December January 2003 Issue – Irish America Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 82361074 Chris Matthews Interrupted Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:59:09 +0000 Read more..]]> Niall O’Dowd interviews Chris Matthews of CNBC’s Hardball, one of prime time’s most popular programs.


If Chris Matthews were a cat, curiosity would have killed him long ago. In our 90-minute interview in a Washington restaurant he asked as many questions as he fielded and he ranged over practically every major world problem, offering opinions, facts and speculations on all.

Matthews, 56, is intensely curious. When the interview begins we discuss Michael Collins, the crisis in the North, the economy of the Irish Republic, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, Gerry Adams and why and how former President Bill Clinton got involved in the Irish peace process. And that’s just in the first 10 minutes.

Most of the questions come from him to me. I try in vain to put him in the spotlight but he is a natural inquisitor. My sentences are interrupted in mid-stream by a single “Why?” barked in the TV style that has made him famous. Even the waiter gets interrogated at length about the specials.

Matthews has entered the restaurant with his tie askew. The maitre d’ gently puts it in place while Matthews divulges the history of the tie and why he wore it that day. He has the opposite of attention deficit disorder. Even his tie interests him.

When he takes a question, the answer flows like a stream of consciousness. His television persona is no act. When the klieg lights come on, he has said, “The Chris Matthews you see and hear is the only Chris Matthews there is.” And it is true.

It is the persona he has become famous for. He is one of the most recognizable faces on television as the host of MSNBC and CNBC’s Hardball, a no-holds-barred politics and current affairs program, five nights a week.

The show often has an uneven quality. Matthews suffers poor guests badly, constantly interrupting while trying to make them speak sense. The result can sometimes sound like one long monologue.

His pet hate, he says, is politicians who come along with talking points all nearly typed out. He can be merciless, teasing them for their lack of confidence in their own abilities, cutting them off in mid-sentence. He shows no reverence or respect, no matter how high and mighty the guest assumes himself to be.

But when the topic and the guest are interesting, Hardball is one of the best watches on television. It lacks the pomposity and solemnity of many of the political talk shows where you can almost feel the interviewers puffing themselves up to ask an “extremely important question.” Matthews freewheels, though he sometimes tries to do it uphill. You can see how he wins most of his debates just by exhausting his guests.

He has two innate abilities though, the first to cut through the bullshit, the second to ask the question that the ordinary Joe or Jane sitting at home would love to ask. The rowdy atmosphere and constant interruptions give the show a saloon-like quality with Matthews as the bartender, and the cut and thrust can sometimes enliven even the most boring topic.

The format is no artifice, however. Matthews does not wipe off the greasepaint and return to his normal self after the show. He is exactly as he appears and the show fits him like a glove. His wife Kathy must find him exhausting.

George Will once noted that Matthews is “half Huck Finn and half Machiavelli” and “an exuberant guide to the great game of politics.” The buttoned-down Will, with the prim bow-ties, doesn’t use words like “exuberant” too often, one suspects.

From his earliest memories Matthews wanted to work around politics. Growing up in an Irish neighborhood in Philadelphia and later in a rural setting near Bucks County, Pennsylvania, he immersed himself in the science.

He remembers in 1952, at all of six years of age, professing fealty to Dwight Eisenhower, the dashing general and hero of World War II, who was elected president that year. His father, Herb, a court reporter in Philadelphia, approved. Herb was a Protestant who later converted to Catholicism. All his life he loved the Republican Party and voted for Nixon over Kennedy. (At age 82, he has recently married again).

Herb’s mother was a Protestant immigrant from Northern Ireland who came over to a life in domestic service in the United States. After her English-born husband died she eventually built a one-person laundry service which helped her family through hard times. “She spoke with an Irish accent and conveyed a strong, upbeat fun-loving attitude her whole life,” says Chris.

The Matthews Family at the Lincoln Memorial, 1954: Mary Matthews with sons (left to right) Chris, 8, Jim, 5, and Herb, 10.

The Matthews Family at the Lincoln Memorial, 1954: Mary Matthews with sons (left to right) Chris, 8, Jim, 5, and Herb, 10.

The most influential person for Matthews, however, was his maternal grandfather, Charlie Shields, a Democratic committeeman for his neighborhood in North Philadelphia. At night, after supper, he took his grandchildren on long walks through the streets of his domain, filling their heads full of political lore and wisdom. Young Christopher John Matthews was enthralled.

His mother, Mary Teresa Shields, grew up in North Philadelphia and scandalized the locals with her marriage to a Protestant. She moved her family from their protective cocoon of an Irish neighborhood to an area of converted farmland in rural Pennsylvania. Like her husband, she too in time became a rock-ribbed Republican, a tradition that ran deep in the family. Matthews’ brother Jim is now a Republican commissioner in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

One event in his early life stands out for Matthews. In 1954 his parents took their three oldest sons to Washington to see the Capital for the first time. Matthews says the “trip was unforgettable” and even back then he was hooked.

