April May 2014 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Wed, 24 Apr 2019 19:08:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 At Home with the McDonalds https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/at-home-with-the-mcdonalds/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/at-home-with-the-mcdonalds/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:30:36 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18676 Read more..]]> Ed: NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, who was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2014, died Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY following complications from a heart attack. McDonald was paralyzed from the neck down in July 1986 after confronting potential bicycle thieves in Central Park, one of whom shot him three times. MdDonald remained on the police force as a first-grade detective and a year later gained notoriety for forgiving his assailant. In a letter written on the occasion of his son Conor’s christening in 1987, McDonald wrote of his attacker, “I forgive him and hope that he can find peace and purpose in his life.” His son Conor is now a sergeant in the NYPD and the fourth generation of his family to serve in the police force. 

NYPD commissioner James O’Neill announced McDonald’s death Tuesday afternoon. “No one could have predicted that Steven would touch so many people, in New York and around the world,” O’Neill said. “Like so many cops, Steven joined the NYPD to make a difference in people’s lives. And he accomplished that every day. He is a model for each of us as we go about our daily lives. He will be greatly missed, and will always remain a part of our family.”

“New York City is heartbroken by the loss of NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, who for 30 years has been this city’s greatest example of heroism and grace,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “I will forever cherish my last conversation with Detective McDonald, late last year. His words encouraged all of us to continue to bring police and communities closer together.”

A formal NYPD funeral is planned for Friday, January 13 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, 9:30 a.m. More than 5,000 people are expected to attend and a spokesperson for the New York archdiocese has confirmed that Cardinal Timothy Dolan will officiate. 

In the interview below, the McDonald family speaks with Irish America editor-in-chief Patricia Harty about how their lives changed that day, and Steven’s courageous efforts to not only forgive his own shooter but to spread the message of forgiveness and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

A family who used love and forgiveness to move past tragedy.

February 2014:  The houses in Malverne look pretty. The snow lends a fairytale quality to the winter scene. Photographer Kit DeFever and I are wondering which one is the McDonalds’. The GPS brings us to a dead end street, but none of the four or five houses have numbers displayed in an obvious manner. There is not even a wheelchair ramp that would help with identification.

We’re a little early so we sit in Kit’s truck listening to country music as I try Patti Ann McDonald on the phone. No answer. But minutes later, I spot her waving from the open front door of a traditional Cape Cod-style home. She apologizes for her wet head. “I just got home from work and took a quick shower,” she says, her manner easy and welcoming.

The living room is a rectangular shape with comfortable couches, a fireplace, and an open kitchen at the far end. There is no hint that a handicapped person, let alone a quadriplegic ventilator-dependent person, lives here. And, indeed, Steven McDonald is not present, nor is his son Conor. “They are both at work; they should be here soon,” Patti Ann promises.

Even with wet hair she’s an attractive woman. Fit and lithe with a ready smile. She shows us around so that Kit can pick his spot and check his light meters. Patti’s first job was as an assistant to the style editor of Parents magazine. Helping with photo shoots was something she enjoyed. “This is where the nurses hang out,” she says of a room off the main living room. “It used to have a therapy mat and a bed but Steven didn’t want anything that reminded him of hospital so we changed it.”

Patti excuses herself to dry her hair and soon returns wearing light make-up and a stylish, dusky green wool jacket. Looking at her I wonder how she could have gone through what she did and still look so good. She was just 24, eight months married, and three months pregnant with Conor, when her husband was shot.

Steven was 29 and just shy of two years on the force, a handsome 6’2” on a routine patrol of Central Park. He stopped to question three youths about some bicycle robberies and one of them pulled a gun and shot him. Three bullets pierced his head and neck and one shattered his spine between the second and third vertebrae leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Both Patti Ann and Steven grew up on Long Island – Patti in Malverne, where her father taught English at a local high school, Steven in nearby Rockville Centre. He was one of eight children and both his father and maternal grandfather were New York City cops. After a stint in the Navy, he followed in their path and joined the NYPD.

Steven and Patti were both good athletes. He played football. She still coaches her high school tennis team. They loved music and movies and plays, and they had their Irish families and Catholic faith in common.

On the day it happened, 28 years ago, on July 12, 1986, Patti Ann was visiting her sister Julie in Pennsylvania. The second eldest of the six Norris children, Julie was four years older and married to Kenny McGuire. Patti Ann remembers that they went out shopping. It was a hot summer’s day and she found some Halloween decorations on sale.

Steven had suggested the trip because he was going to a baseball game on Friday night and working the four to midnight shift the following day.

What he remembers about that Saturday is that he woke up not feeling so well. He wondered if he was coming down with the flu, or maybe it was the few beers he had at the baseball game?

In two years on the job he had not missed any days, and he wasn’t going to call in sick. Besides his regular shifts, he was working all the overtime he could manage in order to put money aside to buy a house. On July 12, he received his pay check for two weeks. It was just over $800, of that $200 was for overtime.

He and Patti Ann had been bickering about the fact that she saw so little of him because of the extra shifts he was working. He wanted to leave the apartment neat for her, but he figured he would have time to clean-up before she got back from her sister’s.

As things turned out, he never saw that apartment again.

Conor, Patti Ann and Steven’s son, arrived at the house before his dad. He no longer lives here. He’s 27 now and a police officer – he recently took the sergeant’s exam.

Handsome with a nice smile and his mother’s warmth, Conor is soon chatting to Kit about a photography class he took at Boston College. “I still have some of your photos,” his mother chimes in.

