February March 2018 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 15 Jul 2019 20:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Joe Kennedy III: Why the Dream Will Never Die https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/cover-interview-joe-kennedy-iii/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/cover-interview-joe-kennedy-iii/#comments Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:59:34 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=33962 Read more..]]> Congressman Joe Kennedy is carrying on his family’s legacy in politics and making a name for himself as a champion of the underdog. On Tuesday, January 30, he will deliver the Democratic rebuttal to President Trump’s State of the Union. Could he be a future President himself? 


Congressman Joseph Patrick Kennedy III wears his illustrious family tradition lightly. When you are the latest big hope of the most famous political family in America you might well be weighed down by the responsibility. It has certainly happened to some in his extended family.

Joe, as the Democratic representative from the Massachusetts Fourth District prefers, seems different though. There’s a bounce in his step, a gleam in his eye, warmth in his handshake. He loves this job and is not cowed by who in the family came before beyond acknowledging their legacy: RFK was his grandfather; JFK and Ted his great uncles; his father, Joe Kennedy II, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Massachusetts from 1987 to 1999.

It doesn’t come more legacy-driven than that.

A comparison with Donald Trump is inevitable – both are descended from parents with family fortunes – yet the difference is staggering. The noblesse oblige of the Kennedy family is to give back and acknowledge your debt to those who came before and fight for the little guy. For Trump, it appears to be the acquisition of more and more in some dervish dance of showing and telling the world every day how great he is. One would love to see an election between them, no matter how unlikely that may be in 2020.

Still, there is no doubt a run for the White House will beckon Joe some day. At 37 he is young enough and good enough. He is smart (he graduated from Stanford University and received his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2009), on message, and clean living (friends swear he orders milk in bars). But above all, he feels rounded, together, and genuinely interested.

Our interview took place in his congressional office in Washington, D.C. prior to the announcement of Kennedy’s State of the Union response. While waiting, a slew of visitors made their way into his room. All came out smiling broadly. The Kennedy touch lives on.



Speaking at an American Health Care Act rally in May 2017. (Photo courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Kennedy)

I just wanted to start off with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals legislation. You have been very passionate and outspoken about that. What do you think will be the ultimate reality?

I think we all know the right answer. We can see it in our own family stories – my family came here in coffin ships. One of the political highlights for me every year is the annual St. Patrick’s Day Friends of Ireland luncheon hosted by the Speaker of the House. Here we are in the U.S., in the U.S. Capitol, with the Irish Taoiseach, and the President of the United States – whoever he may be – and often times the Vice-President, and the leaders of Congress. To look around the room and to see how an Irish community has evolved in America is astounding.

That is how it plays out for all ethnic groups. So we know what the right thing to do is when you have people who are fleeing destitution and destruction and despair. We know what it means as Americans to live up to the values in the words enshrined at the base of the Statue of Liberty, and we know what happens when we don’t.

We must not forget the story of the St. Louis, when hundreds of Jewish families fleeing WWII were denied entry to the U.S. and were later killed by the Nazis. I’ve just seen the exhibition at the Holocaust Museum. So we know what will be written about the decision on DACA 15, 20, 50 years from now. It is not a question as to what is right or wrong. The right answer is clear.

Kids, young children, were brought here by their families who were, again, doing what my family did – the exact thing that my family did – fleeing hunger and poverty and persecution. Are we going to say, “Your future doesn’t matter much, you don’t count?”

It seems to be a recurring theme though. We never seem to learn a lesson. The same sentiments are being used 150 years later.

We are always looking at a very human story, and our successes and our failures, times we have fallen short – interning Japanese Americans in WWII. But I continue to be inspired by those words in our nation’s founding documents, “to form a more perfect Union,” recognizing that you are not always going to get it right, but you kept striving forward.

It’s heartbreaking.

Yes. It is heartbreaking that we have to do this now. But you have people ready to do it and we know what needs to happen. The question is whether our government steps up to make it happen.

What is so heartbreaking is that while there still is strong bipartisan support for programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Republicans have chosen to use healthcare for kids as a bargaining chip for something else.

My uncle, over the course of his career in the Senate and his quests to extend healthcare and make that a right for every American, used to say, “Look, there are some things that we are going to fight about, but we should be able to recognize the fact that government healthcare for kids is just not one of them. You agree with it, we agree with it, everyone agrees with it, so let’s make that happen.”