By 1960, as a teenager, he cried when Kennedy beat Nixon in the race for the White House. His family, he says, were “cloth-cap Republicans” and he found himself siding with his father and his long-held views. His mother, he knew, was more conflicted, her Catholicism and Republican leanings at odds with each other.

To this day he retains a fascination for Nixon. “I have some pull towards Nixon,” he says. “He had a hard life, and he had no social confidence, but he had a will to win, that’s why he got into politics. He got his original chance by a fluke but he made the best of it.”

Matthews’ childhood fascination with that election led him to write Kennedy and Nixon (1996), a very well-received book which the Washington Post tagged as “a beautifully written, persuasive narrative.”

On November 22, 1963, Matthews was a freshman at Holy Cross in Massachusetts when word came through that Kennedy had been assassinated. “I don’t think I have ever felt as deadened by any event as the assassination of Jack Kennedy,” he says. He was still a Republican and a Barry Goldwater fan, but he realized the country had crossed a dark threshold.

Just ahead lay the Vietnam War, which Matthews soon opposed because right from the beginning, he felt it was not winnable. Gradually, he found his political perspective changing. The youth of America were looking for a leader who showed that he cared about what they were thinking.

Matthews and millions of others found that person in Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy, who took on Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primary and hastened the end of the war and the president’s career. “He was the kind of Democrat I could see myself becoming,” says Matthews.

When Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot Matthews found himself even more disenchanted. He had a student deferment from the draft but it was about to elapse. General William Westmoreland was asking for 250,000 more troops after the Tet Offensive sent shockwaves through South Vietnam. Matthews was on the firing line.

Matthews at home with his wife, Kathy.

Matthews at home with his wife, Kathy.

He sidestepped by joining the Peace Corps and went to Swaziland in southern Africa. He spent two years there helping the locals to organize their small businesses better. By 1970 he was back in the U.S.

Speaking of that period, he believes there are still lessons for Americans from the war. “Vietnam remains a chronic reminder that even the most powerful nation in the world cannot work its will everywhere,” he says.

Back in the U.S. Matthews wanted to fulfill his life’s ambition by working on Capitol Hill. Wayne Owens, a top aide to Senator Frank Moss of Utah and a former Peace Corps volunteer, hired him both as an aide and a Capitol policeman. Daytime he worked in the senator’s office, then at 3 p.m. he donned his police uniform and his .38 caliber weapon and took up his guard duties.

In 1974, urged on by his boss, Matthews decided to run for office himself in his native Philadelphia against a strong incumbent, Representative Josh Eilberg. He had no money, no real political contacts and few prospects. He says it was “the toughest thing he ever did.” He was soundly defeated but came back to the Hill to some newfound respect.

He began working for Senator Edward Muskie of Maine, then a contender for the presidency. From Muskie he said he learned “how to get things done in Washington.”

In 1977 he began work at the Carter White House as a presidential speechwriter, the job he says was the most fun he had before Hardball. When Carter was defeated he went to work for House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, the only Democratic leader to survive the Reagan landslide in 1980. He was named administrative assistant, the top staff position on Capitol Hill. It was a long way from his part-time-policeman days.

He describes O’Neill as a man with “a mountain of courage, history and good-will.” Many expected O’Neill would be road kill in Reagan’s drive to put through his conservative agenda. Instead he stood up to Reagan and, Matthews says, saved many social programs that would otherwise have been cut.

Following the O’Neill stint, Matthews began to focus on journalism. By 1992 he was writing a syndicated column for the San Francisco Examiner, as their Washington Bureau Chief and was also working for ABC’s Good Morning America for whom he covered the South African elections in 1994, witnessing the end of an era of white supremacy. By 1998, Matthews was invited by CNBC and MSNBC to host a political show. He decided on the title Hardball named after a book he had written.

Asking Chris Matthews for an opinion is a little like fishing in a bowl of goldfish. You are guaranteed a successful outcome.

On the possible war in Iraq he is vocal. “I can’t figure out a strategic threat from Iraq,” he says. “Why should we risk it? We are basically acting like world protectors from Palestine to Cuba — where’s our sense of humility?”

The cover of Matthew's book, Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think.

The cover of Matthew’s book, Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think.

He believes that George W. Bush lacks a sense of history on the Middle East. “It’s like a Brazilian beat, there are two sounds going at the same time. An American president needs to be pro Israel, but we also need to be honest brokers and we need to keep both in our head at the same time. Bush is only pro Israel,” he says.

Matthews is damning about the “neoconservatives” that, he says, surround the president and have a skewed view of American foreign policy. “They think they can pretty much do as they wish anywhere in the world and diplomacy is a poor second to military force.”

He believes General Colin Powell is the counterweight, but his influence has waned. The current Israeli occupation will end badly, he says. “It will only radicalize the people in the occupied territories. There has to be a peace plan.”

After lauding George Bush to the skies on the fight against terrorism, Matthews’ enthusiasm has waned — much of it because of the people Bush has surrounded himself with. But he hasn’t given up on the President yet.

