October November 2012 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Sat, 20 Jul 2019 03:40:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 Adrian Jones: Wall Street 50 Keynote Interview https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/adrian-jones-wall-street-50-keynote-interview/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/adrian-jones-wall-street-50-keynote-interview/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:22:47 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13087 Read more..]]> After eight years in the Irish military and eighteen with Goldman Sachs, Adrian Jones understands what it means to be an effective leader.  With his strong ideas about what needs to change in Ireland, he might be just the leader the diaspora needs.

Not many immigrants living in America are confronted with their country’s history on the way to work. But for Adrian Jones, a Roscommon native who has lived in the U.S. for 23 years, Ireland’s past is part of the morning commute.

When he gets off the ferry that takes him across the Hudson River from New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and their two sons, to Manhattan’s Battery Park, Jones is faced with a meaningful juxtaposition. New York’s Irish Hunger memorial, a naturalistic and beautifully composed monument to the devastating effects of famine in Ireland, sits just beyond the waterfront. Above it rises 200 West Street, the sleek, demure and thoroughly modern headquarters of Goldman Sachs, the investment banking and securities giant where Jones is a managing director in the Merchant Banking Division and co-head of its Americas Equity investing business. In this position, he identifies various opportunities for his division’s Investment Committee and monitors the progress of funds and companies in which Goldman and its clients have invested.

When we met in June, in a conference room on 200 West Street’s quiet, light-filled top floor, Jones reflected on the coincidence of his office’s proximity to the memorial (the building was completed in 2010; the memorial has been there since 2002). “There’s a famine museum, Strokestown, just a few miles from where I grew up. It’s a fabulous place, and I think anyone who visits Ireland should go. It was the house of a landlord, Denis Mahon, who was assassinated by some of his tenants during the famine. [Mahon’s killing didn’t halt the evictions, and eventually over 11,000 tenants were evicted from the estate.] It was a brutal time in that area, and the famine was the seminal event in Irish life over the last 300 years. When I pass the monument every day, I see his name and it brings it all together for me.”

This is fitting for Jones, who exemplifies both the possibilities of the modern immigrant success story and the enduring concern for one’s homeland felt by many Irish living in America. At 48, he is calm and collected, with a posture and a no-nonsense attitude that indicate his background in the Irish army. In conversation, his expressive face reveals a lighter side, especially when talking about his family, a recent 30th reunion with his cadet school colleagues, and taking his older son, Danny, to a Bruce Springsteen concert in Dublin.

Born in 1964 into a farming family, Jones, the eldest of seven siblings, learned early on what it means to work hard and be responsible. At a young age he was introduced to marketing, buying and selling at cattle marts with his father. There was little money around for higher education, but Jones was an excellent student. At seventeen, he earned a cadetship in the highly selective Irish Military College, which he describes as the most formative experience of his life. “It was basically zero-tolerance for anything other than excellence. The model was built around putting maximum pressure on us both physically and mentally, and testing us individually and as teams.”

Two years later, as a junior officer, Jones began university at the National University of Ireland, Galway, majoring in economics and political science. His studies, combined with a trip to the U.S. in the summer of 1984, helped set him on the course of his future career. “It was a very interesting time over here, and that trip triggered a real interest in economics and markets,” he recalled. Jones had another reason to be interested in the U.S. – during his time at college in Galway, he met Christina, an American from Maine, who was doing her junior year abroad. The young couple married while Jones was still in the army, and lived in Ireland while he completed his duties.

Eight years in the military provided Jones with skills and a perspective that have served him well, both personally and in the corporate world. As cadets, he and his classmates studied tactics and military theory for several months in their classroom in the Curragh, and were then sent to the Wicklow Mountains to put what they had learned into practice. “You would be called upon to assemble a team on the spot, and the one choice you could make was who would be your second in command,” Jones explained. Though he didn’t quite realize its significance at the time, a pattern soon emerged in terms of who was chosen for that responsibility.

“You saw over time that there was a subset of the class who were consistently better than the others. They just worked harder, they were better organized, they were more focused, and they were able to apply what they had learned in the classroom more effectively in the field. The interesting thing was that it wasn’t always the people you initially thought it would be – not the loudest guy, the funniest or the smartest, but the ones who you just knew could be relied on. It was an important moment for me, seeing that.”

After graduating from Galway, Jones worked in the army in various capacities ranging from providing armed security (Ireland’s national police force is unarmed) and border security to confronting the internal threat of terrorism from the IRA. He was based in Cork and then in Dublin, where he earned a master’s degree in economics at night from University College Dublin.

For seven months from 1987 to 1988, he served as part of the peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, fulfilling Ireland’s commitment to the United Nations. He was 23 and learned a lot.  Along with soldiers from Africa and Northern Europe, the role of the Irish soldiers was to prevent Hezbollah from attacking the Israelis, and to protect the civilians caught in the middle when the Israelis launched an onslaught into Lebanon.

It was there, faced with the task of commanding both new recruits and seasoned veterans, that Jones fully learned what it means to be a leader. “One of the things you learn very early on in the army is the extraordinary power of teamwork versus people working for themselves,” he said. “In Lebanon, my role was, first of all, to achieve the mission and to protect the other men, but also to get the most out of them. There was a lot I didn’t know, so there were a lot of challenges along the way. As a leader, you have to ask yourself certain questions. Are you fair? Do you have mutual respect for the people you’re working with? Are you consistent? Are you honest? And you develop your style. You learn to deal with pressure, to deal with people, to achieve the right balance between ego and the objective. All that has been very helpful for what I do today.”

Jones left the army in 1989 with the rank of lieutenant and returned to civilian life. He was 25 and ready to branch out from the military, but understood that he would likely need to look abroad. “Ireland was a pretty depressed place at the time. There was very limited opportunity to find an entry-level position in business unless you were really well-connected and part of the inner sphere, and I clearly wasn’t,” he recalled. “I qualified for a green card, and I was at an age when I was ready to take a chance.”

