June July 2012 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 Serious George – An Interview With George Clooney https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/serious-george-an-interview-with-george-clooney/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/serious-george-an-interview-with-george-clooney/#comments Wed, 16 May 2012 10:29:56 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10518 Read more..]]> The perennial leading man talks about his Irish roots, getting older, and his passion for activism. 

George Clooney has nothing to prove as an actor and he knows it. It’s part of what makes him such a pleasant and relaxed interview – quick with the self-effacing jokes, interested in the wider world beyond where he now sits, at home in his own skin. At 51, he is aging beautifully and has more mischief in him than people half his age. If all the charm, the intelligence, the wit and the chivalry is all an act – which after interviewing him six times by now, I don’t believe it can be – it’s a damn good one. What you see with George Timothy Clooney is what you get.

“I’m not out trying to prove anything. I’m sort of finished with that, so I get to play in other sandboxes and try and figure out what I like and I’m interested in,” he says. “When my Aunt Rosemary said that later in her life she could sing better than ever, even though she could no longer hit or reach every note, she said to me that she was a better singer then because she didn’t have to prove anything and she could relax. I sort of feel the same.”

Notwithstanding the fact that he hit the half century mark in May of last year, Clooney appears to be getting cooler and even more relaxed with age. Take his wheels for example; these days he’d prefer the comfort of a minivan over a sports car and his nonchalance has a way of making that cool too.

“In LA, I have two cars and two motorcycles. In Italy, I have three motorcycles because other people want to ride and you can’t ride them all at the same time. When you’re young you’re into sports cars and shit like that and it really does matter. But now in Italy, we pull up to the Villa d’Este Hotel and I’m in a minivan! I lost all my cool – straight out the window!” he laughs. “After a while, you just want transportation, and things like cool cars or motorcycles are all about getting attention. I get all the attention I could ever need, so I kind of like being in a minivan and people not paying so much attention to me.”

The long-planned trip to Ireland he said he was finally going to take, will be a tour of the country by motorbike. “It’s finally happening,” he told me, grinning broadly. “I ran into Bono in Toronto, who was in town for the documentary about U2, and he’s as much of a bike nut as I am. He started telling me about lots of cool places I should check out, so I’ve committed to going.”

The actor makes frequent and fond references to his Irish roots and his Catholic upbringing. Clooney has Irish roots on both sides of the family, but most of his green blood comes paternally. His father’s great-great-grandfather Nicholas Clooney, came from County Kilkenny.

The name Clooney is an anglicized version of the Gaelic O’Cluanaigh, which translates as a descendant of Clugnach, meaning a rogue or a flatterer. His father’s mother’s maiden name, meanwhile, was Guilfoyle.

“I’ve been in Dublin before, but never with my folks,” said Clooney. “My dad went to Ireland two years ago and found a town called Clooney. When he told them his name, he said everyone insisted on buying him drinks and he got smashed and had a great time!”

Growing up the son of the well-known and respected journalist and broadcaster Nick Clooney formed much of the character which makes George Clooney the man he is today. Seeing celebrity up close through his father and his aunt Rosemary, made him recognize the traps of fame, but it also imbued in him the sense of justice and fairness which has led him to become involved in various political issues.

“My father was and is a great journalist. Thirty years ago, I was studying broadcasting in college and the problem was I wasn’t nearly as good as my father. I wasn’t as quick or as smart as my old man, and I realized it would be a long time before I was ever going to be, and I decided to do something else. My uncle was Jose Ferrer the actor and he got me a part as an extra in a movie he was in. After that I got in my ’76 Monte Carlo and drove to LA to be an actor and I got lucky, quite honestly.

“My parents were disappointed I didn’t finish college and they were really upset when I went to Hollywood to become an actor. I was a big disappointment to them. My father used to write me long letters for about seven or eight years, which I still have, where he used to say ‘knock this off and get a real job.’ That was the first time they felt ashamed of me. But we are really close.

“I’ve been lucky to be in a few films that will last. I’ve made some turkeys along the way, some dumb choices, but luckily that was early in my career when people weren’t paying attention!”

Currently writing, directing and producing a slew of new movies, on top of this year’s Golden Globe win for The Descendants, Clooney’s intelligence and appetite for a wide range of topics is once again on display. One of his upcoming movies is called Enron, which probably needs no explanation, and another called Hardan v Rumsfeld, whose title also says it all. His next directorial feature, The Boys from Belmont, is lighter fare about the reunion of a gang of thieves who get together to finish off a job they started seven years earlier.

Using his fame as leverage for creating awareness about political issues is one of the ways in which he evens out the toll of living in the glare of publicity. His March arrest in Washington, D.C. on the grounds of the Sudanese Embassy, was a clearly planned publicity stunt to draw attention to what is happening in South Sudan.

