August September 2006 Issue – Irish America Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 82361074 Duty, Honor & Country Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:30:44 +0000 Read more..]]>
As we mourn the loss of Senator John McCain, who served his country honorably, we bring you this cover story from exactly this time, 12 years ago, when McCain was looking ahead to the 2008 presidential election, and immigration was, as now, a hot issue that he tried very much to solve.


John McCain (R-AZ) is seated in his Senate office leafing through a dog-eared copy of John F. Kennedy’s seminal work, A Nation of Immigrants, written shortly before the 1965 immigration act which changed the face of America.

He is due to go before the Senate after our interview to speak on the controversial immigration reform issue. He has led the way on the issue to the fury of some in his own party who have attacked him. Worse for hard-line Republicans, McCain is inextricably linked with the antichrist Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the Senate co-sponsor of the bill. John McCain is unperturbed however. He is not known for walking away from a fight even with some of his own party members.

He explains why. He points to a photograph of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island late in the 19th century. There are people from every, clustered on the bow of a boat looking eagerly, expectantly at the new land they are arriving in. Their eyes are alive with heroic daring. “This right here is the promise of America,” says McCain simply. “Look at the faces, look at the hope.”

John McCain can connect with that hope. On his mother’ s family side, Hugh Young came over from Antrim in Northern Ireland early in the 18th century and settled in Augusta County, Virginia.

His father’s family, the McCains, bred to fight as Highland Scots of the Clan McDonald. Hugh McCain his wife and six children settled in North Carolina. Hugh and his four sons all fought in the American Revolution.

Both the McCains and the Youngs were descendants of Scots who, in the aftermath of Queen Mary’s death at the hands of her royal English cousin, suffered the forfeiture of those who had remained loyal to the Scottish crown.

No surprise then that the clan became famous in America as fighting men. One of their progeny is now favored by many to win the White House in 2008.

John Young, son of Hugh, served as a militia captain during the Revolutionary War, and was a member of George Washington’ s staff. Hugh’ s great-grandson, John Young fought the Confederacy during the Civil War, as did Hugh McCain’ s grandson, William McCain, who died while serving in the Mississippi cavalry.

Senator’ s McCain’ s grandfather, a four- star admiral, attended the surrender of the Japanese aboard the USS Missouri, during World War II. His father, John Sidney, also a four-star admiral, commanded three sub- marines during WWII, and was in command of all U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. Senator McCain himself, of course, was a heroic figure during the Vietnam War after he was shot down and held captive for five and a half years.

The McCains are a version of the American dream, the one where families distinguish themselves over generations in heroic service of their country.

McCain quotes from the Kennedy book at will, some by heart, and then says, “Every argument we are hearing in the Senate today on immigration was made back in the 19th century. It was made against the Irish, the Eastern Europeans. Everyone who was coming new to the country.” he says. “We need to know our history.”

Later on the Senate floor McCain would quote powerfully from the book to buttress his argument that the immigration bill he and Edward Kennedy had initiated in the Senate should be passed. Indeed, against all odds a version of it later was.

He points out in our interview that any party that is seen as anti-immigrant loses out eventually. He talks about the “Know Nothings” in the mid 1800s, the nativist group who targeted Irish Catholics and immigrants because they believed the Pope had designs on America and all immigrants were treacherous and unreliable. After initial success, the party utterly collapsed.

It is clear he believes there is a “know nothing” sentiment to the immigration debate in 2006 except the target of the hatred is Hispanic, not Irish Catholic. He knows too, if it is allowed to flourish in his party, Republicans will be significantly damaged. When former governor Pete Wilson in California went down that track over a decade ago, the GOP was decimated in subsequent elections in the state as Hispanics turned on them.

But McCain does more than quote from books on immigration in our interview. He talks emotionally about the little two-year-old Mexican girl found dead this year on the Arizona side of the border from heat prostration, and the 16-year-old pregnant girl, also found dead with rosary beads wrapped around her fingers.

“Doctors will tell you that heat prostration is a terrible way to die; the drug dealers don’ t die, the coyotes don’ t die. It is the innocents who are brought across by the coyotes who die,” he says grimly.

John McCain is a politician who feels an issue in his bones as well as dispassionately reading up on it in his briefing paper.

Recently, he read in the Irish Voice newspaper how a young woman from County Kerry, whom he had met a few weeks earlier at an immigration rally, had lost her young brother in a tragic car accident in Ireland. Because she was undocumented, she could not return home for the funeral and was forced to listen to the funeral mass down a phone line. He called her and empathized, a call most politicians would never have made.