He and Christina moved to Boston, where Jones found work at the Bank of Boston, in the derivatives sector. “I got to see enough of corporate banking, mergers and acquisitions, and private equity to know that was an area I found particularly interesting,” he said. He concluded that in order to get the positions he was really interested in he would need to get an MBA. He was accepted at several schools and chose Harvard.

Before his second year there, Jones was a summer intern at Goldman Sachs, and the following year, in 1994, he was offered a full time position with the firm in New York, as an associate in the Communications, Media and Telecommunication group. After some time in the Equity Capital Markets group, he got the chance to go to London, to work with the chairman of Goldman’s European business, Peter Sutherland (a fellow Irishman), an experience Jones describes as “very educational and hugely enjoyable. Peter is an extraordinary man. I learned so much working with him, and he has been a great friend to me since then.”

In 1998, still in London, he joined Goldman’s Merchant Bank, and then returned to the U.S. in 2002, as a managing director in the Merchant Banking Division’s Principal Investment Area. He was made a partner in 2004, and serves on his division’s Global Investment Committee. At the time of our interview, Jones had recently been promoted to co-head of the Merchant Bank’s Americas Equity business.

Deirdre O’Connor, an Irish Goldman Sachs colleague (and Wall Street 50 honoree) calls Jones “a quintessential Irish ambassador on Wall Street and beyond. On a personal level, Adrian has been a great mentor to me and was critical to my integration into Goldman Sachs. He is generous with his time, and many Irish graduates have been the direct beneficiaries of his invaluable career guidance.”

Jones’ role is primarily to work with his team in identifying attractive opportunities for Goldman Sachs to invest in, to work with those companies to help them become better (which can often mean bigger), and then, over time, to monetize the value that has been created. “The investors who entrust us with their capital expect that we will generate returns for them of 20%-plus per year. Ultimately, we need to be able to return them their money plus their appreciated capital,” he explained. “So, it could be that we take a public company private and eventually either return it to the public market or sell it to another company. Finding and evaluating the opportunities, presenting them to the Investment Committee, making the investment, working with the companies, and then realizing the value created, typically over a 5 to 8 year period. That’s what I do.”

Of the financial crisis, the Volcker Rule, which bans proprietary trading, has had the most enduring impact on his work. Before the rule, which was introduced in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act and scheduled to go into effect this summer, it was typical for Goldman Sachs to invest in funds alongside their clients at levels of 15 to 30%. The Volcker Rule has limited the amount that the firm can invest to 3%, which means that less firm money and more client money will be used. Jones describes the change as manageable. “Fortunately we’ve performed well for our investor clients. They liked very much that they were investing alongside us as a firm, but we’ve had a good investment track record for our clients and they understand that this is the law; it’s not a strategic decision we’ve made.”

When it comes to the media’s portrayal of Wall Street over the last few years, Jones was diplomatic if slightly guarded. Goldman Sachs was the target of some particularly intense aquatic life vitriol from Rolling Stone magazine, which called the firm “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.”

“This has been a really tough period for so many people, in this country and in other countries, and there’s a fair degree of anger out there,” he acknowledged. “I think a lot of it is understandable, at least some of it is misdirected, and there’s a great deal of blame to go around. There have been a lot of actors and participants, and everyone has learned from what we’ve gone through – individuals, governments, institutions, regulators, and absolutely Wall Street as well. All of that is going to be reflected in our working environment, in the economy, in how people behave generally.”

The reason for Jones’ return to the U.S. in 2002 was more personal than professional. While living in London, he and Christina had two sons: Danny, now 14, and Liam, now 13. When Liam was 2, he was diagnosed with autism. The family visited the States for diagnostic work, and it became immediately evident to them that the levels of care, awareness and support in the U.S. were much higher than those in the U.K. “When Liam was diagnosed we were told that the levels of prevalence were about 5 in every 10,000 kids. That was 10 years ago, and today the best data suggests that it’s as high as one in every 54 boys. When there was this perception that it was a rare and isolated occurrence, it was very easy for public health and public education bureaucracies to resist having to do something about it. A lot of those bridges were crossed much earlier here in the U.S. For instance, New Jersey is about the best place in the world if you have a child with autism.” They moved back to the U.S. and settled in Ridgewood, NJ, and Jones credited Goldman Sachs with being “amazing in terms of facilitating the move, absolutely remarkable.”

He soon became involved with Autism Speaks, the country’s largest autism advocacy and research organization, and has been a board member for many years. He also sits on the boards of the American Ireland Fund and the Galway University Foundation, and last year he worked with all three to address the lagging levels of autism awareness and quality of care in Ireland. “It’s very different in Ireland, and what’s happening over there in terms of cutbacks is exacerbating an already challenging situation,” he said. “We wanted to refresh the discussion.”

On behalf of Autism Speaks, he went to the Ireland Fund, and they agreed to underwrite the event, which became Ireland’s first-ever international conference on autism. “Jim Browne, the president of NUIG, is outstanding and has very strong views on the university’s role in Irish life, particularly life in the west of Ireland, and Galway is developing a terrific program for autism therapists,” Jones praised. “As soon as I raised the idea he immediately volunteered to host the conference.” The conference drew close to 800 people over the course of two days, and is now slated to become an annual event. Jones’ hope is that it will “really move things forward and improve the quality of care for kids and their families in Ireland.”

Dr. Browne commended Jones’ work with the university. “Adrian is a distinguished business leader and an important voice in the Irish diaspora, and we greatly value [his] commitment to serve on the US board of Galway University Foundation,” he said. “He has worked with us to establish the USNI Basketball Scholarship, which sees talented US students undertake graduate study in Galway. His role with the Business School led to the Executive MBA class visiting New York last June, where they participated in a range of executive education seminars at Fordham and Goldman Sachs. And through Adrian’s interest in autism, NUI Galway hosted an inaugural international conference on autism in January 2012. . . The second International Conference on Autism will be held in June 2013, and we hope that this will become a major established conference, attracting leading academics and clinicians in search of strategies to help the families of those living with autism.”