“Probably the thing I am most proud of is being involved with places and issues [and people] who might not otherwise have had their voices heard. I have all this attention on me, which I’ve been able to deflect to Darfur and South Sudan and people who could use it. The telethons and the things like that, that we’ve been able to put together, I’m proud of these things. Being able to take something that’s going well for you, and deflecting it on to other people, those are real successes.

“I have a lot of things I want to get done and I don’t really have a lot of time. The best advice my Aunt Rosemary gave me was ‘Don’t wake up at 65 and say what you should have done.’  I think that’s a smart piece of advice. She also told me never to mix wine and vodka and that’s a lesson I forgot to take last night!”

Given that he has crossed the half century mark, has he given any thought to plans for after his death?

“I tried to donate my liver, but no one would take it! Imagine how disappointed I was! We have a thing in the U.S. where you check a box on your driver’s license to donate an organ. I really think it should be the other way around. I think you should automatically donate your organs because that would turn the balance of organ donation in a huge way. I would donate whatever anybody would take and I’d probably do the cremation bit.

“I don’t really like the idea of getting stuck in a box. I have these best friends of mine, I put them all in my will and I said I would give them each some ashes and some money and have them take me on a trip somewhere I’ve never seen before. It wouldn’t be such a bad way to see the world!”

Clooney’s love life and the seeming never-ending succession of 20-something-year-old girlfriends is an endless staple of the tabloids. He quickly replaced his Italian girlfriend of two years standing, Elisabetta Canalis, with Stacey Kiebler (31), a wrestler turned model. When I try to ahem, wrestle a comment out of him about his latest flame, he pounces.

“I knew it was coming!” he laughs. “Some of the sneaky questions about this topic are often disguised in serious questions like, ‘this thing in Darfur is so sad with these children,’ and you go, ‘oh yes,’ and then they go, ‘have you ever wanted to have children?’ They think if you sneak it through the serious stuff, I’ve got to answer. I’ve found that answering these questions has never been beneficial to me in any way. It’s beneficial to people selling magazines and newspapers, but not to me. So I always avoid them.”

Back to politics, where he’s more at home. He’s firmly backing Obama in the fall. He just used the phone and his extensive database of the powerful and wealthy to organize a fundraising dinner at his home in Studio City, Los Angeles on May 10, which raised $15 million for the re-election campaign.

“It’s very easy for people to be critical of President Obama’s first term, but let’s face it, he didn’t exactly inherit the country in the best shape. I’m a lifelong Democrat and I get very impatient when I hear people criticize the President because he didn’t fulfill all their wishes overnight. I’ll die a Democrat. But let’s hope that won’t be any time soon.”

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The First Word: Arch of Triumph https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/the-first-word-arch-of-triumph/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/the-first-word-arch-of-triumph/#respond Wed, 16 May 2012 10:28:19 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10550 Read more..]]> “[The Arch] is a soaring curve in the sky that links the rich heritage of yesterday with the richer future of tomorrow.”
– Vice President Hubert Humphrey at the opening of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

The day was hot and humid and late in the afternoon the skies darkened and you could not see the Arch from the hotel window. By 6 p.m. the tornado alarm siren went off and we left the cocktail room and moved into the inner sanctum of the hotel for safety.

I’d been drinking water but I poured myself a large glass of red wine and grabbed a slice of bread and cheese from the buffet table before following the others. I only knew of tornadoes what I’d seen on television, and I didn’t know how long we’d be sequestered.

I should have been more scared. The year before, a tornado had ripped the roof off the St. Louis airport, but I was surrounded by Irish musicians and other promoters of Irish culture, who like myself were in St. Louis for the Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Convention, and in a weird compartment of my brain a voice said, “What a way to go?” Generations would talk about me. “She died in a tornado in St. Louis  clutching a glass of wine and brown bread. There was a smile on her face and Irish music playing.”

They’d tell the story of how I’d gone up on the Arch earlier that day, conquering my fear of heights and enclosed spaces. How I’d used my Irish America card to get to the head of the line, dropping Kevin Roche’s name all over the place. How I’d stumbled back to the hotel afterwards, weak at the knees and in need of a large gin and tonic to right myself.

The tornado passed and I thanked God I hadn’t been up on the Arch when the storm hit. I barely made it down when the rain started. But let me tell you why I went up on the Arch in the first place.

I did it for bragging rights, and to impress its architect, Kevin Roche, which I did by e-mail:

“Dear Kevin: I’m just back from St. Louis where I survived a tornado and a trip up the Arch. I was never so scared in all my life – and I don’t mean the tornado!”

To which I got an immediate e-mail response:

“Dear Patricia, Great to hear from you. Sorry  about the Arch. It is scary. But imagine going up on the outside!!!  I did when it was under construction!!! Talk about being scared.”

And so, here’s the point to my little tale.  The tallest man-made monument in the United States was created by an Irish architect. And humor aside, the Gateway Arch, which symbolizes the great western expansion of the United States, speaks to me of the Irish role in that expansion and in building this nation’s infrastructure.

