October November 2015 Issue – Irish America https://irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine Mon, 22 Jul 2019 14:31:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 82361074 2015 Wall Street 50 Keynote Interview: KPMG’s Shaun Kelly https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/2015-wall-street-50-keynote-interview-kpmgs-shaun-kelly/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/2015-wall-street-50-keynote-interview-kpmgs-shaun-kelly/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:59:24 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23307 Read more..]]> Shaun Kelly won’t stop smiling. Photographer Kit DeFever asks him to put on a serious face for our cover shot but Kelly, a COO of KPMG, just can’t hold it and soon the corners of his mouth are curling up again and his eyes are sparkling behind his glasses – ever the Catholic school boy failing to repress some devilish, clever thought.

Even in the most lighthearted moment, you can see the intellect at work. Anyone who knows Kelly can tell you how the kid from West Belfast grew up to be Chief Operating Officer of the Americas for one of the Big 4 accounting firms.

“Rarely have I met a man of such great intelligence and accomplishment who is still able to maintain his wonderful sense of humor,” said Tom Moran, Chairman of Mutual of America, who has served on several boards with Kelly. “His wonderful smile instantly tells you that this is someone you want as a friend!”

From the minute you enter his office in the towering skyscraper on Park Avenue, the COO projects the natural warmth and generous spirit that puts those around him at immediate ease. Add to that a quiet confidence and lyrical laugh, and you understand why he’s not just respected, but a beloved figure in the firm. “Life is too short to be taken seriously,” Kelly says, his boyhood accent undiminished by 30-plus years of travel around the globe, the most recent being a business trip to Colombia where his Spanish was only más o menos. “Every time I start a presentation I have to apologize that I don’t speak Spanish and that my English isn’t very good either,” he laughs. “But I’m determined to learn!” The good news? “Everyone smiles in the same language.”

Born in 1959, Shaun was a teenager in the 70s, a heightened time of segregation, bombings and street warfare in Belfast. Guts and a sense of humor were essential survival tools. “We were just kids trying to have fun,” he says, “but looking back it was when the Shankill Butchers [a brutal gang] roamed the streets. Our parents must have been so worried when we went out at night.”

The Troubles affected everyone. Some more than others. Shaun’s Uncle John, his father’s brother, was shot and killed by the British Army. “They said it was a mistake; they thought he was holding a gun.”

A mistake that should never have happened. But Shaun holds no rancor. In fact, his experiences growing up during the Troubles have turned him into a champion of diversity with a vision for the future of Northern Ireland as a place where everyone feels comfortable regardless of background.

Pictured at the  annual Irish Arts Center  Spirit of Ireland Gala, Mary Kelly, Liam Neeson and Shaun Kelly.

Pictured at the annual Irish Arts Center Spirit of Ireland Gala, Mary Kelly, Liam Neeson and Shaun Kelly.

The 70s was also a time of joblessness. “Eighty to ninety percent of Catholic males in certain parts of Northern Ireland were unemployed,” said Shaun, whose father worked for a big construction company. On the weekends, he would do “homers,” installing windows and doors. As the only son (Shaun had two sisters, one of whom has passed away), Shaun would accompany his father on these part time jobs.

“He was very skilled with his hands and I was a total klutz. I couldn’t do anything! I think that was part of why he brought me with him. It was his way of saying, ‘Look, this is not what you are going to be doing. You are going to get a degree and get your qualifications. You are going to do that.’ He always wanted me to be an architect because he left school when he was 16. I am sure if he had the opportunities, he would have been an engineer or an architect. But coming from the Falls Road and a family of nine, he just didn’t have the opportunity.”

Shaun’s mother was English. “They met when my father was working in England. That’s why I am S-h-a-u-n. So that was the compromise.”

Architecture didn’t tempt Shaun, who couldn’t draw, but he was interested in business. “I always loved math, history and economics. I really got into accounting – the numbers appealed to me.”

He went south to University College Dublin (UCD), rather than Belfast’s Queen’s University, because he wanted to play Gaelic football.

Queen’s University honored Shaun with an honorary Doctorate of Science (Economics) for  services to business  and commerce.

Queen’s University honored Shaun with an honorary Doctorate of Science (Economics) for services to business and commerce.

Sports, in particular football, offered an escape from everything that was going on during the Troubles. “It gave you a sense of camaraderie and something to look forward to,” says Shaun. He was a good enough athlete to play for the County Antrim minor team – a big deal even by today’s standards. And he is “a great believer in sports and the importance of teamwork.”

Shaun joined KPMG International’s Irish member firm in Dublin soon after graduating with a first class honors degree in commerce, and in 1983, he sat for the accountancy exam, coming first in Ireland. Within a year, he had gotten married and transferred to the KPMG San Francisco office.

