December January 2005 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Fri, 24 May 2019 23:33:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Behind the Scenes with Bridget https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/behind-the-scenes-with-bridget/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/behind-the-scenes-with-bridget/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:59:12 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30769 Read more..]]> Bridget Moynahan dances on bars, dallies in espionage, fixes robots and steals men away from Sarah Jessica Parker — or so her film and TV roles would have you believe. The star of Coyote Ugly, The Recruit, I, Robot and the actress who played Mr. Big’s second wife Natasha in Sex and the City is actually a very down to earth and level-headed woman. Raised by Irish-American parents in Massachusetts, she wanted to be a dentist when she was a little girl, never thinking one day she’d saunter down the red carpet in designer gowns. But Moynahan is more the type of person who would be happy taking care of patients and is definitely not the type of demanding star who fusses over wardrobe and hairstyles. This is perhaps why, despite her drop-dead gorgeous face, she is often cast as strong, professional women in films. Casting directors have definitely realized something about her — she is not one for frivolity and froth.

Moynahan is aware that it’s no coincidence that she gets heavy parts. “I tend to gravitate towards material where the women are strong. It’s got a bit more depth to it, there’s a bit more intelligence to the character. I think in a lot of the romantic comedies the women are portrayed as being kind of ditzy, and I just can’t relate to it. So I think it is harder for me to pursue those parts,” she says.

She is determined to keep challenging herself with progressively more difficult roles and believes her most recent part was the most difficult of her career. She has just arrived back from South Africa after shooting The Lord of War, in which she plays Nicolas Cage’s wife. In the film, Cage is wrapped up in the international weapons trade. “I think parts of The Lord of War were very challenging because of the situation my character places herself in and the decisions she has to make. She finds out about her husband [being an arms trader] and working with an actor like Nic Cage really forces you to be on your game,” she says.

Looking at the progress of her film roles over the past five years, she is satisfied with the direction of her career. “I keep working with better actors and directors who are more accomplished [than I am]. And each movie I seem to be doing that. You can just learn so much from them every day on the set,” she says, noting that Hollywood has been good to her.

Sitting in a Manhattan photo studio on a cloudy October day, Moynahan is still ruminating about her time in South Africa and the issues that her new movie has raised about the weapons industry. “Recently, I’ve been annoyed by [this current U.S. administration]. The assault weapons issue, for instance. Is there any reason why we need assault weapons? No. That sort of thing makes no sense to me,” she says. She is referring to the lapsed ban on assault weapons that President Bush neglected to renew. She admits that although she doesn’t think either campaign was well run, she is planning to vote for the Democratic ticket.

Having shot The Lord of War in Capetown, she is also concerned about the issues facing the African continent. She is perturbed by the silly celebrity culture that our mass media prefers to report about. “I think that a lot of our American culture right now is a big distraction. You can’t really turn on the news without getting more coverage of what’s going on with Paris Hilton than what’s going on in Darfur. When did that scale tip? And how come nobody’s concerned?”

When she was growing up, there was a large emphasis on news and current events in her family. “My brother and I were just laughing the other day about how we didn’t watch TV in the house. We never watched sports; we never watched movies really. We watched a lot of news and news shows like 60 Minutes.” And being an Irish family, she says that the Moynahans certainly have the gift of the gab. “In Ireland you go out with your friends and you talk and you talk and you really beat it out, which is not something that’s common in American culture. But definitely in my family we do. When a subject comes up, we are talking about it for hours.”

Her parents are both Irish-American, and the Moriartys on her mother Mary’s side are from Donegal and Clare. She traveled over with her family to a Moriarty reunion five years ago and got a great sense of Ireland. She met all her cousins and visited the family farm. “It was so much fun to meet a bunch of cousins that basically were little versions of me. We all kind of looked the same but maybe some of them were shorter,” she says. (Moynahan is a statuesque 5’10”.) She also laughs, remembering when she met a great-great Aunt Bridget over in Ireland who, upon their introduction, said, “Well, it’s about time someone named a girl after me! Welcome home.”

And it certainly sounds like Moynahan felt at home in Ireland, although she’s an East Coast girl at heart. “I like rain, I like cloudy days like this one today, so that doesn’t bother me at all. I always found that driving around Ireland, you could be in the middle of a rain shower and up the road would be pure sunshine and rainbows. It’s beautiful.”