In turn, Jones is very passionate about his alma mater, where some of his siblings and both of his parents have studied. Jones is not the only one in his family to achieve big things; in fact, all of his siblings are remarkably successful. His sister Deirdre is a top plastic surgeon in Galway, having completed fellowships at NYU and Sloan-Kettering, specializing in post-cancer reconstructive surgery; Niall is a pediatric surgeon in Australia; Hugh and Eithne have their own businesses, in Dublin and Amsterdam respectively; Declan runs a property management company as well as the family farm; and Adrian’s youngest brother, Conor, who has an MBA from MIT, heads up McKinsey & Company’s business in Ireland.

Aside from what appears to be a family trait of determination and hard work, the credit lies with the examples his parents, Bunny and Pauline, set. “We were very fortunate to have two parents who were enthusiastic about education and encouraged us. I don’t think they necessarily pushed us – the focus was never really on grades – but they did emphasize the power of learning and knowledge,” Jones reflected. His father (who passed away in 1984) had left school at age 12 to work on the farm, but he provided a strong model for his children when, in his 40s, he returned to school at night and earned his diploma in social sciences at NUI Galway (Ireland’s current president, Michael D. Higgins, was one of his lecturers). Jones’ mother, a retired teacher, possesses that same curiosity and drive for learning. A few years ago, in her mid-70s, she returned to school and received a diploma in archaeology, also from Galway. This fall, she will begin a new course in history.

Despite living and raising a family in America, Jones still considers himself primarily Irish, and it’s the small but crucial things that he references in making that distinction. “I’ve lived almost half my life outside of Ireland, but I am definitely Irish in terms of the teams I support, the sports I watch, what newspaper and websites I read first. I check out RTE and the Irish Times pretty much every day. I definitely read a lot of Irish literature, and my wife says I watch way too many dark Irish movies,” he said, laughing. “Not having played American sports, as a father you’re also kind of struck by the limitations of what you can do beyond coaching soccer, which I’ve done for several years.”

He credits living on the East Coast, near the Irish hubs of New York and Boston, with allowing him to remain so close to his home country. “I think it is such a great place for an Irish person to live,” he enthused. “You’re not that far from Ireland and you have a great perspective from here. It gives you an appreciation of what’s special about Ireland, but you’re close enough that you can stay well informed and actually go back and stay involved.”

Jones has stayed very involved. He returns to Ireland at least once a year to visit family, but his commitment spreads much wider than that due to his work with the American Ireland Fund and the Galway University Foundation. He has also been a strong participant in the Global Irish Network (GIN), attending the Global Irish Forum (GIF) at Dublin Castle in October 2011 and interim conferences and events in New York.

Sean Lane, a Wall Street 50 honoree who has come to know Jones through the NUI Galway network in New York, spoke to his remarkable commitment to and passion for Ireland. “Despite his ongoing incredibly successful career on Wall Street, he has remained distinctly down to earth and is very Irish in many ways. He somehow finds the time to stay involved with a number of charities and Irish causes. He is soft spoken, unassuming, and always willing to provide a quiet word of excellent advice when requested.”

Jones admitted that it was very frustrating for him to watch the endgame of the Celtic Tiger play out from over here, particularly since he had a strong view that it had been largely avoidable, and that it had as much to do with attitudes as it did with actions.

“Over the ten years leading up to 2008, 2009, Irish people were very badly let down by their government and by their public servants,” he said. “You had a classic credit bubble that was allowed to build to epic proportions. There was a tremendous amount of groupthink, and it became an extremely difficult environment for somebody to go against the grain. I think one of the challenges of a very small country, particularly a cohesive, homogenous, small country, is that it is very difficult to speak out, particularly when there are so many vested interests who are focused on keeping things moving in one particular direction. And, unfortunately, that’s what developed in Ireland.”

He is supportive of Ireland’s current government and austerity measures, and believes that if people think the Obama administration inherited challenges, they should look at the Irish situation. When it comes to the government’s recent emphasis on reaching out to the Irish diaspora, however, Jones has some candid and important insights. He praised the Irish agencies abroad, commending how effective they have been at building relationships and getting the diaspora involved  – long before it was even referred to as the diaspora. The problems he sees began around 2009, during the late stages of the financial crisis, when “official Ireland – not the agencies but Dublin, government and public sector – started groping around the idea of the diaspora,” which resulted in the first Global Irish Forum, at Farmleigh. Jones was unable to attend the first GIF, but he has participated in every forum since, and has taken note of the underlying elements at play.

“It’s an interesting idea, but it needs to be handled delicately because I think Irish people, generally, are a little wary of their emigrants,” he said. “Emigration is so much part of Irish life. We speak very well of people who go away and do well. But we don’t like when those people come back and tell us how we could do things better. As Richard Harris tells Tom Berenger in [the film version of] The Field,  ‘Be a good Yank. Turn around. Go home.’ There’s an element of that in Irish life, and it’s very understandable.”

The other issue Jones highlighted is a contrast in focus and approach. For decades now, by necessity, Ireland has focused mainly on the E.U., but, Jones believes, the vast majority of the diaspora who can be of help right now are in the U.S. and the U.K. “You have a challenge in that you’ve got public sector, European-focused official Ireland trying to figure out how to engage with private sector, U.S.-based ex-pats,” he explained. “And official Ireland seems to me a lot more focused on how to control them as distinct from how to leverage and enable.”

He traced this pattern through a number of events over the past few years, from the response to Irish America’s publisher Niall O’Dowd’s suggestion that he might run for the Irish presidency, to a minister from the previous government asking a room full of high-powered members of the GIN to be “cheerleaders for Ireland” and denying that anything was wrong, a week before the country formally requested a bailout.

The most surprising instance he mentioned was the offer made by Craig Barrett, the former chairman and CEO of Intel, to sit – without pay – on any state board in Ireland. “Any other institution in the world within 20 minutes would have signed him up, but Craig Barrett is still waiting to get a call from Dublin,” Jones said, his eyebrows slightly raised. “There’s a reason for that, and to me it comes down to the fact that Craig Barrett isn’t part of the Irish system, so he isn’t beholden to anybody. He’ll call it the way he sees it. I think official Ireland is anxious about that.”