All across the country, canals, railroads, and bridges stand in testament to the work of Irish immigrants. The very first skyscraper was built by Louis Sullivan, the son of an Irish immigrant.

How many young immigrants from small farms in Ireland worked on the Empire State Building and on the Twin Towers?  How many of them were afraid of heights but needed the job?

As I stood under the Arch, taking in its full height of 630 feet, I heard my mother’s voice in my head. “Screw your courage to the sticking place,” she said, quoting Lady Macbeth. (Mother often quoted Shakespeare – she only had to say, “Out, damned spot, out I say,” and Spot, our old black and white terrier, would hang her head and leave the kitchen.) As I stood there, I thought of my brothers, barely out of their teens who went hundreds of feet underground to build the water tunnels in New York. And I thought of all the young men who had to conquer their fear every time they went up in a cage on the outside of  a  skyscraper or down into a hole in the ground. Surely, I could go up on the Arch just one time as a kind of salute to their courage.

Later, as I waited out the tornado surrounded by Irish Americans and Irish music in a hotel on the banks of the Mississippi, I thought about how Irish immigrants brought their music with them wherever they went  – to  bars in the Bronx when they finished their shift in the tunnels, to mining camps in Nevada, and to Alaska where in the ’70s my brothers and others like them helped build the pipeline and foremen would vie to have Joe “Banjo” Burke join their camp to lift morale with his tunes.

I thought about how through the ages, and all the ups and downs, our music and culture has stood by us. And how community and laughter and music can help conquer even one’s greatest fears.

On the final evening of the Comhaltas convention a young girl recited a stanza from one of my favorite poems “We Are the Music-Makers.”  It was written by Arthur O’Shaughnessy, born in London to Irish parents on May 14, 1844. I don’t know if the poet  intended it as a reflection on Irishness, but to me it says a lot about who we are and what we have been through, and it still rings true today.

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers  
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

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The President’s Visit: Michael D. Higgins in the U.S. https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/the-presidents-visit-michael-d-higgins-in-the-u-s/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/the-presidents-visit-michael-d-higgins-in-the-u-s/#comments Wed, 16 May 2012 10:27:58 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10529 Read more..]]> After his first official U.S. visit, Ireland’s new President reflects on the importance of the diaspora and the unique creativity of the Irish.

Michael D. Higgins, the 9th President of Ireland, arrived in New York on the evening of April 30 for his first official visit to the U. S. The president and his wife, Sabina, went straight to a welcoming reception at the Consulate General of Ireland. In the five days that followed, they visited Irish immigration centers in the Bronx and Queens, toured memorials to the Irish Famine in New York and Boston, paid respects at the 9/ll memorial, attended a World Press Freedom Event at the UN, took in the hit Broadway musical based on the Irish film Once, and met with a wide array of members from the Irish American community.

The president delivered three key speeches – or papers, as he calls them, in his scholarly manner – at the American Irish Historical Society, at Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, and at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Though differing in focus, each of them touched upon common themes: his belief that Ireland can progress from the damaging paradigms it once embraced, his immense pride in Ireland’s creative spirit, and his great sensitivity and regard for the experience and strength of the diaspora. They confirmed that this scholar, poet, former Arts Minister and Labor Party senator – outspoken and wise – is just what the country needs.

Speaking by phone from Áras an Uachtaráin, the presidential residence in Phoenix Park, Dublin, he told Irish America about his impressions from the visit, his belief in the Irish diaspora, and his plans to return.

Congratulations on a successful first official U.S. visit. What moments or exchanges stand out the most?
Yes, there was a very good reaction to the trip. I’m very pleased about that. Moments that stand out would be the opening night reception [at the Consulate General of Ireland], the second evening spent at the American Irish Historical society, where I met many people I had met before. Dr. Kevin Cahill [president of the AIHS] and I had met 30 years before in Managua, Nicaragua.

I think as well that the Irish immigration centers in Queens and the Bronx were wonderful – the local Irish communities had rounded up their friends. And then in Boston, certainly delivering the Famine speech at Faneuil Hall, and the visit to the Famine memorial was very, very moving.

Did Sabina (the First Lady) enjoy the visit as well?
Oh, very much so. Sabina enjoys the United States and you know, we had been to Boston on our honeymoon in 1974. Sabina’s relatives live in San Francisco. We visited our daughter, Alice-Mary, when she studied at The New School for Social Research in New York. We like the life in New York, it’s a great city. And then of course we have very warm memories of Boston. We remembered very clearly going down Boylston Street. We just wished we had more time – we had a very packed program, with 25 events in 5 days. But we were very, very taken by the warmth and the hospitality and the interest. We’re so glad that we had the opportunity to meet as many people as we did.

What message did you hope to spread?
That Ireland is a country that is teeming with creative people. That Irishness, as far as the 9th President is concerned, includes both those at home and those abroad. That we have been coming out of a bad decade of mistakes in economic policy, but we are a resilient people.