He has spent most of his career at KPMG. Taking a break in the early 1990s, he returned to Belfast and was part of the team that established a new audit, tax and consulting firm in the city. But by the end of the decade he was back with the firm. Now, as COO of the Americas, he spends about 60 percent of his time traveling to meet with company leaders in Latin and South America.

A student of history, the travel allows Kelly to explore other cultures, and with 162,000 partners and professionals in 152 countries, the firm is a perfect fit for someone with a global approach to life and appreciation for how others live their lives. He’s quick to point out that the firm is more than just about finance. “We are not just a bunch of accountants,” he says of KPMG’s involvement in major world events.

“Our firm verified the first multi-racial elections in South Africa in 1994 that brought an end to apartheid. And during the Iranian hostage crisis in Tehran in 1979, Peat Marwick (precursor to KPMG) was called in to sort through an intricate web of conflicting claims and counter-claims, before the 54 U.S. hostages could be released. In New York, we were on-site at Ground Zero on the morning after 9/11 to help oversee the clean-up and monitor the costs. Working around the clock, our team quickly built a cost data capturing system to track expenses. And beyond that, the capital markets wouldn’t function without the auditor, and audited financial statements. And the stock market and the financial markets in general would not function the way they do.”

Shaun with Tom Moran, chairman of Mutual of America and Chancellor of Queen’s University, under the portrait of peacemaker George Mitchell.

Shaun with Tom Moran, chairman of Mutual of America and Chancellor of Queen’s University, under the portrait of peacemaker George Mitchell.

For all the financial transactions that KPMG enacts, Shaun emphasizes that it is also a big-hearted firm with tremendous public outreach across a range of programs. Through KPMG’s Family for Literacy (KFFL) program, which works to eradicate childhood illiteracy, over 2.5 million books have been given to children fromlow income communities since its inception in 2008. He himself is co-chair of KPMG’s Disabilities Network, and a member of KPMG’s Diversity Advisory Board. He is also the treasurer of Enactus, a community of student, academic and business leaders that has the backing of KPMG in transforming lives and shaping a more sustainable world.

The Irish-American community also benefits from Shaun’s largesse. Wall Street 50 honoree Tara McCabe who is a board director of the American Ireland Fund, and is involved in the Irish Arts Center – two of the several organizations that Shaun is involved with – says, “I am so impressed by Shaun – not just for his success but even more so for his character, generosity and compassion and support of meaningful causes.”

For his part, Shaun says that the arts were an essential part of his early life in Belfast. “I see beyond the arts, to how important they are in the social community context,” he says. “Growing up, I remember going to see Planxty, Christy Moore, the Undertones and other acts at the Ulster Hall and they were a welcome distraction from what was going on. And that is why I am such an avid supporter of the Irish Arts Center in New York and their capital campaign to build a new center.”

In all that he does, Belfast is never far from Shaun’s thoughts. He expresses gratitude for Bill and Hillary Clinton’s part in the peace process and their ongoing commitment to Northern Ireland. And he greatly admires former SDLP leader John Hume for his part in the undertaking. His own deep knowledge and commitment to his hometown is one of the reasons Declan Kelly, who served as Hillary Clinton’s economic envoy to Northern Ireland from 2009-11, sought his help.

Shaun with  NI golfer Rory McIlroy,  current number one player in the official World Golf Ranking.

Shaun with NI golfer Rory McIlroy, current number one player in the official World Golf Ranking.

“For many reasons, Shaun was one of the first guys I went to when I was putting the advisory group together,” said Kelly.

“He understands the dynamic of Northern Ireland exceptionally well given his background, and his professional expertise was incredibly helpful because the focus of my work was bringing inward investment into the region.”

Kelly went on to compliment Shaun as “someone who does the work and doesn’t ask for any of the recognition. He is interested in the outcome of the process and not just the process itself. In other words, he knows how to get the job done.”

For all his charm and talent for closing a deal, there is one notable holdout who turned Kelly down three times before finally agreeing to his offer. His wife Mary only accepted his proposal on the fourth try – when he had qualified as a Chartered Accountant and “I could afford her.” It’s clear that she’s the love of his life.

And he’s obviously the love of hers. How else could you explain the willingness to uproot and move seven times around the globe as Kelly followed his career path with KPMG? He beams too when he talks about his children. His two eldest, Rachel and Natalie, now in their 20s, were born in San Francisco. Rachel is pursuing her Ph.D. in micro and molecular biology, and Natalie works in private equity. His two youngest, Lauren and Timothy, were born in Belfast. Timothy, who is now at George Washington University, is interested in politics. He interned for the British Embassy this past summer, and is involved with the American Ireland Fund Young Leaders in Washington, D.C.