Still, Jones is hopeful that the government will navigate a way to work with and enable the diaspora, that it will make use of the tremendous goodwill he saw from “a lot of very busy people” at the GIF in 2011. Jones is also realistic about what this would mean. He isn’t of the belief that there is anybody in the diaspora or the GIN who could provide a quick fix, change the rules under which Ireland is operating, or implement a brand new strategy. But he does think that the diaspora has the potential to do a great deal of good at the micro level. “There’s an opportunity to help shape future government policy and future regulation, to provide help in governance and oversight on state boards. They can contribute by helping the universities provide world-class education, by helping Irish entrepreneurs, by sitting on the boards of Irish companies and helping them expand into markets like this, which are brutally competitive and need local expertise,” he offered. “They can work with new immigrants – and there are going to be a lot more immigrants – to assimilate. There are huge opportunities like that for the network, but there has to be accountability and follow through.

“I’d like to see a more prominent role for those running global businesses from Ireland in driving the GIN initiative. These leaders face savage international competition every day; they know what needs to change in Ireland, and they understand the power of networks. They’re also in the business of getting things done.”

Jones places a strong emphasis on education as the most important thing for Ireland right now. “The competitive dynamic in which Ireland is operating has changed enormously in the 20 years since I left. Other countries, particularly in Eastern Europe and Asia, have read the Irish playbook, and we need to constantly be able to reinvent ourselves and re-test assumptions that have worked in the past,” he explained. “Ultimately, Ireland will be competitive if we can continue to generate high caliber graduates who can do world-class work, in Ireland or somewhere else.”

His advice for young people in Ireland today is, essentially, to not take the opportunities that they have for granted. “It might seem easy for me to say this because I don’t live there,” he acknowledged, “but I would say that Ireland has seen much worse times than this. Ireland today is a much better place than the Ireland I grew up in, even with all of these challenges that it faces now, economically. And you, as a young person growing up in Ireland, are better equipped than almost any of your predecessors to acquit yourself well in the world.”

Far from a ‘when I was your age…’ spiel, Jones’ advice is both refreshingly direct and optimistic. When he looks at Ireland, he sees the negatives and the financial challenges, and he appreciates their significance, but he also sees all of the positive changes that have developed since he left. “When I was growing up, there were two issues that dominated the news every day: Northern Ireland and the economy,” he recalled. “We had, nationally, very low self-confidence and we set low expectations for ourselves and for each other. There were still Irish jokes on British TV, emigration was really bad, and it was a very difficult time for Irish emigrants in Britain because of Northern Ireland.” Now, he sees a country that is undeniably hurting but still full of opportunities his generation knew nothing of.

“You have world-class employers and a work force that’s three times the size it was when I was a kid. You have peace in Northern Ireland and we have the best relations we’ve ever had with the British –  and that matters. Notwithstanding what we’re dealing with right now, there’s a sense of confidence. A few years ago that confidence had crossed the line into smugness, and now it’s being tested again. But I think Irish people are going to stay a much more confident people as a result of the progress that has been made,” he added.

When asked whether he would have the same take if he were still living in Ireland, Jones was quick to answer in the negative. “I actually don’t,” he said. “Because your perspective truly changes when you see things from a distance, and in many ways it’s a lot clearer. I suppose that’s the potential of the diaspora initiative; adding emigrants’ perspectives to the discussion and getting to better answers.”

From his vantage point here, with Ireland never too far away, Jones has certainly developed some ideas and opinions worth listening to. His success in finance, insights into Ireland’s problems, and his realistic views on how to tackle them mark him as a diaspora leader for Ireland at a time when leadership is badly needed.

Jones shared some words of advice that Goldman’s former CEO Hank Paulson gave him in 2004, when he called to tell Jones that he had been made a partner: “Be expansive in how you define your role.”

“He probably said that to a lot of people that day, but it resonated with me and I’ve come back to think about it many times since,” he said, modestly. “It sounds simple, but there’s a lot to it. Inside organizations – be it business or any kind of institution – there is always the risk of allowing others to define and limit your role, to constrain what you can do. But the fact is, you have a vote in that as well. Certainly play by the rules and be a good citizen within the institution, but always look for a situation in which you can add more, do more. Be creative and thoughtful in terms of how you can expand beyond your defined tasks.”

In the corporate world and beyond, that’s exactly what Jones does.

– – –

Endnote: Jones dedicates this article to the memory of Mary Jo O’Sullivan, who passed away as the magazine was going to press. Mary Jo was one of the first women to graduate from the Irish Cadet School, and was greatly loved and admired by classmates and friends for her courage and generosity of spirit.


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The First Word: The Irish World https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/the-first-word-the-irish-world/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/the-first-word-the-irish-world/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:21:28 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13073 Read more..]]> “I’ve lived almost half my life outside of Ireland but I am definitely Irish in terms of the teams I support, the sports I watch, what newspaper and websites I read first.”  
 – Adrian Jones

Early September mornings in New York take on that European feel. A breeze in from the river – no humidity. Everything clean from the overnight thunderstorm. Heading down the bike lane on Second Avenue, I pull over to adjust the understrap on my bike helmet. There’s a fruit stand right there and cherries are in season.  Propping my bike up against a railing, I look around for the vendor and, not seeing him, I grab a bag of cherries and put them on the weighting scales – two and a half pounds. I’m pondering whether I should just leave the money when a young man appears – dark-skinned, fine-featured, shiny brown-black hair cut in a longish shag. In a word – beautiful. (Michelangelo would have made a fine sculpture of him, methinks). He’s holding an open container of blueberries – “I just washed them good,”  he says holding them out to me. I take a handful. They are good, ripe and bursting with juice. Delicious.

“You Irish?” he asks and before I can reply he says, “Conas ta tu?” with a cheeky grin.

My native language rolling off the tongue of this young gallant is not something I was expecting on this New York morning.  As it turns out, my fruit vendor is Turkish, but I don’t find that out straight away. “Ireland is my true country,” he says, his hand on his heart. He tells me that he learned his Gaelic hanging out with a group of young Irish in Australia, and that because “such great people must come from a great country,” he left Australia and went to live in Ireland. (There may have been a romance involved.) Our sidewalk chat  turns to talk of the Irish weather, which we both agree is dismal, but he won’t be dissuaded that Ireland is anything less than perfect.