He says he’d love Bush to pick a heavy-weight to stand up to the conservatives as his running mate in 2004. “I like Rudy [Giuliani],” he says. “He’s a tough bastard, exactly what is needed.”

On the Democratic side, of the current contenders Matthews likes Massachusetts Senator John Kerry who has a stellar Vietnam War record and a reputation as a maverick on some issues.

It is clear though that he is also a great admirer of Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has a reputation for speaking his mind. He feels McCain embodies the best of the American spirit. Matthews’ next book, America, Beyond Our Greatest Notions, hails the reluctant-warrior theme in American life, the Cincinattus who returns to his plough and his fields after being forced to fight.

“Pioneer spirit, optimism, always rebellious about government, pain in the butt, take on the establishment, the frontier spirit” is how he characterizes his heroes.

Matthews recently had a reconciliation with former President Bill Clinton while both were in Dublin for an awards ceremony. They stayed out late on a pub-crawl, says Matthews. He was bitterly critical of Clinton during the Lewinsky affair. “I just don’t understand how a man who could get the hard part of his job couldn’t get the easy part,” he says.

He has enormous respect for the former president’s political and social skills, however. “If he landed on a foreign planet and met aliens, he’d figure out faster than anyone what they did, what constitutes sex up there and he would have them laughing at his stuff in no time.” he says laughing.

He thinks Hillary Clinton will definitely run for the White House but says her liberal views mark her as outside the centrism which he believes is the centrifugal force in American life.

Matthews was honored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians recently and on March 16 he was the keynote speaker at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Dinner in New York. He was guest of honor at The American Ireland Fund’s August bash on Nantucket Island.

On several of his Irish speaking engagements Matthews has discussed September 11 and the incredible Irish subtext to that tragedy. Midway through his talk, he says, he begins reading the names of police and firefighters who died, the majority of them Irish. He says you can hear a pin drop.

For the only time in the interview his eyes well up and his voice cracks. “Now, those men and women are real heroes,” he says softly, for once lost for words. ♦

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Irish America’s Annual Business 100: Who They Are Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:58:33 +0000 Read more..]]> “There is no denying the influence of American business on the Republic of Ireland. The economy in Ireland has grown more than any other European Union country, and the 585 American companies doing business there have contributed significantly to this success”

–U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Richard Egan


This year’s Business 100 is indeed a celebration of Irish American corporate success. From Chuck Dolan of Cablevision to John Ryan of Macrovision, the executives in the following pages run some of the most powerful corporations in the world.

It is no surprise that so many of our 100 trace their ancestors to Cork and Mayo — two of the largest counties in Ireland and also two that suffered massive emigration in the years following the famine and all throughout the 20th century.

And even as corporate America goes through what financier Peter Lynch would call a major “correction,” it is awesome to consider the heights of power and responsibilities that those American Irish in the following pages command. And it is a good time to remember the Irish ability to overcome despite the odds.

Historians agree that education is one of the key elements in the success of the Irish in America. And colleges that have an Irish identification still have a large part to play in the schooling of today’s business men and women, and, as the list opposite shows, so does Harvard Business School.

Ireland has always enjoyed a special relationship with America. A long history of emigration from Ireland to the U.S. has provided strong familial ties. And today the Irish economy is robust thanks in large part to American investment in Ireland.

There are, as Ambassador Richard Egan reminds us, some 585 American companies doing business in Ireland today (see interview with Egan page 70), who have played a large part in the building of the Irish economy to the point where it is “rocking and socking” today.

Education too played its part in Ireland, and American companies doing business there find not just an ideal geographical location — the gateway to Europe — but a highly educated workforce, with a good background in science and math, as Ambassador Egan also points out.

Though those whose grandparents were born in Ireland top our list, it is interesting to note the number of Irish-born who are making it in corporate America today — almost 9 percent.

Surely some of this success can be traced to the entrepreneurial spirit that Americans and returning emigrants have brought to Ireland.

Whatever generation they are, the Business 100 all take their heritage seriously. Many are members of various groups that are helping Ireland, economically and socially. One of the most significant of those is Chuck Feeney, but we are also proud to have so many others on our list who are on boards that serve their local communities and the American public at large. We thank all of those on our list that took the time to fill out their personal biographical form, and thank our sponsors for their continued support of this annual feature. ♦

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First Word: The Good Luck of Bad Luck Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:57:14 +0000 Read more..]]> “Lady Luck generally woos those who earnestly, enthusiastically, unremittingly woo her.”

— B.C. Forbes


Much is said of the Luck of the Irish. What luck? you might ask. A look at our long history of trials and tribulations would surely say we were dogged by bad luck. As John Lennon wrote in a song entitled “The Luck of the Irish,” “If you had the luck of the Irish, you’d be sorry and wish you were dead. You should have the luck of the Irish and you’d wish you were English instead.”