It was a tough decision to join the police force, Conor, who majored in history, admits. “There were people who created a path for me before I decided what I wanted to do. Individuals who wanted me to work on Wall Street or go to law school. But I did a year’s service with Americorp in Denver working with at-risk youth – runaways. When you think of Denver, you think of the mountains, how beautiful it is, but I met kids there who had crazy lives. Kids from Maryland who were scammed and got stuck out there, and kids who had escaped out of gangs in California.”

He considered staying in Denver. “I was a little unsettled about coming home after what I’d seen. I grew up on Long Island. My parents gave me so much. They sent me to good schools, and this was a different side to the life than I’d known.”

He turned to a friend who worked at the runaway shelter to talk over the decision. “One thing we discussed was me going home and becoming a cop. Two days later I got a call that there was a spot for me at the NYPD Academy, so I took it as a sign.”

He hoped as a cop that he could continue to help people. “I  was probably in my teens when I became aware of what my family went through and all the help that was given to them, not just from people in the city but from people all over the world, and I just felt the need to help people.”

As a cop, he says it’s tough to deal with a lot of things but that he’s lucky to have had people ahead of him who taught him the right way.  “You do your best to protect and serve. I work with men and women who take that seriously. There’s a lot of people who need help. That’s why you have your first responders; you have the NYPD and the FDNY. You have your EMS – some of the hardest working guys in the city.” Even after four years, he says he’s still a rookie. “I’m working with guys who have 25 years on the job, from before I was a twinkle in my dad’s eyes.”

Steve and Conor

Steven and Conor on the day of Conor’s NYPD swearing in ceremony.

Just then Steven rolls in. He’d been in the city talking to some new recruits. He puffs through a straw to make his wheelchair move, and he clearly has mastered the art. He does what amounts to a wheelie as he quickly turns around to get in place for the photo.

In between takes, we talked about the aftermath of the shooting, and his waking up in Bellevue hospital unable to move or speak.  “The worst day was when Patti Ann came in with the neurosurgeon and he said, ‘Mrs. McDonald, the way you see Steven is the way he’s always going to be.’ And he walked out of the room. Patti Ann collapsed on the floor crying and I couldn’t move to comfort her or call for help. It was just awful.”

For months after the shooting, a tube was in his mouth blocking his vocal cords. Patti Ann, who is petite, would stand on a stool and put her ear to his mouth as he whispered a word or two. The only feeling he had was in his face. As the months went on she would try to put her pregnant belly near his face so he could feel the baby move.

There were days, he said, when he wished he was dead. In a book, The Steven McDonald Story, that he wrote with Patti Ann and E.J. Kahn in 1989, he recounted how he would whisper to a friend to pull the blanket over his head and pump up his pain medication so he could escape the reality of what had happened.

Now he talks openly to people about his battle with depression. Suicide is “an occupational hazard” in law enforcement. Statistics show that it is on the rise, and it’s a subject that Steven frequently addresses. “I tell them that I thought about doing it to myself. Thankfully, Patti Ann was there and she got on the phone and called Cardinal O’Connor and he came right over with Monsignor McCarthy. They spent the whole day into the night with me. They comforted me in my depression and talked me out of it.

“I tell people that they also want to be a winner in that [suicide-prone] situation and how they wouldn’t be solving any problems but creating new problems for their friends and families.”

He gives maybe five or six talks a month. To young officers just starting out he talks about keeping safe on the job and brings his message of being a “survivor and a winner” to schools and churches. “I talk about forgiveness. I tell them how I forgave the boy who shot me.”

That can’t have been easy, I say.

“No. Was I angry and was Patti Ann hurt? And was the baby experiencing all of this in utero? My parents, Patti Ann’s parents our families and friends – very tough cops were crying. They didn’t know if I was going to live. I was hurt, I lost the power of speech. Patti would have to give birth to Conor all by herself.

“But there came a time at the end of that year, 1986, before and just after Conor was born where I felt that I wanted to forgive the boy who shot me. I came to realize he wasn’t evil. He and I were part of an evil occurance. One that was too common in New York City in the 1980s.

“After Conor’s baptism Patti Ann spoke to the crowd gathered outside the chapel and told them that I forgave the boy who shot me. The media did not know what to make of it.”
Steven goes on to talk about how his time in Bellevue became “a very intense spiritual experience”; his hospital room was “in effect, a chapel. There was always members of the clergy – all different faiths came and prayed with us.”

After the shooting Mayor Koch was notified. “When he walked into the room and saw Patti Ann pregnant, our parents and families – many people praying the rosary – he was very moved. He called Cardinal O’Connor and said, ‘You need to be here.’ And that’s how it all began. Patti Ann and his Eminence became quick and close friends.

“The Cardinal said to Patti Ann, ‘I’ll make sure that there is always Mass said at Steven’s bedside.’ So from July to the following April, we always had Mass in my room. And my mother remembered a Mass in the weeks after my shooting – the chaplain was distributing communion and he came to me. The tubing that is in my windpipe now was then inserted in my mouth, and my mom said the priest laid Jesus the Eucharist on my forehead and she felt that Jesus touched me in a powerful way at that moment. So everything that happened before and everything that would follow would not be the way other people scripted it for us.

“Have I always been close to God or led the perfect life? I don’t pretend to be that kind of person. But in this journey I’ve been on with Patti Ann and Conor we found out that the only way forward was Christlike love. This way of loving has made so much good possible in our lives and our world. Once you let go of the wrongs that have been done to you it changes everything. I could have gone the other way. I could have been overcome with emotion, bitterness and anger. Patti called them wasted emotions. I could have killed myself. I tried to. God always found me, and with the help of others I got through it all.”