My Turkish friend thinks the Irish are easy-going, but “watch out” if you bother them.  “It’s the only country that doesn’t have an army,” he says. I correct him on that point but allow that the Irish Army is mainly engaged in peacekeeping missions.

Finally, with a wave of hands and “Slan’s” and way too much fruit – in addition to my cherries I now have two containers of blue-berries – I  pedal away smiling, picturing as I go all those young Irish in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, spreading the joy, and thinking about the uncanny ability of the Irish to make people like them.

I often randomly ask people what they think of the Irish, and the question always elicits a positive response. (A Chinese New York cab driver once told me that he liked the Irish because they never got sick in his cab. “They always open the door.” )

But it’s not just outsiders who have a thing for Ireland. For the Irish abroad,  like Adrian Jones, this issue’s cover story, Ireland will always be home.

After spending nearly half his life living outside Ireland, Adrian declares that he is  still “definitely” Irish.  And although he has one of the top jobs in the Merchant Banking Division at Goldman Sachs, he still finds time to stay involved with a number of charities and Irish causes.

Emigrés such as Adrian are increasingly being seen as having an important role to play in Ireland’s economic recovery, and he has some interesting comments to make on that idea in his forthright interview with Sheila Langan in this issue.

Ireland is asking more of its diaspora, yet, unlike almost every other country in the world, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K, and most of Europe, all of which allow passport holders to vote in elections, Irish citizens living abroad are not allowed to vote in Irish elections.

This means that generations of Irish are disenfranchised and punished for leaving the island to find work. They can’t vote at home and they can’t vote in whatever country they find themselves unless they take out citizenship, a process that can take years.

Since the early 1990s, the Irish government has been paying lip service to the idea of allowing emigrants a vote but nothing ever happens.

It’s time to ask not what the Irish diaspora can do for the country, but what the country can do for the diaspora.

A vote would be a good place to start.

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Irish Awards for the Diaspora https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/irish-awards-for-the-diaspora/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/irish-awards-for-the-diaspora/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:20:10 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13070 Read more..]]> The Irish government announced the first recipients of the Presidential Distinguished Service Awards.

Ireland has a diaspora of over 70 million around the world, many of whom maintain a close connection with the country of their ancestors. From philanthropy to activism, from education to business and the public sphere, many of the diaspora have demonstrated exceptional passion for Irish causes.

A new Irish award, the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad, aims to recognize these individuals and celebrate their great work. The inaugural recipients were announced in early September, and will be honored in a ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin, the president’s residence in Dublin, on November 15.

Irish Americans dominate the first group of recipients. The four honorees living in the U.S. are Chuck Feeney, who has donated over 1.5 billion dollars to the Irish university system (he recently also received the first-ever honorary degree to be awarded by the Irish universities as a group); Don Keough, the former president and COO of Coca-Cola, who brought the company to Ireland and has spearheaded many programs there; Loretta Brennan Glucksman, chair of the American Ireland Fund; and Sr. Lena Deevy, community educator and executive director of Boston’s Irish Immigration Center.

Awardees from around the world include business mogul and Irish community leader Pat Kelly of Ottawa; Pierre Joannan, Ireland’s Honorary Consul General in France and a great promoter of Franco-Irish connections; Fr. Michael Kelly, for his research and work with HIV and AIDS in Zambia; Irish Council of State member and activist Sally Mulready and businessman Andy Rogers of England, each of whom have established a number of networks and initiatives for the Irish in Great Britain and beyond; and the late Jim Stynes, one of Australia’s best football players and a great philanthropist.

In a statement, President Michael D. Higgins said “Each of the awardees has distinguished themselves by the long-standing service they have given to Ireland and to the Irish community abroad.” The awards are to be given annually. Nominees must reside outside the island of Ireland and have rendered distinguished service to the nation and/or its reputation abroad.

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Is Ireland Losing Its Religion? https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/is-ireland-losing-its-religion/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/is-ireland-losing-its-religion/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:19:16 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13060 Read more..]]> A new Gallup poll indicates a decline in religious affiliation in Ireland.

Fifty years ago, Ireland was one of the most religious countries in Europe, but according to a recently released poll, taken by the Gallup International in 2011, Ireland now ranks among the top ten atheist nations worldwide. These results are a huge shift from the last poll, in 2005. In the six years between the two, one in five Irish set aside religion.  These results indicate that of the Western nations, Ireland is losing its religious identity the fastest.

The Gallup  poll, titled the Global Index of Religion and Atheism, asked 50,000 people in 57 countries “irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”  The 2005 poll showed that 69% of the Irish respondents considered themselves religious, 25% as not religious, and 3% as convinced atheists. In 2011, 47% considered themselves religious, 44% not religious and 10% convinced atheists. These most recent poll results reflect a 22% drop in religious identification among the Irish in just six years, with a corresponding increase in both “not religious” and “convinced atheist” categories. Some suggest the study could reflect the shattered trust and negativity surrounding the numerous sex-abuse scandals and corruption within the Church, “rocking established religion in the predominately Roman Catholic country.”

In a rebuttal to the poll’s results, a spokesperson for the Catholic Communications Office said that religion is not a “numbers game” and that the word “religious’” is too general to be used as the key word in a survey, especially in Ireland where the people prefer words like “spiritual.”

Numbers game or not, Ireland ties with Austria, Iceland and Australia with ten percent of respondents in the “convinced atheist” category.

Ireland is not the only country showing a significant decline in religious identity – the United States saw a 13% drop in religious identification over the same period.

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Irish Eye on Hollywood https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/irish-eye-on-hollywood-25/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/irish-eye-on-hollywood-25/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:18:26 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13065 Read more..]]> The latest Irish and Irish-American news in film and television.