She regrets that she wasn’t able to get over to Dublin for the premiere of The Recruit, her film where she plays the love interest of Irish actor Colin Farrell. She was filming another movie at the time and couldn’t make it to the screening. “It would’ve been really nice to be able to share that with all the family there that I had met,” she says.

Farrell and Moynahan really hit it off filming The Recruit and he confessed to having a crush on her during the shoot. When I mention this to her, she laughs and says, “Well, I was involved with someone else at the time.” Farrell nicknamed her `Bridle’ on the set, the Irish version of Bridget. A loyal friend, she comes to his defense at press reports of his party-boy image. “I don’t pay attention to the press and what people say in it, because most of it’ scrap, and a lot of it is just not nice! He is honest in how he lives his life. You have to give him credit for that. He’s having a good time and why not? You’re young and successful and traveling the world, and you have an incredible family that’s around you. So he’s just enjoying it.”

One of her other co-stars, John Cusack, is another actor she raves about. They starred in Serendipity together where she played his fiancé before he left her for Kate Beckinsale’s character. “John Cusack’s lovely. I had a crush on him since I was a little girl. I wanted to grow up and marry an Irish boy! And John Cusack was that image growing up,” she says. She also appreciates the help Cusack gave her on the set showing her the ropes, as Serendipity was one of her early movies.

Sadly for men everywhere, Moynahan has been snatched up by one of the biggest sports heroes today. Over a year ago, a friend set her up on a date with New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady and they have been together ever since. One of many things they have in common is their Irish heritage. “One of his aunts expressed how happy she was that I was Irish,” she laughs. She also notes that Tom has been over to Ireland to golf, but they haven’t gone on a trip yet together. “Maybe in the off-season,” she says.

In the past few years Brady has become a huge sports star, taking his team to victory in two recent Super Bowls and is currently having another outstanding football season. Sports writers gush about Brady’s talents and twice he was named Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl.

If anyone can keep up with an athlete of that stature, it’s Moynahan. She was a self-confessed tomboy growing up who loved playing sports. She played basketball, soccer and lacrosse in high school, and is still very athletic today. We talk about how the previous week, Brady’s helmet got knocked off his head during a game. She says she wasn’t too worried when she was watching the game. “You can tell when he is fine. I’m not a coddler, so you better get right back up unless it’s serious!” she says.

She is trying to learn as much as she can about football, having not grown up with it in her household. She said that because she was out playing sports growing up rather than watching them on TV, she has had a lot to master about the game. Her younger and older brothers didn’t indoctrinate her into football, either. “Honestly, Tom walked into the one family that didn’t know anything about football or anything about him. So that’s been taking up a lot of time, learning that whole profootball culture.”

Brady certainly likes to give her a hard time, and delights in ordering her movies on pay-per-view. “Tom always tortures me, because whenever they’re on he’ll order them. And if I start hearing my voice I’ll start covering my ears and his ears.” She says that she doesn’t like to watch her movies after she’s seen them at the premiere, because she doesn’t like heating the sound of her voice.

Her family, however, are proud of her and enjoy watching her films. She credits her parents with allowing her to make the decision to get into the media at a young age. When she finished high school at 17 years old, she decided to move to New York City to pursue a modeling career. “I definitely had a big conversation with them about it because it was something that I figured was not going to present itself at another time,” she says. She had a very successful modeling career and flew around the world for photo shoots. It was when she was filming commercials that she got a taste for performing and was soon taking acting classes and going for auditions.

“No one in my family was involved in acting. And God bless my parents. When I modeled I talked them into letting me go to New York City and do that. Then I talked them into letting me do it for a second year after the first. They kept saying, and they will deny it today, but they kept saying `Now, when are you going to go back to school?’ And now they say, `Thank God we pushed you into this acting thing.’ But that’s because they’re so proud,” she says, laughing.

She wants to someday earn her college degree and would like to study liberal arts. Her father Brad, now retired, was a scientist and worked at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. For now, she has to keep focused on her movie career. On any given day she reads about two or three scripts, and really enjoys leisure reading also. She cites Philip Roth as a favorite writer, and has been recently re-reading the classics, including John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Moynahan is truly a story junky, and she bemoans the demise of the storytelling era. One of her aunts was a great storyteller, and she exclaims, “Storytelling is a lost art, and it’s a gift to be able to do that.” She mentions that in New York City, there is a theatre group called The Moth that puts on storytelling nights. “You get a subject and you have a certain number of minutes to tell the story. It’s not rehearsed and there are no notes allowed.” But don’t expect to drop in and see her on stage acting the raconteur. “Oh, I have a fear of microphones, I start shaking!” she says.