Senator Ted Kennedy and Senator Orrin Hatch reached across the aisle and made it happen.

For years – decades in fact – it was not partisan because people recognized the fact that if you are going to have a fight about something, taking it out on poor kids and healthcare isn’t the place to do it. It is just morally not the right way to go about your business as a government.

What is heartbreaking about this is that Republican leadership has decided that they are willing to wage that fight and hold healthcare as a hostage, saying “We are not going to fully defund it, but we are also going to string it along to not fully reauthorize it either for 100-plus days.”

The fact that you would choose to do that, the fact that you would also choose to say, “Well, we can fund part of this, but we are going to have to cut other parts of funding in order to make it happen because we just can’t afford it,” while we pass a $1.5 trillion tax bill.

And then we say we don’t have money.

You can’t actually look me in the eye and say we don’t have the money. It’s enraging when you hear all these fiscal conservatives saying, “Look, we just don’t have the money, and we don’t have money to expend housing and healthcare and basic needs…”

You just gave away $1.5 trillion and your argument is that we just can’t afford it, but we will extend those other benefits as they expire years down the road, which means we are not talking about $1.5 trillion, we are talking about $2 trillion and now you are struggling over a couple of billion? It’s insane!

Reading to children at a community center in Washington, D.C. in June 2017. (Photo courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Kennedy)

You have become very agitated and pretty public about this in contrast to how you are often perceived as a relatively low-visibility guy on some of these issues. What changed?

No one was trying to take away healthcare from 32 million people a year ago, and if they were, I would have spoken about it then, too. President Obama wasn’t about taking healthcare from people. He was trying to extend it and he did.

The biggest change since I got here is the House of Representatives. The Republican-majority House passed bills that I took issue with, but they knew and I knew that they weren’t going to go anywhere with the Democratic president.

Now they have actually got a chance. Now, you have a Republican president who not only is trying to govern from, perhaps, a Republican or conservative ideology – although I might take an issue with that characterization as well – but is unwilling or unable to actually engage in any aspect of bi-partisanship. That is something I haven’t seen since I have been in office, but I am also unfamiliar with anyone ever having seen it.

All the conversations I overheard or participated in around my family when I was a kid were about how to move things along.

Sure, you had disagreements on ideology, but you find a way. That is why this administration’s major policies, whether it’s healthcare or the budget or taxes, is so worrisome. In order for somebody to win, somebody else has to lose. In order for a tax bill for these red states to benefit, we have to punish blue states like New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, or California. In order to extend healthcare to states that didn’t take the Medicaid expansion by a political choice, we have to punish states that actually did. In order to cut a fiscal budget of made-up numbers, we have to stick it to the real poor.

You had these conservative ideologists in the Republican party pre-Donald Trump who were for an open market and strong-arm defense, but there wasn’t a deliberate, “Let’s punish Massachusetts to benefit Arizona or Arkansas.” That is what we are seeing now.

A visit to the Ford plant in Dearborn, Michigan, last October. (Photo courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Kennedy)

Where does it go and where does it end up?

I don’t know. Why do you think, as the President of the United States and the head of the government, that you have to favor some over the others?

What do you think your uncles or your grandfather would make of this guy?

I made the decision not to speculate on what folks would say when they are not here. But I think if you look at the values that members of my family stood for, they would be fighting this very hard.

I have chuckled at the number of comparisons that I have seen made between President Trump’s tax plan and the one put forth by President Kennedy. Look at the marginal tax rates. Look at President Kennedy’s words on the Soviet Union and Cuban Missile Crisis and what he said about the Alliance for Progress. Look at what he did for civil rights. Look at what he did for the Marshall Plan engagement. Look at what he did by inspiring one generation.

He recognized that we are going to be in the international global debate about communism versus capitalism; we need to leverage other countries and relationships to build this network up.

Do you worry that people are too confident that Trump will be easily defeated in 2020?

Yes. I would challenge anybody who thinks that they can predict what is going to happen in November of 2020. The fact is, nobody knows anything. What I do know is that a debate about the vision and values that define this country and what it means to be American, what it means to be a member of our community here, as a nation, what it means to be, still, the sole superpower leader of the free world, will take place.

Does the American public believe that Trump will continue to be a better steward of the values that have defined the United States as against the Democratic alternative? That is a choice, and it is ultimately up to Democrats to be able to articulate their vision. That has nothing to do with Donald Trump. We know who he is. We know what he is going to stand for. We know how he is going to behave. We know how he is going to act and how he is going to govern.