The summer before he was shot, Steven was reading Trinity, Leon Uris’s historical novel about Ireland. Conor Larkin was the hero of the novel. “So here I am in the hospital. I have tubes running in and out of me. I’m breathing on a ventilator, but when I wanted to give up, Patti Ann would remind me of the baby she was carrying saying, ‘Do you remember you said if you had a son you would like to name him Conor?’

“Finally, 10 months after the shooting I was fitted with a special breathing tube. This enabled me to thank Patti Ann and tell her how much I loved her in my own voice.”
Steven’s 10 month stay in Bellevue was followed by six months of rehab in Colorado. It became obvious that returning home to their New York apartment was not an option. Patti Ann’s father had a suggestion.

“Patti Ann grew up across the street from Mrs. Regozin who lived here. She was like a grandmother to Patti Ann. She got sick soon after I was shot, died, and her house was for sale.

“Patti Ann called me in Colorado and said, ‘My dad was wondering if you would mind if we moved in across the street?’ And I said, no, that would be a great idea.”
The foundation created in Steven’s name by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association had over $200,000 in it and Patti Ann wondered if she could use the money to buy the house, which was listed at $235,000.

Detective Brian Mulheran, who had helped set up the foundation and became a good friend, arranged a meeting with Dickie Fay, a partner in Bear Stearns and the foundation’s accountant.

As recounted in the Steven McDonald Story, Brian and Patti  put their idea to Dickie, who listened and then excused himself. After a few minutes he returned with Arthur Crames, another Bear Stearns partner. “We don’t need to use the foundation’s funds,” he said. “We’ll buy you the house.” Steven picks up the story, “And then Mayor Koch called builder Eugene McGovern, whose company Lehrer/ McGovern had  restored the Statue of Liberty, and asked if he would build a home for us. He agreed, and Patti Ann and Brian helped coordinate the renovation with the managers of the project. “They almost completely gutted [the house],” says Steven.

The work is extraordinary.

Earlier, when Patti Ann had shown me the upstairs family room we had taken the stairs. It was only later that I noticed the lift, discreetly concealed behind a clouded glass door that makes the upper level accessible to Steven.

We move to the kitchen, which is festooned with red hearts for Valentine’s Day.

“Steven’s been giving me a hard time,” says Patti Ann, laughing. “I had Christmas  and then put the hearts up. We do a lot of entertaining here at the house with both families because it makes for easier accessibility with Steven. This past weekend we had a mass here because it was a year since Steven’s mother passed away, and then we had people here for the Super Bowl.”

I notice the Irish soda bread on the counter and make a comment. “Would you like some? It’s from the local bakery,”  Patti Ann asks. Sure.

Soon the smell of toasting bread fills the air and we are seated at the round kitchen table with mugs of Barry’s tea. Talk turns to Patti Ann’s job as Mayor of Malverne. “She officiated at the groundhog ceremony,” Steven says. “I said, he didn’t see his shadow so we’re going to have an early spring,” Patti Ann comments with a laugh. “Wrong.”

While we enjoy our snack, Steven excuses himself to go upstairs. He wants to show us a video tape of a trip he made to Northern Ireland and is frustrated that Andy (Det. Andy Cserenyi his driver and aide) can’t seem to find it. As he rolls away, I become acutely aware that in almost three decades he hasn’t been able to enjoy the simple pleasure of lifting a cup of tea to his lips.

The phone rings. It’s for Patti Ann. It rings often during our visit. Is it always like this? I ask Conor. “It is,” he confirms. “Both my parents have a lot going on.”

“What’s your average day like as mayor?” I ask Patti Ann when she returns.

“It varies. I can make my own schedule. I call in first thing in the morning at nine o’clock when the village hall opens. I pop in and out, walk around the village. Today I met somebody and we were discussing the Congressional situation.”

Patti Ann had been interviewed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign as a potential candidate to replace retiring Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, but in the end Nassau County district attorney Kathleen Rice, was chosen to run.

“I was extremely flattered to be considered,” says Patti Ann, who was elected in 2006 and is now in her second term as mayor. She is a well-known figure in local politics, having served as one of the village’s four trustees for 11 years. When her father John Francis Norris passed away in office in May, 1996, she completed his term as mayor.

An interest in politics is also inherited from the maternal side of her family, the Kennedys of Boston. “No relation of J.F.K.” she laughs. But there is a letter from J.F.K. to her grandfather Patrick Kennedy, expressing his thanks, and saying that he wouldn’t have been elected to the Senate in 1952 without Patrick’s help.

“Local politics is much different from national politics,” Conor adds. “My mother does a very good job of bi-partisanship in our area, so I don’t think Malverne has ever looked so good.”

Steven returns having found the video, and as Andy sets it up, he talks about Northern Ireland and the trips he made there with Father Mychal Judge, a chaplain to the FDNY, and a great friend who was killed in the 9/11 attacks.

In 1998, as Northern Ireland was experiencing the worst sectarian violence in years, Steven spoke in both Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods and returned the following year with his message of “Faith and Forgiveness.”

“I spent part of four summers up in the North, and people there helped me more in my situation than I’ve helped them,” he says. “We went in 1998, ’99, and 2000 and we went back in 2008. It would have been Father Mychal’s 75th birthday.

The video we watch, “A Journey to Forgiveness,” follows Steven on a trip he made with Father Judge and members of the Bruderhof community from Britain. “We began in Dundalk on June 28, 2000 and en route to Belfast went through some of the most troubled towns in Northern Ireland with an invitation to people of different communities to walk with us, to pray, sing and become one voice of forgiveness and reconciliation.