Instead, movies are the vehicle for Moynahan to tell stories, as the Irish did for centuries before celluloid. And she doesn’t rule out doing comedy, which would be a departure from her usual dramatic fare. “Well, I would like to do something more light-hearted,” she says. The next time you see her, Bridget Moynahan might make you laugh. ♦

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First Word: A Different Tune https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/first-word-a-different-tune/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/first-word-a-different-tune/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:58:27 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30772 Read more..]]> As Irish America’s editor for the past 20 years I have witnessed a major sea change in the economic relationship between Ireland and the U.S.

For centuries Ireland depended on help from the U.S. but today Irish firms employ as many people in the U.S. as American companies do in Ireland.

The number of Irish-born executives in corporate America is at an all-time high.

Ireland is now the 9th largest investor in the U.S.

Irish companies in the Financial, Software, Governance, Medical Devices and Biotech fields are doing exceptionally well. And Irish product/service is being used by many of the largest financial institutions in the U.S. including Citibank, JP Morgan Chase and HSBC.

American companies that have played a major role in Ireland’s economic miracle have also gained by it. Profits of the more than 500 U.S. firms doing business in Ireland surged by 45 percent in 2003.

“The American companies benefited from the fine educational system with its emphasis on science, engineering and mathematics, and from a government that’s pro-business because they know that is pro-jobs,” said Richard Egan (Irish America, 2002) the former ambassador to Ireland, whose company EMC now employs 1,600 workers in its Cork plant.

Another factor that has contributed to Ireland’s success is the number of U.S.-based organizations that foster growth and prosperity in Ireland. Many of our Business 100 are involved in such groups. To name a few, Jim Quinn is the chairman of the Smurfit School of Business at University College Dublin, having recently taken over from Tom Moran. Mike Gibbons is President of the Ireland U.S. Council, picking up the mantle from Mike Roarty.

And any number of our honorees are involved with The American Ireland Fund which annually hosts 70 events attended by 40,000 people in 39 cities around the world, and promotes peace, culture and economic stability in Ireland.

Under the stewardship of chairman Loretta Brennan Glucksman (see interview pg. 83) the Fund raised 111 million dollars over the past five years.

Lew and Loretta Glucksman have also personally contributed to numerous educational projects in Ireland, including establishing libraries at Limerick and Cork universities. All this in addition to their splendid gift to New York University of the center for Irish Studies.

Thanks to the Glucksmans and others — Brian Burns has built the Burns Library at Boston College, and Donald Keough bequested a Chair in Irish Studies to Notre Dame — thousands of students all across the U.S. are discovering their Irish heritage.

As they study the literature, history, politics, and music of Ireland they are also learning that it is no longer the place that their ancestors left in hard times.

Today Ireland’s modern confident economy is the envy of Europe, and it has spawned an equally modern and assured generation of Irish.

“For thirty years we have been the gifted musician playing the tune. From now on we want to be the composer writing the music,” said the former Tanaiste Mary Harney, speaking in Washington to a gathering of senior business figures from the U.S. and Ireland, both North and South.

I hope this new composition includes a song for Irish-America. It would be nice if some of Ireland’s newfound wealth funded an Irish-American Studies Program (or a series of studies). For there is a need in Ireland for students to learn the history and contributions that Irish-Americans have made to the world.

Irish-America too needs to address its relationship with this new Ireland. At the moment there is a lot of bad feeling on both sides over the war in Iraq (see Ambassador Egan’s letter on pg. 11). In all the discord it’s easy to forget the value of our unique relationship which helped bring about, amongst other things, the Good Friday Agreement.

As Loretta Glucksman says in a wonderful close to her interview. “I hope that we can grow with the evolution and keep the relationship, because it’s invaluable to both our cultures. What made the people that came to America do so spectacularly well was what’s in their DNA from Ireland, so it’s a full circle.” ♦

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News from Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/news-from-ireland-4/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/news-from-ireland-4/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:57:19 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30776 Read more..]]> Maureen O’Hara Collects an Irish Oscar

Maureen O’Hara brought over 700 guests to their feet at the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTA) in Dublin when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Wearing a bright red dress the 84-year-old actress earned a heartfelt ovation, recalling her illustrious career which included her feisty performance opposite John Wayne in The Quiet Man.

“To be born in Ireland is to have the greatest gift that God could give,” she began, concluding that the IFTA honor was “a wonderful gift from Ireland to an Irishwoman — and she appreciates it!”

