April May 2016 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Hall of Fame: Martin Dempsey https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-martin-dempsey/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-martin-dempsey/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:59:09 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25178 Read more..]]> When General Martin E. Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received the telegram announcing his appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he was far from certain about accepting. But his resolve fermented quickly, he says, by what he ultimately determined was the “most important” factor: his first-generation Irish American mother.

“My mother cried when I told her I really didn’t want to go to West Point,” he told Irish America in an email. “So I went.” This is typical of Dempsey, who frequently defers self-aggrandizement, learned the importance of honoring his Irish elders early, and has never in his career been shy about the pride he takes in his heritage.

Born in 1952 in Jersey City, New Jersey, Dempsey grew up in nearby Bayonne the eldest of five siblings and the eldest grandson of four Irish immigrants, including his widowed grandmother, who lived upstairs in their small house, which he says “was simply a blessing.”

“All of our Irish relatives gathered every holiday and on many Sundays. There was great joy in the house even in the face of financial challenges,” he says. The values they taught him have carried through all aspects of his life, and he freely credits them with his successes, including his proclivity for turning to Irish songs at public events. (Among the numerous videos available, the most memorable may be his retirement ceremony, where he parted with a rendition of, naturally, “The Parting Glass.”)

His parents and grandparents taught him to bloom where he was planted, he says. “I worked hard at whatever task I was a given, and embraced leadership opportunities whether as a crossing guard, an altar boy, or a General.” Naturally, this Irish ethic would influence his decision to heed the clear desire of his mother and accept at West Point.

It has served him well, not least because Dempsey’s 41-year career with the military, and especially the time since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has been defined by both unexpected and, by military standards, unconventional promotions since his first post in a small German village at the front lines of the Cold War in West Germany in 1974.

In 1991, Dempsey was deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Desert Storm and served with the 3rd Armored Division as its executive officer, and spearheaded the “left hook” maneuver that cut off a retreat path for the Iraqi Republican Guards and led to the swift completion of the war in a matter of weeks. From 2001 to 2003, he served in Saudi Arabia, training and advising the Saudi National Guard, experience he would later build upon while training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad from 2005 to 2007.

In 2003, as a brigadier general, he was sent to Baghdad in command of the 1st Army Division, usually an assignment given to two-star major generals. Dempsey excelled in the face of the 2004 Shiite rebellion, organizing a strategy that combined agile attacks, political negotiations, and swift infusions of reconstruction funds to Shiite neighborhoods to counter the influence of the rebels. He was subsequently promoted to major general.

Dempsey with his mother, Sarah, at his West Point graduation, 1974.

Dempsey with his mother, Sarah, at his West Point graduation, 1974.

In 2007, he was named second in command at U.S. Central Command (covering the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia) in Florida, being promoted to a three-star lieutenant general. Less than a year later, he was promoted to acting commander when the four-star commander Admiral William Fallon was forced to retire in 2008 after criticizing the Bush administration in Esquire magazine. That same year he was nominated and approved for a fourth star. In February 2011, then-defense secretary Robert M. Gates tapped him out of Central Command to become chief of staff for the U.S. Army.

His career is also one that has seen drastic changes to military strategy and technology such that he and members of his military generation have had to recalibrate their understandings of success and victory. In this endeavor, too, he has been uniquely skilled. In a 2015 interview with Politico, he singled out April 2004 as a turning point.

“Here we were, an Army that prided itself on being on the absolute leading edge of technology, of being able to see first, understand first, and if necessary shoot first; and suddenly we were facing these simultaneous uprisings,” he said. “We all had this moment like, ‘Wow, I just didn’t see that coming!’ That suggested that relying too heavily on technology in this era was dangerous.”

This forced him to realize that military might “was less important than understanding anthropology and sociology and what was on the minds of Iraqis on the street,” he said.

And indeed, it is one reason that led to his final promotion to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2011, the highest ranking military officer in the U.S. The appointment was unexpected in part because he was nominated in favor of then vice-chairman General James E. Cartwright, whom Obama had initially courted for the position, but also because the announcement came just four months after he had been named Army chief of staff.

And yet, the appointment should not have been a surprise. Dempsey was universally respected by senior commanders like Gates, General David Petraeus, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs, for his pragmatism, restraint, and combination of combat and diplomatic experience. In fact, he was so highly regarded that at the time Thom Shanker observed for the New York Times that, “General Dempsey carries no visible political baggage and has no vocal critics across the armed forces. The only sour notes sounded at word of his nomination came from those who regret his departure from the post of Army chief.”

Obama and Dempsey at his official retirement  ceremony, 2015.

Obama and Dempsey at his official retirement ceremony, 2015.

Once in command, Dempsey became known both for his candor, his caution, and his penchant for informality and discernable lack of ego. Throughout his career, he preferred “Marty” to Martin, including with President Obama.

In a speech at Dempsey’s retirement ceremony, Obama remarked on the reasons Dempsey was initially selected as chairman.

“I chose Marty for these leadership roles because of his moral fiber and his deep commitment to American strength and values. I chose him because of his vision for our military as a more versatile and responsive force. I chose him because he had the steady hand we needed in this moment of transition — as we tackle emerging threats and support so many of our troops as they transition to civilian life,” he said.

“And I’ve seen Marty manage each of these challenges with integrity and foresight and care. But perhaps most of all, I chose Marty because he’s a leader you can trust.”

During his unusual, though not unprecedented, two-term tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, his accomplishments were significant, Obama continued, praising Dempsey’s leadership.

“Over these last four years, Marty’s wisdom, his vision, and his character have helped lead the greatest fighting force the world has ever known,” he said.

“We ended our combat mission in Afghanistan and brought America’s longest war to a responsible end. We’ve forged new partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel to meet terrorist threats. We’ve built a coalition that is combatting ISIL in Iraq and Syria. We have bolstered our cyber defenses. We helped halt the spread of Ebola in West Africa.”

Dempsey also used his time as chairman of the Joint Chiefs to advocate for a number of issues relating to civilian-military relations (both domestic and foreign) and internal military practices.

His first year on the job, in 2012, he ordered all military schools to conduct internal reviews to ensure they were not teaching anti-Islamic themes in response to reports that some instructors at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia had claimed that Islam is at war with the U.S. In the order, he wrote that the instructors were “advocating ideas, beliefs and actions that are contrary to our national policy, inconsistent with the values of our profession and disrespectful of the Islamic religion.” The order earned him sharp criticism from some, but the call for tolerance and understanding would remain a strong theme throughout his service.