Lauren, now 24, has Down syndrome. “It gives you another perspective, and it made us closer as a family,” says Kelly, who talks about his daughter’s fierce determination. When she was young she was an avid swimmer and has always loved music. She’s one of the reasons why he’s a co-chair of KPMG’s Disabilities Network, and a supporter of Special Olympics. At the World Games in New Jersey in 2014, KPMG sponsored the Golf Tournament with hundreds of its employees volunteering to drive golf carts and help in other ways.

It’s no surprise that “inclusion” is a favorite word of Kelly’s – it comes up when he speaks of family, of work, and his worldview. The very definition of inclusion may well be the key to his personal and professional success. After all, he’d be the first to tell you he didn’t do it alone.

Shaun and his wife, Mary, surrounded by their children, left to right, Timothy, Lauren, Natalie and Rachel.

Shaun and his wife, Mary, surrounded by their children, left to right, Timothy, Lauren, Natalie and Rachel.

Who were your early influences at KPMG?

I have worked with great leaders in KPMG, including Eugene O’Kelly, Tim Flynn and John Veihmeyer, all of whom set some really great values for the firm.

Gene was the first partner I worked for when I arrived in San Francisco in 1984. I learned a lot from him about the importance of building relationships and recognizing what your own person- al unique selling point is. He helped me understand that my Irish background was a way to help distinguish myself and build relationships. He was also a great believer in investing in people. In the late 1980s when Mary and I were thinking about returning to Ireland to raise our two daughters, I was flying to Belfast from San Francisco to speak to a few people about what opportunities there might be. I had told only a few close friends that I was thinking of going home. Gene got wind of it and as I was sitting at the gate in SFO my name was paged that there was an urgent call for me. I thought it was Mary looking for me but it was Gene. He said he understood that I was considering going back home and if that was my decision he would respect it but he urged me to at least speak to him before making a final decision. He said I really needed to fully understand all of my options in the U.S. before deciding. In the end Mary and I did decide to go back, but Gene taking time to reach out was the mark of a great leader. Just before he passed away in 2005, he sent me a personal note thanking me for all that I had done when I had worked for him and to wish me well in the future. He sent similar notes to many others.

One of the things I learned from Tim Flynn was the importance of recognizing the leadership potential of your team and to have the courage to give them the opportunity to lead even when it seemed like a strange move or a stretch for them. In 2005 I was leading our Transaction Services (M&A) practice. When Tim became KPMG Chairman and CEO, succeeding Gene, he reached out to me to ask me to become the leader of our U.S. Tax practice. I had never worked in our tax practice and it was a much bigger business than the one I had been running. When I raised this with him, he outlined his rationale. He told me that I would be working with a strong tax leadership team that had great tax skills and that what I was bringing to the table was strong communication and relationship building skills and the ability to grow businesses. I was very nervous at the start, but in the end it worked and I look back with pride on what we achieved in the tax practice for the five years I had the privilege of leading it.

What I have learned from John Veihmeyer, who just finished his term as U.S. Chairman and CEO and is now Global Chairman, and who despite his name is an Irish American and a Notre Dame alum, is that the key to an organization’s success is culture. In a purpose-driven culture where the people feel inspired by their work and the opportunities ahead of them, and valued for their contributions to their team, the organization and the community at large. Last year, we invited our people to share their own stories of higher purpose in the work that they do and we received more than 40,000 stories. John always says that KPMG’s success comes from our people putting our values and purpose into action, and these stories were a true testament to his belief.”

What are some of your own personal leadership maxims?

In our business of public accounting, I think trust and integrity and being honest and telling the truth at all times, are paramount. It sounds very simple, but to always say please and thank you is important. That’s something we Irish learned at an early age from our parents and grandparents, and another was to treat people with respect and dignity.

Seeing a lot of things I saw in the 70s, you certainly understood that everybody is important no matter their background and you should treat them all equally and with respect and dignity. And in business, if in difficult times you sometimes have to let people go you have to remember they are important and they have a family and people who depend on them, so treat them with respect, and help them move on.

The other thing that is important is to take responsibility, particularly in leadership. It is good to celebrate success and take the credit for success on behalf of the team, but also take responsibility when things don’t go right, by saying, “I was in charge, that was on my watch, that was my responsibility.” So hold yourself accountable and do the same for others.

I’ve seen young leaders make the mistake of not holding others accountable. If someone is working for you and they aren‘t delivering, you have to call them out. Don’t try to brush it under the carpet or not take it head on because you don’t want to have a difficult conversation. Having those honest and difficult conversations in the right way, in the right manner, is the way to go.

What comes first, strategy or team?

I remember at UCD Business School the message was, “Set your strategy and then hire people who fit your strategy.” I’ve learned that yes, you need to have a strategy, but things change so much. Look at what I have seen in the past 15 years – the dot com bubble burst, 9/11, the financial crisis. These events happen more regularly now, but if you‘ve got the right people, smart people, they’ll figure out the right strategy. They will know when to change and how to change the course. In other words, hire the right people and the strategy will follow.

