October November 2005 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 Discovery’s Down to Earth Commander https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/discoverys-down-to-earth-commander/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/discoverys-down-to-earth-commander/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:59:25 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29499 Read more..]]> Eileen Collins presses her face against the glass of the shuttle. She is desperately trying to see something. Like anyone far from home when they see land, they look for what they know. Except for Eileen Collins, 48, far from home is outer space. And that little slice of familiarity is a country she visited once but thinks of often. “I was trying to see Ireland. But our orbit was too low and it was too cloudy,” she laments, sitting on her hands in an uncomfortable chair in the Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Manhattan. She admits being pleased to talk to Irish America; after all, her father James, a retired postal worker, has been a subscriber to the magazine for all of its twenty years.

Collins, the calm commander of the shuttle Discovery — the first mission into space since the Columbia disaster two and a half years ago — is enduring a grueling round of media interviews. A sort of public debriefing. “It was very important that we got back into space. We will fly into space until we finish what we have to do,” she says. “I believe we need to keep on exploring. We’re just taking baby steps with the space shuttle and the space station. We’re going to go back to the moon. It’s part of this country’s plan to get people back to the moon, and to Mars. We’re going to get out there and find out. I do believe that. I think it’s kind of unimaginable that we would really be alone in this universe. I think that probably not our generation, but future generations of people on Earth will find intelligent life.”

Thanks to a completed mission, NASA has confidence that the space program is not dead. Discovery returned safely to Earth on August 19, fourteen days after launching on a beautiful Cape Canaveral day. Commander Collins staged a flawless nighttime touchdown of STS-114 at Edwards Air Force Base at 5:11 a.m., and in the silence of the predawn day, nations across the globe breathed a huge sigh of relief. A big bright dot pierced the sky and a loud double boom sound announced the arrival of a job well done.

“Discovery is home,” Mission Control said as the wheels touched down on the 6,800-meter runway. “We are back,” Collins breathed into the radio. “We are back.”

After 36 days away from her pilot husband Pat Youngs and her children Bridget Marie, nine, and Luke, four, all Collins wanted to do was see her family, take a shower and grab some Mexican food. “I don’t take my family for granted,” she smiled.

Collins, an attractive redhead with coffee-colored eyes, who marked this flight as her fifth into space (twice serving as commander), has spent the last four years training for Discovery. As the warmest woman anybody could every meet, it’s hard to imagine that the regimen is easy for her. Asked if because she spends so much time away from home, she loves her family twice as much as anyone else, she smiles. Her eyes water a little and she whispers, “I miss them all the time.”

On August 19, Collins and her teammates — Irish-American pilots Jim Kelly and Steve Robinson, New Yorker mission specialist Charles Camaroa, Australian mission specialist Andrew Thomas, and Japanese mission specialist Soichi Noguchi — felt the first flushes of gravity in the Mojave Desert. After successfully re-supplying the International Space Station and testing new in-orbit inspection and repair techniques, the “Irish crew,” as they called themselves, were home. “We were joking around and we made Soichi an honorary Irishman,” Collins told Irish America. Her pilot Jim Kelly said they called the team the Irish crew because both he and Collins share Irish heritage with Robinson, so it seemed appropriate to do what all Irish people the world over do, give someone else the joy of being Irish.Collins, known on the crew as Mom, traces her Irish heritage on both sides to the Collins clan from Cork and the Reidys from Clare. Somehow her father James’ rail worker ancestors and those of her mother Rose Marie engineered a meeting in the railroad town of Elmira, New York, so that future national hero Collins could be born in 1956. “I love Ireland, I definitely want to go there again. My father’s mother, Marie Reidy, told me as much as she could remember about Ireland, and I wrote it all down.” Collins was in Ireland once with Youngs at a golf tournament. She told Irish America in 2000 that while there, she and Youngs tried to look up her Collins relatives in the phone book, but found so many that they gave up. Youngs, who met Collins in 1983 when they were both stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California flying C-141 cargo transport planes, married the woman he calls his hero in 1988.

Now a pilot with Delta Airlines and an avid golfer, Youngs gets to Ireland about as frequently as his wife gets to Space. “I have golfed all over Ireland, Portrush up in Northern Ireland is a favorite. I’ve never really been down in the Southeast, but next time if I get a long layover maybe I can visit that part of Ireland,” Youngs told Irish America. On the promise of the lush golf courses of Mount Juliet in County Kilkenny, Mount Wolsley in County Carlow and Kilkea in County Kildare, Youngs could barely contain his excitement. “I love it there, I just got back from a trip there with seven guys; we played at the Bushmills Malt Causeway Coast Amateur Golf Tournament in County Antrim. We usually fly into Shannon or Dublin and get to see all the country in between,” he said pulling at his Causeway 2005 poloshirt. Youngs, a handsome, tanned man, has dancing blue eyes when he talks about Ireland. His mother Mary Kelly’s family came from Waterford. “I never got to look them up, but I think they might have disowned us,” he joked. “But I did discover while talking to Jim Kelly that his mother and my mother had the same name.”

He says it has been hard for the whole family to get to Ireland but they are going to try to visit soon. Now that Collins is back on Earth, anything is possible. “It’s good to be on the back side of this thing,” joked Youngs. During the mission his children offered prayers every night. “Even my four year-old, he is really good at his prayers. When he would offer his intentions he offered them for the mission and for the people who at that time were in threat of the hurricane. He is a conscientious little boy. My daughter is old enough to know the risks, but we prayed and they came home.”