That same year, he was instrumental in unveiling the Transition Assistance Program Goals, Planning, and Success program to aid in the transition from military to civilian life.

In 2013, he spearheaded the military’s lifting of the ban on women from artillery, infantry, and other combat roles.

In 2014, he became the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs to visit Vietnam since 1971. “It was an opportunity to establish a relationship with a nation strategically located and fearful of Chinese assertiveness. I felt then as I do now that Vietnam can be a stabilizing influence in Southeast Asia,” he told Irish America. “It was a remarkable experience given the fact that we were still at war when I entered West Point.”

He has also been cautious about advocating military force in the war against ISIS and in American involvement in the Syrian civil war without a long-term strategy in place for what would follow.

In his last NATO conference as chairman last September, Dempsey was frank about what he believes it will take to defeat ISIS, as well as his ideas of the use of force alone.

“A strategic success will require that [Sunnis in the region] ultimately reject ISIS’ ideology and feel inclusive governance. Otherwise two years from now we’ll be talking about another group with a similarly extremist ideology,” he said.

“My belief is that when the military is used as the sole instrument of power, that never has a good outcome. If there’s no one to take ownership and develop that failed state, human suffering can be even worse than that created by the conflict itself.”

His caution is in part borne out physically by a wooden box he keeps on his desk that reads “Make it Matter.” In that box, “are 132 laminated cards, each bearing the image of a soldier lost under my command in 2003-2004 in Iraq,” he told Irish America. Every day during his command, he says, he would take a number of those cards and carry them in his pocket as a constant reminder of what is at stake “as we consider the use of force across the globe.” Everything Dempsey does is considered, and personal experience factors strongly.

Dempsey and his wife Deanie (top right) at home with their family.­

Dempsey and his wife Deanie (top right) at home with their family.­

But if his advocacy for tolerance paired with his restraint and caution in using military force has been criticized, it may be because his detractors didn’t come of age as a commander in America’s wars in the Middle East and the subsequent breakdown of presumed knowledge about what victory looks like following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It may also be because they haven’t studied the Irish literary tradition, particularly the work of W.B. Yeats, like he has.

Dempsey, whose grandparents emigrated from Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, and Mayo, spent his childhood summers in the latter beginning at age nine when he first met his Mayo great-grandfather, an experience he calls “magical.” There, he went to school with his cousins and learned a little Irish, though he doesn’t admit to recalling any of it. Importantly, the experience imbued him with a sense of his roots, and spurred him to get a master’s in English literature at Duke University after his first command duty was complete in the 1980s. There, he wrote his master’s thesis on the Irish literary revival.

“I studied all of the Irish literary giants of the period between 1890 and 1922. I also studied the influence of Irish writing in America during the same period. I was and am most intrigued by William Butler Yeats who said, ‘talent perceives differences, genius unity.’ Words that clearly resonate today,” he told Irish America.

In a 2012 lecture at Duke, he highlighted the explicit link between this study and his Army command.

“What I learned about Yeats that I didn’t know going in, is he was probably one of those poets unique in that he changed; he allowed himself to change and to reflect about that change as he moved through his life… he was always a man who could understand his time and himself, and he understood in that regard the context in which he was living,” Dempsey said.

“Strategy is, at some level, the ability to predict what’s going to happen, but it’s also about understanding the context in which it is being formulated. And then you have to be open-minded to the fact that you’re not going to get it right at the very beginning. You have a certain set of contexts in which you operate. You then apply yourself against that context, which changes the environment and introduces another set of complex challenges.”

Now that Dempsey is retired from military service, he will no doubt take this same philosophy with him into civilian life, where he currently serves as chairman of the newly formed Junior NBA Leadership Council and as a special advisor to NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

He and his wife Deanie, his high school sweetheart to whom he has been married since 1977, have three children, Chris, Megan, and Caitlin, and nine grandchildren. When Irish America asked him what he loved most about military life, he said it was “the fact that my wife of 39 years shared my passion for it, and we were blessed by so many friendships.” Their children have all served in the U.S. Army, continuing Dempsey’s legacy there, and Chris remains on active duty.

“They each made their own decision,” Dempsey insists.


What values did your parents and grandparents pass on to you?

Faith, humility, respect, and the value of hard work.

Was St. Patrick’s Day celebrated in your house?  

Frequently. We were Irish. We celebrated life, our roots, and our faith.

Did it make you feel special that your birthday was right around that time?  

My parents and grandparents always made me feel special.

What is your favorite Irish song?  

It’s hard to select one from the litany of possibilities. My favorite group is “The High Kings.” I enjoy their versions of the traditional ballads.

What is the hardest part about being a military leader in time of war?  

The casualties. We must always work to make their sacrifices matter.

What can we do to better serve our veterans? 

Give them a handshake, not a handout. They just need a chance and will make any organization they join better for their presence.

Any comments on the ceasefire in Syria or the refugee crisis in Europe?

The issues that have torn the Middle East apart will take decades to resolve. We need to work with allies in Europe and partners in the Middle East using all of the tools (economic, diplomatic, military) in our arsenal and recognize that it will be a twenty-year endeavor. ♦

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First Word: Does this sound familiar? https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/first-word-does-this-sound-familiar/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/first-word-does-this-sound-familiar/#respond Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:58:36 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25213 Read more..]]> “I’m of Irish descent and in America, 100 years ago, we were refugees, my family. Irish were treated terribly in America for a period of time and not accepted, and America learned to accept all of these ideas. It’s what our country is, a country of immigrants. We have not recently done a very good job of remembering who we are.”

— George Clooney, speaking to a group of Syrian refugee families in Berlin. 

This is our annual Hall of Fame issue and there is much to enjoy in the following pages as we celebrate our honorees, who this year, are particularly illustrative of the proud tradition of the Irish across the most influential service sectors in the United States.

General Martin Dempsey, who served as the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest ranking military officer in the U.S., and Eileen Collins, the retired NASA astronaut and Air Force colonel, demonstrate the great military service to that the Irish have given to the America.

In honoring Ed Kenney, we remember all those Irish in public service. After a career as an agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ed went to work for Mutual of America and was introduced to the Northern Ireland peace process through the involvement of the company’s chairman Bill Flynn, and CEO Tom Moran.

