish-eye-on-hollywood-48/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:51:11 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30751 Read more..]]> A recent New York Times article about the next installment of the Batman movie series was headlined “Batman Now Speaks With a British Accent.”

That may be true regarding Christian Bale, the hunky, Welsh-born star of Batman Begins, which hits theaters this summer. But if you listen closely you will also hear a lot of Irish accents around Bale.

First off, Dublin rising star Cillian Murphy gets a high-profile role in Batman Begins. Murphy, seen recently in the dark, brilliant Irish film Intermission (alongside Colin Farrell) as well as Girl With the Pearl Earring and Cold Mountain, will play the drug-dealing Dr. Jonathan Crane in Batman Begins. The role of Crane (also known as “The Scarecrow”) suggests that Murphy continues to be drawn to dark material, as he was last year when he starred alongside fellow Irish actor Brendan Gleeson in the zombie flick 28 Days Later.

Also look for Liam Neeson in Batman Begins. He will play Ducard, a mentor of sorts to Bruce Wayne, whose secret identity, of course, is Batman.

In fact, Neeson will have himself a busy summer, following his very busy Hollywood awards season. Neeson, of course, was nominated for a slew of Best Actor awards (including the Golden Globe) for his turn in Kinsey, the critically-acclaimed bio-pic about 1950s sex pioneer Alfred Kinsey.

Before Batman Begins hits theaters, Neeson will appear opposite Orlando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven. Directed by Hollywood top gun Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Thelma and Louise, Alien), Kingdom of Heaven is an action/adventure war epic set in the distant past and has quite an A-list cast including Neeson, Bloom, Jeremy Irons and Edward Norton. Kingdom of Heaven will also feature yet another turn by Irish supporting actor extraordinaire Brendan Gleeson, seen lately in Cold Mountain, Troy, The Village and Gangs of New York.

In March, meanwhile, Gleeson will appear alongside Samuel L. Jackson in the politically-tinged romantic drama In My Country. Directed by John Boorman (whose love for Ireland is evident in his work with Pierce Brosnan in The Tailor of Panama and Gleeson in The General), In My Country explores a love affair between Jackson (who plays a married Washington Post reporter) and Juliet Binoche, who plays a white South African journalist.

Another director who has done quite well recently exploring Irish material is the great Clint Eastwood. In the wake of his South Boston Irish-American tragedy Mystic River, Eastwood scored another knockout with Million Dollar Baby. The boxing flick (nominated for several Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture, Drama) explored the relationship between a female boxer (Hillary Swank) and her aging, Irish-American mentor (played by Eastwood, whose character occasionally lapsed into Gaelic). If you didn’t get a chance to see Million Dollar Baby in theaters, look for it soon on DVD.

Million Dollar Baby also featured a performance from rising star Brián F. O’Byrne, who is on his way to parlaying his Broadway success into big-screen stardom. But there is a sad side to the success of Million Dollar Baby. The film was based on the short stories of F.X. Toole, the son of an Irish immigrant who, for decades, worked the lower rungs of the fight game. He finally hit the literary big time after he turned 70. Unfortunately, he died just before the film hit the big screen. Million Dollar Baby is a lasting legacy to Toole’s great life and work.

Meanwhile, two Irish film stars recently made, um, interesting choices for their next projects.

First, there’s acclaimed director Jim Sheridan, whose last film In America, about Irish immigrants living in New York, earned three Oscar nominations. Sheridan is still busy working with his daughters trying to turn that movie into a TV show. But he is also planning another film, and this one takes him quite a way from the Irish experience in New York.

In Locked and Loaded, Sheridan will direct a story about African-Americans in the inner city struggling with guns and drugs. The star of the film knows a thing or two about run-ins with the law. Hot hip-hop star 50 Cent has signed onto the leading role. In the film, 50 Cent will play a drug dealer who tries to straighten his life out while pursuing a career in the music business.

Then there’s Irish actor Jonathan Rhys-Myers. Following up his success in the international hit Bend It Like Beckham, in which Rhys-Myers played the Irish coach of a British girls soccer club, the Dublin star will next play Elvis Presley in a TV mini-series.

Rhys-Myers was selected by producers of the Presley movie mainly because, well, the Irishman looks a lot like the famously Southern king of rock-n-roll. CBS executive producer Howard Braunstein was quoted as saying: “[Rhys-Myers] was the first person I’d ever thought of for the role. I watched Bend It Like Beckham, and when you see him, you just say `He is Elvis.'”