1. Let’s hope the ever-busy Brendan Gleeson doesn’t get whiplash.

The Dublin-born star of recent flicks such as The Guard as well as the Harry Potter movies is regarded as one of the most versatile actors in the world.  Still, even Gleeson may have a little trouble making the transition from At Swim Two Birds to Smurfs 2.

As is well known by now, Gleeson is adapting At Swim Two Birds for the big screen. The movie is based on the challenging but brilliant Irish novel by Flann O’Brien (writing under the pen name Brian O’Nolan). The novel, published in 1939, is a head-spinner about an Irish student of literature who rages against the basic conventions of storytelling, so that it’s hard to tell which elements of the plot are O’Brien’s creation and which are the creations of his creations.

At Swim Two Birds is also expected to star Michael Fassbender, Colin Farrell, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Cillian Murphy and Gleeson’s own actor-son Domhnall, who has appeared in True Grit and Dredd 3D. (Look for Domhnall in Joe Wright’s forthcoming movie version of Anna Karenina.)

Brendan Gleeson has said At Swim Two Birds will be released in about a year or so, though he has admitted the script has already gone through over a dozen rewrites.
In the meantime, Gleeson will go on to star in the slightly less brainy Smurfs 2, also featuring the voice and live action work of Sofia Vergara, Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria. Smurfs 2 is slated to be in theaters July 2013.

2. Also expected in summer 2013 is the highly anticipated film of Irish-American literary legend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel The Great Gatsby. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Baz Luhrmann, the film had been slated for a winter release, but producers have said they believe the 3D flick can be a summer blockbuster.

3. Like Brendan Gleeson, another Irish thespian going the sequel route is Liam Neeson. This October, look for Neeson to be kicking some more serious butt in Taken 2, also starring Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen. Not that Neeson needed any more arrows in his quiver, but the Ballymena native – having earned respect on stage and in serious films such as Schindler’s List – is now a bankable action star. In Taken 2, Neeson once again plays retired CIA operative Bryan Mills. Set in Istanbul, the film follows Mills and his wife as they are taken hostage by the father of a kidnapper Mills killed in the first Taken film.

4. Also in October, look for Colin Farrell collaborating with acclaimed Irish playwright and director Martin McDonagh in Seven Psychopaths. The film is about a screenwriter (Farrell) whose unsavory best friend is an unemployed actor and part-time dog thief who crosses the wrong man. Also starring in Seven Psychopaths are Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson. The film re-teams Farrell and McDonagh, who, along with the aforementioned Brendan Gleeson, filmed the criminally underrated In Bruges in 2008. Perhaps McDonagh can help Farrell regain his box office mojo after pricey re-make flops such as Fright Night and Total Recall.

5. In November, it’s time for history class, when Daniel Day-Lewis returns to the big screen to portray Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s biopic of the 16th president. It will be curious to see if the great director will touch upon Lincoln and the Irish, who were loyal Democrats and, thus, generally not supporters of Lincoln or the Civil War he oversaw.

6. Colm Meaney is set to star in an Irish-American film project called The Yank. Set in Cleveland, the film features writer/director Sean Lackey in the starring role, as Tom Murphy, a conflicted son who wants to please his Irish- American parents by marrying a sweet lass. When a pal decides to hold his wedding in Ireland, Tom thinks it might be his best chance to find his beloved Colleen. Of course, Irish-American expectations clash with 21st-century reality. Meaney will reportedly be playing the role of curmudgeonly farmer Fintan Maguire. Fred Willard and Kevin Farley (brother of Chris) have also been linked to the project. Lackey himself is the son of Irish immigrants who settled in Cleveland. The Yank started shooting in late July (the opening scene takes place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and could be in theaters next year.

As for Colm Meaney, he can currently be seen in AMC’s Western railroad series Hell on Wheels, and is also tapped to appear in the film Occult, as well as an Irish picture entitled Belfast Story. The latter also stars Malcolm Sinclair and is set in post-Troubles Belfast, where terrorists find themselves out of work and looking to crime. Producers hope to bring Belfast Story to U.S. theaters next year.

7. Irish-American icon Grace Kelly will be the subject of a new biopic entitled Grace of Monaco, and Nicole Kidman has reportedly been cast in the starring role.

Set to hit screens in 2014, the film will focus on the year or so during which Princess Grace – as she was known after marrying Rainier III – prevented a coup in Monaco. She was seen as a key player in brokering peace after French leader Charles de Gaulle ordered Rainier to institute key reforms or face dire consequences. Tim Roth has also signed on to the project, and will portray Rainier III. Frank Langella will appear as well.

Kelly, of course, was a Philadelphia native and one of Hollywood’s brightest stars in the 1950s, appearing in Alfred Hitchcock classics such as Rear Window and To Catch a Thief. Following her marriage, she stopped making films.

8. Tim Roth, incidentally, has also appeared alongside Irish actor Cillian Murphy in the film Broken, which was screened at Cannes in May but has not yet received an American release date. Broken (written by Irishman Mark O’Rowe, who also wrote the fine Irish film Intermission) is about a young girl (Eloise Laurence) in London who witnesses a violent crime. No word yet on when Broken might be released in the U.S.

Though he had a role in the mega-hit Dark Knight Rises, Murphy has not had the best luck at the box office of late, with films such as In Time and Tron: Legacy. Perhaps that’s one reason Murphy is going the TV route next. He will appear in a BBC mini-series entitled Perky Blinders about gangsters in post World War I Birmingham. Aside from poverty and angry revolutionaries, Murphy’s character must also contend with a mysterious woman and a ruthless Belfast police chief.

9. Irish actor Liam Cunningham will team up with Irish American John Cusack and up-and-comer Malin Ackerman (Rock of Ages ) in the thriller The Numbers Station.  Expected to be released later this year, The Numbers Station follows
a CIA operative with a troubled past who has been given a simple assignment: protect a 20-year-old woman. Needless to say, things get complicated.

10. Saoirse Ronan has several new projects on tap. The young Oscar nominee will star in Byzantium, to be directed by fellow Irish star Neil Jordan. Also starring Gemma Arterton and Johnny Lee Miller, Byzantium is a vampire thriller and was shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Ronan is also linked to films such as The Host and Justin and   the Knights of Valor, though perhaps her most intriguing upcoming project is a biopic about Mary Queen of Scots.