Also, I am a big believer in building strong trusting relationships both in business, internal to your own organization, and personal. No matter what we say about technology advances, having the right relationships is really important.

I still keep in touch with the people I went to UCD with. Now they are CEOs and in other important positions, and that network and those relationships are important to me. And on the personal side, I remember moving to San Francisco in 1984, having just married Mary. We knew very few people. We were learning the new environment but during that time we built strong relationships, friends that we have today over thirty years later. So, I would tell the young millennials to remember to build strong and trusting relationships; internal and external.

What are some other qualities of a good leader?

Don’t panic when things are getting tough. You have to have a sense of urgency, but don’t panic. Your team is relying on you to say, “Let’s take stock of the situation. What do we need to get done? Here are the ten things we need to address.” And you know, people do amazing things in tough situations. I saw it – especially after 9/11. The last thing the team needs [in a tough situation] is a leader running around with their hair on fire.

And then finally – as Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” Have fun. I think you have got to have fun with what you do. Particularly with millennials we are seeing that work is more than just getting a paycheck. It’s, “Am I enjoying what I am doing and am I working with people I enjoy? Do I feel I have value? Do I have a sense of purpose?”

KPMG sponsors pro golfers Phil Mickelson and Stacy Lewis, who, pictured above with Shaun,  support KPMG's literacy efforts. KPMG donates 5,000 books to a local organization for every win on the golf course.

KPMG sponsors pro golfers Phil Mickelson and Stacy Lewis, who, pictured above with Shaun, support KPMG’s literacy efforts. KPMG donates 5,000 books to a local organization for every win on the golf course.

You left KPMG and moved back to Belfast for a time. How did that work out?

I moved back to Belfast in the 1990s, when I joined a small firm with other KPMG guys. We actually built it up into one of the largest firms in Northern Ireland. My sister works with Belfast City Council. And when I was there, I did a lot of work with the city on economic development. I worked in corporate recovery and one of the jobs we had was that we were the receivers to the Europa Hotel in Belfast. It was bombed twice when we were the receivers.

The first time it was bombed, the head of security called me late one night and said, “Mr. Kelly, I have good news and I have bad news.” And I said, “Well, give me the good news first.” He said, “We won’t need the window cleaners for a while.”

The Europa was the most bombed hotel in the world. The government did provide some funds to help with the rebuilding, but as the hotel was in receivership, we did not know if we could access enough funding to keep it up and running. I remember that we had a meeting with the staff. There was this one guy from West Belfast. He said, “Mr. Kelly, I know you are all very smart men, but I’m telling you that this hotel was never closed and it’s not going to close now.” We did keep it open and were able to find a buyer, and the hotel is a very successful business today.

I remember having some similar discussions with people after 9/11. You can’t let [a disaster] stop you getting on with your life. Instead you say, “You bomb it – we will build it again. You keep bombing, we‘ll build it back up again.” And that resilience is what got us through the Troubles and it’s still there today.

The other thing I learned in the 1990s was that if people have an opportunity to make a living, to have education, to have homes, they tend not to be shooting at each other. So we worked closely with government and the private sector to attract investment. We worked on the Laganside Project to develop and regenerate the center of Belfast and build the Waterfront Hall and the Belfast Hilton. We worked on financing for that and helped get it established with the support of the International Fund for Ireland. And that is why the work of International Fund, and the American Ireland Fund (AIF) is so important.

When did you join the AIF?

I joined when I came to New York. I saw what the AIF were doing and I said, “Look, I have the ability now to help, because I did a lot of work with the government on investment coming into Belfast.”

I actually helped the AIF, which was really pleasing, to bring Enactus to Ireland to set it up. KPMG has been a big supporter of Enactus [the non-profit that works with students and business leaders to transform lives through entrepreneurship], for many years and I am the secretary treasurer. UCD won the Irish competition last year, which was great. And there is an Enactus team at Queen’s [university] in Belfast.

Also, KPMG has been a strong participant in the U.S.– Northern Ireland Mentorship Program that Declan Kelly started with the American Ireland Fund. We are in the process of hiring our fifth mentee in the U.S. And one of our mentees just joined KPMG in Dublin. The other thing we have done with Queen’s, through the City Scholars Program, is take students at the end of their first year and give them three weeks experience with our firm. Part of the reason why I am very supportive of that is because I think Queen’s has a big role to play [in the future of Northern Ireland]. Back in the 70s, Queen’s was non-sectarian and encouraged enrollment from Catholics and Protestants. And I think what they are doing today, and what [University President] Paddy Johnson is doing with the cancer research and his vision for Queen’s is very important for Northern Ireland. We are great supporters of the university, and the caliber of the students who come over is just outstanding.

You recently were in Belfast to receive an honorary degree from Queen’s. How was it to be honored on your home turf?