McCain’ s stance on immigration is a risky one for a Republican from Arizona, a border state. His junior senator, Jon Kyl, has been virulent in his attacks on illegal aliens, as have several Arizona House members.

McCain, however, has led the charge among moderate Republicans for immigration reform, which would end the nightmare once and forever. His bill calls for legalization of those in America, and tough border security, as well as a crackdown on employers who hire undocumented, and a tamper proof identity card for everyone.

Not for the first time McCain is a minority voice in his own party, but polls show that a majority of Americans agree with him. In fact, opinion polls constantly show that McCain has the pulse of the American people more often than any other politician including the president. Yet to many he remains a mystery.

Perhaps Michael Kinsley of the Washington Post caught McCain best, noting in a recent column that he had the extraordinary ability in this very partisan time to have people, including many Democratic voters, overlook the issues they disagree with him on. Many Democrats, Kinsley believes, have a “girlish crush” on McCain. They excuse his anti-abortion position or his support of the Iraq war by saying, “Oh, he has to say that to get the Republican nomination.”

Maverick is a word that follows John McCain around like a puppy dog.  It means he is that rarest of individuals in American politics, a man who thinks for himself.

It can be a costly label. His problem is the exact opposite of Hillary Clinton, his likely opponent for the 2008 White House race, if he gets the nomination. Many pundits say Clinton can easily get the party nomination but can’ t win, and McCain can’t get his party nomination but could certainly win if he does.

There are clear signs that McCain is reining in his maverick side in recent times, courting the evangelical wing of his party, being the good soldier when it comes to President Bush even as Bush’ s popularity collapses. He has taken his share of criticism for that. But there is only so far that he will go. Recently, he pulled out of a fundraiser for a strongly anti-immigrant Republican candidate in a San Diego congressional race. On that issue, McCain is not for turning.

Talking to him, or reading his autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, it is easy to see why. He sees himself living his life by the honor code that he learned at West Point and in the Navy and says that he has tried hard to never deviate from it.

It sounds like something out of the era of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table for those not acquainted with the American military and its mores. For McCain, it is his guiding light. “Duty, Honor, Country.” The three words are his mantra.

He admits that “It is hard in politics to abide by its precepts, but life is never more difficult for me than when I have strayed from those precepts.”

He admits he was sorely tested when he was a prisoner in North Vietnam after being shot down in 1967. When the North Vietnamese learned that his father was a senior admiral in charge of the Pacific Theater of Operations they offered to free him in order to embarrass the United States. McCain refused to be freed and was tortured unmercifully for the next five and a half years.

That was preferable to him than getting any special treatment. “My key for survival was emerging with my honor intact, with my faith in God, my country and my fellow prisoners intact. They tried to deprive me of my dignity but they failed.”

Asked if those were very dark days, he prefers to remember the lighter side of prison life, like his cellmate who figured because he found a carrot one day in his watery soup that they were all going home soon because they were being fattened up prior to release. “Now, that was viewing the world with optimism,” he says with a smile.

How does he look on the Vietnam War now? Most historians gauge it a failed venture that split Americans for a generation. McCain does not agree.

“It was a noble cause. What happened after North Vietnam prevailed clearly validated us. They executed thousands, sent tens of thousands to reeducation camps and brutally treated people. They have made progress now but there is still no freedom of expression. I have healed the wounds with them, worked with the Vietnamese on issues, but I still said, much to their dismay, not too long ago, that the wrong side won.”

But what if America had had to continue to occupy Vietnam in order to “win” that war?

“Well, we pretty much left because of public opinion, which was why the North Vietnamese succeeded. If we had stayed it would probably be like South Korea. Nobody minds, as we are not in combat there – and look how well they have done.”

Does he have any bitterness about how he was treated, enduring savage torture at the hands of the Viet Cong?

“I have no bitterness, it’s not a luxury I can afford,” he replies crisply.

But what if he met one of his captors, for instance the man nicknamed “Cat,” who was particularly savage.

“I’m sure I would feel a little emotion for what they did to me and my colleagues. There are some individuals I’m just as happy I never saw again, but overall I have made my peace with Vietnam.”

And the situation in Iraq today? How does he read that amid the cascading headlines of doom and gloom?

“Well, of course I’m worried, because the consequences of failure are so profound. We are a democratic country, we respond to the will of the people and I understand the frustration [of the people]. I do know that most Americans, although they want us out, do not support an immediate withdrawal. Part of it has been our own fault. All those optimistic statements, ‘mission accomplished,’ ‘last throes,’ ‘a few dead enders,’ have raised expectations and there has been understandable disappointment.