Youngs was in Florida when Discovery came home, having traveled from Houston, where he and Collins raise their children. Psychologically, everyone feared the worst once Discovery was in space. NASA’s comeback kid, Discovery flew after the Challenger disaster in 1998 and now again after the Columbia tragedy. Because Columbia went up okay but disintegrated coming home, Discovery’s re-entry was NASA’s greatest concern.

On February 1, 2003, the Columbia shuttle burst into flames after heated gases broke through its heat shield. The seven-member crew were 16 minutes from home. The tragedy was blamed on insulation foam that fell off and damaged the orbiter’s left wing upon take-off.

When Discovery launched on July 26, the entire world held its breath when a piece of foam peeled off the fuel tank. The similarity to what had happened to Columbia before it burst into flames was not lost on anyone. It not only raised questions about the safety of future shuttle flights, but also called into question the competence and engineering judgment of NASA. NASA administrator Dr. Michael Griffin admitted, “Well, certainly we were lucky.” Luck of the Irish, Jim Kelly would say; the result of hard work, Collins would offer. NASA said the debris caused no significant damage and gave the green light for landing after the mission was complete, despite a tear on the cockpit’s thermal blanket. Collins knew then that though the crew had enough supplies to take shelter on the International Space Station, there would be no need because she was coming home in her own shuttle.

“I was never worried [about Discovery coming home]; the whole country was praying for us. And my crew had a great sense of humor,” explained Collins, who keeps her grandmother’s Connemara rosary beads closeby. Collins told CNN that while in space she knew she had a job to do, and that was all that mattered. “I have never had any pressure from my family to not fly this mission. My parents, my husband, my children, my friends, you know. Having said that, I asked myself many times, do I really want to fly this mission? And the answer always came back yes,” she said.

Once in space, Discovery had a tremendous amount of work to do. “We were very busy,” she admits. Very busy wowing NASA observers. Collins engineered a fantastic first for NASA with a breathtaking in-orbit maneuver. On flight day three, Collins guided Discovery through the firstever “rendezvous pitch maneuver” as the orbiter approached the International Space Station for docking. In layman’s terms that’s an astonishing slow motion back flip that had never been done before. One longtime observer of NASA said, “Big boys, move over, Eileen Collins has just done it.”

Collins said she didn’t do it for the thrill or the accolades. She did it because it had to be done. “We exposed the underside of the shuttle to the space station crew members. John Phillips and Sergei Krikalev took pictures of our tiles, and that helped us ensure that we had a good healthy underside to come home with.”

This Discovery mission was designed to test changes made to the shuttle since the Columbia disaster, including improvements that were meant to prevent foam from breaking off upon launch. During the mission, Robinson conducted an unprecedented spacewalk under the shuttle to extract two protruding pieces of fiber that risked overheating during re-entry. Robinson and Noguchi also tested repair techniques adopted after the Columbia tragedy, and replaced one of four gyroscopes that keep the International Space Station in its orbital position. The crew also delivered 12 tons of equipment to the Russian and the American aboard the space station, and retrieved waste to clear out space in the cramped orbiting lab. Discovery was one of the most photographed shuttles in space exploration history. Because of Collins and the bravery of her crew, some of those photographs were awe-inspiring.

NASA said the huge amount of data collected during the “return to flight” mission would help them figure out how to make the shuttle a safer craft.

“We had a lot to do, and sometimes we had to go to Plan C and sometimes we were really off the map,” Jim Kelly told Irish America. “But Eileen was always willing to listen to ideas. I am a typical Irishman, I get hotheaded. Eileen is not like that. She was always calm, and that made us a great team.” The mission initially had been scheduled to last 12 days, but an extra day was added so the crew could transfer as much material and provisions as possible to the space station because of uncertainty over the date of the next shuttle flight. On top of that, low clouds impaired visibility at Kennedy Space Center, causing a further 24 hours of downtime for the crew. “We had an extra day where we had nothing to do, so we were just hanging out, looking out of the windows, joking around. It was nice to be able to do that with such a great team,” Collins said. “I like floating in space. I like looking back at Earth, at places I’d like to travel to someday. We flew right through the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights over Australia. It was so beautiful, just winding around like that candy I can’t think of the name of. At first it is white and then yellow and green. You can see pictures, we took pictures. But pictures don’t do it justice. It was very mysterious looking.”

Collins said that during the mission there was a threat of a solar event. “That can threaten a mission, because radiation from the sun can break through metal. You would not continually expose yourself to x-rays except for medical reasons, because too much can cause cancer and other problems. We would have been told to take shelter near big containers of water, but the radiation was not high enough to pose any danger.” Collins said this kind of danger to humans in space is just one area NASA wants to explore. “Because you are floating around, your heart gets weak, your muscles get lazy. On the Earth we are constantly working against gravity, so our muscles are working out, our hearts are working out. In space that does not happen. You start losing calcium and those kinds of things. We need to explore countermeasures for them. We want to travel to Mars, which can mean six months to a year in space; we need to find ways to enable humans to stay there that long. We have the International Space Station where astronauts are constantly trying to research the human body, for long periods of space travel.”

America is about to announce the launch of the Crew Exploration Vehicle to fly people back to the moon. While Collins explains the future of American space exploration, she hasn’t decided anything about her own future yet. But she admits to Irish America that it is somebody else’s turn to fly. “I think astronauts who have not flown should go over me who has been there five times,” she says.