It was amazing. I spoke at the graduation of three distinct groups: The School of Education, The School of Modern Languages, and St. Mary’s University College in the Falls Road, and a lot of those students actually graduated in Irish [language]. Many of their parents there were contemporaries of mine, and it was great seeing them all again.

The experience also reinforced where Northern Ireland is at now. It still has a way to go but we are moving forward. We are starting to see the vision of what the new Northern Ireland is going to be like, and that vision is of a more open society. My younger nieces and nephews get a little bit tired when we start saying, “Oh, remember how it was like in the 70s? It was terrible!” But I think to move forward, you have to remember the past because you don’t want to make the same mistakes.

Seamus Heaney is someone you admire – are you moved by his poetry or is it his life story and NI connection?

It is his poetry but probably also because of his life story and NI connection. How he reflected NI life both rural and urban and the impact of the Troubles. Having a Nobel Prize winner from NI is a great inspiration to us all that we should have the confidence that we can achieve great things even being from such a small place. I had the honor of meeting him several times and what impressed me was how humble and open he was. We had great conversations on many topics including Gaelic football and the financial markets. I was also impressed that he was not only highly admired by critics and academics but also by the broader public. My wife is big fan of his too!

John Hume (former Social Democratic Labor Party leader) is one of your heroes. Why?

First of all, he was part of the first generation in Northern Ireland to have access to free public education, and coming from the Bogside and achieving all that he did, he was always focused on giving back to the community. He helped establish the first credit union in Northern Ireland. He also was such an influential figure in the peace process from the early days of civil rights marches to the Good Friday Agreement. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. he was a strong proponent of nonviolent protest. His courage in initiating private talks with Gerry Adams was a pivotal marker on the road to peace. And again, he’s another Nobel Peace Prize winner.

In addition to its other good works, KPMG is also shining a spotlight on women.

Yes. This year KPMG developed a one-of-kind multifaceted program called the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. As the first partnership between the LPGA Tour, PGA of America, and KPMG, we wanted to further demonstrate KPMG’s commitment to the development, advancement, and empowerment of women. The Championship is not only a world-class women’s golf tournament, but a women’s leadership summit held on site during the week of the tournament and an ongoing community initiative focused on developing the next generation of female leaders. The Summit provides content, tools and networking to encourage women’s advancement to an advisory council comprised of exemplary leaders from across business, sports, and the media help guide it. Our goal is to help more women move into the C-suite.

What do you love about golf?

Many things! I was introduced to it by my father- in-law who was a longtime member of North West Golf Club outside Buncrana in Donegal. I find it such a great stress reliever – most of the time! I like the challenge, it is not a game of perfect shots, it’s a great test of your character and patience. It is also a great way to build relationships and friendships. I have a group of friends and we have been going to play in the British Isles for a week every year for almost 20 years. I particularly love playing the great links courses of Ireland. My favorite is Ballyliffin in Donegal where I am a member, but there are many other great courses particularly in the North, Royal Portrush Royal County Down, Portstewart, and many more. It has also given me the opportunity to spend time with my son Timothy. He likes to play and it’s a great way to spend 4-5 hours together. It is getting harder now as he is away at college. Like most fathers and sons who play golf together, we do not say a lot on the course but it is great quality time.

A last word about Belfast.

There’s a lot of pride. Belfast played a key role in the post-industrial revolution. John Dunlop developed his pneumatic tire there. The first air-conditioned public building in the world was the Royal Victoria Hospital. The Titanic was the largest man-made object ever to take to the seas – and in addition to shipbuilding you had the linen industry. Belfast was like the Silicon Valley of its day. Its [success] was based on entrepreneurship, and I see that coming back. When I attended the American Ireland Fund conference last year in Belfast, I met some of these young entrepreneurs. You’ve got young guys and gals in Belfast going, “I am a founder and CEO of such and such. I want to build my headquarters here.” And that sounds so “can do.” You have great U.S. companies such as Citi, Allstate, Liberty Mutual and NYSE Technologies. It is really exciting seeing that. I think sometimes we undersell entrepreneurship in Ireland. It is a bit like we undersell ourselves. That entrepreneurial spirit – and it goes way back into the industrial revolution – is still very much alive. ♦


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The 2015 Wall Street 50 https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/the-2015-wall-street-50/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/the-2015-wall-street-50/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:58:19 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23323 Read more..]]> For eighteen years, Irish America has sought out and recognized the best and the brightest Irish-American and Irish-born leaders in the financial sphere, and this year is no exception. The fifty honorees of 2015 are an extraordinary, inspiring, and diverse group – from standout rising stars to masterful Wall Street veterans, this year’s list is comprised of both new faces and longtime friends of Irish America. And as varied as the counties they come from, so too are the sectors in which these distinguished financiers work.