People are asking if you are going to run.

I wouldn’t make grand plans on that; I wouldn’t hold your breath.

I think the focus for anybody participating in this debate at the moment has to be, literally, what can you get through and what can you do today to make sure that the values we hold dear, the responsibilities of government – that the government continues to meet those responsibilities, and that we continue to look out for each other every single day – that you fight for those things.

Congressman Joe Kennedy III with his father, former Congressman Joe Kennedy II, and brother Matthew Rauch Kennedy. (Photo courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Kennedy)

I am up for reelection this year, and my focus is on making the case to my constituents back in the Fourth District of Massachusetts that I have been honored to serve them and I would like to continue to serve them.

If I am fortunate enough to be able to do that, I will continue to make a case as to what Democratic values and visions are for domestic and foreign policy, what it means to be responsible citizens of this country, to hopefully help us win back the House of Representatives and, if possible, the U.S. Senate as well in 2020. If we are able to win one of those houses of government back, it does change the dynamic of debate for the last two years of Donald Trump’s first term.

What do you think happened to this country? An African American was elected president, and eight years later, we end up basically electing a racist? Do you think Trump is a racist?

I struggle to come up with any other definition for what he has said, for the words that he used.

Do you think he is clever like a fox or is he just stupid?

I am not going to get into his mind. It is not for me to do. A lot has been written and said about that election in 2016. I think Secretary Clinton would have made a great president. She had extraordinary strengths and some challenges as a candidate. What I think we have to recognize is that for parts of this country, people were struggling in the ways that a lot of people didn’t recognize and, to [Trump’s] credit, he spoke to that.

He went to places where people didn’t think he needed to go and crowds showed up. People listened to him. He spoke at their level. He saw people.

And yes, he said and did and engaged in some things that I think are absolutely abhorrent and contrary to the values of this country that we have to recognize. But while the country is doing well economically at the moment, and yes, we set record after record, and yes, unemployment is almost four percent, there are an awful a lot of places across the country that are struggling.

Essentially, you have to frame that election as a shock to the system – one in which an awful lot of folks said, “Hey, the system is not working for me.” And that is not just the post-industrial communities in the Midwest. Donald Trump got a million votes in Massachusetts.

Am I going to sit there and say that every voter who voted for Donald Trump is a racist? No, because they are not. I do think that means soul-searching for a lot of us, because there are awful a lot of folks who voted for him and didn’t vote for our candidate who we thought they would. We are not going to win them back unless we say we’ve got to do a better job listening and responding.

With his great uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, in 2006. (Photo courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Kennedy)

Do you think there is the opportunity to pick up the House majority?

I hope to be able to do everything I can.

At the moment, I do think that the House of Representatives is in play, and if I can be helpful in winning some of those seats back, I certainly would like to be.

You and your dad are the first father and son we have featured on our covers. What did you learn from him?

Oh really? I think one of the biggest lessons I have taken from my dad is the fact that people need to be treated equally. In this job, it is extraordinary that you get to meet world leaders and that you could also talk to almost anybody walking on the other side of the street, somebody sitting in the bar, somebody on the bus stop, somebody in the homeless shelter. If you are going to do this well, you treat every single person the same, because people are people.

Did he encourage you to run because it is a tough game?

I get that question a lot. My family, mom and dad, my brother, too, advised me not to. My brother had helped run Senator Obama’s primary campaign, so he has been around, and he helped in my uncle’s last campaign in 2006, which I helped co-chair after I returned from the Peace Corps.

I remember my father very clearly saying, “Political life is really hard, and there are long days, demanding days, and there are days that are not going to go so well, and you are going to have to get up the next day and do it all over again.”

He said, “The only thing that gets you through it is an abundant desire to actually want to do the job. And if you want to do it, then great, I will encourage you and help you do that, but you have to be really certain that this is what you want to do. If you are doing this out of some misguided sense of family obligation, you are going to get destroyed.”

How closely do you follow events in Ireland?

I follow them pretty closely.

Have you met the new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar?