“One of our biggest failures was allowing the looting after the war. We never had enough troops to stabilize the situation… But there are huge stakes involved and the consequences of failure are huge, not just in Iraq but in the entire region.”

But don’t the optimistic statements coming from leaders today sound like what the generals and politicians used to say about Vietnam?

“In Iraq we now have a democratically elected government – in Vietnam it was revolving generals – so I think we have a chance for functioning democracy and government. Also, the support for the insurgents from Iran and Syria is nothing like the massive aid extended to the North Vietnamese by China and Russia. So this has to be fought as a classic counter-insurgency.”

What seems to bother McCain most, however, is the deep split in America now, not just over Iraq but so many other issues, too. Americans, it seems, have never been so divided.

“People are tired of bitter politics. Every time I think our approval ratings here in Congress cannot go lower I pick up a newspaper and indeed it is lower – 22 percent in one poll.”

Many believe McCain to be the one politician capable of bridging the divide.

Polls also show his numbers are high among Democrats and Independents too. McCain’ s biggest problem may be getting out of his own party primary system where conservatives dominate.

However, he is not yet prepared to publicly commit to the 2008 race. “I don’t know, I will decide in the next year sometime,” he says.

Those who know him best, however, have no doubt that he is running.

If he does, he says he may well cite the Irish economic miracle as an example of how successful economies come about. “Ireland has been an incredible success, it is a great argument for a strong educational system, for low taxes, for forward thinking.”

On his trips over there, he has increasingly felt at home. His favorite contemporary writers are Roddy Doyle, the chronicler of Dublin working-class life, whose books he can quote from and who he has met, and short story writer and novelist William Trevor. McCain had recently finished Lucy Gault, Trevor’ s book about a tragic Anglo-Irish family who mistakenly believe that they have lost their daughter.

He would also love to visit his forefathers’ home in Scotland, which he has never seen. Surely, as a part of a presidential run we can expect that he would visit the old sod, whether it be Scotland or Ireland, to stoke up the old ties and make new ones?

He smiles. It all seems so far in the future. An aide whispers it is time to go to the Senate floor to vote. John McCain walks out of his office past the bust of Teddy Roosevelt, the last great maverick in American politics who almost made it to the White House a third time as a third party candidate. Is John McCain the Bull Moose candidate of our generation? One thing for certain, the road to the White House runs past his door. Whether he decides to take it will likely determine who sits in the Oval Office in late January 2009. ♦

This article was originally published in the August / September 2006 issue of Irish America.

Note: After a comment from a relation of  John McCain, received below, we made the appropriate changes to this article.

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The Spirit Of Endurance Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:29:57 +0000 Read more..]]> “Am I the first Scots-Irish person on your cover?” Senator John McCain asks.

“Y es. But it’ s all the same DNA.” He doesn’t seem to hear me. He’s busy being photographed by Kit DeFever.

I’m about to tell him about Scotland being the only place the Irish ever colonized – the Scotti being Gaelic speakers from Ireland who settled in Argyle – but I stop myself. I’ve noticed in the past that, for a Scot, the news that Scotland gets its name from the Irish “Scotti” is equivalent to an Irish-American hearing that Al Smith was German (and that’s a story for another issue).

Scots-Irish, as Senator McCain calls him- self, is a label that confuses many. Are you Irish or Scottish? The phrase is actually American, used to identify the Ulster Scots – such as Senator McCain’s ancestors – who immigrated to the U.S. from Northern Ireland, mostly in the 1700s.

Much has been written about the battles between the Irish and the Ulster Scots, whose descendants are still marching every July 12, to celebrate the Protestant King William’ s victory over the Catholic James II in 1690. In this issue, Tom Deignan writes about the famous Orange marches in New York City in the 1800s, and the riots that ensued.

But there is much that should be written about what the two groups have in common, not least a shared history of famine, pestilence and the sword, foisted on us by the British.

The Gaelic traditions brought over by those 4th-century Irish are still strong in the Scottish Highlands where they are displayed in a passion for music, dance, and storytelling.

Of course, Ireland’ s own Gaelic cultural revival/Irish Literary Renaissance, was fueled in good measure by one J.M. Synge who was of Ulster Scots-Irish stock. A marathon staging of all of Synge’s plays is currently taking place at Lincoln Center, (see “DruidSynge” page 72).