Another aspect to Ed’s story is his work with the Irish humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide U.S., and here too, we are reminded that the Irish give more money per capita than any other people for world hunger relief – as well we should given our own history of starvation.

Honoree Pete Hamill, meanwhile, speaks to the Irish literary tradition. As a distinguished journalist, novelist, essayist, and editor Pete is particularily well-versed in the history of New York and the Irish immigrant story. Many of you will know his writing from his contributions to this magazine over the years, writings that tell of the influences of his Belfast-born parents.

Pete reminds us, too, that from the earliest days in the U.S. the Irish had their own newspapers, including the New York Gaelic American edited by the Fenian John Devoy, of whom you will have learned something from reading our special 1916 issue, published in February.

As that edition generated so much interest, we are continuing with more coverage of that period in this issue. In our “Personal Reflections” section you will find letters from Nora Connolly, daughter of James Connolly, and others who were involved the Rising, and also the recollections of Ernie O’Malley, the Irish Republican Army officer who was a commander in the Irish War of Independence.

In a piece entitled, “The Bonds of a Nation,” Pat Doherty, an avid collector of Irish artifacts, talks about his collection of Fenian bonds dating from 1866 when such bonds were widely sold to the Irish American community to raise money for the cause of Ireland.

(Éamon de Valera would also use this method to raise money for the fledging Irish state in 1919.)

Continuing the Fenian theme, we bring you an excerpt from Timothy Egan’s new book on Thomas Meagher. One of the most colorful figures of the 19th century, Meagher lived through the Great Hunger, was transported to Tasmania for his part in the Young Ireland Uprising of 1848, escaped to America and went on to become the one of the great Civil War heroes as the leader of the Irish Brigade. Egan’s book captures it all. (I hear that Michael Fassbender wants to play Meagher in the movie!) In the section that we have reprinted, we find Meagher in New York, meeting up with other Fenians of the day who always had the cause of Irish freedom on their minds.

There is much hoopla, here and in Ireland, around the centenary of the Rising, but in 1991 the 75th anniversary was a muted affair. The unfinished business in the North and the violence that was ongoing, made it so. In this issue, Gerry Adams writes about what it was like back then, and the changes that the past 25 years have brought to the province. They are mostly positive, and he gives thanks to Irish America for its part in bringing those changes about.

Niall O’Dowd, who himself played no small part in the process, writes about President Clinton’s peacemaking role in the North, a role that ultimately led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and a power-sharing government.

“All changed, changed utterly,” as the poet W.B. Yeats wrote in his poem Easter 1916. (General Dempsey did his thesis on the Irish Literary Revival and, in addition to his military prowess, he is an expert on Yeats).

But if you need a reminder of the pain the Troubles caused, take a look at the portraits in this issue of the people who lost family members during that time. The artist Colin Davidson captures the anguish in their eyes – you can see the pain they have suffered and are suffering still. It’s the kind of pain that you will see if you look at the faces of Syrian refugees on your television screen.

As George Clooney reminded us recently, we Irish were once refugees. In this issue, in which we honor our high achiever, let us remember Annie Moore, the first passenger processed through the now world-famous immigration station at Ellis Island on January 1, 1892. Annie went on to have a tough life and eke out a hardscrabble existence, says Megan Smolenyak, who after a 10-year quest has finally has tracked down Annie’s Irish relatives, so that’s something to celebrate.

Our Hall of Fame motto is “Cuimhnígí ar na daoine a tháinig romhaibh,” which translates as “’Remember those who came before you.” Surely there is no better way to honor the past than to give a helping hand to the Annies of this world today.

Mórtas cine. ♦

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Bill Clinton: The Peacemaker https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/bill-clinton-the-peacemaker/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/bill-clinton-the-peacemaker/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:57:31 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25187 Read more..]]> In recognition of his extraordinary role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland, Irish America honors former President Bill Clinton on March 30th with a Lifetime Achievement Award.


A little over twenty years ago, Bill Clinton broke an ironclad rule of American diplomacy with a move that would lead to peace in Northern Ireland.

That rule, in existence for well over 200 years, was that America never interfered in the internal affairs of Great Britain and Ireland.

For Irish Americans over the centuries no matter their power, that rule had stood. Despite contributing blood and sacrifice in the U.S. Civil War, despite the strength of the Irish vote in the early part of the last century, despite the new Irish Republic in 1921, no president ever gave them a hearing.

Until Bill Clinton.

March, 1996 cover of Irish America.

March, 1996 cover of Irish America.

Here now on a bright late autumn day in 1995, President Clinton and wife Hillary were descending down the steps from Air Force One at Belfast International Airport.

I vividly remember that moment. Irish America had finally found its voice and there was nothing surer in my mind but that peace would follow.

Later that day I stood among the 200,000 people crammed into the center of Belfast waiting for President Bill Clinton to appear for the city’s Christmas tree lighting.

While we waited, Van Morrison warmed us up on a cold and frosty afternoon with the song “There Will Be Days Like This.”

With perfect hindsight I can say Van was wrong. There will never be another day like that one.

On the chairs beside me sat Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams, and Joe Cahill, the leadership of the Irish Republican movement. Not far from me sat David Ervine, Gary McMichael, and Gusty Spence, heads of the Loyalist movement.

Adams and the Loyalists had met the American president, an unheard of occurrence. It was clear Clinton was all in.

Once the organizations they headed had been trying to kill each other. Now they were seated feet from each other, making moves for peace, thanks in large part to the work of the Irish American president.

Up until that day the notion of an American president in Belfast was fanciful in the extreme, yet here Clinton was. I’ll always remember Martin McGuinness especially, and the disbelief and joy in his eyes, that this day had finally dawned.

If there is ever a day that will stand out in history, this was it. Indeed, it was the greatest day of my journalism career.

It all seems long ago and far away now, but life for many Irish reached a zenith that December day in Belfast in 1995. America had at last stepped into the Irish/British conflict, and peace for the first time had a chance.

When we look at ethnic conflicts all over the world today and the inability to stop them the, Clinton intervention in Ireland stands as a beacon of hope.

In the recent release of his oral histories the late Senator Ted Kennedy, a champion of the peace process, gives massive recognition to the role of Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary, who galvanized community groups and women’s groups on both sides.