Ronan is expected to play the title role in the film of the Catholic queen who was crowned when she was under a year old and executed in 1587 during England’s religious wars.

11. Finally, on the TV front, Dublin actor Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) has signed on to an HBO series entitled Family Tree, while Irish American Jerry O’Connell (Crossing Jordan, Stand By Me) is slated to star in Mockingbird Lane, a reboot of the classic black-and-white TV series The Munsters.

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The Emerald Isle Classic: An Irish and Irish-American Dream https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/the-emerald-isle-classic-what-irish-and-irish-american-dreams-are-made-of/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/the-emerald-isle-classic-what-irish-and-irish-american-dreams-are-made-of/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:17:40 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13052 Read more..]]> Irish America’s publisher, Niall O’Dowd, wrote from the Notre Dame vs. Navy football game in Dublin.

In years to come, hardcore Notre Dame fans will ask “Were you there?” when this Dublin game against Navy is discussed.

I predict it will be right up there with many of the great moments of this storied college. What a day to be both Irish and American.

If you were not proud of your heritage in Dublin on September 1, then you lack an emotional bone in your body.

I’m a sucker for two national anthems: the Irish and U.S. ones. Hearing them both played at the commencement of the Notre Dame/Navy football game at the astonishing Aviva Stadium in Dublin was a deeply emotional moment.

The Aviva is built acoustically to keep the sound waves in, to magnify the impact of the home crowd, and as the thunderous anthems rolled across the stadium I saw many in tears.

This was the homecoming to beat the band, the day that Ireland saw what the legend of Notre Dame meant to so many millions of Irish Americans as 35,000 fans made the pilgrimage across the Atlantic.

The Fighting Irish scored 50 points to Navy’s 10, giving a high-octane performance no doubt fueled by the emotion of the homecoming and the historic nature of the clash.

Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame team overwhelmed Navy in the first half, with a 27-3 lead. The Irish defense continued  strong, allowing only one Navy touchdown.

Trey Miller, Navy’s quarterback, did hit 14 of 19 pass attempts in the air, with a new tactic from coach Ken Niumatalolo, but the team averaged less than three yards per carry.

Theo Riddick and George Atkinson of the Fighting Irish ran for first-quarter touchdowns, and tight end Tyler Eifert caught a five-yard touchdown pass.

Stephon Tuitt scooped up Navy quarterback Trey Miller’s fumble and rumbled to the end zone to put the Irish up 27-0 in the second quarter.

Navy kicked a 26-yard field goal before halftime and opened the second half with a three-pass drive capped by Shawn Lynch’s 25-yard grab to make it 27-10. Atkinson and Riddick replied with two of Notre Dame’s three second-half touchdowns.

Somewhere, Coach Kelly’s Irish antecedents were waking up the echoes, pointing to the great-grandson of Irish emigrants doing them so proud back in the old sod.

For the best part of the week every location on this island has felt the power and emotional strength of that diaspora to which many pay lip service but never fully acknowledge.

The spangled banner stretched from Kerry in the south to Belfast in the north, and points east and west. For a country so troubled economically it was manna from heaven. But there was emotional sustenance too; the sense of a tribe reuniting, if only for a brief time.

The Irish National Anthem contains the words “Buion Dar Slua, Thar Toinn De Ranaig Chughainn.” Roughly translated it is an explicit recognition of “Those who have come, of our ancestral race, from a land beyond the wave.”

It was a recognition of the Irish who left and the generations they bred who still cared deeply about the land.

It was a clear reference to the Irish in America, and at the Aviva stadium on Saturday they did indeed come in their tens of thousands from the land beyond the waves.

You could not imagine a more picture perfect scenario. The leaden Irish skies of summer gave way to a brisk autumnal day, reminiscent of South Bend, Indiana, Notre Dame’s home turf, in the fall.

The CBS network carried the images back across the broad Atlantic, and one can only speculate how many who watched will be stirred to make that homecoming journey too.

The game was the vision of Irish businessman Martin Naughton and his American counterpart Don Keough, former President of the Coca-Cola Company. The two should be renamed the “Sunshine Boys” for the ray of light they shone on Ireland yesterday at a time of tough economic times.

Sunshine it was, and a weekend to remember – one of the best ever, in fact.

More photos from the Emerald Isle Classic:

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A Young Kennedy Returns to His Roots in Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/a-young-kennedy-returns-to-his-roots-in-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/a-young-kennedy-returns-to-his-roots-in-ireland/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:16:59 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13047 Read more..]]> Bobby Kennedy III travels to New Ross, Co. Wexford for the Irish America Hall of Fame inductions of Robert F. Kennedy and Eunice Shriver Kennedy, and the inaugural Kennedy Summer School.

The inaugural Kennedy Summer School was held in New Ross, Co. Wexford, September 6-8. Twelve separate events celebrated Irish-American history politics and culture, and the legacy of the Kennedy family in Ireland, and both Robert F. Kennedy and Eunice Kennedy Shriver were posthumously inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame.

The highlight on day one was a special presentation by Irish broadcaster and historian John Bowman on the 50 years of politics on Irish television since President Kennedy made his historic visit to Ireland in 1963. Bowman provided a fascinating take on the impact of television in the modern history of Ireland

The Kennedy civil rights legacy was discussed on Friday with keynote addresses by Professor Howard Keeley of Georgia South University and Austin Currie, former government minister of Ireland – both North and South.

At the conclusion of this event, Robert F. Kennedy was posthumously inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame. The formal induction address was given by the Minister for Public Service Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, who presented a specially commissioned presentation piece to Robert Kennedy’s grandson, Bobby Kennedy III. The presentation was given by the Minister on behalf of Irish America, and a portrait of Robert Kennedy was unveiled at the Dunbrody Irish Emigration History Center in New Ross.