The 2015 Wall Street 50 honorees share a commitment to bettering the American economy. Some do this by handling investments and capital, some by developing and implementing the strategies and technology that make it all happen. Together, they recognize a heritage of unrelenting perseverance, a commitment to family, and the responsibility to others because of the struggles of their ancestors.


That shared heritage is also, as Aidan Kehoe puts it, “an instant ice breaker with everyone you meet.” We couldn’t agree more. The honorees featured in the pages ahead are a testament to the power of the diaspora and its ground-breaking influence – from the fourth-generation Irish Americans who are themselves the manifestation of their ancestors’ dreams, to the many Irish-born who continue to work to maintain the strong connections and forge new bonds between our two great countries.

Click through the list here to see the honorees.

Mórtas Cine,

The Irish America Team

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First Word: Our 30th Anniversary! https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/first-word-our-30th-anniversary/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/first-word-our-30th-anniversary/#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:57:51 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23333 Read more..]]> There is something about anniversaries that appeals to people. And it’s our 30th. If it were a wedding anniversary, pearls would be an appropriate gift.

There is something about the pearl that speaks to the story of the Irish in America.

Born out of grit, a grain of sand, an outsider makes its way into a shell and sets off a chain reaction that in time results in a precious gem. What could be a more appropriate symbol of those plucky early Irish immigrants – outsiders all – pushing past obstacles to gain a foothold and proceeding forward with grit and determination until they solidified as one of the true cultural cornerstones of American society?

As I review our 30 years of publishing Irish America, all the stories merge into a cultural capsule. For the early immigrants the going is tough, but mingled into their hardscrabble existence are also great moments of joy. And, in all their trials there seems a strength of purpose, a refusal to quit and an indestructible pride in heritage that carries them forward.

Looking back over the issues, I pause over every Civil War story – more often of late as the 150th anniversary is commemorated – and reflect on how this central event in American life was also a turning point for those early immigrants. Their brave fighting won them respect and more acceptance, but the cost was so very high in terms of lives lost.

My hand hovers over the front cover of the Famine issue with its image of “Anguish,” a sculpture by Glenna Good-acre. It was a painful edition to produce; the rawness of that seminal event is a scar on my DNA that still hurts, but here too are stories of survival, and overcoming against the odds, and of people who helped us in the worst of times.

And I fight back tears over the 9/11 coverage, reminded as I am at this time every year of the many we lost from the community. The traditional strongholds of the Irish in New York – the public service sector – firemen and police were decimated. And so many from the financial services industry – colleagues of those we honor in this issue. Our very first Wall Street 50 event was held at Windows on the World, a venue on top of the World Trade Center’s north tower. But again, with this story, we are reminded of the forebearance of the survivors and the unifying force of the tragedy that forever melded Irish and Irish American.

As I continue on my journey back through time, I’m often bemused by interviews with people who contribute to the sheer joy of life, reminding me that though those early immigrants had little in the way of material possessions when they embarked on their outward voyage into the unknown, they carried their music with them, and a love of dance, and a good story. And these gems of heritage have been passed down to future generations.

Perhaps one of our most precious assets became the ability to meld our tradition with change and other cultures.

Gene Kelly, the great song and dance man, in one interview talked about how Irish dance influenced American tap. In other stories we learn of Irish influences in country, folk, and other musical genres. And we see many cases of how our love of a good story gets carried onto stage and the silver screen by writers and actors and directors. The son of a famine immigrant, Eugene O’Neill would be the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1936, his work heavily influenced by his Irish heritage.

I’m also reminded of how lucky I am to be part of Irish America as I peruse these back issues. My position as editor afforded me access to some of the greatest minds of our generation. I sat down with Seamus Heaney shortly after he received the Nobel Prize, and such legends as Gregory Peck and Maureen O’Hara, and I interviewed business leaders such as Jack Welch, and, for this issue, Shaun Kelly. And political leaders including George Mitchell and Gerry Adams, both of whom would play such a vital role in the peace process.

I remember how thrilling it was to hear Adams, back in 1991, say it was time for talks and a political solution in Northern Ireland. I was privileged to see firsthand the role that Irish Americans would play in the years that followed – Bill Flynn, Tom Moran, Donald Keough, Chuck Feeney, and Ed Kenney, to name but a few, who in Heaney’s words made “hope and history rhyme,” and helped put a peace plan in place.

The North and immigration are two reoccurring themes over the years in all our issues. In the early days of the magazine, it was about the Morrison visas that threw a much-needed lifeline to the Irish as the economy struggled in the 80s.

We saw the Celtic Tiger come and go, and sadly, more recently, we are witnesses to another generation of young Irish who are forced to leave in search of work. But even as a recent survey confirms that one in six Irish people born in Ireland now live abroad, we can take comfort in our global ability to integrate with other cultures, and find success in all corners of the globe.