The words of Lennon rang true for me when I was a kid in school in Ireland. I was tormented by Irish history. I couldn’t bear to read about another battle. I knew that even if the Irish appeared to be winning, a turn of the page would bring another traitor or some trickery by the English — a broken treaty and/or banishment. And on top of that was all the nasty things that the English said about us — see Jim Mullin’s letter on Thomas Carlyle — which, of course, no one told us about and you had to come to America to find out about.

And here now, dear reader, having been firmly slapped on the wrist by Mr. Mullin, your editor must confess another short-coming. I don’t know exactly where the phrase “The Luck of the Irish” came from, but I recently heard something that seems more apropos, given our history, and that’s “The good luck of bad luck.”

Now, we’ve had a lot of that.

It was bad luck that brought many of us here and it was good luck that there was a here to come to. It was the misfortune on which future fortune was built. For we are a fortunate race in that in the midst of our bad luck America took us in.

And every year at this time, coming up to Christmas, I think of the ties that bind our two countries. When I was a kid it was the money from America, the airmail envelopes that we looked for. The $50 from my father’s Aunt Nell in the Bronx that came every year, and although Santa could be depended on to bring the dolls and cap guns and cowboy hats and Meccano sets, that extra cash was a great blessing to my mother who always made sure that Christmas was the absolute best time of the year, with Christmas cake (see recipe page 120) and plum pudding and turkey or goose with all the trimmings.

We thought all Americans were rich. Certainly when the relatives came home for visits they always seemed to have plenty of money to throw around. It wasn’t until I emigrated to New York that I found out that Aunt Nell’s husband, Uncle Brian, supported his family on a bus driver’s salary.

Nowadays, while there are still those in Ireland that the Celtic Tiger doesn’t touch — those who still depend on money from relatives in America — it’s much less so. These days, it’s corporate dollars, Irish and American, that flow back and forth across the Atlantic. And increasingly, it is not the “poor, tired, weary, hungry” Irish immigrant coming to these shores but business people who are traveling here or making a living in the U.S., as more and more Irish-born make it into the ranks of corporate America — almost nine percent of this year’s Business 100 honorees are Irish-born.

It is extraordinary to monitor the growth of the Irish economy in the last seventeen years from when we first published Irish America in 1985. And in a large way American investment in Ireland provided the boost that the Irish economy needed. There are, as Ambassador Richard Egan reminds us (see interview page 70), some 585 American companies doing business in Ireland today.

It’s a tradition that I believe was started by Henry Ford, who put his first foreign automobile plant in County Cork where his father was born. (William Clay Ford, Henry’s great-grandson, is on our list of Business 100 honorees). While I’m sure Ford’s decision, and indeed the decisions made by American CEOs to do business there today, wasn’t based purely on sentiment, perhaps that “Irish” connection did provide the impetus for those corporate heads to at least consider the “old sod” as a base for operation. For one thing I do know from my years as editor of this magazine, is the strong love and goodwill that Irish Americans feel towards Ireland.

And dollars aside, surely some of the American confidence and gung-ho attitude that Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, talked about when I interviewed her years ago, can be said to have rubbed off on today’s young Irish entrepreneurs. Certainly they are encouraged and helped by the likes of Tom Moran, president and CEO of Mutual of America, who also serves as chairman of the North American Board of the University College Dublin Graduate School of Business.

Robinson credited the time she spent at university in the States as being a seminal influence. And a glance at our honoree list shows that while many of our Business 100 went to Harvard for post graduate studies, colleges and universities with a strong Irish tradition such as Notre Dame, Fordham and Boston College are still producing American Irish leaders.

We must have a care to remember the debt that is owed those Irish nuns and brothers who devoted themselves to education in this country when the Irish were on the sidelines of society. They taught us as the B.C. Forbes quote above alludes to (and yes, Jim Mullin, I know he’s not Irish but I don’t think he ever said a bad word about us), the formula from which to make our luck. Hard work and determination, and keeping one’s eye on the prize can win out against the odds of poverty and discrimination.

For it is beating the odds that is truly the miracle or luck of the Irish.

Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year. ♦

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The U.S.-Ireland Business Summit Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:56:18 +0000 Read more..]]> A conference in Washington to strengthen economic ties.


Approximately 450 heavy hitters in business, academia and politics from both sides of the Atlantic descended on Washington D.C. in early September for the U.S.-Ireland Business Summit. Adopting the theme “Redefining Relationships,” the conference aimed to strengthen economic ties between the U.S. and Ireland in the hopes of generating new economic opportunities in both countries.

The brainchild of Susan Ann Davis, head of a D.C.-based communications and public affairs firm and president of Irish American Republicans, this summit was the third such event held in Washington. Davis saw this summit as the chance to develop business relationships as a logical extension of the Good Friday Agreement and as an opportunity for the Bush administration to expand upon the work of the Clinton administration. “President George Bush has put forward a new vision for peace that emphasizes private sector leadership and innovation to build economic vitality and cooperation,” Davis maintained.

“The U.S.-Ireland Business Summit is a bold step toward making the President’s vision a reality.”