I’m just glad to have had the chance to witness history in the making. Bill and Hillary cut a triumphant swathe from Belfast to Derry, back to Belfast and then on to Dublin where they received a rapturous reception. By the end of the visit, a deep and irrevocable bond had been forged, one that began when candidate Clinton spoke at an Irish American forum in New York in April 1992 and, most importantly, promised a visa to the U.S. for Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, then an international pariah.

Most observers shrugged at the time. Campaigning was different from governing, such a promise would never be fulfilled, they thought. A visa for Gerry Adams was a pipedream.

Later that year, in September, Irish American legend, Mayo-born Paul O’Dwyer and I met Clinton at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan, and we both came out of the meeting glowing.

O’Dwyer, a former New York City Council president, had been meeting with American politicians about Ireland since the 1930s. He’d never met one like this. “He will turn the Irish issue upside down,” he predicted. He never spoke a truer word.

Once in power, President Clinton overturned 200 years of British oversight on American policy towards Ireland.

Urged on by a group of Irish American leaders who were intermediaries with Sinn Féin, Clinton jumped on board the Irish bandwagon. The State Department spluttered. Tom Foley, the Anglophile Speaker of the House, objected strongly.

But Clinton, the consummate politician, saw something. In January 1994, after a titanic struggle between pro-British and pro-Irish forces, the decision on whether to give Gerry Adams a visa landed on Clinton’s desk.

Former President Bill Clinton is inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in March, 2011.

Former President Bill Clinton is inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in March, 2011.

On the night he had to make the decision he was sandwiched at a dinner between Speaker Foley and Secretary of State Warren Christopher. Both men pounded him on reasons why Adams should not be given a visa.

Clinton, however, was not for turning. Despite the advice of the F.B.I., C.I.A., State Department and the British, on January 31, 1994 he gave a visa to Gerry Adams. In the end the key counterweight was Senator Edward Kennedy, who, having listened to his sister Jean, then the American Ambassador to Ireland, had decided the Sinn Féin peace outreach was for real.

Clinton’s campaign promise had been fulfilled, and all hell broke loose.

British Prime Minister John Major refused to take his calls and the British media lambasted Clinton, calling [the Adams visa] the greatest insult ever offered a British government. In America, of the major newspapers only The New York Times approved.

Adams arrived amid a welter of excitement. He spoke at the Waldorf Astoria at an event hosted by Irish American business leader William Flynn and he went on CNN’s Larry King Live, forcing British authorities to ban the show in Britain.

The Adams move was one of three key triggers that brought about the historic August 1994 I.R.A. ceasefire. The American president’s unorthodox, outside-the-box maneuver played a massive role in bringing an end to the violence in Northern Ireland.

Clinton had proven that the soft power of an American president when used so brilliantly could solve a problem so difficult some people even admired its enigmatic nature and pronounced it unsolvable.

Happily, Bill Clinton was not one of those. ♦

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Hall of Fame: Eileen Collins https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-eileen-collins/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-eileen-collins/#respond Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:56:19 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25194 Read more..]]> In the 1950s and ’60s, as the industries that had helped populate and sustain upstate New York like railroading and manufacturing were leaving, the Harris Hill Gliderport in the lagging town of Elmira offered Eileen Collins a different kind of opportunity. She remembers her father taking her and her siblings to the airstrip just west of town to sit on the hood of their car with A&W root beers and watch the lightweight gliders take off and soar over the steep declivity on the north end of the strip.

“I’d watch the gliders and I would say, ‘Well, maybe someday I’ll get to do that,’” she told Irish America in a 2000 cover interview with Patricia Harty. To date, Collins has done so and more.

One of NASA’s most highly regarded astronauts, she has flown on four missions to space – in 1995, she was the first female space shuttle pilot and in 1999, she became the first female commander of a space shuttle mission. She is also a retired Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, and flew as both a test pilot and in combat zones, a decade before it was legal for women to serve in combat zones. (She piloted a transport plane in Grenada during the 1983 U.S. invasion.)

She doesn’t shy away from these “first woman” titles, though she’s much more eager to talk about her work and what it means for women in the field today rather than her own experiences.

“Sure, there were a couple of jokes,” she told Harty, and, “There were challenges,” she’s slyly told the women’s history website Makers. But for her, the joy of her status in that regard is helping others.

“I think I’ve matured beyond the point of [thinking] ‘It’s about me.’ Because it’s not about me,” she told Makers.

“I was at Kennedy Space Center walking through some of the work areas and I met a group of women. And one of them said to me, ‘Thanks for what you’re doing. Because of what you are doing as a shuttle commander, we get more respect from the guys.’ And I never thought of it that way,” she said.

Collins at the Air Force Test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, 1989.

Collins at the Air Force Test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, 1989.

If Collins’s trajectory towards her status began with A&W root beer on the hood of a car, it calcified in the grade-school library and classroom.

Born the second of four children to Rose Marie O’Hara and James Collins in 1956 in Elmira, Collins grew up in a government housing project. Her parents separated when she was nine and her mother was forced to subsidize her shopping with food stamps until she got a job at the local correctional facility. But her parents remained on good terms, and while her father didn’t make much as a postal worker, he financed the children’s private Catholic school education. There, she excelled at math and science and spent her spare time reading everything she could about aviation.

“I really started to love flying when I started reading about pilots – women pilots, military pilots,” she told Harty.

“I read about Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman [the first African American pilot] and about the military pilots who took part in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Those military pilots became role models for me.”

When she was in forth grade, she read a Junior Scholastic cover story on the Gemini program. She remembers reading it at her desk and thinking how much she wanted to be one of them and began to actively and obsessively learn about their lives.

She told Harty, “I really adored them and I wanted to learn about their families – what their wives were like, and what they did before they became astronauts. How did they get selected?” She says the fact that they were all men didn’t really affect her until she got to high school and started questioning why women couldn’t do it. (Still, she admits she was a young pragmatist, and is fond of making jokes about how she decided if she couldn’t be a pilot, she’d marry one of them.)

It wasn’t until Collins was 19 that she got her first actual flight experience, on a commercial flight with her mother. The following summer, in 1976, she enrolled in flying lessons after saving over $1,000 from part-time work. She also graduated with an associate’s degree from the local community college that year and received an Air Force R.O.T.C. scholarship to attend Syracuse University, the first year that women were allowed to enlist on equal footing as the male airmen. She graduated in 1978 with her B.A. in math and economics, and the following year graduated from Air Force pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma.