And one cannot mention the cause of Irish freedom without recognizing the contributions of Protestant nationalists such as Wolfe Tone, Charles Stewart Parnell, and Roger Casement.

Of the things shared in common, both the Irish and the Scots-Irish enjoy a reputation for

not backing down from a fight. (My favorite line in Braveheart is “Send in the Irish”). They have fought each other, and for each other (“If defeated everywhere else, I will make my last stand for liberty among the Scots-Irish of my native Virginia,” said George Washington), and on both sides in the American Civil War. And to this day, both traditions have a proud record of service in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Senator McCain, who may well be the next President of the U.S., comes from that military tradition. In this issue, he talks to Niall O’Dowd about lessons he learned from his father and grandfather – both four-star admirals – that helped him survive five and a half years of imprisonment and torture in North Vietnam.

It is that same spirit of endurance, that facing down of difficult challenges, that we also admire in our Wall Street 50, as the fifth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center draws near.

On July 12, 2001, Irish America held its annu- al Wall Street 50 party at Windows on the World. Just two months later the world would change utterly, but I have wonderful memories of that night.

I remember how young Chris Duffy looked, and how proud his father was of him. What a nice Irish face the chairman of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Joseph Berry, had, and how he and his wife held hands as they left the party. How Joseph Lenihan, also of KBW, had sent back his bio for the magazine with the quote “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

Now a simple memorial behind the reception desk of Keefe, Bruyette & Woods’ new offices says it all. It is a painting of an American flag with 67 names etched into the stripes. These are the names of the employees the company lost in the attack, and included on the list are Joseph Berry, Chris Duffy, and Joseph Lenihan.

It’s a moot point to say the loss of so many left a big emptiness that can never be filled. Yet, those who were left to carry on did so with a heroic determination that would have made the ancestors proud.

As writer Pete Hamill says, “It’s not the knock down, it’s the getting up that matters.” And those men and women, many of them

Wall Street 50 honorees who lost friends and loved ones (forty percent of those who died in the attack worked in the financial industry), set about rebuilding. They went back to work, knowing that it was the best way to honor those they lost.

“Every day you go to work and do some- thing meaningful, it is a tribute to all the special friends that we lost,” says John Duffy, who lost not only his son, Chris, but many friends in the attack, and still went on to lead Keefe, Bruyette & Woods.

“After 9/11, we quickly realized that we had several jobs ahead of us: the obvious task of rebuilding our fine company; the moral obliga- tion of taking care of this family, especially those with children; and the need to heal and go on,” John continues in an interview with Turlough McConnell in this issue.

And go on they did.

Recently, I attended the opening of Seven World Trade Center (7WTC), the new 52-story tower just north of the World Trade Center site, and the first major project near Ground Zero. The evening was hosted by “Wall Street Rising,” a group that came together in the wake of 9/11 to attract business back into the devastated area.

The building has, I’m told, impressive safety features. Exit stairwells are much wider than in the old 7WTC, and it’s built so that if the exterior walls are compromised the load will shift elsewhere.

But it is so much more than a “safe” building. It’s a beautiful place, and it was for me a poignant reminder of our Wall Street 50, and the last time I visited the World Trade Center.

Through the floor-to-ceiling glass of 7WTC, you can look down at construction on the Freedom Tower site, and see the footprints of the memorial to come. You can look also at the architects’ model, which shows the proposed new transit hub that will look like the opera house in Sydney, and the new performing arts center, also architecturally beautiful.

And in the still unfinished space of 7WTC, you can get a sense of something mighty – of endurance, promise, and hope for the future – all the things that this country is built on. ♦