“Some neighborhoods the RUC wouldn’t let us walk through, but hundreds of people joined us. We walked up Garvahy Road to Drumcree Church on July 5th. There were clashes in the streets because the traditional Orange Order march through Catholic neighborhoods on July 12th had been banned. The Rev. John Pickering was the pastor of that [Protestant] church and we went in and prayed with him. He was very cordial, though worried about trouble as the place was surrounded by paratroopers.

“The reason I mention this is that right after 9/11, Rev. Pickering wrote to us saying, ‘I was thinking of my brother Mychal.’ The Reverend also lost a niece in the Trade Towers.

“I encountered more stories of forgiveness in the North than there are street corners in Belfast,” Steven says. “A lot of people came out of the woodwork to say, ‘I want to tell you what I did.’ It became a beautiful thing.”

On his trips to Ireland, Steven also came across some relatives. “When I came home from the hospital, being that I had been so close to dying, I thought that I should find out how life began for my family in America. So I started doing the family tree and discovered that my mother’s people were from Arless Parish in Laois.

In 1998 we arrived in Dublin one week after the bomb exploded in Omagh and on our way north, my driver Joe tells me that he went to school with a J.J. Conway from Arless. We went to visit J.J. and it turns out that he’s a relative of my mother’s. J.J. stands for James Joseph, that was my grandfather’s name. All his family have names in common with my family. We’ve become good friends.”

This chance encounter is what Steven calls a “God incident.”

“Patti Ann found a saying that I believe in, that there are no coincidences in life, only God incidents. I’ve had a lot of God incidences happen to me. All the nurses, and drivers, they have become family and helped to raise Conor. Susan [his Nurse] has been with us for 25 years, and Kathie for 15. You could say they are God incidents.”

When I ask Steven what inspires him he answers simply, “Patti Ann.”

“I’m sure that there have been times where she has said, I can’t deal with this. She would only be human if she felt that way. But as a young bride she gave up a lot of dreams to keep me alive, and keep us together as a family.

“Last night I was watching on Turner Classics The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). There are many different sub-plots in the movie and one is of this young Navy man Homer who lost his arms in the war and he goes home to his parents house. His girlfriend Wilma is next door and she displays unconditional love and he’s thinking that she could never understand, because he can’t understand and he can’t accept the way he is. How could she? And near the end of the movie they are in his room and he drops off his prosthetic arms and says, ‘Now I’m helpless. I can’t button my shirt. I can’t open the door if I need help.’ And Wilma buttons his shirt and says, ‘I will always be here for you.’ And Patti Ann has always been that person for me.”

As we pack up to leave, Steven is in the kitchen watching a Rangers game on a small TV on the counter. Patti Ann runs out to her car and comes back with Malverne sweatshirts for us. Conor has already left for his apartment in Long Beach. Andy and Kathie wait to be called into action. Steven goes back into Manhattan tonight to talk to officers on the midnight shift about being a survivor and a winner and keeping safe. In his words, “I hope that I say something that will help them.”

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The First Word: Hall of Fame https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/the-first-word-hall-of-fame/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/the-first-word-hall-of-fame/#respond Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:29:17 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18686 Read more..]]> Past, Present, and Future

In this issue, in which we celebrate the new inductees into our Hall of Fame, I’m reminded of great Irish Americans of the past such as John Barry, the father of the American Navy; John F. Kennedy, our first Catholic president; and Eugene O’Neill,  playwright and Nobel Laureate.

Our incoming Hall of Fame honorees take their rightful place alongside these figures and their fellows who have been inducted since our inaugural ceremony in 2010.

Christine Kinealy, who is being honored for her research and scholarship on the Great Hunger, will find particular resonance in the fact that our Hall of Fame building in Co. Wexford is alongside the Dunbrody, a replica of a Famine-era ship that ferried thousands of Irish to the New World – brave souls who paved the way for the successes we enjoy today.

Broadcasters Chris Matthews and Bill O’Reilly we honor for giving voice to our concerns and opinions, two traits that helped the Irish carve out a place in American society, even as they remind us of our love of a good argument.

Martin O’Malley represents the many Irish on the political front. His success is honed by his family’s affinity for public service and his Jesuit education. While Andy McKenna and Pat Ryan, both of whom have reached the pinnacle of corporate success, make us proud by their philanthropy and devotion to civic causes.

Brian Stack, meantime, reminds us that Ireland’s natural beauty is its greatest glory. In the worst of times, the tourist trade kept the country afloat, and Brian’s role in bringing thousands of visitors to Ireland is especially important as the country recovers from the debt crisis that has wrecked its economy over the last six years.

The story of Steven and Patti Ann McDonald and their son Conor, our first family to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, is one of courage and love. Their journey towards faith and forgiveness after terrible tragedy is inspirational. I know that the time I spent with the family moved me towards letting go of some old hurts and grievances that I’ve been carrying around for far too long.

The Irish ability to forgive is not often cited as one of our finer traits. Our history, littered as it is with brutal battles, colonization and hunger (it’s amazing that we survived at all), has left us with deep wounds embedded in our DNA, and a tendency towards grudges and begrudgery. Yet, that same history has also fostered a spirit of perseverance against the odds and empathy for the struggles of others.

The Irish give more per capita than any other nation towards hunger relief, and have a tradition of public service. And when it comes down to it, as many of our previous Hall of Fame inductees have shown by working on finding a solution to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, we are willing to put aside our differences and unite for a good cause.