I haven’t. I hear he is very impressive. I’d love to meet him at some point. I haven’t traveled internationally since we started our family, although I was in Ireland in August 2014. My wife and I were there for 10 days or so and had a wonderful time. I had been in Ireland before, but it was the first time I got to spend a fair amount of time there. I didn’t want to make it as an official political visit, because I wanted see Ireland as a tourist. We rented a car and spent a couple of days in Dublin and then drove around.

Some had suggested that I go to the family farm and the owner now, a fifth cousin I think, said, “How many of you are here?” And I said, “It is just me and my wife” and he said, “Come on up here!” So we went.

Obviously, for me to be able to walk around the place that generations of my family called home and spend some time going through Cork and Kerry and Galway and Dublin – it was outstandingly beautiful, and people were kind and outgoing and engaging.

Does it bother you when you see Irish Americans who forget that struggle and say Donald Trump is right?

I think at some point all of us have to acknowledge and understand our own histories. If there is one consistency, it is this human vulnerability and it’s these cycles where we blame others. And at some point, almost everybody else gets blamed for something.

I remember my dad telling me stories about when he was a young kid and he was out playing with his older sister, and my great-grandmother Rose called him inside and he thought he had done something wrong, but she just brought him into the back of the house and pulled out a folder and took out all these clippings about Ireland.

My dad told me that story so I, too, would never forget where we came from and the struggles others before had to go through so that we can enjoy a better life.

I think the Irish have this extraordinary story of perseverance, of resilience, of struggle, of faith, and it is ultimately a very good story.

It is an inspiring story, but it is a struggle. I found great strength and great resilience, but also great empathy and sympathy in that story, because the Irish are one of the few nationalities at the moment that can actually give voice to some of the predicaments we see playing out across our country. They can talk about what happens after you persevere and get through it.

The fact is, you can find an Irish bar in any corner of the country. I was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, and everywhere I went there were Irish. I studied abroad in Spain for a semester in college and we American students gathered one evening just to be together and went to the Irish pub.

With Vice President Joe Biden and Taoiseach Enda Kenny on St. Patrick’s Day, 2016. (Photo courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Kennedy)

They are everywhere.

The Irish are everywhere because they had to leave. We do build communities very, very well. I think that strength, that perseverance, that resilience, that suffering, gives a profound sense of empathy and community because you got through those hard times because of community, because of family and faith.

So tell me, do you really think there is a chance Trump will get reelected?

Yes, absolutely there is a chance. I think that anybody who says there is not is not paying the attention to the past year and a half.

I think that I, and many others, had underestimated candidate Donald Trump. And I think a large part of our country continues to underestimate him in terms of his ability to dominate the news cycle and appeal to some portion of our country and win votes.

Can I make an argument that he is going to be very tough in 2020? Yes. Could I also make an argument that our country is going to be in such dire circumstances three years from now that he is going to be presiding over our lives in a way that we haven’t seen in decades?

Democrats will be doing our country a great disservice if we wait to allow that choice to be set by Donald Trump. The question ultimately posed to the American electorate is: is Donald Trump qualified now for reelection? And by then saying, “You have now seen and heard what a four-year Trump administration is. You know what four more years of his government is going to be. Here is an alternative and this is what we believe is a better pathway to be the leaders of free world and better stewards of our people.” That is on the Democratic party to come up with that articulation of values and vision.

I am not waiting for the current leaders of our party – House, Senate, others – to try to come up with our message that I think we all know. I think it is on every single Democrat who is elected at every single level to try to come up with a message that you think resonates with your constituents.

I think that it is undeniable that essentially what Donald Trump spoke to was, by large, a segment of our society that for a generation or two, a generation ago, was able to have a comfortable pathway to middle-class lifestyle.

We know that the engagement the United States had in and after WWII has been our role model, but we have not invested in infrastructure and education clearly as well, or as much as we needed to, as a means to preserve it.

Joe and Lauren with their children, James Matthew, who was born just before Christmas last year, and Eleanor, who just turned two. (Photo courtesy of the office of Congressman Joe Kennedy)

The international system the United States set up, yes, accrues to our benefit. But that system has pulled billions of people out of poverty.

That is an extraordinary success story. And internationally, despite the violence we see and terrorism, we are actually seeing historical lows in the amount of violent deaths around the globe.

The consequence of that – as more of these folks are coming out of poverty – is that their countries have some marked level of stability, and they have economic development that you didn’t have before. So you have got a massive amount of competition for jobs and schools and colleges and universities that didn’t previously exist for the U.S.