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State Bids Farewell to Haughey Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:28:03 +0000 Read more..]]> Charles J. Haughey, former Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) and ex-leader of the Fianna Fáil party, was buried in Dublin following a long illness. Haughey, aged 80 years, was afforded all the trappings of a state funeral, but the Irish public remains divided by the many contradictions surrounding his leadership and lifestyle. Although he remained a figure of considerable curiosity, his popularity declined steadily in recent years, a trend reflected by a low turnout at his final farewell. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, one of Haughey’s successors as leader of Fianna Fáil, gave a graveside oration. He praised his predecessor with an understated reference to evidence of systematic corruption while Haughey was in office. Ahern said history would judge the former leader very favorably. “As one of Mr. Haughey’s successors as Taoiseach I want to acknowledge that he left a huge legacy of lasting achievement which this generation has based its own progress upon,” he told the funeral attendance. “History will favorable record that from 1988 Charlie Haughey took the first steps on a long road to peace.” Haughey’s achievements – most notably opening discussions with the Provisional IRA as a prelude to ceasefire in Northern Ireland and also making a personal project of initiating the hugely successful Financial Services Centre in Dublin – will certainly stand in his favor. However, many of his triumphs are overshadowed by a reputation for cronyism, corruption and hypocrisy typified by his lavish personal lifestyle indulged during a period of severe economic hardship at national level. The former Taoiseach’s record sparks heated public debate and he is certainly one of the most intriguing figures to dominate the Irish political landscape. The state tribunal set up to investigate corruption in public life found that Haughey was generously bankrolled by various businessmen, and although it has been difficult to prove that these payments resulted directly in advantage to his benefactors, the ex-Taoiseach never declared massive payments and so avoided paying tax due to the very state of which he was elected leader. Bertie Ahern is often regarded as a protégé of Haughey’s, but the relationship between the two politicians became more difficult when Haughey’s reputation became tarnished by evidence that he abused his position in public office. Back in 1997 Ahern did not name Haughey when he said that “there would be no place in our party today” for anyone who took gifts or bribes, adding that “no one is welcome in this party if they betrayed the public trust.” Even without naming Haughey, it was clear to whom Ahern was referring. The remarks were seen as an attempt by Ahern to make a break with the past. However, all of this detachment was duly forgotten at Haughey’s graveside. “In this passage of time since his retirement, despite the controversies, even political opponents acknowledge that he had indeed done the state some service,” declared Ahern. “I have no doubt that the ultimate judgement of history will be positive. He was one of the most consequential of Irishmen. When the shadows have faded, the light of his achievements will remain.” Many of Haughey’s associates attended the funeral service. The congregation included several public figures who have featured prominently throughout the tribunals – most particularly disgraced former Minister for Finance Ray Burke. The assembly of Fianna Fáil’s ‘old guard’ suggested that time and public patience have caught up on this once powerful group. Full military honors were accorded the cortege along with all the regalia of a state funeral. Plans for the service, it transpired, were devised by Charles Haughey himself. In addition to hundreds of mourners known to the family, organizers expected crowds of about 15,000 to flock to the northside Dublin suburb of Donnycarney for the funeral. Such predictions proved greatly exaggerated. At Haughey’s removal, fewer than 1,000 people showed up to pay their final respects. ♦

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N.I. Talks Show Slow Progress Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:27:39 +0000 Read more..]]> Irish and British governments continue to decommissioning, but DUP leader Dr. Ian

push the November 24 deadline for power sharing in Northern Ireland, but there is little sign of actual progress on the ground. Unionist and nationalist parties have been unable to find a way to restore devolved gov- ernment at the N.I. Assembly, but Dublin and London hold the majority Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) chiefly responsible for stalling a return to devolution under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The DUP and Sinn Féin represent the largest blocs of unionist and nationalist votes respectively, and progress depends on agreement between the two parties. Sinn Féin has already indicated it is pre- pared to share power with the DUP, but that offer has not been reciprocated.

Governments in Dublin and London are satisfied that the IRA has met demands on

Paisley wants greater proof that republicans are committed to decommissioning of arms, ending criminality and supporting the PSNI and legal system in Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin is unlikely to bow to any DUP demand for further concessions, and unless agree- ment is reached before November 24, the N.I. Assembly will be wound up and direct rule from London restored.

Dermot Ahern, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, met with Northern Secretary Peter Hain, reporting that both governments were “somewhat underwhelmed by the progress to date at the talks.”

He added that, “Both governments are adamant about the November 24 deadline and we expect people to come up to the mark. Ultimately, it’s a matter for them, but November 24th is sacrosanct.” ♦

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Hollywood Snaps Up Cecelia Ahern Books Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:25:06 +0000 Read more..]]> Hilary Swank has been cast to star in the film adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s hit novel PS, I Love You. The two-time Oscar-winning actress will play a young Irish widow recovering from her husband’s sudden death. Richard LaGravenese will direct the movie, which will be produced by Warner Brothers.