Actor James Nesbitt hosted the Oscar-style evening in which awards were given across 27 categories in Irish film and television. High profile awards went to Omagh (best Irish feature film) starring Gerard McSorley (best actor), a powerful dramatization of tragic events when the Real IRA bombed the Co. Tyrone market town. Lenny Abrahamson won best director for Adam &Paul, a gritty new feature about two Dublin heroin addicts, while Eva Birthistle won best actor for her part in Ken Loach’s Ae Fond Kiss.

Pierce Brosnan was also at the ceremony to receive an Outstanding Contribution to Irish Cinema Award presented by English comic actor John Cleese. Speaking to reporters afterwards Brosnan suggested that Dublin star Colin Farrell would be a natural successor in the role of James Bond.

Also announced at the weekend is an upcoming film production on the life of Dublin rock star Phil Lynott. Directed by Robert Quinn My Boy is based on a book by Philomena Lynott, which relates the difficulties of a single mother raising a black child in Dublin through the 1960’s and 1970’s. Lynott went on to front rock band Thin Lizzy and died tragically from a drug overdose in 1986.

American actor Gary Dourdan, who plays police officer Warrick Brown in the TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, has been cast in the lead role as Lynott. His mother Philomena will be played by Oscar-winning actress Holly Hunter. Filming will begin in Dublin next year.

All-Ireland Crown For Kingdom

Kerry collected their 33rd All-Ireland championship title with a comprehensive 1-20 to 2-9 win over Mayo in a one-sided football final at Croke Park. In a far closer contest Galway beat Dublin to win their first ever Ladies Football Final.

In hurling Cork produced a stellar second half display to cruise past Kilkenny by 0-17 to 0-9 and claim the Liam McCarthy Cup. Winning manager Donal O’Grady stood down after the win and was later replaced by selector John Allen. “Opportunities like this don’t happen in one’s life very often,” said Allen, when offered the hot seat. “I’m looking forward to trying to emulate what Donal has done.”

In the centenary year for camogie Tipperary continued their dominance of the game, beating Cork to take their fifth championship title in six years. Meanwhile in the International Rules series, Ireland’s GAA stars proved more than a handful for the visiting Australians, romping home to an aggregate 132-82 victory. The next series will take place Down Under next year.

McAleese Begins Second Term

President Mary McAleese was officially appointed to a second term as President of Ireland. An election had been scheduled for October 22 but because prospective candidates failed to secure nominations McAleese was returned to office unopposed.

As Fianna Fáil’s incumbent to the office, McAleese was entitled to nominate herself for reelection to another seven-year term. Several independent candidates, most notably former MEP Rosemary Dana Scallon, attempted to win backing from parliamentarians and county councils to force an election. Michael D. Higgins, a former minister from Galway, also sought nomination from colleagues in the Labour Party.

In each case, however, it was felt that President McAleese’s popularity with the Irish public would make her virtually unbeatable in a national election. Leadership within the Labour Party opted against contesting an expensive campaign. Rosemary Dana Scallon was unable to get the support she required, while Fine Gael, the other main conservative party, decided against taking part in an election they felt they could not win.

President McAleese was duly reapponted. Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern expressed delight that a candidate nominated by his own Fianna Fáil party in 1997 should remain in such a commanding position.

“Mary McAleese has given outstanding and unique service to the Irish people,” said Ahern. “Her re-election today to serve a second term is in the best interests of Ireland. I am delighted that we will continue to have a President of great charisma, strong intellect and exceptional skill for the next seven years.

“Through her own talents and courage and convictions, Mary McAleese has time and again shown herself to be a good President, a caring President and an understanding President. Her huge public satisfaction stems from the inclusive manner in which she has conducted her Presidency. The President has worked tirelessly and diligently to tell the story of Ireland’s economic and social transformation to the world, winning many new admirers, investors and friends for our country,” he said, describing McAleese as “truly a President for all of the people.”

Priests Question Celibacy Rule

The Catholic Church’s compulsory rule on clerical celibacy should be reviewed, according to a recent poll of diocesan priests in Ireland. In a wide-ranging survey carried out by the Irish Catholic newspaper, some 1,300 priests outlined their concerns with where the Church currently stands on various issues.

Some 57 percent of respondents said celibacy should not be compulsory for priests; 40 percent favored retaining the celibacy rule. When asked if withdrawing the celibacy rule would attract more vocations, some 60 percent felt it would make no difference to boosting priest numbers.