We have had to overcome obstacles  in practically every decade and we are going to do so again. It’s going to be based on what we do best, which are all of the creative things – not only in the performing arts and the creative arts, but also in science and technology. Since I came back I’ve been doing practically four or five events every day, and I’ve just come from a school where they teach technology as a Leaving Cert subject. It’s just extraordinary what some of the students have invented, it would give you great hope. The country is full of prospects and it will make its way again, but it will be on a much sounder basis.

The speech you delivered at the Irish Consulate concluded with an invitation to join in “making an Irishness of which we can all be proud.”  What role do you see Irish Americans playing?
I see them playing a very significant role. If you take the 44 million people who claim a direct relationship [to Ireland] in the United States alone, you add in Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world, you get somewhere beyond 70 million. You place that in comparison to those of us that are actually living on the island on a permanent basis, and there’s a huge ratio of those who are outside. So in talking about Irishness – the identity, the inherited stories, the imagination that is associated with being Irish, it obviously would make sense to take this diasporic intelligence into account.

In the United States’ case, the example in my Famine speech [is] very interesting. There’s an enormous debate about [whether] the worst of the famine could have been prevented by state policy. And why? You have, in 1847, a very significant decision to make: You know the famine’s there, you know the potato is blighted, and you know that people are dying. The Quakers are doing wonderful things, but the London Times is more or less saying English benevolence has gone far enough and we can’t do anything about it, maybe this is the hand of God…With the Times there’s kind of a notion that nothing can be done, that the Irish have drawn this on top of themselves. But then, much later, after the great emigrations have taken place post-Famine, the Times writes another editorial and says “We have made perhaps a terrible mistake in underestimating the power of the Irish in America.” That there are millions of them there now, and they’re increasing and multiplying in a country that is going to be a great power, and that they will forever be reminding us [the English] of 700 years of mismanagement.

In a way, they were right, because when you look at every one of the great movements – the Literary movement, the Fenian movement, Irish music, the Independence movement, they all draw some inspiration from the United States…I think we haven’t made enough of it, we’ve been inclined to draw our stories from what’s in front of our faces. I’m very interested in the people who were transient, the people who carried the suitcases and the bundles. We owe it to them because they carried pieces of the Irish language and so forth. We owe it to them to take into account the migrant experience, the American experience, the general diasporic experience, in finding our Irishness. And I’ll be returning to that theme regularly during my presidency.

In my Thomas Flanagan Memorial Lecture at the American Irish Historical Society, “Remembering and Imagining Irishness,” I suggested that we have to take into account the real contribution to be made by people who have been through the process of migration. In the Boston paper – really, the visit hung around three substantial papers – responding to the Irish migration, I was making the point that you didn’t have one simple type of migration that was post-Famine, but several, all with different characteristics.

And of course I gave moral support – moral because I’m not a legislator, now – to the out-of-status Irish and to the short term initiatives in relation to E-3 visas, which of course is one of my concerns.

Since governmental systems are so different, when traveling abroad how do you explain your role as President of Ireland?
The Irish presidency is defined quite separately from other forms of presidency in different countries. Effectively, what it means is that I don’t get involved in day-to-day legislation. But I deal with issues that are longer in time than the period of a government, that are deeper in concern. Therefore I can speak, for example, about unemployment and about poverty, or about the intellectual assumptions behind particular economic thinking, or I might speak  about the relationship between homophobia and suicide in secondary schools, or bullying. So while I’m not involved in the day-to-day, I’m not at all precluded.

I address, as I said, deeper things over a longer period. And that’s why I have been quite clearly defining my presidency as a presidency of ideas. I have, for that reason, given lectures at the London School of Economics on politics, on the question of universities in the contemporary climate. I’ve spoken at Trinity on the same thing, and at Magee College in the North. That’s really what I can do: I can effect discourse. Through that, I can effect consciousness. And then, about every six weeks I meet with the Taoiseach, and he and I, under Article 28 of the constitution, exchange views on his end of things and what’s coming to my attention as I travel throughout the country or abroad.

You participated in a film panel discussion at Lincoln Center. Given your leadership as Minister for the Arts in invigorating the Irish film industry in the  ’90s, is it still something you’re passionate about?
I did indeed and it was wonderful. There was a wonderful small piece of animation, Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty from Brown Bag Films, a re-telling of the fairy tale. And yes, of course it is. Martin Sheen has been here in the Áras to have lunch with me, and I spent an evening with Al Pacino not so long ago as well. It’s a wonderful area, film, and the Irish people are very good at it. It’s full of prospects.

What do you hope to do on future visits to the U.S.?
Well I certainly will visit the West Coast, and then I’ve had invitations already from my alma mater, Indiana University, and from others in Chicago. So I will be visiting the cities of the Midwest. And I would love to get back to New York any time. I will be jumping at the opportunities, because I enjoy it…Far before I was president, I used to sit down there on the porches [stoops] of the houses in the East Village drinking coffee, and it was a great experience.