It is my hope that the Irish in America will once again rise to the occasion and help out as they have in the past. Many young people in Ireland, though highly educated, are without jobs. And with Australia now starting to close its doors, these young people have nowhere to go. So this  St. Patrick’s Day, take time out from the revelry to log on to the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform website http://irishlobbyusa.org. There is no better way to honor your heritage than by using your weight to open the door, closed by the 1965 Immigrant Act, just a crack, to allow some of those future Hall of Famers in.

Mortas Cine.

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Christine Kinealy: Historian, Author, Activist https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/christine-kinealy-historian-author-activist/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/christine-kinealy-historian-author-activist/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:28:25 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18690 Read more..]]> Christine Kinealy is the world-renowned historian and newly appointed professor of history and founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Beginning with her Ph.D. dissertation at Trinity College on the Irish workhouse system and continuing, in 1997, with her breakthrough book This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52, Kinealy has become an influential authority on Ireland. Throughout her many books she has expertly tackled issues like the Irish Famine, the abolitionist movement, the revolutions of 1848, and Northern Ireland. Her most recent book, Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland: The Kindness of Strangers, sheds a groundbreaking light on some of the many donations that were made to Ireland during the Famine both within Europe and around the world by such interesting persons as Abraham Lincoln, Tom Thumb, the Choctaw Indians, and Queen Victoria.

Cementing all of Kinealy’s work is a firm belief in social justice, which she told Irish America “underpins my work on the Famine, but also my interests in women, abolition, ‘invisible Protestants,’ and the treatment of Jews.”

While Kinealy is an authority on Irish history, she was raised in Liverpool and never learned Irish history in school. She says of her youth,

“Irish people living in Britain lived under the tremendous strain of trying to remain invisible.” It was not until she began her Ph.D. at Trinity College that the voices of Irish history denied in her youth were heard. From there, she worked in Belfast teaching Irish history in a women’s center, became an administrator for the Public Records office in Belfast, and spoke on the Famine in the British Houses of Parliament in 1997.

Kinealy’s influence has been felt, not only by the readers of her books, but by her students whom she has guided and helped shape into successful men and women. One of her greatest gifts is that of teacher. Yet, Kinealy admits she never wanted to be a teacher. “I always wanted to research. But teaching and research are indivisible; they feed each other,”  she told Irish America.

Kinealy has lectured all over the world and up until her appointment at Quinnipiac University in 2013, was a tenured professor of Irish history in Drew University’s Caspersen School of Graduate Study in New Jersey, receiving the 2009 Will Herberg Award for excellence in teaching.

Anyone lucky enough to sit in on a lecture of Dr. Kinealy’s will be at first surprised by her soft-spoken manner, subtle charm and infectious warmth. She presents history in a way that is both accessible and exciting. Her passion for the subject is contagious. I know that I speak for many of her students when I say how truly grateful I am for the knowledge, support, and friendship she has given me.

When she is not researching in the archives, flying around the world, or teaching class, Kinealy enjoys spending time with her  family and friends. Her daughter Siobhan was born in Dublin and is currently a law student at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Her son Ciaran was born in Belfast and currently lives in New York with his wife.

Of her Irish heritage, Kinealy says: “The Kinealys (and our family spelled it in many ways – my grandparents on this side were illiterate) were from Tipperary; and on my mum’s side, Mayo – Ballycastle and Castlebar. I love Tipperary, but when I return to Mayo, which is often, I feel I am home. Both my parents are now dead – I was the youngest child and, typically, now regret not asking more questions when they were around.”

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Chris Matthews: Political Commentator, Author https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/chris-matthews-political-commentator-author/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/chris-matthews-political-commentator-author/#respond Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:27:07 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18694 Read more..]]> Chris Matthews has been following American politics since the first Eisenhower campaign. As a young teen, he became enthralled with the historic rivalry of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. It was a time of big downtown rallies and ticker tape parades on Wall Street, when supporters wore boater hats and bright campaign buttons.

Hardly a decade later he was engaged in American politics professionally. Back home from the Peace Corps in Africa, he was working in the U.S. Senate. Then came his tour in the White House as a presidential speechwriter, followed by his front-row seat as top aide to the legendary Speaker of the House, Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.

In the late 1980s, Matthews switched to full-time journalism, serving as Washington Bureau Chief for The San Francisco Examiner. There he covered some of the greatest events of the late 20th century, including the fall of the Berlin Wall and the first all-races election in South Africa.

He began his career on television in 1994 as host of a two-hour nightly program on the NBC-owned America’s Talking network. Three years later, he launched Hardball, now on MSNBC, which was the title of his best-selling handbook on real-life politics published in 1988. He has been on the air every weekday night since.

In all the years that Matthews has been involved in the country’s public life he’s kept an abiding faith in electoral politics, and his quadrennial hope that the American people will make the best judgment on who should lead. He has kept that faith through war and peace, good times and bad, through great leaders and not-so-great. He has never lost his vigorous love of democracy and how it can serve to make this country, through all its challenges, a more perfect union. And his most recent best-selling book, Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked, is a magnificent personal history of a time when the two great political opponents of the 1980s, Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan, worked together for the benefit of the country.

Matthews was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Mary Teresa (née Shields) and Herb Matthews, a court reporter. His father was a Protestant of English and Northern Irish ancestry, and his mother was from an Irish Catholic family.

Chris fondly remembers his paternal grandmother, an immigrant from Northern Ireland who, once widowed, single-handedly built a successful laundry service. “She spoke with an Irish accent and conveyed a strong, upbeat, fun-loving attitude her whole life,” he said.