Collins is always honest about her feelings. It is, as her crew say, what makes her a great leader, and a woman anyone would be proud to know. She sometimes gets into trouble for what she thinks, but she is never shy about speaking her thoughts in her matter-of-fact way. “I have been accused of being an ‘environmentalist from space,’ but I just call out to Houston what I see. I try not to force my opinions on the environment. If you study maps you can pick out countries. The best thing for an astronaut is to study previous pictures of Earth from space. The Earth changes, the cities are gray and they grow bigger; rivers, a dark blue color, change courses. Jungles, a dark green, and tropical forests are getting limited. Deforestation is taking place in South America and you can see land use changing. I saw fires in Central Africa and they were flaming, so I called Houston.” But Collins’ descriptions are of an Earth humans are losing, or destroying. Perhaps space exploration will stop that if more astronauts get to fly and get to see the Earth changing. “As a country I think we would be better off having more astronauts who have experience in space,” she says about the future of the space program.

Now, with the future of the space program taken care of, Collins, who paid her own way through college and saved money to get flying lessons that brought her to the Air Force and eventually to NASA, has her children’s future to concentrate on.

“I do not spoil them. I was brought up with discipline and it worked for me. That is how I parent, and I love them and I miss them when I am not around them,” she admits as her husband and a NASA publicity manager approach. Collins grew up in a government housing project, the second of four children. Her parents split when she was nine, and the family went on food stamps for a while until her mother got a clerical job at the correctional facility in Elmira.

“I wasn’t there for my children much and I couldn’t contribute much in the way of money, but I paid for them to go to Catholic School because it was the right thing to do,” her father James, a Rochester resident, told Irish America in 2000. Recently, he told the Star Gazette in Elmira that he was always proud of his daughter. “She is a wonderful, wonderful mother,” he said. Her mother Rose, who raised her in Elmira, watched the landing from her home with her friends Jean Hurley, Marge Tierney and Debra Burke. She admitted it was great to have her daughter home, for her, Pat Youngs and the children.

While Collins is moved on to another interviewer, her eyes say she does not want to finish chatting about Ireland and the things she loves. But she is still on a mission: to inspire the world to believe in space exploration. But her husband, still eager for conversation, sneaks over to me for a chat. “I remember the last time I met the folks at Irish America. We had a lovely dinner at the Plaza, Eileen and I really enjoyed it. She has a tough job, but her toughest job is putting up with me,” he laughs as he recalls the Irish-Americans of the Century Gala where Collins was an honorée. As she watches him from her chair, she smiles and he winks at her. “You know, it was our 18th anniversary while she was in space. She never sent me a card! But I’m just glad to have her home.”

While Collins is busy catching up on watching Luke make flying noises with his toy planes and Bridget practicing the dancing she loves so much, Discovery, which will retire in 2010, will go into space again, but this time without her. The shuttle, which has a number of missions to complete in order to fulfill the objectives of the American side of the International Space Station’s mission, is scheduled to launch again in March. That mission, STS-121 (to be piloted by IrishAmerican Mark Kelly), will continue to test new equipment and procedures that increase the safety of space shuttles and deliver more supplies and cargo for future International Space Station expansion.

Discovery will bring a third crewmember to the station, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter. Without Discovery to ferry equipment to the Station after the Columbia accident, only two people could be supported onboard until the necessary provisions were in place. That would hinder space exploration and the chance for humans to get higher and deeper into space. Because of Collins’ mission this can now happen.

“The shuttle has been a step along the road to allowing humans reaching access to space, but it did not reach that goal. We need to keep at it. We are giving ourselves what we hope is plenty of time to evaluate where we are,” said NASA administrator Michael Griffin. “We don’t see the tasks remaining before us being as difficult as the path behind us.” ♦

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The First Word: Happy Birthday To Us! https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/the-first-word-happy-birthday-to-us/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/the-first-word-happy-birthday-to-us/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:58:05 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29494 Read more..]]> “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
– President John F. Kennedy.

Exactly 20 years ago when we set out to explore the story of the Irish in America we used Mortas Cine — Pride in Our Heritage — as our motto. Every article that has appeared in our magazine over the years flows from this guiding principle.

We couldn’t be more proud of Commander Eileen Collins and her Discovery crew, and we are delighted to celebrate our anniversary with a cover story on Eileen, who as Georgina Brennan discovers, is as down to earth as they come.

In fact, when you take into account crew members James Kelly and Stephen Robinson (we will bring you interviews with both in future issues), there was a pretty strong Irish presence on the Discovery Crew, which is fitting. After all, it was John F. Kennedy’s dream that sent that first mission to the moon.

This spirit of adventure and exploration, perhaps born out of necessity, is one we have encountered many times over the years in stories of the Irish as they spread out across the country in search of the American Dream. We find them prospecting for gold in Nevada, building canals in New Orleans, and working on the railroads.

I like to think that it’s that same spirit that prompted Niall O’Dowd and me to move from San Francisco to New York in 1985 to found Irish America.
For our birthday celebration we have a mélange of twenties — moments in history, movies, books and recordings, and clips from our top interviews. And there is a common thread that links all our stories. On our book list, for instance, you will find Ship Fever, Andrea Barrett’s story of the famine Irish landing in Grosse Ile in Canada in 1847, the worst year of the famine. In a 1995 interview (excerpted in this issue) Senator George Mitchell, the man who helped bring about the Good Friday Agreement, talks of Grosse Ile and the early Irish settlements in Maine. “They walked to Maine,” he told me, “meeting vigilante groups along the border.”