This is what Trump pointed to and what Brexit pointed to – it was scapegoating foreign trade deals and internationalism and immigrants and other things that drive a wedge. Could the foreign trade deal have played a part in it? Yes, absolutely. Did the multilateralism played a part in it? Sure.

The question ultimately is: does some of that accrue more to our benefit than the cost? Yes. Is there a cost to it? Yes.

The idea that this administration is going to solve the subsidies China has by waging a trade war over solar panels or steel is crazy.

And we saw that day after Brexit that some of the folks who pushed it admitted they lied – saying billions saved would go into healthcare. So the alternative the Brexit champions put forth actually doesn’t deliver on the promises made. And now the Brexit voters, like those here who voted for Trump, understand what those consequences are, because we didn’t quite fully understand it before.

The consequence the United States has to recognize is actually getting a clear articulation of domestic and foreign policy from this administration saying, “You don’t want to engage in these systems? Fine. What is your alternative and what does that look like?”

If you say you are against multilateral engagement, fine. But how do you expect to actually continue to build up an international system that is dominated by transparent democracy, human rights, individualism, and capitalism at a time when the greatest international threat coming on in the future is going to be state enterprises supported by the Chinese government – enterprises that will have the ability to move capital around to support those businesses and industries that are strategic to them? That, at its heart, is a question of the benefit of a communist party over an individual. They don’t treat the rights of individuals in the way that is inherent in the U.S. Constitution.

A fundamental question is: do you think the United States is going to be best able to promote our values on our own, or is it better to create an architecture of international alliances that are able to continue to push that narrative based on those values and vision? And clearly it is the latter, and we need to get that message out.

Thirty years from now, your new son, James Matthew, comes here and says, “Dad, I want to be a politician.” What do you tell him?

As of now, I would tell him that it is an extraordinary honor to serve, that it is a serious responsibility, that you have to make sure that you are ready for it and that your family is. This job is extraordinary and unforgiving and puts an extraordinary burden on families. So you have to be willing and your family has to be willing to actually step up with you. But regardless of what I would tell him about being a politician, I would say that the legacy of what I believe my family most stands for is that we have been extraordinarily blessed. Your responsibility with those blessings is to try to make sure that you make a contribution back to your country and your planet, and you can do that in a number of different ways. It doesn’t have to be through work in the office.

Congressman Joe Kennedy, thank you. ♦


Niall O’Dowd is the founding publisher of Irish America, the Irish Voice, and IrishCentral. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


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First Word: The Dream That Never Dies https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/first-word-the-dream-that-never-dies/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/first-word-the-dream-that-never-dies/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:58:07 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=33983 Read more..]]> “As the first of the racial minorities, our forefathers were subject to every discrimination found wherever discrimination is known.”

– Robert Kennedy speaking at a Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Day dinner in Scranton, PA

It is fitting that we have Joe Kennedy III on the cover of this issue that marks the beginning of our 33rd year in publishing.

Joe’s father, Joe II, the then- young Congressman from Massachusetts, was featured on the cover of Irish America in 1986, and he attended the Boston launch of the magazine that same year.

What I remember most about our launch in Boston all those years ago is not the young Kennedy’s wide smile and great hair, but the fact that our car was stolen. When it was recovered, a week later, our personal belonging were still in the trunk but our boxes of magazines were missing. I never could figure out if it was a British plot, or if the thieves thought our magazines were more valuable than our clothes!

As Irish America’s first family, we have featured many stories on the Kennedys over the years, including cover stories on Senator Ted Kennedy (1991) and Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith (1995), both of whom helped shepherd in the peace process in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement (20 years ago this April.)

Looking at the gridlock in today’s government, one can only wish that Ted were still alive. He was so willing to reach across the aisle in the spirit of bi-partisan compromise. And his advocacy was always on behalf of the poor, the elderly, and the handicapped (almost all the significant legislation affecting these groups has Ted’s his stamp on it). So it’s comforting to see those same political ideals reflected in young Joe Kennedy’s work today.

In speaking out on behalf of immigrants and minorities, Joe is following the family tradition. His grandfather Robert Kennedy, speaking at a Friendly Sons of St. Patrick dinner in Scranton – his first public appearance after the death of President Kennedy – talked of the discrimination the Irish had faced as “the first racial minorities,” and he asked his audience to be mindful of “the walls of silent conspiracy that block the progress of others because of race or creed, without regard to ability.”