Sabina and I were both very, very grateful for all the kindness that was shown towards us. We will be back.

We look forward to it. Thank you, Mr.  President.
Slán agus beannacht.

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Inspiring Cork Teen Addresses the UN https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/inspiring-cork-teen-addresses-the-un/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/inspiring-cork-teen-addresses-the-un/#comments Wed, 16 May 2012 10:26:20 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10510 Read more..]]> The United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union’s conference, entitled “Girls in Technology,” had a special guest speaker on Thursday, April 26. Joanne O’Riordan, a 16-year-old from Millstreet, Co. Cork, addressed some of the world’s leading women in technology with a keynote speech about how technology has enhanced her life.

Joanne is the first person with a disability to be invited to speak at the conference, and her speech, “Technology and Me,” centered around the theme “Because I’ve no limbs, I won’t be limited.”  Joanne’s disability, an extremely rare condition called total amelia, hasn’t kept her from living a full life, and as Joanne explained, it’s thanks to technology.

Technology allows Joanne to do the things anyone else does with their fingers “as good as them, if not better,” she said, citing her remarkable ability to type 36 words a minute. She credited the devices she relies on every day with opening up a “world of possibilities,” in terms of both education and her social environment.

Though technology has progressed since Joanne was a child and has made less challenging her uphill battle to conquer everyday tasks, there is still much more to be discovered.  In her speech, Joanne challenged the assembled delegates to think “outside the box,” and to try to find new ways of making technology more accessible for those most in need of it. She asked the world’s leading women in technology to develop a robot that could simply pick up dropped objects.

Joanne’s advocacy gained attention in December, when she spoke out publicly against the Irish government’s plan to cut the disability allowance for teenagers. The plan was reversed, and Joanne was invited to speak on the Late Late Show, Ireland’s most popular night-time talk show.

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Important Items from Ireland’s Past at Auction https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/important-items-from-irelands-past-at-auction/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/important-items-from-irelands-past-at-auction/#respond Wed, 16 May 2012 10:25:09 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10501 Read more..]]> Only fifty original copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic remain in existence. The proclamation, which famously called for a provisional government of the Irish Republic and proclaimed the country’s independence from the United Kingdom, was distributed and read aloud by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office, marking the beginning of the Easter Rising.

On April 18, one of these original copies sold for €124,000  at a James Adam & Sons auction in Dublin that dealt with important political, literary and military items. The proclamation had been expected to sell for between €60,000 and €80,000.

The sellers were an elderly couple from Longford who had strong republican ties, according to Kieran O’Boyle, an auctioneer with James Adam & Sons.

“They want to make sure that it is bought by a passionate collector. That way it is preserved,” said O’Boyle. The proclamation went to an unnamed bidder who informed the auctioneers that he intends to keep the historic document in Ireland.

The same April 18 auction was supposed to feature another item of great historical significance – a lock of Michael Collins’ hair.

When Michael Collins lay in state at Dublin City Hall, thousands of mourners passed his coffin to pay their respects. Among them was his sister Kitty, who took one final keepsake to remember her fallen brother – a lock of his hair.

She later gave it to friends, an unnamed couple, during the 1950s. The couple put the lock of hair up for auction with James Adam & Sons Auctioneers on April 18.

It was estimated to sell for upwards of €5,000. However, they decided to withdraw the lock of hair from the auction because it was “not for monetary gain,” said auctioneer Stuart Cole.

Instead, the owner donated it to the National Museum of Ireland.

The lock of hair is enclosed in an envelope labeled “Hair of head of Michael Collins when laid in State in the City Hall August 1922,” and is signed by Kitty Collins, dated Christmas 1958.

Auctioneer Kieran O’Boyle described it as “a poignant item. There is still a deep level of interest in all things related to him,” he said.

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Certificate of Irish Heritage for Obama https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/certificate-of-irish-heritage-for-obama/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/certificate-of-irish-heritage-for-obama/#respond Wed, 16 May 2012 10:24:38 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10493 Read more..]]> During his St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented President Obama with an official Certificate of Irish Heritage. These certificates, which all members of the Irish diaspora with at least one relative born in Ireland are welcome to apply for, recognize the recipients’ Irish ancestors – in this case, Obama’s maternal great-great-great-grandfather, Falmouth Kearney of Moneygall, Co. Offaly. The president thanked Taoiseach Kenny for the certificate, and quipped that it would have a special place of honor alongside his (once highly contested) birth certificate.

Remarking on the significance of the certificate, Taoiseach Kenny said “This is a chance for everyone who has a sense of their Irishness, from Boston to Brisbane, to receive an acknowledgement of that from the State.”