<em>Secretary of Commerce Don Evans.</em>

Secretary of Commerce Don Evans.

At the two previous gatherings, held while Clinton was in office and billed as conferences for Trade and Development, business took a back seat to politics as politicians from Northern Ireland, the Republic and the United States used the event to foster the then-budding peace accord that resulted in the Good Friday Agreement. This post-GFA gathering was unique in that business remained the focus throughout. While the proceedings had the blessing of all governments concerned, during the actual proceedings politicians were the clear minority.

An Tenaiste Mary Harney, Minister for Enterprise Trade & Employment, giving her keynote address.

An Tanaiste Mary Harney, Minister for Enterprise Trade & Employment, giving her keynote address.

Along with keynote addresses and panel discussions by leaders in finance, ICT, biotechnology and research, the summit also featured a Congressional Reception chaired by Senator Edward Kennedy and Congressman James Walsh, and a black tie gala at the National Building Museum featuring entertainment from James Galway and members of Riverdance. The gathering concluded with a luncheon at the State Department hosted by Ambassador Richard Haass, Director of Policy Planning on Northern Ireland. Participants included financial wiz Peter Lynch; Richard Egan, the founder of EMC Corporation and now the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland; Don Evans, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson; Dr. George Moore, CEO of TARGUS Information Corporation; Michael D. Capellas, President of Hewlett-Packard Company; Frank Carlucci, Chairman of The Carlyle Group, and Michael Ruettgers, Executive Chairman of EMC Corporation.

In her keynote address to the gathering, An Tanaiste Mary Harney, Minister for Enterprise Trade &Employment, explained why this gathering was pivotal to the evolution of the Irish economy.

“In the past thirty years Ireland has moved from being an agriculture-based economy to an economy driven in large part by our success in attracting high technology investment from overseas. In that period, we became very good at making products invented and developed by others. That approach has helped us become a modern, confident economy which in the past decade has been the envy of much of the rest of the world. But it is a strategy that will not sustain us into the future,” she continued. “We must now move our economy on to a new plane founded on a strong research ethic. We need to concentrate our resources on innovating and developing the ideas that will be at the heart of the products and services of the future.”

Toward this end, she announced that Science Foundation Ireland had approved awards totaling 32 million euros to fund current research in Ireland in the fields of biotechnology and Information Communications Technology, and attract scientists from around the world to conduct their research in Ireland.

<em> U.S.-Ireland Business Summit leadership supper that was held on Wednesday, September 4. <em>

U.S.-Ireland Business Summit leadership supper that was held on Wednesday, September 4.

For his part Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, emphasized the need to nurture more of an entrepreneurial spirit in Northern Ireland while at the same time portraying Northern Ireland as an attractive destination for American companies seeking to branch out overseas, with a well-educated, highly skilled workforce and new initiatives to encourage business growth and entrepreneurship. American companies such as DuPont, Seagate, Caterpillar and Raytheon have already expanded to Northern Ireland, he pointed out, as have other industry leaders from around the world, like Bombardier from Canada, and Fujitsu from Japan.

<em>Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, Representative James Walsh (r, NY), Professor Fabian Monds, and Leslie Morrison.<em>

Sir Reg Empey, Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, Representative James Walsh (r, NY), Professor Fabian Monds, and Leslie Morrison.

Such a summit — where politics took a backseat to commerce — would have been unthinkable prior to the Good Friday Agreement, when any discussion of Northern Ireland inexorably wound its way back to the conflict. But the peace, albeit at times fragile, that the country has enjoyed in recent years has fostered an economic growth that will hopefully, in turn, further stabilize the country. To drive home this point during his keynote address, Empey quoted John Hancock: “The more people who own little businesses of their own, the safer our country will be, and the better off its cities and towns; for the people who have a stake in their country and their community are its best citizens.” ♦

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The Fighting Irish Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:55:32 +0000 Read more..]]> “Irish” Mickey Ward takes on Arturo Gatti again for $1.2 million


Mickey Ward is a fighter. That’s the first thing to know about him. Outside the ring, he’s soft spoken and likeable. Inside the squared circle, he’s something else.

On May 18, 2002, Ward stepped into the ring against Arturo Gatti. It was a memorable fight marked by unremitting punishment and an extraordinary ebb and flow. Some onlookers called it the best fight they’d ever seen. Others put it on a par with Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier in Manila for sustained action albeit at a lesser level of skill.

Ward was cut badly in round one and bled throughout the fight. In round nine, Gatti sank to the canvas from a vicious body shot, rose, took more punishment, turned the tide, and had Ward in trouble. Then Ward rallied, leaving Gatti out on his feet at the bell.

Somehow, Gatti rallied again to win the tenth round, but Ward won on the judges’ scorecards by a narrow margin.

“When I was in it,” Ward said later, “I knew it was a tough fight. I was never hurt; but I was very drained, as tired as I’ve ever been. The night after the fight, I sat down and watched the tape. That’s when I knew it was something special. That’s also when I said to myself, `These two guys are nuts.'”