What makes the Kennedys such great politicians and champions of the underdog is the knowledge they have of their own family’s early struggles in America. In that respect, there is one person who often gets overlooked by the general public, and that’s Bridget Murphy.

If Niall O’Dowd walked away from his Joe Kennedy III interview with the catchphrase, “Why the Dream Will Never Die,” ​it’s because Bridget Murphy wouldn’t let it die.

Bridget (who is said to have hated her name because all the Irish maids were referred to as Biddys or Bridgets) immigrated from Wexford to Boston in 1848 and married her fiancé, Patrick Kennedy, on September 26, 1849. In seven years, they had five children – three girls and two boys. John, their first son, died before he reached the age of two. And within a year of John’s death, Patrick would be dead too, having succumbed to cholera, which was rampant in their East Boston neighborhood.

As a young widow with four children to support, Bridget couldn’t give in to her grief. She ran a small shop down on the waterfront and kept her family together. And her American dream of a better life for her kids did come true. Her remaining son and youngest child, Patrick Joseph, “P.J.,” who left school at 14 to help out his mother and sisters in the shop, went on to become a successful businessman and serve in both the Massachusetts House of Representatives and in the Senate.

Bridget died in December 1888 having lived long enough to see the birth of P.J.’s first child, Joseph Patrick “Joe” Kennedy, who was born in September of that year. Could she ever have imagined that Joe’s son John would become the President of the United States, the first Catholic ever elected to the office?

The Kennedy story is an American dream story, and an immigrant story. It is full of great achievements and unbearable tragedy, but most of all it’s a story of grit and determination and of rising above life’s sorrows. It’s a story that began with Bridget Murphy.

So, here’s to you, Bridget. You are not forgotten. Like Saint Brigid herself, you were full of determination and courage, and you passed it down. It helped future generations overcome their own sorrows, and still have a care for others.

Mórtas Cine. ♦


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Over 400 G.A.A. Stars Unite to Fight Ireland’s Homeless Crisis https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/over-400-g-a-a-stars-unite-to-fight-irelands-homeless-crisis/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/over-400-g-a-a-stars-unite-to-fight-irelands-homeless-crisis/#comments Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:57:28 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=33987 Read more..]]> A group of over 400 current and former G.A.A. players held a solidarity sleep-out in December to draw attention to Ireland’s homelessness crisis, raising more than $150,000 in the process. The sleep-out took place in 13 towns and cities throughout Ireland and abroad, including Dublin, Boston, New York, Quebec City, Wexford, Galway, and Cork. According to Focus Ireland, Ireland has seen a 24 percent increase in homelessness in the past year and has the highest child homelessness rate in Europe.

“As G.A.A. intercounty players, many of us have been fortunate in our lives,” Dublin Gaelic football player Eamonn Fennell, who participated in the sleep-out at the Dublin General Post Office, said. “The G.A.A. is based upon communities and support. With the support of the communities across Ireland, we can make a real change.” ♦

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Band Aid Donates Archives to Ireland’s National Library https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/band-aid-donates-archives-to-irelands-national-library/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/band-aid-donates-archives-to-irelands-national-library/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:56:22 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=33990 Read more..]]> Bob Geldof and the Band Aid Trust donated their archives to the National Library of Ireland in December, opening them to public viewing for the first time. The charity effort raised £8 million for famine relief in Africa with the release of the 1984 single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The following year, the organization hosted the first ever Live Aid concert, featuring the collaboration of popular groups including U2, Duran Duran, and Queen. Band Aid founder Bob Geldof characterized the gift as a token of “our thanks and gratitude to Ireland and the Irish” for the nation’s commitment to Band Aid’s mission and the library’s willingness to preserve the trust’s archives.

On the receiving end, a number of Irish leaders expressed their own thanks for the donation – among them President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. In a statement, Varadkar reflected on Band Aid as a shining moment in Irish history in particular. “It showed Ireland and in particular an Irishman taking the lead in tackling hunger and injustice,” he said.

The archive contains articles of publicity on the event, some physical donations, and letters from individuals public and private, including teenagers and younger. ♦


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Mapping Irish DNA https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/mapping-irish-dna/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/mapping-irish-dna/#comments Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:55:31 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=33994 Read more..]]> In a study published late December in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers have found 10 genetic groupings that mirror the ancient and medieval boundaries of Irish kingdoms: Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht. The study was explored by a team of Irish, American, and British scientists that analyzed data from 194 Irish people with four generations of ancestry tied to specific regions on the island.