Visit www.heritagecertificate.ie

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Irish Eye on Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/irish-eye-on-hollywood-17/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/irish-eye-on-hollywood-17/#respond Wed, 16 May 2012 10:23:26 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10485 Read more..]]> 1. The girl with the dragon tattoo is going to become the girl with the Irish accent. Rooney Mara – star of the smash hit horror flick based on Stieg Larsson’s trilogy of novels – is slated to star in a big-screen adaptation of Colm Toibin’s best-selling novel Brooklyn.  The screenplay will be written by acclaimed British novelist Nick Hornby, whose novels include High Fidelity and About a Boy. Mara will play Ellis Lacey, who leaves her rural Irish village for Brooklyn, where she experiences a new kind of freedom and falls in love with an Italian American. After pleasurable trips to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, Ellis is forced to choose between her family – and her old life – in Ireland, and her new life in the States.

Though she is Irish American, Mara’s Hibernian roots could not be stronger. She is a product of the Mara and Rooney clans, who have made the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers powerhouses in the National Football League. Mara is slated to begin shooting Brooklyn in 2013 (no director is on board just yet). The film will be shot in Ireland and in the borough of New York which lends the film its title.

2. Another upcoming Nick Hornby project also has an Irish connection. Pierce Brosnan is slated to star in a new film based on Hornby’s recent novel A Long Way Down. The film will have one of the more depressing premises of all time – it begins with four characters who meet on New Year’s Eve when they are all about to commit suicide. Toni Collette and Emile Hirsch will also star.

3. Michael Fassbender has done his time in the trenches of independent film, with gritty performances in Shame, as well as the dark Northern Ireland film Hunger, in which Fassbender played hunger striker Bobby Sands. Now, Fassbender – who was raised in his mother’s native Kerry – will be appearing in a big time popcorn film, out on June 8.  Fassbender joins Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace in the Ridley Scott thriller Prometheus, a prequel to Scott’s 1979 Aliens, which starred Sigourney Weaver. The film has earned solid buzz because of its outer space setting and the hints of mystery and intrigue provided by writer Damon Lindelof, who worked on TV’s intricate Lost.

But you can’t accuse Fassbender of abandoning small-scale cinema – or for that matter, his Irish roots. Fassbender is also working with Irish writer Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies) to produce a film about the legendary Celtic warrior Cúchulainn. Early reports suggest the film will be set in Northern Ireland and will tell the story of the clash between tribes, led by King Conchobar Mac Nessa and Queen Mebh. Fassbender is slated to star as Cúchulainn himself. Bennett and Fassbender have a production company fittingly named Finn McCool Films.

4. Anjelica Huston has long been the most famous member of the third generation of the Huston show biz clan. First there was Walter Huston, then his son John, the famous director who spent long stretches of time in Ireland and wrapped up his career with a dazzling version of James Joyce’s The Dead, starring none other than his own daughter, Anjelica.

She remains busy these days, starring in the NBC TV show Smash. Her half-brother Danny Huston is also making quite a name for himself. Currently, Danny can be seen in the much-hyped Starz network TV series Magic City, which has been earning comparisons to Mad Men for its Eisenhower-era setting and its intense drama. Magic City is about the Miami crime scene in the late 1950s. Huston plays a ruthless mobster Ben Diamond, known as “The Butcher.”

Danny Huston’s next movie, Two Jacks, is also a family affair. Huston plays Jack, a legendary filmmaker who returns to Hollywood after a long absence looking to begin an ambitious new project. Instead, he drinks, seduces a beautiful woman (Sienna Miller), and battles with film executives. Twenty years later, the filmmaker’s son (Danny’s nephew, Jack Huston) arrives in Hollywood to make his own directorial debut, though it becomes clear he may not have inherited his father’s talent.

Want more family connections? Also starring in Two Jacks is Jamie Harris, brother of Mad Men actor Jared Harris. Jamie  has appeared in films ranging from In the Name of the Father to 2011’s big hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Both Jared and Jamie are the sons of hell-raising Limerick-born legend Richard Harris. Down the road, look for Danny Huston in Wrath of the Titans (also featuring Liam Neeson) and Stolen (with Nicolas Cage). Next year, Huston will appear in The Congress with Paul Giamatti and Mad Man Jon Hamm.

5. Jared Harris also recently signed on to play the lead role in the film The Quiet Ones, about an odd yet charismatic professor who persuades his top students to take part in a dangerous experiment. Before that, Harris will appear with Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated Abraham Lincoln biopic. The Lincoln flick is due out this December. (And is not to be confused with the summer flick Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.)

Day-Lewis is also slated to star in the 2013 film Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese. The reunited dynamic duo (who made magic with Gangs of New York in 2002) will team up with Benicio del Toro for the film, which tells the story of two Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan who attempt to convert Japanese citizens.

6. More information is coming out about the highly anticipated BBC America show Copper, about the life of Irish immigrant police officers in the notorious 19th century neighborhood Five Points, in New York City.  The show stars Tom Weston-Jones as Irish cop Kevin Corcoran, as well Irish actor Kevin Ryan. Copper premieres on BBC America August 19.