The survey reflected a similar split on how the Church has reacted to a rapidly modernized society. Some 58 percent of respondents felt the Church has failed to keep pace with changing times, 31 percent said the Church has adjusted well, while, six percent felt the Church had gone too far to accommodate a new society.

There was greater unanimity on other issues. The majority felt the role of women in the Church deserved more recognition. It was also felt that the taking of Holy Communion was a matter of private conscience for churchgoers and that adverse publicity in the media following a spate of clerical abuse cases had damaged the Church’s reputation in Ireland.

Most of the respondents were aged over 55, reflecting the age profile of priests in Ireland. The number of vocations has dwindled, and at present there are 2,949 active diocesan priests with another 575 retired, ill or working abroad.

Report Highlights Lifestyle Changes

Life expectancy in Ireland has increased by six years since the country joined the European Union, according to a new report issued by the Central Statistics Office. The 2004 CSO Report on social and economic conditions reveals huge changes in Ireland since 1973, including a surge in population by almost one million people.

Life expectancy is now 75 years for males and 80 years for females. The vast majority of marriages are still celebrated in Catholic churches but the proportion of civil marriage ceremonies is rising steadily. Ireland’s divorce rate is also increasing since its introduction in 1996 – last year 2,970 divorces were granted.

The number of people in third-level education has increased five-fold. The economic index has changed spectacularly with GDP per capita tripling in real terms, surpassing the average EU income. However this new affluence is reflected in spiralling house prices. In 1973 the average price of a new house was Euro9,206; last year the corresponding figure was Euro291,646.

“Ireland has been transformed from an isolated country with an over-dependence on the UK as a main trading partner to a prosperous member of the European Union,” states the 450-page report. Prior to joining the EU, some 55 percent of Irish exports went to the UK. That figure now stands at 18 percent with a corresponding shift from agricultural goods to computers and chemicals.

The number of motorists on Irish roads has doubled in two decades and Ford is the highest selling car. Last year Sean and Emma were the most popular names for babies in Ireland.

Finucane Family Demands Full Inquiry

The family of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane has reiterated its call for a full inquiry into his 1989 assassination. The British government is due to outline how it intends to investigate the murder, but early indications from Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy suggest that part of the inquiry will be conducted privately because of British security concerns.

The Finucane family rejected any diminution of a public inquiry and said it was not prepared to cooperate with anything less than a full, open investigation. Following an hour-long meeting in Dublin with the Finucanes, Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern said the Irish government would support the family’s position on the matter.

Nationalists have strongly criticized the British government for dragging its feet on the investigation. Canadian Judge Peter Cory has already made recommendations on how an inquiry should proceed, but Cory’s findings have not been made public.

Speaking on behalf of his murdered father, Michael Finucane said the family would withdraw from any investigation short of a full, independent inquiry. He told reporters he was satisfied that the Taoiseach agreed “a proper government inquiry is the only mechanism that will address the killing” and that this position had been “conveyed forcefully” to the British government.

“The Army are involved, the police are involved, MI5 are involved,” he added. “The British establishment is very keen to keep it secret and suppressed and this is why new legislation is being brought in.”

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) supported the call to publish the Cory Report and the Stevens Report (on security forces colluding with loyalist gunmen). The Council has campaigned for an independent judicial inquiry into the murders of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson and others where collusion was suspected between the British security forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

“The Stevens report reaches very damning conclusions on the collusion between security forces and the murder of Patrick Finucane, the involvement of agents in murder and the avoidability of his death. Yet none of this evidence is new,” said ICCL Director Aisling Reidy. “It does not go far enough in providing answers to the murder of Patrick Finucane and other human rights defenders. Nor, importantly, does it address the extent of state responsibility borne by the British Government for collaboration between the RUC, the British Army and loyalist paramilitaries.

“These are not new allegations. They are not new facts. It is no longer acceptable that inquiry after inquiry is conducted and that there is still no accountability for those who were involved in the murder of solicitor Patrick Finucane. The repetitive police investigations are not providing answers for the family, nor are they getting to the core problem of collaboration, impunity and human rights violations which have yet to be addressed.” ♦

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News in Brief https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/news-in-brief-7/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/news-in-brief-7/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:56:24 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30779 Read more..]]> RESIDENTS in Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork have vowed to oppose construction of Ireland’s first toxic waste incinerator. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave a green light to the controversial project by granting a waste management license to Indaver Ireland. The company has plans to build a similar facility near Duleek, Co. Meath but despite the EPA decision environmentalist groups and residents in both areas say they will take their campaign to the courts…