Dr. Gianpiero Cavalleri, a co-author of the study from the Royal College of Surgeons, shed some light on how this came to pass: “The likelihood is that it’s a combination of things – a little bit of geography combined with wars or rivalry generates kinship in each distinct area.”

Irish Genetic Groupings.

As well as the wars and rivalries that the Gaels had participated in, the Ulster Plantation made an impact, as researchers found that population mixing occurred around the 17th to 18th centuries. A distinct Irish genetic landscape began during the Bronze Age when people living on continental Europe migrated across the English Channel and the Irish Sea.

Out of the 10 more recent clusters, seven were found to be of Gaelic origin, and three had mixed Anglo-Irish ancestry. Notably, the study also found that Nordic ancestry comprised about 20 percent of the Irish gene pool, a greater share than previously thought, and a statistically significant higher share than in either English or Welsh. Slowly but surely, scientific and historical research are coming together to tell the true story of the Irish. ♦  Dave Lewis 


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Ireland to Recognize Preferred Gender Pronouns in Registry of Foreign Births https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/ireland-to-recognize-preferred-gender-pronouns-in-registry-of-foreign-births/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/ireland-to-recognize-preferred-gender-pronouns-in-registry-of-foreign-births/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:54:02 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=33999 Read more..]]> In December, Ireland took further steps to grant equality to transgender citizens by introducing policy designed to formally recognize naturalized citizens of the Republic’s preferred names and gender identity through the establishment of a register of gender recognition of foreign births.

In a statement, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney said, “For the first time, transgender citizens abroad will be afforded the same rights as all other Irish citizens to have their preferred gender recognized.”

In 2015, Ireland passed the Gender Recognition Act, which recognized citizens’ preferred gender and names for all purposes by the State.

“Ireland was the first country in the world to recognize marriage equality by popular vote and we have a particularly progressive piece of legislation regarding transgender rights,” Minister of State for the Diaspora Ciarán Cannon, said. “Today’s announcement is a further step in the advancement of rights for our citizens overseas, who will now be able to self-identify in their preferred gender in the register of gender recognition of foreign births.” ♦


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Uilleann Pipes Acknowledged by UNESCO https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/uilleann-pipes-acknowledged-by-unesco/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/uilleann-pipes-acknowledged-by-unesco/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:53:46 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=34002 Read more..]]> The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) approved recognition of uilleann piping as an element of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” in early December. After initiating the application process in March 2016, the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht worked tirelessly for over a year to ensure the acceptance of Ireland’s first official request to UNESCO since ratifying the organization’s agreement to safeguard cultural heritage in 2015.

Irish president Michael D. Higgins expressed pleasure at the victory in his public remarks, saying that Ireland’s artistic traditions “connect us in profound ways, weaving together cultural memory and contemporary vision.”

Uilleann piping is a bagpipe tradition unique to Ireland that is over 200 years old. The practice has been largely disregarded in recent years, which is why groups like Na Píobairí Uilleann and the Armagh Pipers’ Club have combined their efforts on an international level to have it immortalized as an essential piece of world heritage. ♦

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Ireland’s First Astronaut Ready to Take Flight https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/irelands-first-astronaut-ready-to-take-flight/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/irelands-first-astronaut-ready-to-take-flight/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:52:18 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=34005 Read more..]]> Ever since Dr. Norah Patten visited NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, as a child, she knew she wanted to be an astronaut. Twenty-three years later, the Mayo-born adventurer was selected as one of 12 scientists to train as an astronaut as part of Project PoSSUM, an astronautics research and education program that studies the Earth’s upper atmosphere and its role in its changing climate, which took place last October.

“I’ve met many astronauts over the years and I am aware this is a long road. But I have spent my life focused on this goal of getting to space and for me, the journey has always been as important as the destination,” she told Irish news site Joe.ie prior to the training. “This is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn hands-on skills, to experience what it is actually like to operate in a pressurized spacesuit, and to feel the g-forces on my body that are experienced during a rocket launch. I really cannot wait.”