The following decade, Collins served as both an instructor and an active duty pilot at various Air Force institutions, including the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, and Travis Air Force Base in California, where she met her husband Pat Youngs while flying C-141 cargo planes. He is retired from the Air Force now and works as a commercial pilot for Delta. They married in 1987 and now have two children, Bridget (20) and Luke (15).

Eileen Collins, center, with her husband Pat Youngs, left, and  Patricia Harty at the 2000 Irish America Top 100 Awards.

Eileen Collins, center, with her husband Pat Youngs, left, and Patricia Harty at the 2000 Irish America Top 100 Awards.

The whole time though, Collins had her sights on NASA. She applied to the shuttle pilot training program in 1990 and was accepted. Five years later she made history as the first woman shuttle pilot when she helmed the Discovery to a rendezvous with the Russian space station Mir. She returned to space in 1997 and in 1999, when she became NASA’s first woman shuttle commander, with a mission on Columbia to deploy the famed Chandra X-ray observatory.

She remembers feeling a lot of pressure on that mission specifically, because she would have to land the shuttle herself on national television.

“The commander always lands the shuttle – it’s never been done on autopilot. The whole world is watching and you’ve only got one shot and you don’t want to mess it up,” she told one interviewer. And of course, there’s the added pressure of being the first woman to do it, too.

“My friends who are women pilots, they were like, ‘Eileen! You got to do it for us! Do it for the women pilots!’” she said.

In 2005, Collins commanded the “Return to Flight” mission to the International Space Station, the first mission since the 2003 Columbia explosion and for which she specifically put her retirement on hold. There, she pioneered a safety maneuver that became standard practice in all subsequent missions whereby the commander inverts the shuttle so the astronauts on I.S.S. can take high-resolution images of the ships heat shield to look for damaged plates, hopefully preventing another disaster like Columbia.

Collins on STS-93 with Columbia in 1999, when she became the first female commander of a shuttle mission.

Collins on STS-93 with Columbia in 1999, when she became the first female commander of a shuttle mission.

She also spoke again to Irish America in advance of the flight about the dangers of space travel, where she compared the notion of taking risks and moving on to the risks immigrants took in coming to America.

“The whole history of the space program is part of moving on and making life better for people on Earth. To me, it is very important for humans to get off the planet. I think that yes, there is risk in space travel, but I think that it’s safe enough that I’m willing to take the risk,” she said.

“I think it’s much, much safer than what our ancestors did in traveling across the Atlantic Ocean in an old ship. Frankly, I think they were crazy doing that, but they wanted to do that, and we need to carry on the human exploration of the universe that we live in.”

As for Collins’s ancestors, they came from Clare on her mother’s side and Cork on her father’s. According to her father, who also spoke to Harty in 2000, they were blue collar – “railroad workers on both sides of the family.” In the ’90s, she and Youngs went to Ireland for a golf tournament and decided to go to Cork to “look up all the Collinses in the phone book,” she told Harty in 2000. “But there were so many Collinses in the book that we gave up!”

It was around this time too that Collins met one of her heroes, astronaut Michael Collins, whose book Carrying the Fire was one of the first space books she read, she told Irish America. They also tried to find a common ancestor, as both of their Collins sides came from Cork, but “as there are many Collinses from Cork,” Eileen says, they weren’t able to.

“It was such an honor to meet him,” Collins said. “As nervous as I was, he was very professional and gracious to me, he is such a class act.”

Today, Collins and her husband live far away from the post-industrial Elmira, but her legacy is still there. In the late 1960s, the National Soaring Museum was established next to Harris Hill Gliderstrip, and, just as Collins began learning to fly in the summer heat, the Eileen Collins Aerospace Camp is held each July and August at the museum. ♦

Collins at the National Soaring Museum’s Aerospace Summer Camp.

Collins at the National Soaring Museum’s Aerospace Summer Camp.

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Hall of Fame: Pete Hamill https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-pete-hamill/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-pete-hamill/#respond Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:55:23 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25201 Read more..]]> If asked for a single word that accurately and completely sums up Pete Hamill’s career, there is only one answer – writer. His genre? Just about everything – novels, short stories, history, biography, memoir, magazine features, newspaper columns, television pilots, adapted film scripts, Bob Dylan liner notes. At his core though, he is a newsman, and it is this journalistic foundation that has influenced his lifetime of work and thinking.

“Writing is so entwined with my being that I can’t imagine a life without it,” he says in the 1996 introduction to Piecework, a collection of his journalism after 1970. He had already published a collection of his journalism from 1960 to 1970, his first decade in the trade, 25 years earlier.

“Usually, I work every day, seven days a week,” he says. “When I go three days without writing, my body aches with anxiety, my mood is irritable, my night dreams grow wild with unconscious invention.”

At the time, Piecework was his 13th published book. To date, he has published now 20 distinct works, including 11 novels, two short story collections, two memoirs, a biography, and four works of collected journalism. This does not include those books on which he is credited as a co-author.

But if the work of writing allowed Hamill to remain employed these past 56 years, it’s his medium and wide-ranging subject matter that has allowed him to ascend to a position of influence and high regard across broad demographics. He has written about topics that range from wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland to rock and roll and the underclass of New York City. As reviewer Patrick Butler wrote in 2012, he’s “the only guy who can effectively write about racetracks and social justice.”

He has been prolific indeed, but so have many writers less acclaimed. It’s Hamill’s combination of personal history and subjectivity with on-the-ground reporting that makes him unique. He helped pioneer New Journalism in the 60s and 70s, adding literary techniques to the dry language of newsprint that reinvigorated both local tabloid dailies as well as nationally syndicated papers of record and glossy magazines. Later, he would flip that formula to employ the sparse language of journalism to help popularize the memoir, lend a sense of authority to his novels (many of which were based on historical events), and elevate the integrity of the tabloid columnist by offering insightful, nuanced, and accessible cultural commentary in his own.