FORMER priest Cornelius ‘Neil’ Horan was acquitted after a London jury dismissed a charge of indecency with a young girl. The 57-year-old priest from Co. Kerry has gained worldwide notoriety through public stunts to proclaim that the second coming of Christ is close at hand. Last year he broke through a barrier at Silverstone race track in the middle of a Formula One race and in August at the Athens Olympics he obstructed the Brazilian athlete who was leading the marathon at the time. On both occasions Horan wore a traditional Irish dancing costume. When the court dismissed the charge of indecency at a South London parish Horan professed immense relief and celebrated the verdict by performing a jig in the same costume outside the court…

HUNDREDS of homes and business premises were severely damaged by flooding in Munster and Leinster following heavy rains and high winds. Cork, Wexford and Waterford were all hit by the deluge but the most server damage was experienced in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary where the River Suir burst its banks. Clonmel has suffered heavy flooding in recent years and construction on a proposed Euro35 million flood alleviation project is set to begin next year. “People are just hoping that we won’t see similar rain this winter because the Office of Public Works are telling us now that it will be this time next year before any work on the new scheme will start,” said the town mayor Denis Dunne…

THE body of Airman Brian Kane, a 29-year-old form Co. Donegal, was brought home for burial following his sudden death at the U.S. Air Force base in Clovis, New Mexico. Ranked as Airman First Class he worked as media liaison officer at the base but died tragically before a game of soccer. Eight U.S. Air Force personnel accompanied his body’s return to Ireland and acted as pallbearers at the funeral in Killymard, just outside Donegal town. ♦

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The Abbey Does Playboy in the U.S. https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/the-abbey-does-playboy-in-the-u-s/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/the-abbey-does-playboy-in-the-u-s/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:55:54 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30782 Read more..]]> The Abbey Theatre is in crisis as it makes its centenary tour of the U.S. Artistic Director Ben Barnes is stepping down amid financial difficulties, but the U.S. tour is proving to be a commercial and theatrical success.

The touring group is putting on J.M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, a play that caused extreme controversy and riots when it premiered in Dublin in 1907, and on the first Abbey tour of the U.S. in 1911. Barnes commented on the 1911 riots, “The play really shocked audiences because they would have been weaned on musicals and melodrama.”

Anna McMullan, Fulbright Scholar at NYU and professor at University College Dublin, said, “The use of the word `shift’ absolutely shocked people,” shift meaning undergarments. And Irish audiences were, understandably, upset at being portrayed in such an unflattering light by an Irish playwright. But Nick Grene, an international expert on Synge and professor at University College Dublin, added about the Abbey, “it was giving people that had been colonized for centuries a sense of identity.”

On October 14, McMullan and Grene took part in a panel discussion entitled “The Abbey Theatre and Twentieth Century Ireland,” which was held at Glucksman Ireland House prior to Playboy’s seven-night run at NYU’s Stirwell Center.

Playboy of the Western World is the story of Christy Mahon, a youth who is celebrated as a hero when he tells a western village that he has killed his terror of a father. However, when his father shows up, public opinion moves against Christy. This time the locals try to throw him in jail but his father fights to keep him out. The Mahons head home with the father viewing his son as an equal, and Christy, his manhood affirmed, leaving Pegeen Mike, who had tried to win his affection, distraught over her loss.

It was W.B. Yeats who encouraged Synge to go to “a wild island off the Galway coast and study its life” because that life “had never been expressed in literature.” Synge’s job, Yeats said, “was to say everything the people did not want to have said.”

Though the play was condemned when it premiered at the Abbey in 1907, in later years it would be seen as a symbol of the peasants’ own deep-seated urge to reject the tyranny in their own lives, and Synge would be recognized as an important figure in the Irish renaissance.

Playboy has been produced countless times at the Abbey, and Barnes felt that for the centenary program a reworking of some parts was necessary. “It’s a play with fantastic language,” he said. “There were lots of opportunities in the third act to stretch the theatricality of the play.” He specified that one of the fight scenes between the Mahons was moved onstage in order to enhance the audience’s view of the play.

The production, particularly Cathy Belton’s portrayal of Pegeen Mike, has received widespread critical acclaim, delighting audiences in Connecticut, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. It will close in Chicago in December. The theater group will then return home to Ireland, and begin discussions about its future.