Patten’s training during her time with Project PoSSUM included a variety of tests requiring her to wear special pressurized space suits in which she would experience up to four times her normal body pressure. As well as physical training, her educational background has her ready for space travel. Patten has a doctorate in aeronautical engineering from University of Limerick and has worked with big-time aeronautics institutions like Boeing and the International Space University. Though the program doesn’t guarantee space flight, she is now on a list of candidates available for the journey, one that, were she to take, would make her Ireland’s first astronaut. ♦  Dave Lewis 


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Eimear McBride Takes on Fellowship at Samuel Beckett Research Centre https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/eimear-mcbride-fellowship-samuel-beckett-research-centre/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/eimear-mcbride-fellowship-samuel-beckett-research-centre/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:51:14 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=34009 Read more..]]> Award-winning Irish novelist Eimear McBride (right) has been named the inaugural recipient of the University of Reading Samuel Beckett Research Center Creative Fellowship, which provides exclusive access to Beckett’s archives.

McBride, whose debut novel A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing won the Goldsmiths Prize in 2013 and the 2014 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, will research at the center through the early summer, ultimately producing a work influenced by and honoring the works of Beckett. McBride also plans to document her personal experiences at the institute in a monthly record. In her first entry, she writes, “The remit is entirely open, which sounds wonderful and is… [Beckett’s life and body of work] have influenced, and generated, such vast arrays of artistic, academic, and critical response… So, the question is: where to begin?”

Since 1971, the research center has held the largest public collection of archives of Samuel Beckett, including the author’s notebooks and first drafts. “This fellowship will ensure that the Beckett Archive, already a collection that inspires so much wonder and interest among writers and the public, becomes also a practical and inspiring creative workshop,” the center’s director, Stephen Matthews, says. ♦


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Irish Eye on Hollywood: The Mara Sisters to Tackle Jesus and the Kennedys  https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-the-mara-sisters-to-tackle-jesus-and-the-kennedys/ https://irishamerica.com/2018/01/irish-eye-on-hollywood-the-mara-sisters-to-tackle-jesus-and-the-kennedys/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:50:26 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=34012 Read more..]]> The Irish American Mara sisters – Rooney and Kate – are not just on their way to dominating Hollywood like few other siblings have. They are also not afraid to court controversy along the way. Both have movies coming out soon that deal with issues likely to get some Irish folks riled up.

First there is Rooney Mara, who has already worked with some of the biggest directors in the business, including David Fincher (The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Spike Jonze (Her), and Ireland’s own Jim Sheridan (The Secret Scripture). In March, just in time for Easter, look for Mara in the title role of Mary Magdalene, which also stars Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. Such biblical films are a staple of old-time Hollywood – think The Ten Commandments and King of Kings – but in more recent years have been the subject of intense controversy. From Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, films about the life of Jesus and his followers have upset a wide range of folks (Irish Catholics among them), and Mary Magdalene may not be any different. Early word is that the film takes a highly sympathetic view of Mary Magdalene, who has sometimes been interpreted as a prostitute, and even Jesus’ romantic lover. The film also takes a cue from the Hamilton school of casting and features a diverse international cast as Jesus’ followers, including Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) as Peter and Algerian-French actor Tahar Rahim as Judas. Rooney Mara will also appear in the decidedly more offbeat film Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, directed by Oscar-nominee Gus van Zant, and which premiered in late January at the Sundance Film Festival. Don’t Worry, based on a memoir by Irish American cartoonist John Callahan, will receive a wider release in May.

Meanwhile, in April, Rooney’s sister Kate will star as Mary Jo Kopechne in a new movie based on the terrible accident that cost Senator Ted Kennedy any shot he ever had at the presidency. Directed by Irish American Utica, New York-native John Curran, the film is entitled Chappaquiddick, after the location of a car crash that left Kopechne dead when a car driven by Kennedy skidded off a bridge. Kennedy infamously waited hours before reporting the accident and Kopechne’s death. Questions about the incident would dog Kennedy for years, and it was among the factors that sunk his presidential ambitions by 1980. Chappaquiddick also stars Jason Clarke (Brotherhood, The Great Gatsby) and Jim Gaffigan.

Further down the road, Kate will appear in a new Ryan Murphy musical/drama TV series for FX entitled Pose, which will look at a broad cross-section of Manhattan life in the 1980s. ♦

More Irish Eye on Hollywood:

The Golden Age of Irish Prestige TV

Novel Adaptations for Irish Writers

John Cusack Takes a Villainous Turn in Irish Western

Flatley and McGinty Are Dancing to the Big Screen

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