With Floyd Patterson at a party in Hamill's house in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

With boxer Floyd Patterson at a party in Hamill’s house in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

There’s hardly a national magazine Hamill hasn’t published in, his byline appearing in the likes of the The New Yorker, Esquire, New York, Playboy, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and, just this past November, National Geographic. He is also an inveterate New York City writer, having been on staff of most of the still-extant New York daily tabloids, including both the New York Post and the Daily News (he is also the only person to serve as editor-in-chief of both these papers), as well as the Village Voice, but also folded city papers like Newsday and the Herald Tribune. This should be no surprise for a native of the five boroughs who didn’t learn to drive until the age of 36. This last fact, if any, should consummate his credentials as a New York City son.

If there is another biographical fact required to shore up his authenticity as a “native New Yorker,” it must be the fact that he is the son of immigrants, taught through the Ulster Catholic eyes of his mother that New York is a place where children can ascend beyond the caste of their parents. It is this mentality that has informed most of his writing and made him such an enduring American author.

Born William Peter Hamill in 1935 in Brooklyn to Belfast immigrants Billy and Anne (née Devlin) Hamill, Pete was the eldest of seven children and raised in the primarily Irish neighborhood of Park Slope. His father came to New York in 1924 and had one leg amputated three years later following an injury sustained playing semi-pro soccer in Brooklyn. His mother’s first day in New York was Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed. They married in 1934.

In a 2003 interview with Patricia Harty in this magazine, Hamill described his father as “an Ulster man in his inability to express certain emotions.” Billy worked various jobs, including at a grocery store, in a war plant, and at a lighting fixture factory, and was very much of the opinion that his children would remain working class like him.

“He thought that once I got that job in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a civil service job, I should stay there for life,” Hamill told Harty.

Instead, it was Hamill’s mother whom he calls one of the keys to his success.

“My mother was better educated – she’d finished high school, which was a triumph for any woman in those days, but for a Catholic woman in Belfast it was amazing. And because her father had gone to sea, she understood that there was a wider world out there, which is why she loved New York when she got here,” Hamill said.

“She thought that the whole point of this place was that you were not a prisoner of what your father or your grandfather did.”

Hamill attended Holy Name of Jesus grammar school and got his first newspaper job at the age of 11, delivering the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. At 14, he was awarded a scholarship to the prestigious, Jesuit-run Regis High School in Manhattan, but dropped out two years later to work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (He received an honorary diploma in 2010, two days after his 75th birthday.) He later joined the Navy, served four years, and went to college to study painting in Mexico City and the School of Visual Arts in New York. He joined an advertising agency as a graphic designer, but still had notions of being a newspaperman.

“I loved reading newspapers,” he told Harty.

Hamill (right) with brother Tommy and sister Kathleen on an Easter Sunday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

Hamill (right) with brother Tommy and sister Kathleen on an Easter Sunday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

“I started when I was ten or eleven on the comic strips, and I found my way to the rest of the paper – and I loved it. I also had these notions about being a newspaperman that was shaped by the movies – Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn, mixed in with An American in Paris and Joel McCrea in Foreign Correspondent – the sort of trench coat guys.”

In 1959 or 1960, he thinks, he wrote a few letters to the editor of the New York Post that were published and was called into a meeting with the editor-in-chief. By June 1960, he was on the staff as a night reporter.

“There were some amazingly good craftsmen on a very small staff, so that I was able to do two or three stories at night,” he recalls. “And I loved it more than anything I’d ever done.”

By 1968, he had published his first novel, A Killing for Christ, about a conspiracy to assassinate the Pope on Easter Sunday. In 1971 he published his first collection of journalism. He won a Grammy in 1975 for his liner notes on Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. During this time, he lived variously in Mexico City, Barcelona, Dublin, Puerto Rico, Rome, Los Angeles, and Santa Fe, but kept returning to New York and became known as a muscular yet sentimental writer and local raconteur who dated both Shirley Maclaine and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis before marrying his current wife, Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki, in the late 1980s. He and Fukiko currently live in Manhattan and Hamill has two daughters from a previous marriage.

In 1994, Hamill published what is arguably his best-known work, A Drinking Life, a memoir about his childhood and early years reporting, focusing on his embrace of drinking and eventual decision to abstain. His other books include, Forever, a novel about the history of New York; Snow in August, which follows the unlikely friendship between an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy and an elderly Jewish rabbi in 1940s Brooklyn; and Why Sinatra Matters, which was recently reissued with a new introduction by Hamill in honor of Sinatra’s 100th birthday.

Hamill with his wife Fukiko.

Hamill with his wife Fukiko.

But if it was his mother’s ambition that allowed Hamill to have his own, it was the working class world of his father he would return to again and again in his writing, which is why he has endured in the national imagination. Neither wholly nostalgic for a bygone city nor purely historical, his writing is defined by a sense of self-awareness and acceptance of urban change that is tinged with individual subjectivity. Working-class immigrant neighborhoods gentrify, immigrants from new countries come in, buildings are demolished and others built, typewriters become decorations. The constant, however, is newness, and for Hamill, there’s no occupation more symbolic of that than a newspaperman.

Asked in 1995 to give advice to a “newspaper dreamer” by the New York Times, he explained that “If you’re going into it in order to have a pension plan, don’t do it.”

“It was a lot more fun when the field was full of bohemian anarchists who stuck around for a while, threw a typewriter out the window and moved on. When I broke in, there were seven functioning newspapers, so at least you could go down the block if some butcher on the copy desk destroyed your masterpiece that morning,” he said.

“But it’s the most honorable work I can think of doing.” ♦

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Hall of Fame: Ed Kenney https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-ed-kenney/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/hall-of-fame-ed-kenney/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:54:03 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25208 Read more..]]> Traveling to Belfast post-Good Friday Agreement with Ed Kenney and Mutual of America CEO Tom Moran in the late 90s and early 2000s almost always meant engaging in quiet diplomacy – shuttling between the Sinn Féin head office on the Falls Road and Stormont, spending equal time with Gerry Adams and David Trimble, and many other players. The pair offered moral support, advice, friendship, and a helping hand to those in need or in trouble, regardless of which side they were on. It was a powerful example of soft power at work.

Observing Ed’s role in those proceedings would reveal all the hallmarks of his life and career: unswerving loyalty to great visionary leaders, in this case Tom Moran; a commitment to making a positive change in the world; a belief in justice for all people; and an interpersonal style based in listening, gentility, humility, and a seemingly infinite capacity for making friends and allies wherever life takes him.

Throughout his time in Belfast and his entire career, he remained in the background, content to play the role of supporter, facilitator, organizer, friend, and foil, which is why he insists that any record of his own accomplishments include the key figures he worked with and for along the way.