“It’s about the immigrant experience at that time in New York. What was it like? How did people interact in this world?” The show’s executive producer, Christina Wayne, recently told The Hollywood Reporter “We wanted it to feel like the melting pot it was back then. It’s all about being authentic. We’ve stressed being gritty and real. We want viewers to feel like they really lived there then.  There were hundreds of people living on top of each other. Running water was a luxury. The world was a dirty, stinky place.”

British actor Weston-Jones added that he is in the process of learning a new accent. “It’s American with a bend of Irish,” he said. “Whenever they swear, whenever they’re drunk, that’s when the Irish comes out.”

7. There were a number of Irish films at the star-studded Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Earning serious buzz was Irish writer and director Macdara Vallely’s debut feature film Babygirl, which is set in the Bronx, where there has traditionally been a heavy Irish presence. This film, however, explores a Puerto Rican girl coming to terms with her mother’s boyfriend, who may or may not be hitting on her.

Vallelly recently told the Irish Voice newspaper that the film idea hit him one day on the subway.

“It was one of those things where I was on the number two train one day and I saw this vignette of a mother and daughter on the train. The mother was in her thirties, the daughter was in her teens and I saw this 20-year-old guy eyeing them up. First I could see him looking at the daughter, but she wasn’t having any of it, then he turned his attentions to the mother. It was one of those things that you see in New York every day.”

Meanwhile, Terry George (who won an Oscar for his short film The Shore, starring Ciaran Hinds and Kerry Condon), unveiled a comedy entitled Whole Lotta Sole at Tribeca. The film stars fellow Irishmen Colm Meaney and Brendan Fraser. Set in Belfast, Whole Lotta Sole centers around Jimbo Regan (Belfast actor Martin McCann) who owes a local loan shark $5,000. Jimbo’s only hope is to rob a fish market – which turns out to have its own ties to the loan shark.

Finally, at Tribeca there was Death of a Superhero, featuring Scottish actor Andy Serkis (Gollum from the Lord of the Rings). The film explores the life of a young Irish teenager facing a life-threatening illness.

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John Cusack on Poe and The Raven https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/john-cusack-on-poe-and-the-raven/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/john-cusack-on-poe-and-the-raven/#respond Wed, 16 May 2012 10:22:45 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10480 Read more..]]> Exploring a character forced to grapple with inner demons is a familiar task for actor John Cusack, who has portrayed quite a few anguished souls throughout his versatile film career. From his role as an existentially suffering puppeteer in Charlie Kaufman’s absurdist Being John Malkovich to his – not one but two – turns at playing troubled assassins (first in Grosse Pointe Blank, and again in War, Inc., which he also co-wrote and produced), it’s clear that Cusack is not one to skirt the darker aspects of the human condition. His latest turn toward the macabre is his portrayal of Edgar Allan Poe in April’s gory thriller The Raven, directed by James McTeigue.

For someone so drawn to the complex and disturbing, Cusack’s demeanor is quite calm. Asked about his fascination with such a morbid figure as Poe, his eyes light up, and he replies simply, “Oh, it’s fun, right?” before elaborating, “That’s Poe’s deal, that we’re all sort of attracted to the abyss. It’s poetic,” he grins. “Poe-etic.”

It would seem that all this exploration of the depths has served as kind of purging for Cusack. It’s a rare person who not only can understand despair, but can also find humor within it. “Around Halloween or the Day of the Dead,” he continues, “doesn’t everybody get into the supernatural, and the ghouls, and the underworld? Dreams and nightmares? It’s just an interesting headspace. It’s not something I want to stay in, but it’s certainly a fun place to visit once in a while – once a year, twice a year.”

Edgar Allan Poe, whose writings and mysterious life inspired the movie The Raven, had roots stretching from Baltimore, Maryland back to Dring, County Cavan, Ireland, where his great-grandfather grew up. Poe’s hometown of Baltimore serves as backdrop for the film, which also stars Brendan Gleeson as the disapproving father of Poe’s beloved. This entirely fictionalized account of Poe’s last days entertains the unsettling question of how a real-life serial killer might have gone about mimicking Poe’s grisliest stories. The movie’s answer? Accurately.

“There are not many writers who try to [delve into] their worst nightmares,” Cusack maintains. “But there’s a couple who want to go deeper in, and that’s just an interesting mind. [Poe] was this guy who wanted to embrace the nightmare.”

Cusack, like Poe, has a distant Irish background. Raised by politically active Irish Catholics in Chicago, he leads a life at once thoroughly individualistic – disregarding the mainstream in decisions both artistic and lifestyle – while still deeply rooted in family tradition.