Those early immigrants didn’t have much, but wherever they went they took their music with them. As our list of 20 recordings by Irish-Americans shows, the music not only survived but thrived. And today’s young Irish-American musicians are as skilled and knowledgeable as their Irish counterparts.

In our movie section you will find Raoul Walsh’s Regeneration, which conveys the harsh conditions that led some impoverished Irish immigrants to turn to a life of crime.

T.J. English, a founding member of Irish America’s team, has written extensively on this subject, first in Irish America and then in notable books, including his recently published Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish-American Gangster. We are delighted to welcome T.J. back to the pages of Irish America. In this issue, he writes about growing up Irish-American with a name like English.

Angela’s Ashes author Frank McCourt, a longtime friend of the magazine, writes about the days before he became famous, when he taught school and acted in a play called The Tunnel by Terry George.

And Terry George, who is the director/writer of such movies as Some Mother’s Son about the 1981 Hunger Strike, and last year’s Academy Award-nominated Hotel Rwanda, writes in a personal way about the death toll The Troubles exacted in Northern Ireland.

In our original proposal for Irish America, we listed helping to find a solution to the problems in Northern Ireland as one of our aims. Over the ensuing years I have witnessed efforts by Irish-Americans, including our publisher Niall O’Dowd, in achieving this goal. At a recent lunch in New York hosted by Mutual of America’s Bill Flynn, with Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness and others in attendance, we celebrated the IRA’s announcement that they would begin “dumping” weapons. I couldn’t have asked for a better anniversary present.

Thank you dear readers, for inviting us into your homes, and your hearts. Yours is an invigorating, awe-inspiring story that continues to evolve. I’m thrilled every day to be part of it ♦

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Who is Patrick Fitzgerald? https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/who-is-patrick-fitzgerald/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/who-is-patrick-fitzgerald/#comments Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:57:52 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29514 Read more..]]> Abdon Pallasch profiles the Irish-American prosecutor who is charged with trying to figure out who leaked the name of the CIA agent whose husband criticized Bush’s invasion of Iraq.  

He’s delivering an indictment a day to shady Chicago politicians. He’s jailing journalists as he closes in on President Bush’s top aides, trying to figure out which one leaked the name of a CIA agent whose husband criticized Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

Patrick Fitzgerald serves at the pleasure of the President as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. That is traditionally a four-year term and Fitzgerald hits his four-year mark in October. And he has stepped on a lot of big toes in both parties.

Will President Bush replace him in October, short-circuiting the investigation of his top advisor Karl Rove and the prosecutions of Republican and Democratic bigwigs in Illinois such as former GOP Gov. George Ryan?

The White House refers questions on Patrick Fitzgerald’s future to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who refers questions back to Bush, though Gonzales, following a brief meeting with Fitzgerald at the American Bar Association convention in August, said, “I have great confidence in Patrick Fitzgerald.”

The quietly relentless Fitzgerald coyly answers questions about his future with quips such as, “I’m just doing my job. And if the phone doesn’t ring and someone tells me to leave, I just keep doing my job.”

Fitzgerald sat down with Irish America last year and talked about growing up in Queens, New York, the son of Irish immigrants, playing the accordion while his sisters performed Irish dance, getting into Regis High School on a scholarship, working his way through Amherst and Harvard Law School as a janitor in New York’s public schools.

He never considered it beneath himself to scrape gum off the bottom of desks and swab down the floors. It sure beat the summer he tried his Dad’s job as a doorman and never knew if the quirky condo dwellers would yell at him for calling them at five in the morning to say someone had just dropped off a package or yell at him for not telling them.

“It’s easier if someone just tells me, ‘I want the building scrubbed.’ You just start scrubbing. You don’t have to worry about anyone’s quirkiness,” Fitzgerald said.

After a few years at a high-paying New York law firm, Fitzgerald worked as a federal prosecutor and convicted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 accomplices for their roles in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. He helped convict al Qaeda-linked terrorists for bombing the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. He won convictions for John and Joe Gambino.

He impressed fellow prosecutor James Comey who would become Deputy Attorney General, as “Elliot Ness with a Harvard degree.”

When maverick former U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-III.) (no relation) decided to look outside Chicago for a take-no-prisoners prosecutor to come in and clean house in Illinois, he asked FBI Director Louis Freeh for the name of the “toughest prosecutor in America.” Freeh named the rising star in New York.

When Senator Fitzgerald announced he was bringing in an out-of-towner, that outraged Chicago’s silk stocking law firms who had come to see an appointment of one of their own as an entitlement during Republican administrations.

But Senator Fitzgerald wanted someone with no ties to anyone in Illinois; no sacred cows. So Patrick Fitzgerald came to town and “just started scrubbing.”

He brought indictments all the way up to the governor’s office and to Mayor Daley’s patronage chief. Prosecutors under Fitzgerald said they were to work for a boss who encouraged them to pursue cases wherever they led. Coming in to work to find e-mails the boss sent them at two a.m. inspired them to work hard.

Fitzgerald’s work ethic was already legendary in New York before he came to Chicago. Friends discovered that for 14 years he never had the gas connected in his Manhattan apartment because he spent so many hours working at the office.

The editorial pages cheered the fearless bulldog tackling corruption head-on. But along the way, some defense attorneys complained that Fitzgerald was too strident, too determined to get convictions. Unlike some predecessors, he did not allow defendants to turn themselves in, often showing up at their houses at 6 a.m.