As our cover story attests, Shaun Kelly is a prime example of the successful Irish immigrant. His story also touches on Northern Ireland. Born in Belfast to an English mother and an Irish father, he grew up during the Troubles, and that experience had infused in him a desire for diversity in the workplace and purpose-driven life. As KPMG’s COO, Americas, he is involved in various projects and communities around the globe.

From all that I have gleaned from our pages, I’ve concluded that our very best quality – born out of our struggles – is the empathy we have with others. For what is our own story worth if it doesn’t serve as an inspiration to those struggling today and if we can’t reach a hand out to help? As we go to press, the good news is that Ireland, though still in recovery from the downturn in its economy, will take in 4,000 Syrian refugees. As President Michael D. Higgins said: “We have to decide at certain times in our life to do what is right and what is right is to come to the assistance of those who, like our own ancestors, were being lost in the sea of the Atlantic three generations ago.”

Beautiful! ♦

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Celebrating Thirty Years of Irish America https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/celebrating-thirty-years-of-irish-america/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/celebrating-thirty-years-of-irish-america/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:56:25 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23636 Read more..]]> Looking back at Irish America’s premier issue we see that it set the tone for what was to come: a thorough investigation into what it means to be Irish American. Thirty years later, we are still answering that question and still pondering the answers. Enjoy these quotes compiled over 30 years.



1985 – 1990

85-89 Covers

From left: Tip O’Neill, Joe Biden, The Irish and the Drink, Daniel Day-Lewis, Peggy Noonan.


Tip O’Neill

“Growing up as a youngster in Boston, you were instilled with three things. The first was the “No Irish Need Apply” signs and what those signs were doing to the Irish. The second was the way your forefathers came over here – off Famine ships – and you thanked God they were able to work to provide for their families. ….The third thing was a United Ireland, which was a key issue. A local congressman from this area lost his seat when he missed a vote on it. It was just as much part of your faith as anything else.

Tip O’Neill served in the U.S House of Representatives from 1953 to 1987. His ten-year tenure as Speaker of the House was the longest in U.S. history.

Interview by Susan O’Grady Fox. October, 1986.


Thomas Flanagan

“Years later I realized that the songs and the poems [my grandmother Ellen Treacy] taught me were unique oral histories of the turbulent period the Irish had come through. She inspired me.”

Author of The Year of the French and other novels.

Interview by Niall O’Dowd. January, 1987.


Bernadette Devlin McAliskey

Do you see the development of the Provisional IRA as an outgrowth of the civil rights movement?

“The people took to the streets and raised the issues, and almost as soon as they raised them they realized that, because of the political reality of the six counties state, there was no political way to achieve those ordinary democratic aims. The movement split into its two historic components, the constitutional and the unconstitutional. The civil rights movement gave birth to the Provos and the Social Democratic Labor Party (SDLP) at exactly the same time. Those two strands have always existed in Irish history whether it was Parnell and the Fenians or Daniel OConnell and the Young Irelanders.”

McAliskey speaking on the 20th anniversary of the Northern Irish civil rights movement.

Interview by Patrick Farrelly. January, 1988.


Brian Donnelly

“I am not going to forget that for 20 years the door was closed for the Irish.”

Donnelly is referring to the 1965 immigration law that discriminated against the Irish. His contribution to immigration legislation helped thousands of Irish people gain legal residence in the U.S. 

He was named Irish American of the Year in March, 1989.


Helen Hayes

“I was not raised as an Irish person but I have Ireland in my blood and every exciting actor or actress that I’ve known has an Irish background. It’s a strange thing, but we are performers, we are actors by heritage.”

“The First Lady of American Theater” in one of her final media appearances. 

Interview by Kevin Lewis. November, 1990.


1991 – 1995

90-94 Covers

From left: Top 100, Ted Kennedy, Ray Kelly, Albert Reynolds and John Mayors, Pat Riley.


Gerry Adams

“I’ve been elected by the people of West Belfast, they’ve elected me three times. Refusing to talk to me means that these people are being disenfranchised, that the British are refusing to recognize their rights. We’re an important part of the equation; the people who I represent have the same rights as everyone else. I don’t want to talk to Peter Brooks [then Northern Secretary] for the craic. I’m interested in trying to move the whole thing forward. I think the 1990s should be a period when we get peace and we should have talks.

“No matter how much you discuss what’s happening, no matter how much you examine all the different characteristics of it and the history of it, the past and the future, it has to be settled and it can only be settled when people start talking.”

Interview by Patricia Harty, April, 1991.


Ted Kennedy

“The Irish have this love for literature and music and these, combined with an emphasis on family and a devotion to freedom in their history, are pretty fundamental ingredients that go into political life. But here’s another part to this, too. The Irish came to politics out of necessity in earlier generations. They saw it as a way of moving upwards and achieving their hopes and aspirations. And the Irish have done that well.”