The genesis of the Northern Ireland peace process corresponded with Ed’s retirement from the FBI after nearly 25 years of service and hiring by Mutual of America as Vice President of External Affairs. It was one of many crossroads moments in his life, points at which he almost always made the right choice, influenced by his faith, family, and the truly remarkable people he has met along the way. Each turn led to a series of experiences and accomplishments which add up to a distinctly Irish American life well lived.

Participating in the U.S. private sector’s crucial support of the peace process grew out of Ed’s budding relationship with Tom Moran and Tom’s predecessor at Mutual of America, Bill Flynn. Flynn was an architect of the pivotal multilateral meetings in New York beginning in 1994, and a member of the influential Americans for a New Irish Agenda (ANIA), a group that included fellow business leader Chuck Feeney, former congressman Bruce Morrison, and publisher Niall O’Dowd.

Over time, Ed’s relationships on all sides grew into valued friendships and alliances, which fostered lasting impact. Lorraine Turner, Head of Northern Ireland Bureau in New York remarked, “Ed Kenney’s role in U.S. support for Northern Ireland has gone unsung for too long. I have been privileged enough to see at first hand the contribution this dedicated and thoughtful friend to Northern Ireland has made over many years.”

Ed Kenney with wife Brigid and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel at the Concern Worldwide U.S. Seeds of Hope Dinner, 2007.

Ed Kenney with wife Brigid and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel at the Concern Worldwide U.S. Seeds of Hope Dinner, 2007.

The confidence and courage Ed has brought to his participation in momentous world events are a product of another crossroads moment that occurred in the late 1960s, when he met Brigid Gorman, a daughter of the South Bronx, as well as a Leitrim seamstress and Cavan subway clerk, and had the backbone to show for it. She had fought off numerous serious childhood illnesses and willed herself through Marymount Manhattan College, combining scholarships with waitressing income. She was tough, but gentle, with a burning compassion for the poor and downtrodden, which led her to work as a probation officer, and eventually a social worker and advocate for teen mothers and the mentally ill.

Her more hardscrabble upbringing among the immigrant working class balanced his more comfortable suburban life and more distant roots in Tipperary and Roscommon. He acknowledges that she is not only his rock but also his partner and often his conscience, inspiring and influencing much of his service to the poor. They have five children and nine grandchildren.

Their meeting, and marriage soon after in 1969, came shortly after Ed’s service in the U.S. Army and an earlier decision to take a turn away from the path toward Catholic priesthood – he had been a seminarian since the age of 14, first at Cathedral Prep in Manhattan, then at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers. Though he stepped away from the priesthood, he had developed a strong network of close friends, many of whom now serve at the highest levels of church leadership.

The next major turn came when he was accepted into the FBI Academy in 1970. It launched a distinguished career, most of which was spent in the Soviet unit of the Foreign Counterintelligence Division. His efforts to root out spies, cultivate sources, and safeguard national security established him as an effective cold warrior, but one whose fairness, humility, and humor made allies of his supervisors, colleagues, subordinates, and even defectors. Many exploits along the way were serious victories that also might have been the stuff of spy thrillers, but he hesitates to take credit or even talk much about them.

His most significant friend, ally, and mentor in the FBI was the Assistant Director in charge of the New York office, James M. Fox. Fox, who oversaw the successful investigations of the first World Trade Center bombing and pursuit of John Gotti, was one of the most decorated and respected agents of his generation, but possessed the same kind of humility, humor, and proclivity for making friends.

One of Fox’s favorite maxims, which Ed adopted, was “Find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Ed rose through the ranks of the New York office and became a close advisor and confidante to Fox. They retired the same year, 1994, both leaving a job they deeply loved and bound for another.

Fox’s next post was as executive vice president at Mutual of America, and he introduced Ed to then-CEO Flynn and his soon-to-be successor, Moran. His diplomatic demeanor and vast network of friends and contacts immediately made him an invaluable asset to the company’s philanthropic and corporate citizenship work in New York and behind-the-scenes support of the Northern Ireland peace process. When Tom Moran ascended to CEO in 1995, he increased Ed’s responsibilities on both fronts, and the two began a powerful partnership that continues to this day.

Their introduction to Siobhan Walsh and Aengus Finucane, who were working around-the-clock to open a U.S. affiliate for the Irish humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide, would change the direction of both of their lives.

Aengus was a larger than life personality but also a kindred spirit – humble, humorous, a loyal friend, and a visionary leader. Siobhan was his much younger partner, but just as much a force of nature. Concern’s mission is to work with the world’s poorest people to achieve major, lasting change in their lives. Immediately upon meeting Aengus and Siobhan, it became Tom and Ed’s mission too. They joined the organization’s board and Tom would soon become Chairman, a position he holds to this day.

Kenney and son Brendan with President George W. Bush on the occasion of Brendan’s induction into the FBI.

Kenney and son Brendan with President George W. Bush on the occasion of Brendan’s induction into the FBI.

Over two decades, their combined fundraising efforts have produced tens of millions of dollars that have enabled Concern to save and change countless lives. They have also traveled to over a dozen countries as ambassadors to the communities where Concern works. Ed’s quiet personal efforts also include funding the construction of a school in one of the poorest and most remote communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Siobhan Walsh, now an independent consultant, said, “I am proud and honored to know this man. He has given over 19 years of phenomenal service to Concern Worldwide US. He has been and still is a pillar of strength and support. He was also a key member of the TEA team (Tom, Ed, Aengus), that built the great network of friends and supporters of Concern today.  I will be eternally grateful for his kindness, for being a teacher, an extraordinary friend and a selfless advocate for the poorest in our world. He’s the quiet one, helping and doing for others behind the scenes and never seeks the limelight.”

Current Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley added, “The thing about Ed is, you never just get Ed. You get his family. You get his friends. You get former and current colleagues. The planet is populated by people who know and have absolute respect for Ed Kenney and his extraordinary life and are not just willing, but anxious to respond to a call to action.  Working with Tom Moran, he became an unstoppable force for good. Concern, on behalf of the millions of people he helped – the world’s poorest – is thrilled that he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It is a richly deserved accolade.”