Presumably Rhys-Myers will have no trouble swapping his Irish brogue for a Southern twang.

Speaking of accents, actress Holly Hunter has become the latest victim of the famously difficult Irish accent.

Hunter, who won a Best Actress Oscar in 1993 for her role in The Piano, had to employ an Irish accent in her new West End London play By the Bog of Cats.

Well, critics responded by calling it one of the worst accents they’d ever heard.

Hunter claimed not to be bothered by the criticism.

She was quoted as saying: “I’m only interested in what me, my director and the cast can create on the stage — I never read reviews.”

Hunter joins a long list of Hollywood luminaries including Julia Roberts (Mary Reilly), Brad Pitt (The Devil’s Own) and Tom Cruise (Far and Away) who, um, struggled with the Irish accent.

Irish director Damien O’Donnell made a big splash with his 2000 debut East Is East, a semi-comic look at the trials and tribulations of assimilation in melting-pot London. In February, O’Donnell’s next movie is slated for release. The buzz is that Inside I’m Dancing is every bit as good as East Is East.

Last year, O’Donnell won the prestigious Standard Life Audience Award at Edinburgh International Film Festival for Inside I’m Dancing. (Another Irish film, Mickybo &Me came in third place.)

Inside I’m Dancing explores the life of a young man suffering from cerebral palsy whose life is changed by an unlikely friendship. Once entitled Rory O’Shea Was Here, critics and festival judges have been impressed by O’Donnell’s Irish tale of suffering and friendship, whatever the film’s name is.

Finally, The Quiet Man recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. And though some Irish film lovers think the John Wayne-Maureen O’Hara classic is a bit too sentimental, the film is about to receive a most Irish honor.

The Quiet Man Movie Club (yes, there is such a body) announced recently that they plan to translate the film into Gaelic.

Already, native-Irish actors have been lined up to speak the dialogue. Meanwhile, Irish language agencies Foras na Gaeilge and Udarás na Gaeltachta have said they are willing to fund the project along with Government-funded TV station TG4 and an independent production company Telegael.

There is one stumbling block: permission from Paramount Pictures, which owns the rights to the film, must be secured.

The Quiet Man Movie Club notes that the beloved film has already been translated into a dozen languages including French, Russian, Japanese and German.

Movie Club spokesman Des McHale recently said: “If John Wayne can speak in German and Japanese, then why not Irish also?” ♦

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Irish Team Win the Yukon Arctic Ultra https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/irish-team-win-the-yukon-arctic-ultra/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/04/irish-team-win-the-yukon-arctic-ultra/#respond Fri, 01 Apr 2005 14:50:04 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30754 Read more..]]> Just walking around the block in the daunting cold of Canada’s far north is a test. Try hiking 100 miles across frozen rivers, through deep woods and over wind-scoured hills.

Five Irishmen took on the challenge in February, tackling the world’s toughest foot race, the Yukon Arctic Ultra in the Yukon territory, near Alaska. John O’Regan, Ken Byrne and Pearse Allen shocked more experienced cold-weather athletes by jointly winning the event in two days and 41 minutes.

Andrew Reynolds also finished while a chronic back problem sidelined Fergus Hughes after 18 miles.

The 100-mile trek was scarcely for the faint of heart. So Allen surprised his countrymen by announcing he would carry on to finish the triply punishing 300-mile race.

Byrne and O’Regan said Allen grabbed one of the tricolor flags the party carried and said he would take it the rest of the way.

Though Allen, a 52-year-old Dublin pharmacist had only recently started endurance training, the other members of Team Ireland said he had already impressed them with his steady pace. “Once Pearse gets going, he has the look of someone who can go forever,” said O’Regan.

They had set out of Whitehorse on Feb. 14, Allen and Reynolds still trying on new equipment as the other three set off down the track.

As they got into their gear, Reynolds found his water bladder was leaking. He also decided against using a harness to pull his sled, a decision that would later cost him.

Each man had about 45 pounds of supplies with him as they set off along the route of the Gold Rush Trail, the path prospectors took to the Dawson City gold fields in the late 1800s.

“I’m not one to be nervous but that morning I spent a fair bit of time in the bathroom,” said Byrne, 29, of Dublin. He said he used to be a beer drinker and smoker, quit and was looking for a challenge. “I thought I’d give this a go. I did the Dublin marathon and started working with Fergie and John doing 50 miles every weekend.”