For now, though, the Abbey is continuing to do its usual phenomenal job of entertaining audiences in its home away from home. “The Abbey has a history of touring in the United States going back to 1911,” Barnes said. “We felt it was important to press that button in our centenary celebrations.” ♦

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A Memorable Night Out! https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/a-memorable-night-out/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/a-memorable-night-out/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:54:04 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30786 Read more..]]> The Irish Arts Center’s annual dinner dance at the prestigious New York Athletic Club on Central Park South always promises to be a memorable night out. The 2004 dinner, held on Friday, October 1 was no exception.

Each year the Center honors those in the entertainment and business communities who have made great contributions to advancing and highlighting Irish culture. This year’s event honored Irish writer Edna O’Brien and New York construction dynamo Gerry Boyle.

The Arts Center, as expected, managed a perfect mix of community and showbiz, and this year, once again, the two Irish-born Hollywood stars, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, turned up to show support, with Byrne taking the lead. The actor, who has long been a patron of the Center (now in its 35(th) year) was splendid in his introduction of Edna O’Brien. He talked of her significance as a writer — from The Country Girls to her book on James Joyce — with warmth and appreciation. He also quoted from writer Philip Roth, who said of O’Brien’s book Wild Decembers, “The great Colette’s mantle has fallen to Edna O’Brien. A darker writer, more full of conflict, O’Brien nonetheless shares the earthiness, the rawness, the chiseled prose, the scars of maturity. She is a consummate stylist and, to my mind, the most gifted woman now writing fiction in English.”

O’Brien, who suffered public humiliation and book burning by her local priest in Scariff, Co. Clare, when The Country Girls (1960) was first published, talked about her “mixed relationship” with Ireland. “But I love my country and I know that there is something it is capable of transmitting, which is beautiful but indefinable.” She adding that “much as we love the country we left,” we must acknowledge the “hope and optimism that America gave us.” Brooklyn, she said had held a particular fascination for her as a child. As a place her mother had visited as a young woman, it took on a “mythical” quality.

Gerry Boyle, from Co. Kerry, whose stage presence is such that should he decide to give up the construction business, he could probably make it as an entertainer, charmed the audience, ribbing his brother-in-law Cel Donaghy, Irish Arts Center patron and rival construction industry leader, and his parents (“How long are ye staying?”) who the Center had flown over as a surprise.

Music was provided by the Ian Gallagher Band. ♦

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O’Byrne in Shanley’s Doubt https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/obyrne-in-shanleys-doubt/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/obyrne-in-shanleys-doubt/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:53:35 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30790 Read more..]]> Irish-born Tony Award winner Brian O’Byrne will join forces with Irish American Oscar winner John Patrick Shanley in a new drama called Doubt, which will open at the Manhattan Theater Club on November 22.

O’Byrne won the 2004 Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a play for his portrayal of a child-killer in the play Frozen. If you didn’t get to see Frozen, now is your chance to see Byrne in an equally provocative role. In Doubt, he plays a priest, Fr. Flynn, who begins to take too much interest in the life of a young male student.

O’Byrne, who has toiled in all sorts of roles on the New York stage and received two previous Tony nominations, is from Mullagh, Co. Cavan. ♦

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The Mighty Mack Family https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/the-mighty-mack-family/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/the-mighty-mack-family/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:52:35 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30792 Read more..]]> Player, manager, scout, general manager, owner — Cornelius MacGillicuddy “Connie Mack” — did it all. As a 6’2″ player he revolutionized baseball as the first catcher to squat behind the plate — an innovation that continues today. And as the owner manager of the Philadelphia A’s he built a dynasty that played five World Series games, and holds the seemingly unbreakable records for most games managed, won, and lost.

Mack’s teams in the early 1900s, featuring the “$100,000 Infield” with Hall of Famers Eddie Collins and Frank “Home Run” Baker, went to five World Series and won three times. John McGraw of the New York Giants called the A’s a “white elephant” that no one else wanted. Mack responded by adopting the pachyderm as his team’s symbol, an insignia still used by the Oakland A’s. The cash-strapped owner later had to sell off many top players, but the A’s became a powerhouse again in the late 1920s, ending the reign of Babe Ruth’s Yankees. The 1929-30 A’s team with Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, and Lefty Grove cemented their place in history as an outstanding team.

“Salaries were high, even during the Depression,” his daughter Ruth Mack Clark, 90, recalls. “But after the crash, in which he lost an awful lot of money, Dad sold off the players or else he would have lost the team and the ballpark.”

Ruth was on hand last year to witness the A’s historic return to Philadelphia for a game against the Phillies.