Matthews is himself a Roman Catholic. He attended La Salle College High School, and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He went on to do graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was also a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. He holds honorary degrees from numerous universities and colleges, including Washington University, Howard University, College of Holy Cross, and Fordham.

Matthews is married to Kathleen  Matthews (née Cunningham), Executive Vice President of Marriott International.

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Andrew McKenna: Corporate Titan, Community Leader https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/andrew-mckenna-corporate-titan-community-leader/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/andrew-mckenna-corporate-titan-community-leader/#respond Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:26:44 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18698 Read more..]]> Andrew McKenna is one of Chicago’s premier businessmen. He is nicknamed “St. Andrew of the Boardroom” because most of his work happens behind the scenes. But at the age of 84, “an age when most directors have politely been told to go home,” quipped Chicago magazine when they named him one of their 100 Most Powerful Chicagoans two years ago, he is still a highly sought-after figure in the field of corporate governance.

Currently McKenna serves as the non-executive chairman of the board of directors of McDonald’s Corporation and a director of Schwarz Supply Source (a position he’s held since 1964), Ryan Specialty Group, the Chicago Bears, and the Skyline Corporation.

The father of seven and grandfather of 24, Andy, as he is known, is a native Chicagoan who himself is one of six children. His father, Andrew J. McKenna, Sr., was a first-generation Irish American, with roots in Mayo and Monaghan, who joined the Dunn Coal Company in 1917 as a clerk and worked his way up the corporate rungs until he retired in 1971 as its president and CEO. He and his family were highly active in the Catholic community in Chicago and that balance of family, religion, and civic service is one that Andy still holds today. “I think family life is very important,” He said in an interview with Leaders magazine. “There is probably never a weekend when we don’t have some family experience.”

As one might expect from the patriarch of a large Irish family, Andy is deeply invested in the success of the next generation, both his biological and corporate kin. He endeavors to promote from within in the companies he works for, and implores his colleagues to focus on mentoring and leading tomorrow’s top executives. “In my mind there are three little words that can help us measure up to that criteria of success for helping the next generation. They are: ‘Just say yes,’” Andy said in his 2013 acceptance speech for the Champion Fighter Award at the Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago’s annual luncheon.

“So when you’re asked to help the young get a start on their career . . . or grow on the job, and realize their potential, just say yes. And when you’re asked to support the institutions that foster opportunities in our society – high schools, churches, civic and governmental organizations – just say yes. And when you’re asked to work with others to tackle those challenges that will help make your communities a better place to live and work, just say yes.”

McKenna practices his own imperative. In addition to his private sector positions, he is a trustee of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Museum of Science and Industry (Chairman Emeritus), and his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame (he served as the Chairman Emeritus of the Board from 1992 to 2000 and was Vice Chairman for six years prior to that), and serves as a director of Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Ireland Economic Advisory Board, Lyric Opera of Chicago and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, among almost countless others. And he has called for other corporate leaders to involve themselves with the community around them. “All of us need to recognize there are community needs we must respond to, and while it may be personally fulfilling to help, it’s also critically important to do so,” he said.

“I think at the end of life, the measure of success is not how much you’ve got but how much you’ve given, not how much you’ve earned but how much you’ve returned, and not how much you’ve won, it’s how much you’ve done.”

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Martin O’Malley: Politician, Lawyer, Musician https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/martin-omalley-politician-lawyer-musician/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/martin-omalley-politician-lawyer-musician/#respond Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:25:32 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18702 Read more..]]> Martin O’Malley is the governor of Maryland and the former mayor of Baltimore. He was born, one of six children, in Washington, D.C. to Barbara and Thomas O’Malley, a former U.S Army Air Force pilot. It was his family who gave him the spark to enter public service. His dad’s father was a ward leader in Pittsburgh during the Roosevelt years. His mother worked for Senator Barbara Mikulski and nurtured her son’s interest in politics. His father was a lawyer rooted in civil rights. As the governor relates, “I went into public service because I grew up in a house where that was considered an honorable and important thing to do.”

In 1999, at the age of 37, O’Malley became the mayor of Baltimore. After two terms the city’s crime rate was the lowest it had been in over three decades, and investment at an all time high. In 2005, Business Week featured O’Malley as one of the “new stars” in the Democratic party. In 2006, he ran against a Republican incumbent governor and won, and was re-elected in 2010.

As governor, O’Malley has championed education (MD has the #1 ranking for best public schools in America), and has made Maryland one of the top two states for science and technology. He has also seen the creation of thousands of green energy sector jobs, and has cut state spending more than any previous governor in Maryland’s history. He has also expanded healthcare to 380,000 previously uninsured, been vocal on immigration reform and raising the minimum wage, and signed legislation for same-sex marriage. Little wonder that he hasn’t had as much time to spend with his band O’Malley’s March. But his skills as a musician, which helped pay his way through college, have also helped his political career. “I do think that playing music is a bit of an international language, understood inherently by all people, and it helped me bridge racial divides as mayor of a majority African-American city. Whenever I would visit schools, kids would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Mayor, I play the clarinet,’ or ‘Hey, Mayor, I play the drums.’ There was that sort of commonality,” he said, speaking to  Irish America.

Educated by the Jesuits, O’Malley quotes Georgetown historian Carroll Quigley: “Tomorrow can be better than today and that each of us has a personal and moral responsibility to make it so.” As a young boy he checked out all of the Irish history books at his local library, and remains connected to his Connemara roots through song, culture, and his cousins in Ireland. He says, “When you read a people’s history long enough, you become aware of the triumph of the human spirit, and the sort of universal eternal truths that are the core of the human experience.”