He said the group was a bit discouraged when Hughes was injured “but we just kept our heads down and kept going. I never thought we’d actually win.” But that possibility dawned on him, O’Regan and Allen with about 10 miles to go.

“At one point we were about 10 miles behind the German who was leading,” explained Bryne. “We could just see a sleigh mark in the snow, and we wondered how far ahead he was. Then we turned a bend and there he was sleeping.”

Said O’Regan: “You snooze, you lose.

“We talked to him and he started to panic and get dressed. So we upped the tempo to four mph, and we did that for three miles. We knew he wouldn’t catch us because it was kind of a sprint.”

There was disbelief when they hit the last kilometer marker.

“We just kept going hard,” said O’Regan, an Irish Rail employee. “I thought as if we’d been in a plane crash and had to walk to civilization, and that’s what I did.”

There was temptation along the way. A woman competitor had a fire going and called out for the three to enjoy the warmth.

“We said no, we’ve got a German chasing us,” Byrne recalled.

They were lucky to have fine weather, clear skies and daytime temperatures of 14F. But at night temperatures plummeted, fears of wild animals rose and the loneliness of the landscape closed around them.

Even in daylight, nightmarish images visited them as a result of sleep deprivation. Hallucinations set in.

Reynolds saw “people running beside me with guns, hillbillies and goblins, and I was worried about bear and moose.”

He was a late entry and unable to find sponsors for a charity but Byrne and the others raised money for Down syndrome children.

“You’d want to quit, then I’d remember there’s a thousand Euro for Down syndrome in it. That’s not a charity everybody thinks of,” said Byrne.

Reynolds, a 34-year-old Waterford investment fund accountant, was feeling a bit like a charity case himself when things turned against him.

His plan to pull his sled with one arm became too difficult, so he had to hoist his heavy rucksack on his shoulders. But the real blow came when he woke from a sleep to find another competitor had mistakenly taken one of his shoes.

“Someone had gone off in the middle of the night with my size 10 and left me their size 9 right foot.”

His foot was already swollen, but he managed to last 35 miles with it. “Surprisingly it was the left foot that gave up, the right foot was grand.”

Reynolds, who has also done the 150-mile marathon across the Sahara, said the cold was something you could plan for but never fully be comfortable in.

For O’Regan, the feat leaves him two short of his dream to do events on seven continents.

“My plan was to run on sand, water (ice), snow and then do the jungle ultra in Brazil, then a mountain event maybe in the Himalayas. I will have done seven continents and all surfaces.”

He completed the Sahara event and finished the North Pole Marathon last year.

He kept his concentration on the trail by reciting his phone number backwards and constantly going through a checklist for frostbite.

“You have to watch your hands especially. If you lose your hands, you can’t light a stove, fix equipment. You’re really in trouble then.”

Hughes was disappointed in having to scratch from the event but figured after 22 years of adventure running it was bound to happen.

“Pulling that sled was jarring, then I hopped out of the way of a dogsled and banged it [his back] out.” It’s an aggravation of spinal injuries he suffered as a young gymnast.

“I should have followed my instinct and just done the 26 miles instead of doing the 100.”

He vows to return, especially after making a promise to a woman at a Whitehorse sporting good store. “She said she’ll start training if I’ll come back and run the 26 with her.”

The others had already returned to Ireland before Allen walked into Pelly Crossing after his epic 300 miles in the wilderness.

He finished in lockstep with German Joachim Rinsch, the last of the group and winners of what is called the Red Lantern Award for being at the back of the pack. But only seven of 17 who set on the 300-mile course finished it.

Rinsch spoke no English and Allen no German.

“We were like an old married couple,” joked Allen. “We couldn’t understand each other and I didn’t speak to him and he didn’t speak to me.”

He took seven days, 21 hours and 40 minutes to complete it, but Allen said he didn’t have the sleep-deprived visions other walkers had. “I didn’t have a single negative thought, either It was all positive.

“I think everyone who did the event came searching for something. I loved the land and the solitude, the time out there to think and pray, real prayer, not the TV kind. I did a lot of praying.”

But he conceded the intense cold made for careful walking and preparation. “It was -31F crossing one lake. You can’t make mistakes when you’re between checkpoints in those conditions. I found a good pace from the beginning and stuck with it. I’m glad I did it.” ♦

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