“He’s a sole practitioner — he does what he wants to do,” said DePaul University Law Prof. Len Cavise.

“So when it comes to putting reporters in jail, which makes people very nervous, when it comes to indicting people for things no one has ever been indicted for before, like patronage hiring, he sees himself as a trailblazer, a knight in shining armor. He winds up doing things a more level-headed person would not do.”

When former Attorney General John Ashcroft needed to rescue himself from the Valerie Plame investigation, Comey suggested Fitzgerald. Comey left the Justice Dept. in August. The Plame grand jury is set to end in October.

The press was confronted first-hand with Fitzgerald’s blinders-on approach investigating crime when he imprisoned New York Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to discuss whether an administration official talked to her about the Flame case for a story she never wrote.

Is “Reporter’s Privilege,” the notion that people can confide in reporters, confident that reporters will not sell them out, worth destroying in order to investigate a leak that, in the end, caused no harm, journalism ethicists asked.

Furthermore, the authors of the law against leaking covert agents’ names say it doesn’t apply here because Flame has had a desk job at CIA headquarters for more than five years, meaning she is not “covert.”

But Fitzgerald has proven himself resourceful at finding novel ways to charge people. Chicago newspapers have done exposés for years about City Hall officials hiring and promoting less-qualified hacks with clout over better-qualified workers. But prosecutors could find no crime to charge. Fitzgerald is bringing fraud charges against City Hall officials for falsifying documents and interview records used to justify the patronage hiring.

Ironically, many of Fitzgerald’s public corruption prosecution cases that help build his dragon-slayer image started with newspaper stories made possible by whistle-blowers in government leaking information to the press, confident reporters would never reveal their names.

Fitzgerald now declines sit-down interviews. He does not want to appear to be lobbying for a second term in his job.

Senator Fitzgerald is gone. The two Democratic senators from Illinois, Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, both say they want Bush to keep Fitzgerald. The ranking Republican in Illinois, House Speaker Denny Hastert, gives only the lukewarm sentiment that if Bush asks his advice, he will not tell him to replace Fitzgerald.

But that may be all the endorsement Fitzgerald needs. For Bush to replace him while he’s wrapping up an investigation into Bush’s inner circle — even to kick him upstairs at the Justice Dept. — could make the cover-up look worse than the crime ♦

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John Robert’s Irish Wife https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/john-roberts-irish-wife/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/john-roberts-irish-wife/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:56:17 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29524 Read more..]]> It was a long, hot summer for Jane Sullivan.

Sullivan, the wife of President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, was thrust into the headlines because of her devout Catholic faith. It was a faith nurtured in a New York Irish enclave.

In the early 1970s, Jane Sullivan attended St. Catherine’s Academy in the Morris Park section of the Bronx, then a largely Irish and Italian neighborhood.

Jane was the oldest of four children, the daughter of a technician for the U.S. Postal Service. Her mother worked as a medical secretary.

The family’s ties to Ireland are strong; an uncle still lives in Charleville, County Cork, and the family purchased a home in nearby Knocklong, Limerick, where members of the clan try to meet at least every two years.

Sullivan went on to become a highly successful lawyer and marry fellow lawyer John Roberts in 1996. The two have since adopted two children.

As The New York Times put it in a recent profile, Jane Sullivan’s “Catholic faith has long played a central role in her life.” Her husband is said to be equally devout.

Sullivan “joined the first class of women to enter the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass., where she attended Mass several times a week, tutored football players in mathematics, her major, and carved a path as a student leader,” the Times continued. “A budding feminist even with her traditionalist streak, she was one of four students who represented the student body in a heated dispute when the feminist scholar Marilyn French, who taught at the college from 1972 to 1976, was denied tenure.”

Eyebrows were raised over the summer when it was revealed that Sullivan once served on the board of a group called Feminists for Life. The group attempts to do the seemingly impossible: bring together the fight for women’s rights while also opposing abortion.

“Abortion is a reflection that our society has failed to meet the needs of women,” is one motto Feminists for Life has used. “Women deserve better than abortion.”

Will Sullivan’s devout Catholicism affect her husband’s confirmation? For now, politicians on both sides of the aisle are saying it won’t.

Even liberal stalwart (and Sullivan’s fellow Irish-American) Ted Kennedy was quoted as saying that Sullivan’s religion as well as her legal work, should have nothing to do with Roberts’ confirmation.

“I think [she] ought to be out of bounds,” Kennedy said to reporters ♦

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Irish Eye on Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/irish-eye-on-hollywood-45/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/irish-eye-on-hollywood-45/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:55:57 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29528 Read more..]]> Having conquered the world of music and shed light on global poverty, U2 lead singer Bono is now eyeing Hollywood. Presumably this is the charismatic crooner’s way to kill time until he is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Until then, Bono is developing a film project which revolves around an Irish musician who comes to the United States to work with a show band in Las Vegas. Entitled A Version of Las Vegas, the film is being described as a comedy-drama. The main character is a musician who left a son back in Ireland. The son unexpectedly tracks his father down in Vegas.

To make the movie, Bono is teaming up with fellow Irish musician Barry Devlin, a former member of Horslips who also wrote episodes of the BBC’s famed Ballykissangel series. Devlin previously worked with Bono on a 1998 TV movie about the making of U2’s earlier documentary Rattle and Hum.