Ward was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on October 4, 1965, He is the quintessential club fighter — an honest, straight-ahead, no-frills warrior. What he lacks in talent, he makes up for with heart.

As an amateur, Ward won three New England Golden Gloves titles. He turned pro in 1985 and won eighteen of his first nineteen bouts. Then he hit a rough stretch and lost six of nine fights. In 1991, after four losses in a row, he retired from boxing. “I was burned out,” he remembers. “I had nothing left to give.”

As an ex-fighter, Ward paved streets for three years; a job he’d held part time since the age of 16. Then, in 1994, he returned to the ring and after nine consecutive wins, got a title shot against Vince Phillips (the International Boxing Federation 140-pound champion).

Early in the bout, Ward suffered an ugly cut and the fight was stopped after three rounds. It was the ultimate frustration. Mickey Ward, a warrior to the core, hadn’t been able to do his thing.

Ward received $30,000 for the Phillips fight, his largest purse at that point in his career. Other bouts for respectable money followed. Then Ward stepped into the ring against Arturo Gatti.

<em>Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward.</em>

Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward.

Like Ward, Gatti is a warrior. In the mid-1990s, he held the IBF junior-lightweight crown. Then he went up in weight and fought a series of wars culminating in a 2001 loss to Oscar De La Hoya.

The Ward-Gatti fight struck a responsive chord with the boxing public. Virtually everyone who follows the sweet science wanted to see the two men in the ring again. But what could entice them to endure that kind of punishment a second time? Money, of course.

Ward-Gatti II was a fight that HBO had to have, and the cable giant opened its checkbook wide. Mickey Ward and Arturo Gatti are now scheduled to do battle for the second time on November 23 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Each man will be paid the mind-boggling sum of $1,200,000. To put that number in perspective, it’s almost triple the largest purse that Rocky Marciano (another Boston-area resident) ever earned.

Rematches in boxing rarely live up to the drama of a first fight, but expectations for this one are running high. Ward himself downplays the moment, saying, “It’s just another day; a hard day, but just another day at work. If I fight for the crowd and try to duplicate the last fight, I’ll lose focus.” But then he adds, “My style is no secret. I fight hard and tough whether I’m making a thousand dollars or a million. That’s the way I am. I fight as best I can with my skills. Then heart and will take over. So I’ll just go in there and fight hard again. How Arturo responds will dictate the fight.”

Unlike most boxers, Ward is experiencing his time of glory at the end of his career. He’ll be 37 years old when he enters the ring in November. As for the future, “I’m still paving streets,” he acknowledges. “Not every day, but from time to time. I’ve been doing it since I was sixteen years old, and I’ll always work; but not five days a week unless I have to. Hey, a couple of fights like this and I won’t have to pave streets anymore.”

Mickey regards his mother as the custodian of his Irish legacy. One of her grandfathers brought his wife from County Clare to Lowell, Massachusetts, and found work as a steelworker. Her other grandfather was elected to the Massachusetts State Legislature. “My mother loves talking about that stuff,” says Ward. “I’ve never been to Ireland, but I’m dying to go. One of these days, I’ll get there.

“This is a good time for me,” Ward adds reflectively. “Things are going well with my fiancée. My daughter [age thirteen from a previous marriage] is doing free. Everyone is healthy. November will be the first time I’ve had some big money to put aside. And don’t worry; I’ll be careful with it. I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that anyone who tells me they can double my money can lose all of it. They can go double their own money.”

Then Ward adds, “If someone had told me ten years ago when I’d lost all those fights and retired from boxing that someday I’d make a million bucks from one fight, I’d have thought they were crazy. But good things happen when you don’t give up.” ♦

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Irish Win Ryder for Europe Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:54:22 +0000 Read more..]]> The European Ryder Cup Team, which included several Irish players, triumphed over the United States in the 34th Ryder Cup held at the Belfry, North Warwickshire, England, in late September. Of the twelve team players, three were Irish, one of whom, Paul McGinley, was playing in his first Ryder Cup.

The Americans had been expected to win. They had five of the top10 players in the world while Europe’s star players were off-form and the team had several rookies.

However, Europe’s Captain Sam Torrance’s tactics of playing his best players first instead of last, like U.S. Captain Curtis Strange, paid off as Europe swept to a 151/2-121/2 victory. Irish players Padraig Harrington beat Mark Calcavecchia while Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley halved with their opponents David Duval and Jim Furyk. McGinley’s half point against Furyk meant that Europe had enough on the board to ensure overall success with two matches still out on the course.

While the players celebrated, Torrance paid tribute to McGinley and the rest of the team. “It had nothing to do with me. I led the boys to water, and they drank copiously,” he said.

The Ryder Cup is scheduled to take in Ireland in at the world-renowned K. Club, in County Kildare. ♦

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Solas Award for Menino Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:53:51 +0000 Read more..]]> Boston’s Irish Immigration Center is awarding its ninth annual Solas Award to Mayor Thomas Menino in recognition of his administration’s work on behalf of immigrants and refugees. The award ceremony will take place on December 3, 2002 at the Boston Westin Hotel in Copley Square.