Hollywood’s interest marks a further leap in Cecelia Ahern’s remarkable suc- cess. The younger daughter of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, her debut novel, written when she was 21, became a best seller in Ireland and Britain. Film rights to her third novel If You Could See Me Now were bought by the W alt Disney Company who plan to develop it as a musical starring Aussie Tony Award-winner Hugh Jackman. The journalism and media communications graduate has won several awards for her books, including the British Book A wards Best Newcomer 2004/5 for PS, I Love You, and the 2005 Corine Award in 2005 for her second novel Where Rainbows End♦

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Ireland and Beyond Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:23:51 +0000 Read more..]]> Irish Tony Award Nominees Celebrate

Brían F. O’Byrne summed it up when he said, “It’s beyond Irish.” O’Byrne who is currently starring in Shining City, was speaking at a reception hosted by New York Consul General Tim O’Connor on June 9. The event celebrated the Tony nominees from three Irish plays currently on Broadway (Faith Healer, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and Shining City).

Those in attendance included playwright Martin McDonagh, the author of Lieutenant of Inishmore; Ralph Fiennes, currently starring in Brian Friel’s Faith Healer; and O’Byrne, who won a Tony in 2004 for Frozen, and received a nomination last year for Doubt.

O’Byrne noted that the current crop of Irish plays on Broadway had but a few actors from Ireland and in that sense the culture has gone beyond the island.

He credited Tim O’Connor with bringing everyone together, and noted the importance of such gatherings in focusing attention on the needs of the community. “Plays come and go on Broadway, but the Irish Repertory Theatre, which produces great theater year round, is raising funds to buy its building on 22nd Street,” he said, urging those in attendance to get involved in the effort.

Since taking over as consul general, O’Connor has worked hard at bringing the multifaceted and diffuse Irish community in New York together. Within days of each other in June, he hosted receptions for Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, opposition leader Enda Kenny, and pianist John O’Conner, who is embarking on a U.S. tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra in October. ♦

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Irish Eye on Hollywood Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:22:09 +0000 Read more..]]> Irish actor Brendan Gleeson can always be relied upon to star in independent movies on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as Hollywood blockbusters. For example, next year, Gleeson will star alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins in a new screen version of the literary classic Beowulf. This latest sci-fi version of the book that has tortured high schoolers for decades will be directed by Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future). Until then, keep an eye out for a small movie starring Gleeson called Black Irish. The film, which has been playing on the festival circuit, was shot in Boston and revolves around the tortured Irish-American father-son relationship of Gleeson and a character played by up-and-comer Michael Angarano. If you miss Black Irish in theaters, look for it on DVD.

Irish-born director John Moore got into some trouble a few years back when he criticized George W. Bush and America’s war in Iraq. This was interesting mainly because Moore’s movies have not really shown much of a political angle. First, the Dundalk-born Moore made a splash with his techno-action debut Behind Enemy Lines starring Owen Wilson. Then came another thriller, a remake called The Flight of the Phoenix. Back in June Moore waded into more controversy when he release his latest movie The Omen on June 6 – you know, 6/6/06 (check it out when it comes out on DVD).

The hype around the Satanic date made it easy to forget the film’s other Irish star – Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. The seven-year-old resident of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania landed the plum role of Damien, spawn of the devil.

“All of the kids at school know that I’m in the movie,” Davey-Fitzpatrick told one Pennsylvania newspaper following a final day of first grade at J.M. Hill Elementary School. “People think I’m going to be like, ‘I’m a movie star and you’re not,’ but I don’t think I am.” Seamus is the son of James H. Fitzpatrick, 55, and Marty Davey, 47, both actors.

“He’s a pretty level-headed kid,” Seamus’ dad said recently. “He hasn’t had anyone running down the street calling his name, so he doesn’t realize it yet.” One movie review of The Omen read: “In the movie, Seamus’ blue eyes and pale skin – evidence of his Irish heritage – contrast with his brown hair dyed black, adding to the otherworldly effect.”

An important piece of advice for little Seamus recently came in. Harvey Stephen told reporters: “People use the same jokes and it gets really boring. If I had a pound for every time someone asked me if I had 666 on my head, I’d be rich.” Who is Harvey Stephen? Now 35 and the owner of a chauffeur company, Stephen played Damien in the original Omen film (1976).

Speaking of children, they – as well as parents with fond memories of a certain cinematic pooch – may want to all take a look at the latest Lassie when it comes out later this year. The film has extensive Irish connections, most prominent among them that it stars screen legend Peter O’Toole. The film, which also stars Irish actor John Lynch (In the Name of the Father), was shot in Ireland and was produced by Ed Guiney, whose past work includes an eclectic mix of Irish films such as The Magdalene Sisters, Disco Pigs and Omagh. Also starring in the new Lassie (set in 1930s Scotland and England) are Samantha Morton (who played an Irish immigrant in Jim Sheridan’s In America) and Kelly McDonald (who played Irish roles in Intermission and the 2000 independent movie Two Family House).