Thanks to his fight against starvation in the third world, Bono also reportedly helped British screenwriter Richard Curtis with his recent HBO movie The Girl in the Café, about a man and a woman who fall in love amidst a backdrop of global poverty.

Let’s hope the new project turns out better than Bono’s last foray into film. Bono was a producer/co-writer on the 2001 Mel Gibson film Million Dollar Hotel, which was roundly lambasted by critics.

Irish hotshot director John Moore is working frantically on his third Hollywood movie. That’s because the film, a remake of a Hollywood horror classic entitled The Omen 666, must be released on June 6, 2006 — 6/6/06, in an attempt to capitalize on the satanic association with the biblical “number of the beast.”

The 1976 original Omen starred Irish-American legend Gregory Peck, who played a character forced to confront a family into which the child of Satan has unwittingly been born.

Moore, a 34-year-old native of Dundalk, recently was quoted as saying: “There are a lot of hardcore fans [of the original] that are going to want to burn my house down when they hear that I’m going to remake it, but that comes with the job,” he said. “I was a huge fan of the original and I think the time is good to re-do it so I said, “Let’s go.” There are a couple of new twists. Fans of the original won’t be disappointed. It’s very true to the original but it has a more modern context.”

Moore, whose first film was the hitech war thriller Behind Enemy Lines with Owen Wilson, later directed another remake, The Flight of the Phoenix, based on a 1965 film about airplane crash victims who try and put their plane back together to get home.

Also on the Irish directorial front, Jim Sheridan’s gritty film based on the life of rapper 50 Cent is due out in November. Get Rich or Die Trying may seem like a radical change of pace for Sheridan, whose films include In the Name of the Father, The Field and My Left Foot. But, actually, the story of the rapper’s rise up from the drug-ridden streets of Queens is just another tough New York story about an outsider, not unlike In America, Sheridan’s 2003 movie about Irish immigrants in Manhattan. In fact, recent reports suggest Sheridan will return to Hell’s Kitchen in a film to be called Emerald City. Sheridan will direct the film, based on real events, about the Irish mafia in New York City.

The script for Emerald City will be written by Lukas Reiter, who previously worked as an assistant district attorney in New York City and has penned scripts for TV hits such as Boston Legal and The Practice. It should be added, however, that this is just one of many projects Sheridan has been linked with. There is also his reported film about a Kennedy-like Irish-American political dynasty.

It has also been reported that Sheridan will be remaking Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 Japanese classic Ikiru with Tom Hanks starring and acclaimed author/screenwriter Richard Price doing writing duties.Whether all of these projects ever make it to the big screen remains to be seen.

There is no doubt, however, that Irish-American actress Bridget Moynahan will be hitting screens this September alongside Nicolas Cage and Ethan Hawke in Lord of War. The film revolves around an arms dealer, played by Cage, who is the best in his illicit business, yet who is also plagued by guilt about the damage he may be doing to the world.

This sounds a bit like Pierce Brosnan’s next film.

His future as James Bond may be up in the air, but Brosnan is still keeping busy. In November his latest action film, The Matador, hits theaters. The suave Irish actor plays a hit man who suddenly has a crisis when it strikes him that his jet-setting life has left him with no friends or family to care for.

Brosnan’s character then tries to befriend a straight-arrow businessman following a chance meeting in a hotel bar. The Matador also stars Hope Davis and Philip Baker Hall and was directed by Richard Shepard.

Michael Moore has announced what his next documentary project will be, following his mega-smash hit, the ultra-controversial Fahrenheit 9/11. Next up for Moore — who has said his Irish Catholic roots influenced him to fight for the little guy — is a documentary about Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) called Sickos. Already, there are reports that some HMO employers have been telling workers what they should and shouldn’t say if they are approached by the maverick filmmaker. “We haven’t shot anything yet,” Moore was recently quoted as saying, “and they’re totally discombobulated.”

Speaking of controversy, there was much less of it than might have been expected when director Michael Winterbottom recently released the film 9 Songs, which featured several sex scenes in which the actors, well, were not acting.

Many critics were impressed, if somewhat baffled, by the minimalist, yet explicit, exploration of one couple’s brief romance. One of the film’s producers, Irish-born Andrew Eaton, certainly impressed one important fan with the bold film: his 17-year-old daughter. According to The New York Times Magazine (which dubbed Eaton “an exuberant Irishman”) Eaton’s daughter sent him a text message while shooting 9 Songs which read: “I’m so proud of you, you are changing the world.”

Eaton and Winterbottom have teamed up on a number of other indy hits, most recently 24 Hour Party People from 2002, which starred Steve Coogan, whose parents were Irish immigrants to England.

Two Irish-Americans recently signed on to star in TV series. Aidan Quinn’s Book of Daniel, in which he plays an Episcopalian minister plagued by doubt and other problems, will run for at least 13 weeks on NBC this fall. Also, Anjelica Huston will appear in three upcoming episodes of the Showtime series Huff.

Finally, an Irish acting legend who spanned generations and earned an Oscar nomination has died.

Geraldine Fitzgerald starred in films such as Watch on the Rhine (1943), Ten North Frederick (1958), The Pawnbroker (1964) and Arthur (1981). She also played a tyrannical Irish matriarch in the trashy, forgotten Rodney Dangerfield gem Easy Money (1983).

In 1939 Fitzgerald earned an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress for Wuthering Heights, and later embarked on an illustrious theater career.