Solas is the Irish word for light and the award was created to recognize people with a steadfast commitment to improving the lives of individuals and communities throughout the world. According to Lena Deevy, director of the Center, Mayor Menino was awarded the honor for being a strong advocate for newcomers to the city. “By creating the city’s first Office of New Bostonians in 1998, Mayor Menino demonstrated the high value he places on new immigrants and the significant role they have in Boston. He is a true friend of Boston’s immigrant community.”

Previous recipients of the award have included former U.S. President Bill Clinton, former Irish President Mary Robinson, Senator Edward Kennedy, U.S. Congressmen Brian Donnelly, Bruce Morrison and Joe Moakley.

The Irish Immigration Center, one of several centers in the U.S. was established in 1989 to provide services for immigrants who settle in the Boston area from around the world. The Solas dinner is the Center’s single fundraising event for the year and usually draws 1,000 people.

Meanwhile in New York City on October 25, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center honored Frank Noviello, president of Local 79, Gifford Miller, speaker of the New York City Council, and Emerald Isle board member Joanne O’Connell, all of whom have made outstanding contributions to the Irish immigrant community. ♦

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Ireland’s Ambassador to Washington Welcomed by President Bush Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:52:39 +0000 Read more..]]> President George W. Bush formally welcomed Ireland’s newest dignitary to the U.S. recently. Ireland’s new ambassador in Washington, D.C., Noel Fahey, accompanied by his wife, Christine, presented his letter of credence to Bush in a White House meeting on Wednesday, September 25. Fahey, who replaces the popular Sean O’Huiginn in the top diplomatic post, praised the administration for its ongoing interest in the Northern Ireland peace process, and singled out Bush’s special Irish envoy Richard Haass for particular praise.

Fahey arrives in the nation’s capital fresh from a posting in Germany and also spoke of the Irish contribution to the U.S. and the prosperous business links that exist between to countries. Naturally, he hopes those ties will be built upon and strengthened while he’s here. ♦

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Daniel’s Big Day Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:51:46 +0000 Read more..]]> One of Ireland’s most eligible bachelors, Daniel O’Donnell, will walk down the aisle with his fiancée Majella McLennan on Monday, November 4. The couple who met three years ago has had to wait until Majella’s annulment came through, as she is the divorced mother of two. “We’re delighted that Majella and her former husband were successful in their attempts to get an annulment and, therefore, it allows us to marry in the church,” a happy O’Donnell told the Sunday World newspaper.

The wedding will take place in O’Donnell’s home town of Kinclassagh, Co. Donegal in the village church. O’Donnell’s best man is an old friend while his bride-to-be will have her daughter Siobhán and a niece of O’Donnell’s as attendants. Two priests will be on hand to give blessings.

The forty-something couple will live in O’Donnell’s new home in Donegal when they’re not on the road promoting his country music career. In fact, they’ll spend their honeymoon in Branson, Missouri as O’Donnell is booked for a series of shows at a local theater. But he doesn’t mind that it’ll be a working vacation. “We’re hoping to have (a honeymoon) for the next 40 years or more,” he says. ♦

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Irish Eye on Hollywood Sun, 01 Dec 2002 07:50:58 +0000 Read more..]]> Inspired by what he calls “credit card filmmakers” such as fellow Irish Americans Kevin Smith and Ed Burns, Daniel McCarthy ran up the bill on his pocket plastic to make his crime caper Irish Eyes, which will have its East Coast premiere in Boston on November 23.

The saga begins in 1955 in the Irish stronghold of South Boston. On the docks, the influence of the Irish mob is waning, while Italian gangsters are muscling in. This becomes clearly evident when immigrant laborer and accomplished boxer John Phelan is shot and killed for roughing up two Italian hoods.

John’s sons Sean and Thomas witness the execution, and it forever alters their lives. From there, Irish Eyes relies upon the time-tested cinematic device of two men from the same background choosing different paths in life. (For a fine example, go back to Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Cagney in 1938’s Angels with Dirty Faces.)

Sean Phelan (Daniel Baldwin) dabbles in crime and lands in prison, while Thomas goes off to college and a promising political career.

<em>Liam Neeson's movie will open in December.</em>

Liam Neeson’s movie will open in December.

But the brothers’ paths never diverge completely, with one needing the other at different times, until they are both so deep into trouble the bullets must inevitably fly. Irish Eyes vaguely echoes the Boston Bulger brothers — William the politician, and Whitey the gangster. Let’s hope for the innocent people of Boston that the Bulgers’ real-life saga doesn’t eventually come to the same kind of bloody conclusion which Irish Eyes does.

<em>IRA bomber Broderick Dooley (Curtis Armstrong) walks away from handiwork.</em>

IRA bomber Broderick Dooley (Curtis Armstrong) walks away from handiwork.