O’Malley is married to Catherine Curran, who has roots in Co. Kilkenny, and was a former Assistant State Attorney and is now a Maryland state judge. They have been married since 1990 and have four children: Grace (named for Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen), Tara, William, and Jack.

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Bill O’Reilly: Broadcaster, Author https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/bill-oreilly-broadcaster-author/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/bill-oreilly-broadcaster-author/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:24:30 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18706 Read more..]]> Since he joined the Fox News Channel as the anchor of “The O’Reilly Factor” in 1996, Bill O’Reilly has been the exemplar of cable news personalities. His style of challenging inquiry, the ease he shows in his role behind his desk, and the frank honesty of his editorializing has set a standard for other cable news programs that are similarly anchored by an opinionated presence.

Unlike other political pundits though, O’Reilly did not come to Fox through politics; O’Reilly has always been a newsman. And that keeps him grounded in his traditional upbringing, able to hold an ear to his audience. “Whatever I have done or will do in this life,” O’Reilly wrote in his first best-selling book, The O’Reilly Factor, “I’m working-class Irish American.”

O’Reilly, now 64, has done quite a bit, including producing a best-selling book almost each year of the last decade. Killing Jesus, his most recent, spent 6 weeks at number one on The New York Times best seller list.

Born in New York in 1949, Bill grew up in Levittown, Long Island, the paragon of post-war, blue-collar suburbs. His father traces his lineage back to at least the early 18th century in County Cavan, and his mother’s side is from Northern Ireland. Bill recognizes the impact that heritage has on his upbringing and his current ideologies and practices.

“My people were Kennedys, McLaughlins and O’Reillys, and because I had that strain going back 80 or 90 years since my people came over, those lessons I was taught as a child made a tremendous impression on me,” he told our partner publication, the Irish Voice, in 2008.

“Whenever you get people in a working-class environment you get people who have a tremendous loyalty to their country, who are opposed to dramatic change. They don’t want it; they don’t know why it’s necessary. They have a strong loyalty to tradition. That’s still there.” He knows his audience because he is his audience.

He attended St. Brigid’s grammar school and later moved to Chaminade High School, a private boys high school on Long Island. He attended Marist College, earned a degree in history and later, a Master of Arts in broadcast journalism from Boston University.

In a 2003 interview with NPR, Bill extolled his Catholic education: “What you learn from Catholic school is discipline; you learn manners; you learn to respect other people and authority; you learn to perform. You learn that there is a higher being; you are on earth for a specific purpose . . . I was a wild unruly youngster. I believe that if I didn’t have that kind of strict education I’d be in a penitentiary right now.”

But that unrulyness is part of the etiology of Bill’s success. His appeal is that he is at times unpredictable and a-partisan, to both the pleasure and chagrin of some of his viewers. Bill isn’t one to make up his mind easily, preferring to take in all the facts, free of spin, before making up his mind. But once it’s made, it’s hard to dissuade. “To this day I’m an independent thinker; I’m an independent voter; I’m a registered Independent,” he said in the same interview. “I basically look at the world from the point of view of ‘Let’s solve the problem.’ Whatever the problem is, let’s find the solution to it. And if the solution is on the left, I grab it. If it’s on the right, I grab it.”

His goal with his show, he says, is not to convince viewers to his way of thinking, or his specific solution, but to open up dialogue. While he is firmly Catholic, he refuses to use his show as a platform for evangelizing the type of faith-based conservatism that airs on other conservative talk shows. “My mission isn’t to convert you,” he told Newsweek in 2011. “It’s to protect you.”

O’Reilly has a daughter, Madeline (born 1998), and a son, Spencer (born 2003), with his former wife,   Maureen E. McPhilmy.

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Patrick Ryan: Businessman, Philanthropist https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/patrick-ryan-businessman-philanthropist/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/patrick-ryan-businessman-philanthropist/#respond Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:23:14 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18710 Read more..]]> The son of an Irish-American Ford dealer in a Milwaukee suburb, Patrick Ryan has made Chicago his residence since graduating from Northwestern University in 1959 and is now one of the city’s leading business people, philanthropists, and champions. “Chicago accepts people for the kind of person they are, not where they come from,” he says. But for Ryan, where he comes from is immensely important, because the role his father’s Ford dealership and his mother’s plea for him to return home shortly after college played in Ryan’s 50 years of success cannot be overstated.

In the early 60s, Ryan was working for Penn Mutual in Chicago selling life insurance when his mother asked him to return to Milwaukee to help run the family business. He couldn’t say no. Family has always been important to Ryan, who traces his roots to Tipperary. He soon came up with a way to improve the business and turn a profit himself. Dealers often tried to sell insurance along with a new car, but generally did not make good brokers. So in 1964, Ryan founded Pat Ryan & Associates to corner that market. Through a series of seemingly never-ending, delicately handled, and precisely executed acquisitions, the company continued to grow, and expand their offerings. They soon relocated to Chicago and went public in 1971.

In 1982, Ryan’s company was purchased by a struggling Consolidated Insurance, one of the largest brokerage firms in the Midwest, and Ryan was named CEO and chairman of the board, a rare “upstream takeover,” in industry parlance. Five years later, Ryan had continued his streak of expansions and takeovers and renamed the new company Aon, the Gaelic word for “one” or “unity.” In an article published in the company’s internal magazine on the occasion of his retirement in 2008, Ryan remembered the poignancy of choosing the Irish word. “At that time we were bringing several companies together through organic growth coupled with strategic acquisition into one entity. Therefore, the name Aon was a perfect fit.” When Patrick retired in 2008, Aon had over 500 offices in 120 countries, including Ireland.