The daughter of a Dublin solicitor, Fitzgerald was introduced to the Gate Theatre by her aunt Shelagh Richards, a Gate star. Fitzgerald performed alongside James Mason and Orson Welles, with whom there have always been rumors about an affair. She married Edward Lindsay-Hogg and had one son, Michael, who has had a long career in British TV and film. Despite a striking resemblance, Michael has long denied being the son of Orson Welles.

Interestingly, Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed the 2000 tele-movie Two of Us about the Beatles, which featured Aidan Quinn as well as another son of an Irish acting legend, Richard Harris’ son Jared.

Geraldine Fitzgerald was 91 ♦

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Soldier Ride https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/soldier-ride/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/soldier-ride/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:54:28 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29532 Read more..]]> It’s a long way from California to New York, especially on a bicycle, but what makes this 4200 mile ride even more remarkable is that it was undertaken by two soldiers both of whom lost limbs in Iraq.

Ryan Kelly, 24, and Heath Calhoun, 26, are part of a group called Soldier Ride, which raises money for wounded veterans. They were joined on the ride by the group’s co-founder, Chris Carney, 35, a bartender from Long Island, who was inspired to found Soldier Ride after visiting the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where returning wounded soldiers undergo rehabilitation.

Carney, who completed the cycle on his own last year, said, “it was tougher because I was alone. This year it was good to have someone to talk to. The motivation the soldiers have is amazing. Heath drove himself across the Rockies with his arms. He went from trailing up to having no problems keeping up.”

The three started out in Marina Del Ray “Mother’s Beach” in Los Angeles on May 31 and finished in Montauk, New York on July 18. Calhoun, who had both his legs amputated after a rocket-propelled grenade hit a truck in which he was traveling, powered across the country in a three-wheeled hand cycle using his arms to pedal, while Kelly, who had his lower leg blown off in an ambush near Baghdad, wore a prosthetic leg to complete the trip.

So far the group has raised over $500,000 for Wounded Warrior Project. They also campaigned tirelessly to Congress for assistance for wounded soldiers and their families. Their efforts paid off recently with the passing of the Wounded Soldier Bill — a $2,500 to $100,000 disability insurance policy for soldiers and other service members on active duty.

The funds raised by the second Soldier Ride have helped the Wounded Warrior Project with their backpack program, an initiative to give all returning wounded soldiers comfort items and toiletries and help finance family visits.

As Calhoun told Fox News recently, the importance of this backpack cannot be underestimated, “I know myself when I came back to the States I was wearing a towel, so to be able to get a nice, clean t-shirt and a pair of shorts was something special.”

Note: As we go to press we received the news that The Walter Reed Medical Center will close as part of the Army’s restructuring of its bases ♦

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Rockaway Irish Honor Veterans https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/rockaway-irish-honor-veterans/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/rockaway-irish-honor-veterans/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:53:03 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29535 Read more..]]> Irish-American families in Rockaway, New York, played host to injured soldiers recently with a parade and street party organized by the community.”We had to turn families down the support was so strong,” said Flip Cullen, who organized the the visit of 28 wounded soldiers from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to the Rockaway area., During their visit, the soldiers took in the local attractions, water skied and visited the New York Stock Exchange, an event that saw the entire floor stop trading, turn and applaud the soldiers in the viewing gallery.

The highlight of the weekend for many was the parade, which attracted a huge local turnout and had a profound effect on the visiting soldiers.

‘The parade has been exhilarating, it makes me feel proud to be a soldier and proud of the sacrifice I made,” said Chris Bain, a third-generation soldier who almost lost his arm in a mortar attack at alTaji on April 8.

Chris stayed with the Moriarty family and had nothing but praise for the hospitality of the Rockaway locals, “Everybody has treated us amazingly, they have been like moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers,” he said ♦

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The First U.S. Immigrant Gateway https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/the-first-u-s-immigrant-gateway/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/the-first-u-s-immigrant-gateway/#comments Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:52:15 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29539 Read more..]]> When many Americans think of their ancestors at long last arriving in New York Harbor and catching their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty they assume that their predecessors then headed straight to Ellis Island to be processed. However, many of their relatives probably didn’t go to Ellis Island, but instead were sent to the little-known immigration center called Castle Garden at the Battery.

Castle Garden was the city’s first official debarkation point for immigrants, from 1855 until 1890. In 1892, Ellis Island took over the immigration process.

According to The New York Times, “More than one in six native-born Americans are descendants of the eight million immigrants who entered the United States through Castle Garden in Lower Manhattan.”

Castle Garden was originally built as a fort in case foreigners tried to attack New York. The fort was later renamed Castle Clinton after a former mayor and governor. Four years after being built, the army abandoned Castle Garden. The city added a roof and turned it into an opera house and theater.

In 1820, the U.S. government decided to start keeping records on all immigrants. The process was extremely chaotic, since there wasn’t an official center. In order to make the process more orderly, the state turned Castle Garden into an immigration center in 1855.

From 1855 to 1890, eight million immigrants passed through Castle Garden, mostly Germans, Irish, English, Scots, Swedes, Danes, Russians and Italians.

This year, Castle Garden celebrates its 150(th) anniversary. The Battery Conservancy was formed to rebuild the area into a 23-acre park. To celebrate the anniversary the Conservancy hosted a free music festival at the Castle during the end of July. The premise of the festival was to showcase all the different cultures that came to the United States during the Castle era. Different performers showcased the rhythms, beats and sounds of their respective cultures. Dublin native Susan McKeown, now residing in New York City, performed at the festival. The Irish Voice deemed her, “one of the most powerful and distinctive voices in Irish music.” Her music can be described as fusing traditional folk music with a harder contemporary adult rock sound.