Speaking of gangs and blood, you won’t have to wait as long as you thought to see Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited Gangs of New York. Officials at Miramax films are now planning to release the 3-hour epic starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Liam Neeson in early December, rather than on Christmas Day. Why? Because co-star Leonardo DiCaprio has another film opening on December 25, Catch Me If You Can, in which he stars with Tom Hanks.

Gangs tells the story of Famine-era immigrants in New York who do battle with competing Protestant and Italian gangs. The film concludes with a re-creation of the New York City Draft Riots of 1863, when angry Irish laborers rampaged through New York — until they were eventually put down by predominately Irish cops and military officers fresh off the front from the Civil War.

The Draft Riots were by far the bloodiest episodes in New York history — before September 11, 2001, that is.

While Gangs will get an early release, Colin Farrell’s next movie may never see the light of day. Farrell stars in Phone Booth, which revolves around a sniper who sets his target on the Dublin-born star, this time around playing a corporate executive. When Farrell mistakenly answers a ringing pay phone, the sniper on the other end tells him he will be shot if he hangs up. Phone Booth also stars Kiefer Sutherland.

Officials at 20th Century Fox feverishly debated whether to release Phone Booth in theaters. They said the plot might resemble the sniper killings in Virginia too closely. The release of Phone Booth might now be delayed until next year. Another option would be to send the film straight to video and DVD. Phone Booth re-teams Farrell with director Joel Schumacher, who directed Farrell in his star-making debut, 2000’s Tigerland.

Hollywood veterans Pierce Brosnan and Kenneth Branagh, as well as several Irish newcomers, also have movies due to be released shortly.

Following yet another blockbuster James Bond flick, Die Another Day, Brosnan takes on a more serious — and distinctly Irish — role. In Evelyn, Brosnan plays a single dad in 1950s Ireland, whose children are taken away. They are placed into orphanages, but Brosnan’s character fights back, ultimately challenging Irish political and religious authorities. Brace Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) directs Brosnan, as well as Aidan Quinn, Julianna Margulies, John Lynch, Stephen Rea and Alan Bates.

The latest bout of Harry Potter-mania was dampened by the news that the legendary Limerick actor — and Harry Potter regular — Richard Harris had succumbed to cancer (see obituary on page 36).

In his last performance Harris teamed up with Belfast-born Kenneth Branagh in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the sequel to last year’s wildly popular Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Also returning from Sorcerer’s Stone are kiddy star Daniel Radcliffe, Sean Biggerstaff, Robbie Coltrane, Rupert Grint and Alan Rickman. Branagh will play the mysterious Gilderoy Lockhart, in the movie directed by Chris Columbus.

Meanwhile, director and wunderkind Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brokovich, Ocean’s 11) laid an egg with his recent ego trip Full Frontal. But he’s calling on Donegal-born Natascha McElhone (as well as a bloke named George Clooney) to help him regain his Oscar-winning form in Solaris, a remake of Andrei Tarkovsky’s famous 1972 Russian sci-fi flick. Clooney plays a psychiatrist launched into the wild blue yonder to investigate the disappearance of a space station crew. What follows is said to be a space odyssey which mingles fantasy and reality.

<em>Irish actor Richard Harris in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone</em>

Irish actor Richard Harris in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Reports also suggest that acclaimed Irish director Jim Sheridan’s long-awaited New York project East of Harlem will be released soon.

The My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father director tells the story of an undocumented Irish couple (Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine) trying to survive while living in a racially mixed Harlem tenement.

It hasn’t been all good movie news of late for Sheridan. Music legend Marianne Faithful recently pulled the rights to her biopic away from him.

<em>Colin Farrell in Phone Booth.</em>

Colin Farrell in Phone Booth.

Faithful has said simply: “I didn’t like what Jim Sheridan did with it.”

Sheridan’s company Hells Kitchen had been developing a script based on the life of Faithful, a pioneer of celebrity life in the swinging 1960s.

The brave story of Irish journalist Veronica Guerin finally makes it to the American big screen. Cate Blanchett stars in the film named after the journalist slain in 1996, apparently because she wrote a series of articles about Dublin drug dealers. Veronica Guerin was not only directed by Joel Schumacher (see Phone Booth above), but Colin Farrell also makes an appearance. Belfast actor Ciaran Hinds also stars, along with Brenda Fricker.

In what could be one of the more quirky Irish-American films ever made, Spike Lee explores the stormy relationship between an Irish-American firefighter (Brian Cox) and his drug dealer son who is about to go off to prison in The 25th Hour. Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman also star in this film based on David Benioff’s novel.

Finally, for all those who like to plan long-term when it comes to the ultra-busy Colin Farrell, you’ll only have to wait until February 2003 for his next release: Daredevil. The latest comic book flick stars Farrell as the evil villain of the costumed hero, a blind lawyer (played by Ben Affleck) who fights crime on the streets at night. ♦


Tom Deignan is the Arts & Entertainment editor for The Irish Voice and the book editor for Irish America.

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