The values of unity and family extend beyond the entrepreneurial realm as well. After Aon lost 176 employees in the September 11th World Trade Center attacks, the company established a $10 million college fund for the victims’ children. In Chicago, Patrick has been recognized for his numerous philanthropic contributions to the city, including purchasing 20 percent of the Chicago Bears when they were in need of financial support, and backing the Modern Wing of the Chicago Art Institute, which opened in 2009. In 1989 he and his wife Shirley (née Walsh) co-founded the Pathways Center for Children and the Pathways Awareness Foundation, which promotes early detection and treatment for movement disorders such as cerebral palsy. He recently stepped down as chairman of the board of trustees for his alma mater, Northwestern, after 14 years at its head, though he still serves as a trustee. For more than half a century, Patrick has been a Chicago fixture and a global pioneer for the values he inherited from his Irish American childhood, and it’s clear that he won’t stop being those any time soon.

Patrick Shirley have three adult children.

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Brian Stack: Championing Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/brian-stack-championing-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/brian-stack-championing-ireland/#respond Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:22:19 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18713 Read more..]]> Dublin native Brian W. Stack is the managing director of CIE Tours International and president of the Ireland-U.S Council for Commerce and Industry. In both these positions, Brian is at the forefront of promoting closer connections between Ireland and the U.S.
CIE Tours vacation packages have tempted millions of Americans to visit Ireland over the years, while the Council promotes closer business links between Ireland and America and also operates a variety of scholarship and student internship programs.

Brian has led CIE Tours since 1990. After all those years he still retains a passionate devotion to the company and for Ireland and is proud of the company’s part in helping to rebuild the Irish economy. CIE is the single largest purchaser of accommodations in Ireland. In 2013, the company had its most successful year ever. “There’s a lot of comfort in traveling with a company that’s been around for 83 years,” he says.

Born in Dublin, Brian developed a knack for travel at an early age, vacationing with his family all around Europe. He joined Aer Lingus, Ireland’s national airline, in the 1960s working in every aspect from airport and cabin service to reservations. He eventually became a sales manager for Aer Lingus and relocated to England.

“At that time, there was no such thing as career guidance,” he said. “In fact, I actually was going to go to college to be a dentist, but once I started working in the airline business, I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll just continue doing this.’” Brian did continue doing just that, joining the Irish Tourist Board, moving to New York, and later becoming president of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives.

Brian stayed with the Irish Tourist board for ten years, eventually securing a job at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida for six years. Following his time in Florida he began working for CIE and has been with them ever since.

CIE is one of the largest producers of tours in Ireland, taking visitors to places like Kilmainham Jail, Giants Causeway, Belfast, and everywhere in between. Guests can choose guided or self-guided tours, from the Castle Tour to the Circle of Friends Tour, which aims to reconnect parents, grandparents, and their children. The Circle of Friends Tour is one of Brian’s favorites.

“There are a lot of Irish Americans who have done very well and rather than just dying and leaving money to your kids, to have the experience of traveling with them and spending the money while you’re alive, enjoying the company of your family, is really lovely.”

Brian has his hands full directing CIE Tours International, but has also been prolific in other areas. He was chairman of the United States Tour Operators Association, president of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives, and vice chairman of the Irish American Cultural Institute. Stack’s many awards include “Man of the Year” from the Incentive Travel Industry, “International Executive of the Year” by World Congress on Marketing and Incentive Travel, and has previously been honored as one of the Top 100 Irish Americans by Irish America.

Brian resides in New York with his wife, Anne-Marie. They have two grown children.

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Ireland Wracked by Storms https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/ireland-wracked-by-storms/ https://irishamerica.com/2014/03/ireland-wracked-by-storms/#respond Wed, 12 Mar 2014 09:21:42 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=18723 Read more..]]> Ireland has experienced heavier than usual winter storms with high winds and massive flooding particularly in the Shannon River basin. The extreme weather also had a devastating effect on Ireland’s coastal fishermen with the entire fleet kept in port for weeks on end as storms raged offshore.

Meanwhile, in west Cork on February 10, two tourists were swept to their deaths by 70-mile-per-hour winds  as they went for a walk along the Sheep’s Head peninsula. Rescue crews later recovered the body of one of the tourists, but Dutchman Roland Decker and his German mate are both thought to have drowned. The men, ages 32 and 31, were frequent visitors to the area and were staying near Kilcrohane in Decker’s family’s isolated holiday home overlooking Bantry Bay.

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Sheep’s Head Lighthouse in Co. Cork where two hikers were swept to their death.

Storm Damage to Historic Fort

800px-Dunbeg-Promontory-Fort-2012A large section of one of Ireland’s most famous prehistoric forts fell into the sea in Co. Kerry following a storm on January 25. The Dunbeg Fort on the Dingle Peninsula at Slea Head is believed to be over 2,500 years old. The popular tourist site is now closed to the public while the Board of Works assesses the damage to the Bronze Age gem.  The storm took with it almost 30 feet of the fort’s defensive wall and caused extensive damage to the fort’s main passageway.  The loss of the site is serious in that it is the best known and intensively excavated fort in the country, and is a major stopping point on the Wild Atlantic tourist route. Archeologists are worried that even more of the structure could be lost with the next storm.

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