Though he has plenty to be happy about (he recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame) Cusack seems most at ease when speaking about heavier topics. Censorship, for one, is something he believes does not belong in the arts. “I think the artist has got to get a free pass, because I don’t know how you can explore, or go down different roads if you’re going to judge them all the time. That imagery [of the unconscious] is not sanitized. It’s violent, and it’s lurid, and it’s perverse. Dreams can be that way.”

Though he identifies entirely as American, Cusack seems to be in touch with that certain entangling of melancholy and joy unique to the Celtic spirit. He reflects, “Poe was always talking about that space between waking and dreaming,  sanity and insanity, life and death. He was always into that twilight space.”

And Cusack is himself a bit of a living paradox – this non-smoker who casually puffs on an electric cigarette, this relaxed figure with the venti coffee cup in hand –  with those intense eyes hovering above that easy smile.

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Economics, Family Style at Glucksman Ireland House https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/economics-family-style-at-glucksman-ireland-house/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/economics-family-style-at-glucksman-ireland-house/#respond Wed, 16 May 2012 10:21:39 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10470 Read more..]]> The third annual Who Do We Think We Are? day-long program, presented and organized by Glucksman Ireland House at New York University, took place on Saturday, April 21. This year, the theme was Economics, Family-Style, exploring the Irish and Irish-American family. Throughout the day, prominent writers, artists and scholars explored and discussed how finances influenced family decisions regarding emigration, marriage, and property, and how these in turn affected the wider community.

The first session, titled Sharing Communities: Family Life Across the Atlantic, was presented by Miriam Nyhan and Linda Dowling Almeida, who run the Glucksman Ireland House Oral History Project.  Evocative audio clips were shared, and real stories hit a note with everyone, evinced by the many scuffles in bags for tissues as memories came flooding back. Poverty was a major theme throughout, but always with the caveat “we were poor but we didn’t know we were poor.” Other issues that have divided families then and now were raised: the family farm, the inheritance, mothers and daughters- in-law, mothers and sons, the “other” woman invading the family home. Happy memories were also discussed; particularly poignant was the description of the ubiquitous American parcel that immigrants in the U.S. would send to their families in Ireland: “an invitation to the exotic and mystery of the other world.”

Mary Higgins Clark, the pretty and petite Irish American known worldwide for her suspense novels, gave the keynote address. Despite fame and fortune, Clark remains grounded, and her Irish upbringing shines through constantly. A central theme in her presentation was faith, optimism and triumph over tragedy, instilled in her by her Irish parents. She talked about the effects of poverty and death, living as she did through the Great Depression. She recalled wonderful memories of growing up in the beautiful “countryside,” as the Bronx was then known. Her extended family would sit around the table and the teapot, over which joys were shared and sorrows were split. She ended her eloquent and inspiring speech with the quote “unless you are a storyteller, you are not a writer.”

Prof. Brendan Mac Suibhne of Centenary College and Prof. Kerby Miller of University of Missouri presented the third session, Wealth, Poverty and Emigration. Brendan discussed the impact of the Great Famine and its legacy on his native town land in Donegal.  Kerby explored the complexities and perplexities that historians encounter, using the example of Edmund Ronayne (1832-1911), who was recognized as a Fenian after his death, even though his life’s journey took him from a devout Irish-Catholic upbringing in famine-struck Ireland to the U.S., where he became an avid Freemason, then turned to Presbyterianism and ran various anti-Freemason rallies, and ended up an impoverished man.

In the fourth session, Financing Futures: Sibling Support and Maternal Models, Professor Maureen Murphy of Hofstra University discussed how chain migration to the US was financed by women, including nuns, while Prof. Janet Nolan of Loyola University, Chicago, looked at upward mobility from mothers to daughters in America. Bruce Morrison, former congressman from Connecticut, immigration lawyer, and lobbyist, then addressed the issue of modern-day immigration.

Noel Kilkenny, Consul General of Ireland, New York, made the closing remarks on what was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting day.

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The Naming of Winged Fist Way https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/the-naming-of-winged-fist-way/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/05/the-naming-of-winged-fist-way/#comments Wed, 16 May 2012 10:20:39 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=10461 Read more..]]> A stretch of 43rd Street and 48th Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens, received a second name on March 10. Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, it became Winged Fist Way, in honor of the Irish American Athletic Club. The I-AAC, whose members were known as The Winged Fists, thrived in Sunnyside at the beginning of the 20th century as one of New York’s first inclusive, multicultural athletic institutions, and a record-setting number of its members brought home medals from the Olympics.

“It is important that we recognize the achievements of this dynamic athletic club which once called Sunnyside and the borough home,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who passed legislation to co-name the street. “Before its members knew it, the I-AAC laid the foundation of what would become the essence of Queens, a multicultural diaspora of people who worked and lived together.” Council Member Van Bramer was joined by Congressman Joe Crowley, Ian McGowan, Executive Director of the Winged Fist Organization, members of the Emerald Society and ancestors of the early-20th-century I-AAC athletes.

Click here to read the amazing history of The Winged Fists.

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