Ed’s charitable work centers on Concern, but it extends to many other causes including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, St. Patrick’s Home, his hometown Ossining Food Bank, the Viscardi Center, the Health Care Chaplaincy, and many others. He is semi-retired from Mutual of America, but still has an office there, and much important work left to do. He is delighted to spend more time with family, but works for his causes with the same energy he always has.

Tom Moran sums it up: “Whether it is the success of Mutual of America, the peace process, or Concern Worldwide, Ed Kenney has been and continues to be a driving force.  He never seeks recognition for himself but is most deserving of this recognition.  His favorite quote is, ‘It’s nice to be important but more important to be nice!’  No one is nicer!  Ed Kenney is a role model for all of us.” ♦

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Dublin City Center Proposes Major Pedestrian Overhaul https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/dublin-city-center-proposes-major-pedestrian-overhaul/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/dublin-city-center-proposes-major-pedestrian-overhaul/#respond Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:53:16 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25217 Read more..]]> Dublin City Council recently unveiled a plan that, if accepted, will radically change traffic patterns in front of Trinity College and allow for easier flow of pedestrians. Under the proposed changes, College Green, the major thoroughfare that flows directly to the college’s gates, will be transformed into a large pedestrian plaza.

A new, wider pedestrian crossing will connect the entrance to Trinity with the College Green walkway. The College Green plaza would block all vehicular traffic from crossing from the Green to Dame Street. Cars, buses, and taxis will run north and south along the Luas line (currently under construction, which will connect the city’s north and south lines) in front of the Trinity gates.

The plan is still in early discussion stages, as the plaza would dramatically change many city bus routes. “There are difficulties with whether we can cater for buses,” council chief executive Owen Keegan told The Irish Times. “Those issues are not resolved.”

College Green is bordered by Trinity’s gates and the Bank of Ireland (in a building that housed the Irish parliament until 1800) and it features statues of Henry Grattan, a member of the Irish House of Commons who campaigned for parliamentary freedom in the 18th century, and of Thomas Davis, the main organizer of the Young Ireland movement. According to the plans, these memorial statues on the Green will remain in place once the plaza is fully pedestrianized. ♦

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Last Descendent of Rising Leader Awarded Freedom of the City of Dublin https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/last-descendent-of-rising-leader-awarded-freedom-of-the-city-of-dublin/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/last-descendent-of-rising-leader-awarded-freedom-of-the-city-of-dublin/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:52:18 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25220 Read more..]]> A 102-year old Jesuit priest in Hong Kong, who is also the last living son of executed Rising leader Michael Mallin, was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin.

Mallin, was presented with the award at a ceremony in Hong Kong in March. Lord Mayor of Dublin Críona Ní Dhálaig stated that Fr. Mallin isn’t just receiving this award due to fact that he is the only remaining living child of one of the 1916 rising executed leaders, but also for his devout work in Hong Kong since he was positioned there in 1948.

Michael Mallin was second in command of the Irish Citizen Army under James Connolly and was positioned at St Stephen’s Green during the Rising.

Mallin’s final letter to his wife had a message for his son. “Joseph, my little man, be a priest if you can,” and it was from this request that Joseph, who was only two when his father was executed, joined the Jesuits.

“My father, I think, was rather quiet but very thoughtful about the political things and the state Ireland was in. He was determined to do something about it for the good of the people – the good of the country,” Mallin told An Phoblacht.

“He would follow what he thought was right and just, no matter what the consequences were.” ♦

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Irish Government in Turmoil https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/irish-government-in-turmoil/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/irish-government-in-turmoil/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:51:49 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25225 Read more..]]> The March 10th election of the Irish Parliament’s, called the Dáil, failed to decide on a new Taoiseach, despite four candidates facing the vote: Enda Kenny, Fine Gael, the majority, center-left party leader and current Prime Minister; Fianna Fáil, the majority center-right party, leader Míchaél Martin; Sinn Féin, the Irish Republican party, president, Gerry Adams; and Richard Boyd Barrett, from the Anti-Austerity Alliance – People Before Profit Party. Not one of the four TDs managed to earn a majority vote from the 158-seat parliament to secure leadership.

The leftist Labour Party, Fine Gael’s former minority partner in the last administration, has gone from 33 to seven seats in the Dáil, meaning the party no longer plays a significant role the formation of the next government.

Though Kenny has officially tendered his resignation, he and his ministers will remain in office custodially until a new government forms.

Deputy Prime Minister Joan Burton and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, among others, have urged Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to put aside their differences and form an alliance, which may be the only action that could prevent economic stagnation, the like of which was seen in Spain, when a similar political stalemate caused the unemployment rate to skyrocket. The two parties trace their enmity to the Irish Civil War, when Fianna Fáil, founded by Éamon de Valera, rejected the Anglo-Irish treaty, and Fine Gael supported it.

As of press time, unless Fianna Fail and Fine Gael reach an agreement, another election is likely to be scheduled for May. ♦

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ICON Joins Groundbreaking Genome Initiative https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/icon-joins-groundbreaking-genome-initiative/ https://irishamerica.com/2016/03/icon-joins-groundbreaking-genome-initiative/#respond Fri, 25 Mar 2016 06:50:41 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=25228 Read more..]]> ICON plc was recently selected by Genomics England to support their “100,000 Genomes” project, the world’s largest genome sequencing project for cancer and rare diseases, which could revolutionize the diagnosis and treatment of various cancers and rare diseases.

Announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2012, the project will compile 100,000 whole genomes from 70,000 individual National Health Service (N.H.S.) patients and their families. This data, once sequenced and de-identified, will become available to approved researchers who will assist in developing tools for diagnosis and treatment based on individual patients’ genetic characteristics. It is currently the largest project of its kind worldwide.

ICON, a company that offers drug development solutions to the medical industries, is headquartered in Dublin and will use its substantial data management capabilities to support and organize the clinical data collected from the 70,000 patients and their families.

“Our partnership with Genomics England demonstrates our commitment to partnering with industry and government organizations in new and innovative ways to improve patient care by accelerating the development of targeted and personalized medicines that tackle complex diseases,” said Professor Brendan Buckley, ICON’s Chief Medical Officer (left).

Managing Director for the 100,000 Genomes project, James Peach, was equally enthusiastic about the partnership. “We are delighted to be partnering with ICON,” he said.

“Their renowned expertise in data management will be fundamental in driving scientific research and accelerating the return of results for N.H.S. patients.” ♦

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