In addition to creating a park at Castle Garden (or Castle Clinton as it is now called), and hosting a music festival, the Conservancy has also started a website to honor Castle Garden and its 150(th) anniversary.

Castlegarden.org is a free website, providing a database of 10 million of the 12 million immigrants who arrived at the Port of New York during 1820-1892. The website will be a great help for Americans looking to trace their genealogy ♦

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Irish Citizenship: Are You Eligible? https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/irish-citizenship-are-you-eligible/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/irish-citizenship-are-you-eligible/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:51:57 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29546 Read more..]]> Irish-Americans are fiercely proud of their Irish heritage, as is evident in the number of Americans who apply for Irish citizenship and passports. Last year the Irish Consulate in New York received 1,200 applications for an Irish passport. However, with 40 million people claiming at least some Irish heritage in the United States alone, there are some constraints for issuing both the passport and the citizenship.

According to Christina McElwaine, the press officer for the New York Irish Consulate, there are three main ways to obtain Irish citizenship. Firstly, a U.S. citizen with one or more Irish-born parents can apply for an Irish passport.

The second way to apply for an Irish passport is through a Foreign Birth Registration (FBR). A person having at least one grandparent born in Ireland can apply for Irish citizenship through FBR.

Documentation must be presented to one of the five Irish consulates throughout the United States. McElwaine says, “to apply for citizenship through an Irish-born grandparent (FBR), the applicant must supply original documentation which demonstrates clearly the identity of the applicant and the relationship between the applicant, the parent and the Irish-born grandparent.” In order to do that, the applicant must show the Irish birth certificate (where not available, a baptismal certificate is accepted), along with a marriage certificate, and a death certificate, or if they are still alive, an identification card of some sort.

Finally, up until November 30, 2005, one will be able to obtain Irish citizenship through a process called Post Nuptial Citizenship (PNC). If a U.S. citizen is married to an Irish citizen (for at least three years), they are eligible to apply for citizenship. However, after November 30, people living outside Ireland will not be able to apply for citizenship through PNC.

There is better news for Irish seniors at least 65 years old. From August 1, Irish senior citizens may obtain an Irish passport free of charge. This includes seniors living abroad and Americans who wish to apply through the FBR. Dermot Ahern, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, said in a recent press release, “I am very pleased that the life-long contribution to society of our senior citizens is being further recognized by the introduction of free passports. This will benefit over 60,000 such persons annually — about ten percent of those who apply for passports annually.” ♦

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In Memoriam: Mo Mowlam, unique and respected British politician https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/in-memoriam-mo-mowlam-unique-and-respected-british-politician/ https://irishamerica.com/2005/10/in-memoriam-mo-mowlam-unique-and-respected-british-politician/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2005 06:50:46 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=29551 Read more..]]> Mo Mowlam, the former Secretary of State of Northern Ireland, lost her long battle with a brain tumor in late August. She was 55.

The former Secretary of State served from 1997-1999 and was an intricate part of the peace process in Northern Ireland. Mowlam was a very candid and feisty woman who worked tirelessly to promote peace.

When appointed to the post in 1997, she was a fresh face for the job. Her style in dealing with politics was quite different from her predecessor. Many remember her as an extremely frank, direct woman who used very colorful language.

U.S. Senator George Mitchell put it the best when he said, “She is blunt and outspoken and she swears a lot. She is also intelligent, decisive, daring and unpretentious. The combination is irresistible. The people love her, though many politicians do not.”

Many U.S. politicians paid tributes and complimented the woman who helped lay the groundwork for the Good Friday Agreement.

Senator Edward Kennedy said, “I had immense respect for her ability and dedication to the peace process in Northern Ireland. She was extraordinarily committed and effective, and we’re closer to a lasting peace today because of her.”

Former President Bill Clinton agreed. “Mo was an integral part of building a peace process in Northern Ireland that has endured for over a decade. All of us who worked to support peace in Northern Ireland owe her our gratitude.”

Marjorie Mowlam was born in 1949 to a middle-class family in Coventry. She did not have an easy childhood — her family was always short on money and her father was an alcoholic. Needless to say, she overcame those hardships and became a college lecturer. She entered politics at the late age of 38, when she won a seat in Parliament in Redcar, on the North Sea coast.

She soon made herself heard in Parliament and became an essential part of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labor Party. Blair was elected in 1997 and quickly appointed Mowlam as Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State. Her goal was to come up with a peace process for the violence occurring in Northern Ireland.

While Mowlam worked tirelessly to establish a good relationship with Sinn Féin, many unionists criticized her efforts, saying she sympathized with the Republican cause too much and she should concentrate on keeping Ireland united.

Mowlam became an intricate part of the peace accords. She had no fear of shouting at politicians, mostly men, on both sides of the Northern Ireland conflict. In fact while helping to negotiate the Good Friday peace settlement in 1998, she said to Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Féin, “Bloody well get on and do it; otherwise I’ll head-butt you!”

Eventually, Blair and Mowlam had a political falling out and he replaced Mowlam in her post against her will. She complained and criticized the government, saying they made her like a “tea lady.” Mowlam was demoted to a less important job in the cabinet and ended up quitting politics for good. In 2002, she wrote a memoir entitled Momentum ♦

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