The baseball legend was born to Irish immigrants on December 22, 1862, in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. His parents, Michael McGillicuddy and Mary McKillop, emigrated from Killarney during the Famine years. Michael served in the Civil War and was proud of his Irish Catholic heritage. One of seven siblings, Connie kept McGillicuddy as his legal name, as have his descendants. (Sports writers shortened it to fit into newspaper box scores.)

“The Tall Tactician” was the winning manager of the first All Star Game in 1933, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame four years later. For “Connie Mack Day” in 1941, the legendary George M. Cohan wrote a song, The Grand Old Man of the National Game. Mack, who never missed Mass and was a proud member of the Knights of Columbus, died in 1956. Two years before, in 1954, The Philadelphia A’s had moved to Kansas City.

One of the last baseball managers to wear street clothes at the ballpark, Mack cut quite a figure. “People would stare in recognition, because he was so tall and stately in his three piece suit and white high collar shirt,” recalls granddaughter Kathleen McGillicuddy Kelly, an Irish dance instructor in Phoenix and former Radio City Music Hall Rockette. “I loved going to the ballpark with him and my father.”

Both Mack’s family and his baseball legacy thrive even today. The Grand Old Man had three children with his first wife, Margaret Hogan, before her death, five more children with his second wife, Katherine Hallahan, and 16 grandchildren.

Connie Mack III, a former U.S. Senator, threw out the first pitch when the A’s returned to Philadelphia in 2003. He says that more people are excited about meeting him because he is Connie Mack’s grandson than because of his career in government.

“In the political environment, you understand the significance of name recognition. My grandfather died almost 50 years ago, and his reputation of character and integrity is astounding,” said Senator Mack, whose interest in his Irish roots increased after visiting Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic while serving in Congress. “For us to have the heritage of a name that carries such respect, it imposes a responsibility to live up to it.”

“We visited Co. Kerry and found the old McGillicuddy Castle,” added the Florida Republican, whose driver’s license reads McGillicuddy. “I wish I had taken an interest in my heritage earlier, but I am glad I was able to expose my son to it.”

And the McGillicuddy political legacy lives on. Thirty-seven-year-old Connie Mack IV follows in his father’s footsteps and was elected to U.S. Congress representing Florida’s 14(th) District on November 2, 2004. Mack IV and his wife, Ann, have two children: Addison and (you guessed it), Connie Mack V. ♦

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U2 Prepares to Drop “Bomb” https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/u2-prepares-to-drop-bomb/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/u2-prepares-to-drop-bomb/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:51:45 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30795 Read more..]]> After recording, and then misplacing (the demo disappeared during a photo shoot) their long-awaited new album How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 are finally delivering the goods. The band releases the record on November 23 and is reportedly collaborating with director Jim Sheridan on videos for the new songs.

Four years have passed since their last album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and early reports have described the new sound as a return to U2’s punk rock roots. If the first single, “Vertigo,” is any indication, U2’s latest release will be infused with high energy rock.

U2 have been impacted greatly by the deaths of two members of The Ramones in recent years. When U2 first came on the music scene, they were heavily influenced by The Ramones, and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb seems a way for the band to pay tribute to their punk roots. And what does it matter that Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam are in their 40s? Rock and roll keeps you young. ♦

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Harry Potter in Irish! https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/harry-potter-in-irish/ https://irishamerica.com/2004/12/harry-potter-in-irish/#respond Wed, 01 Dec 2004 14:50:38 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=30798 Read more..]]> Draíodóirí, dragain, agus Dursleys…As readers around the world eagerly await the sixth installation of the Harry Potter series, we welcome a whole new way to read the first: as Gaeilge. Harry Potter agus an Órcloch, the Irish language translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, is now available.

Published in October, Harry Potter agus an Órcloch follows the adventures of Harry Potter and his fellow draíodóirí in their first year at Scoil Chomhoideachais Draíodóireachta Hogwarts in their first encounters with Volde — er, that is, Mac-an-Té-Úd-Eile. The translation, by Máire Nic Mhaoláin, is faithful to the tone of the English original, and introduces a lexicon of Potteresque words such as “Mugail” and “neamh-Dursleyúil.” Though it may be hard to spot in your local bookstore, Harry Potter agus an Órcloch is available from a number of online retailers.

In the seven years since its fast publication, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone has been translated into over 200 languages. Other recent translations have included Latin and Ancient Greek. In comparison, the complete works of William Shakespeare are available in about 50. ♦

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