Upon receiving the award Bobby Kennedy said, “I’ll accept this award and deliver it to my grandmother on behalf of her and my uncles and aunts and my many, many cousins. I’ll try to bring as many of them as I can back here next year, and if we get a third of them, we’re going to need a bigger room.”

Also on Friday, Geraldine Kennedy, the former editor of the Irish Times, was interviewed by Kennedy Summer School director Noel Whelan. Their fascinating conversation delved into the current Irish political climate, and Kennedy (no relation) put forth her view that it might be time for a new major political party to develop in Ireland in the coming years.

In anticipation of the coming U.S. elections, a Presidential Forum was held on Saturday. Leading Democratic Party strategist Tad Devine gave an up-to-date assessment of the prospects in the upcoming election, while Aine Kerr of Storyful.com stepped off the plane directly from the Democratic and Republican conventions to give her reflections on each. Tom Plank, the chairman of Republicans Abroad, Ireland; Larry Donnelly, legal counsel to Democrats Abroad, Ireland; and Professor Garry Murphy of Dublin City University also spoke.

Saturday afternoon saw Bobby Kennedy visit his Irish cousins at the Kennedy family homestead in Dunganstown, just as his great-uncle did in 1963.

The final event on Saturday evening was a tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her incredible work with the Special Olympics, which concluded with her induction into the Irish America Hall of Fame. Bobby Kennedy III made this presentation on behalf of Irish America to Special Olympic athlete Ann Hickey, who received the posthumous award on behalf of the Shriver family.


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Fordham Law to Host Famine Tribunal https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/fordham-law-to-host-famine-tribunal/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/fordham-law-to-host-famine-tribunal/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:15:18 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13043 Read more..]]> UPDATE: The Irish Famine Tribunal has been rescheduled for April 2013 due to overwhelming requests and limited seating capacity at the original venue. It is still to be held at Fordham. Specific dates will follow.

More than 150 years after the fact, a tribunal examining the Irish Famine will be held at Fordham Law School in New York City on October 19 and 20. The stated aim of the tribunal, the first of its kind, is to “assess the impact of the Great Irish Famine (also known as the Great Hunger) on the Irish population, and to  examine its political, economic, cultural and physiological legacies, all within a legal framework.”

New York activist Owen Rodgers organized the committee, comprised mostly of experts in law, history, and sociology, and will explore the Famine through a fresh approach to scholarly analysis. According to its statement of intent, the tribunal will “investigate the nature of the catastrophe and the various steps taken to counteract its severity by the responsible institutions of governance. . . The efficacy of the Poor Laws and the workhouse system will be examined with a view to determine whether the optimum level of counter-famine protection was afforded by the Government and local authorities to those most in need of assistance.”

An Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger, has been the subject of study and scholarly debate for years. This tribunal will place a particular focus on John Mitchel’s claim that the English government encouraged and even aggravated the effects of the Famine for the purpose of thinning the Irish population. It will also utilize the “Nuremberg Defense,” which explores how people can be held culpable for violating laws which did not exist at the time of offense.

The tribunal will formally sit on  October 19 and 20. The trial will be held on the first day, and the consequences of the Famine, in light of the findings, will be discussed on the second day. The committee is compiling a bibliography in advance, which will allow those who are interested to become better prepared to study the issues that will be addressed. On October  21, Dr. Garrett O’Connor and Thomas Keneally will present the evidence and findings to a committee of judges.

Notable supporters of the tribunal include Professor Christine Kinealy, Professor Declan Kiberd, Irish artist Robert Ballagh, playwright Brian Friel, actress Fionnula Flanagan, writer Peter Quinn, Irish politician Frank McManus, and writer and producer Martin Lynch, among many others. – C.D.

Visit www.irishfaminetribunal.com for details

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Galway Toasts Anjelica https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/galway-toasts-anjelica/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/galway-toasts-anjelica/#respond Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:14:56 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13039 Read more..]]> Anjelica Huston has an enduring connection to Ireland. She spent much of her childhood on her father John Huston’s estate in Galway, St. Clerans, and starred in his last film, an adaptation of James Joyce’s short story The Dead.

On November 1, NUI Galway, home to the Huston School of Film and Digital Media, will honor Huston, who can currently be seen in in the hit TV show Smash, with a dinner in New York City, held by the Galway University Foundation. The 6th annual NUI Galway Gala dinner will also celebrate NUI Galway alum Michael P. Higgins, managing director and head of US Real Estate Finance at CIBC World Markets, and will feature a special performance by Moya Brennan and Clannad. Proceeds from the dinner will support the Huston School of Film and Digital Media, which was founded in 2003 under the patronage of the Huston family.

For tickets and for further information visit www.guf.ie

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From Clare to Here: A Journey in Photographs https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/from-clare-to-here-a-journey-in-photographs/ https://irishamerica.com/2012/09/from-clare-to-here-a-journey-in-photographs/#comments Tue, 25 Sep 2012 10:13:06 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=13034 Read more..]]> Christy McNamara, a photographer and traditional musician from Crusheen, Co. Clare, has been capturing images of Ireland for over 20 years. From up-close portraits of some of Ireland’s best-known musicians, including U2, The Pogues, and a number of traditional artists, to scenes from the annual Spancill horse fair and close-ups of life in rural Ireland, McNamara has a gift for capturing evocative, emblematic moments.

His photographs will be featured in an upcoming solo exhibition at the Consulate General of Ireland in New York, from November 4 to December 21. With a particular emphasis on his photographs of musicians, the exhibition will include shots from his acclaimed book The Living Note, a collaboration with writer Peter Woods.

For McNamara, the exhibition – and his photographs – are, at their essence, about telling a story of home and tradition. “I began this work almost 20 years ago as a matter of urgency,” he said. “Many of the older people featured in this exhibition are now dead and gone. I was privileged to have grown up around them, to hear them play and to be part of this music family and community. They touched my heart, opened my eyes and revealed their soul in the music.” He also noted that the intimate quality of his photographs are a direct product of his being so close to the subjects. “I would never have been able to take these pictures without being part of it. This is a view from within and a celebration of those who played the music and passed it on,” he added.

Visit www.christymcnamara.com for more information.

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