When summer turns to the dog days of August there will be two more movies hitting theaters with Irish-American angles – one serious, one comical.

On August 11, Oliver Stone’s much-hyped World Trade Center will open, starring Nicolas Cage as heroic Port Authority Police Officer John McLoughlin. Child actor Morgan Flynn will play McLoughlin’s daughter Caitlin. A week later, on August 18, New Jersey native and Irish-American writer director Kevin Smith hooks up again with Brian O’Halloran and the gang from Clerks, Smith’s 1994 indie hit, for a sequel.

On a more serious note, Ireland’s largest trade union recently announced it would assist in the funding for an upcoming movie about Irish rebel James Connolly, commander of Republican forces in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising. At the time of the Rising, Connolly was Acting General Secretary of the Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union’s (SIPTU) predecessor, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. Connolly was eventually executed by the British. The Connolly bio-pic is slated to star Scotsman Peter Mullan. Irish thespian Patrick Bergin will portray the co-founder of the Irish Labour Party, James Larkin. Veteran Irish actor and writer Adrian Dunbar is to direct. SIPTU’s General Secretary Joe O’Flynn said: “James Connolly was passionately committed to organizing workers. The cause of labor is the cause of Ireland. The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered.”

Speaking of historical films, Ken Loach’s much-anticipated film of the Irish civil war The Wind that Shakes the Barley (starring Cillian Murphy), won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival. Already being condemned as anti-British, the film – about brothers who are separated by the Irish civil war of the 1920s – has extensive Irish connections, though Loach himself is British. The film’s title comes from a song by Robert Dwyer Joyce and was written by Paul Laverty. Most of the film was shot in West Cork using locals. Padraic Delaney and Liam Cunningham also star.

Loach has risen to the top of the film world by making gritty critically-acclaimed independent movies such as My Name Is Joe and Ladybird, Ladybird. But The Wind that Shakes the Barley should remind some viewers of his earlier, controversial Irish film. Back in 1990, Loach directed Hidden Agenda, which won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes and explored cover-ups amidst the British “shoot-to-kill” policy in Northern Ireland.

Accepting his latest award at Cannes, Loach said The Wind that Shakes the Barley has a message with relevance for today. He said the movie is “a little step, a very little step, in the British confronting their imperialist history. Maybe if we tell the truth about the past . . . we tell the truth about the present.” The Wind that Shakes the Barley should be out in the fall.

Writer/director Ed Burns is not the only Irish link in his latest romantic comedy The Groomsmen, about men who are nervous because they are on the brink of marriage. Look out for NYPD cop-turned actor John O’Donohue (whose mother came from Sligo and dad came from Kerry). O’Donohue began attending off-Broadway plays while still a police officer and believed he, too, could become an actor. Born and raised on West 106th Street in Manhattan, O’Donohue is perhaps best known for a recurring role as Sgt. Eddie Gibson on NYPD Blue. He has also appeared on a host of TV crime shows such as CSI and Third Watch. Interestingly, Ed Burns’ dad was himself a cop. The Groomsmen, shown recently at the Tribeca Film Festival, will hit theaters later this year.

Finally, on the TV front, by the time Denis Leary’s brilliant Rescue Me as well as Showtime’s Brotherhood wrap up, you might think TV would be an Irish-free zone. But don’t forget, NBC is offering up The Black Donnellys, a gritty drama from the creator of the Academy Award-winning movie Crash about four Irish brothers fighting turf wars in New York’s notorious Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. ♦

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Proud Is Part of Fleet Week Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:21:24 +0000 Read more..]]> When the USS Mason sailed into New York Harbor on May 25 for Fleet Week, the ship’s banner displayed a coat of arms rooted in a shamrock.

Commissioned in April, 2003, the destroyer was named for the World War II USS Mason DE529 as a tribute to the brave service of the crew – the only African-American sailors to take a warship into combat.

The story of the sailors, who went on to escort convoys across the Atlantic during WWII, is told in Proud, a movie written and directed by Mary Pat Kelly, which after a limited theatrical release has now been issued on DVD by Lionsgate.

In 1992, while researching a piece for Irish America on the 300,000 American servicemen and women who were stationed in Northern Ireland during the war, Kelly came across a story in an African-American newspaper headlined “Irish First To Treat USS Mason Crew as Americans.” The story, which told of the warm welcome the crew received in Northern Ireland and their gratification at being called “Yanks,” intrigued Kelly, who went on to make a documentary and then a movie on the subject.

Kelly also became involved in the effort to recognize the service of black Americans during WWII and, in particular, the crew of the Mason, who were recommended for, but never received, a commendation for meritorious action during Convoy NY119 – saving ships during “the Storm of the Century.”

In 1995, Secretary John Dalton awarded the men their long overdue commendations and decreed that a new US Navy destroyer DDG87 would be called USS Mason, and thus would carry the history “of the men of the Mason into the next century.” The shamrock on the ship’s banner is a nod to the original Mason’s stop in Northern Ireland.

Proud stars Ossie Davis in his last movie, playing USS Mason veteran Lorenzo Dufau as a grandfather telling the story to his grandson, portrayed by Albert Jones. Stephen Rea is Barney Garvey who guides them through Derry. John Hume, the former SDLP leader, makes a cameo appearance. ♦

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Gov. Ryan Convicted on 18 Counts Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:21:24 +0000 Read more..]]> Irish-Americans are in the news in Chicago where U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald – who has charged Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff with perjury and obstruction of justice – over- saw the prosecution of George Ryan, the former governor of Illinois, that was spear- headed by his top public corruption prose- cutor, Patrick Collins.

Ryan was convicted on 18 counts of using his public office to enrich his friends and family, and is eligible for up to 20 years in prison.

A Kankakee, Illinois, pharmacist, Ryan began his career as a conservative Republican who helped kill the Equal Rights Amendment in Illinois, but he fin- ished up as a supporter of gay rights and pro-choice. And he made international headlines when he emptied Illinois’ death row of prisoners, saying he was troubled by reports that police tortured confessions out of defendants – some of whom had their convictions thrown out shortly before they were scheduled to be executed.

“I believe this decision today is not in accordance with the kind of public service I’ve provided to the people of Illinois over the years,” Ryan said as left the court. He is scheduled for sentencing in August but is hoping for a new trial.

A bizarre series of events during Ryan’s trial saw the judge replace two jurors who had neglected to mention their arrest records. Two alternates joined the jury and voted to convict on all counts. Ryan hopes the appellate court will grant him a new trial based on that.

Fitzgerald, a Brooklyn-born son of immigrants from Clare who has made a national reputation for being unafraid to investigate mayors, governors or even the chief of staff of the vice president, said he hopes other elected officials pay attention to the Ryan verdict.

“I think people now know, if you’re part of a corrupt conduct, where one hand is taking care of the other and contracts are going to people, you don’t have to say the word ‘bribe’ out loud,” Fitzgerald said. “I think people need to understand we won’t be afraid to bring strong circumstantial cases into court.”

Fitzgerald gave credit for Ryan’s convic- tion to Patrick Collins and his team of prosecutors as well as the FBI and other government agents who worked on the case for years.

Collins, who has degrees from Notre Dame and the University of Chicago Law School, is the sixth of seven children born to a printer/typesetter at the Chicago Tribune. A 6’ 2” former Benet Academy basketball player, Collins paid his way through private school with a lawnmowing business. Shortly after winning Ryan’ s conviction, he began Chicago’s second big corruption trial of the year, this time against Mayor Daley’ s patronage chief Robert Sorich. ♦

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Duddy Jabs His Way to Win Tue, 01 Aug 2006 09:21:07 +0000 Read more..]]> On the undercard to the Cotto/Malinaggi world title bout, John Duddy faced his sternest test June 10 against Freddy Cuevas and once again answered with a resounding victory in the seventh round.

The atmosphere in Madison Square Garden was like a football match with “Olé, Olé” and “The Fields of Athenry” the soundtracks to Duddy’s most notable win to date. Entering the ring to a lone piper playing “A Nation Once Again,” Duddy looked in incredible shape, thanks to a grueling pre-fight training camp in the Poconos.

He was extremely patient and used his jab throughout to devastating effect. In the first round Cuevas traded well with Duddy and it looked like the Derryman might have a real battle on his hands. However, as the fight progressed two things became apparent. Cuevas seemed much lighter and smaller than Duddy, and none of his shots were hurting the man with the green gloves. “I was happy for him to set the pace because I knew I could up the gear at any time,” Duddy told ringside media after the fight.

After taking a few rounds to scope out the opposition, Duddy soon completely took over and despite the excellent movement of the wily veteran American Cuevas, the Irishman began to inflict a lot of punishment on his target with precise jabs and fluent combinations, eventually breaking his opponent’s nose. When Cuevas did not emerge for the eighth round the fight was over, capping off a good night’s work for Team Duddy. ♦

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