Interview by Michael Scanlon. May, 1992.


William Flynn

“There are some commitments which one makes out of obligation, some out of position and some out of choice. There are other commitments that are thrust upon one by the weight of history and heritage. For me, religious liberty and freedom of conscience are such a commitment. I speak as a Catholic of Irish heritage whose father was from the north and whose mother was from the south. And I am deeply saddened when I see the violence that divides neighbors and the bitterness that hardens the soul. We must uphold and renew that which makes us caring persons striving for a just nation and a peaceful world.”

As Chairman of Mutual of America, Bill Flynn worked tirelessly to keep the U.S. involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Interview by Niall O’Dowd. November, 1993.


Donald Keough

“My generation was really the first generation of the post Famine Irish to have the luxury to lift our heads up, take a breath and say, ‘I want to know more about that place where we came from.’ I think the next generation – my children – are going to be even more interested and more curious and more sensitive to that little island that has produced over 70 million people around the world.”

Interview by Niall O’Dowd. November / December, 1994.


Pat Riley

“What, to me, the Irish are all about is tremendous pride, a great work ethic, and a great discipline that comes from that. I sense it in Chuck Daly, I sense it in Mike Dunleavy, and in other coaches I have known in the past who are of Irish descent. Born out of that Irish upbringing, too, are just values. The values of doing right, knowing the difference between right and wrong; it’s simple, very cut-and-dried.”

Riley was then head coach of the Knicks. Interview by Patricia Harty. July / August, 1995.


1996 – 2000

95-99 Covers

From left: Bill Clinton, 1997 Top 100 with Ted Kennedy, Frank McCourt, Irish Americans of the Century with JFK, Gabriel Byrne.


George Mitchell

“It is a labor of love and I mean it. I believe this is a moment of historic opportunity that could set the framework for life in Ireland for not just a few years, but decades, or even centuries. It’s an historic time and a tremendous opportunity to make progress.”

Senator Mitchell (Maine) on chairing the All-Party talks. Two years later those talks culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Interview by Patricia Harty. May / June, 1996


Seamus Heaney

“There seems to be something in the Irish that makes them partial to poetry.

“There’s a tradition, a value system, which is given an historical myth or truth that predisposes us as a community and as individuals to trust in poetry. If a poet publishes a poem in a newspaper in Ireland, the judges will read it, the Taoiseach will read it, the Protestant bishop will read it, and the name of the poet will be a possession. I think it’s a mater of some indifference whether they are equipped in any special way to read or judge poetry. We are actually talking about the actual role of the poet in society, and in Ireland there is no doubt that he role is alive and . . . I think you have to concede that there is public psychic and artistic reality in this, which is a genuine positive cultural possession of the country.”

Interview by Patricia Harty. May/June, 1996.


George Mitchell

“This agreement is good for all the people, North and South, and while many will try to defeat it, I believe it will pass. Ordinary people North and South will finally get a chance to prove that they want a just and lasting peace.”

Talk Chairman George Mitchell on the occasion of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. May / June, 1998.


John Hume

“It’s not simply as an award to myself but as a powerful statement of the international goodwill towards peace on our streets in Northern Ireland.”

Hume was the leader of the SDLP and winner of the 1998 Nobel Peach Prize.

Interview by Kelly Candaele. February / March, 1999.


Frank McCourt

“All along we looked back over the years and across the ocean and deferred to the history, the tradition, the land. . .. Then something happened. Damn! Who’s this Michael Flatley, this Seamus Egan, this Joanie Madden and her Cherished Ladies? And who do they think they are, coming to Ireland and, not only sweeping the competition but, talented, pushing their way into the culture of their ancestors? … The Atlantic has become a puddle which poets and musicians leap without a second thought. …. So that’s what it is to be Irish nowadays?”

From McCourt’s article, “Puddle Jumping.” October / November, 2000.


2001 – 2005

00-04 covers

From Left: Irish America’s first post-9/11 cover, 9/11 one year on, Pete Hamill, Bridget Moynihan, Gerry Adams.


Eileen Collins

“It almost seems to me, just from a pure scientific point of view, chances are there is life – maybe just microscopic life [in outer space].”

Her favorite trick that she likes to do in space. “I’ll put my face right up against a window, so I can’t see anything else in the shuttle, and I’ll put my arms out and my legs out, and I feel like I’m flying over the earth with no spacecraft. And it’s really neat. You feel like you’re Superman flying over the earth.”

Collins was the first female to command a NASA space mission.

Interview by Patricia Harty


Mary McAleese

“Many nations counted their dead on September 11th and many nations have combined to create the unique passion that flourishes in this great city, a passion for life. Evil men thought they could kill that passion; that the ugliness of violence, the awesomeness of wanton deaths, would snuff it out. They were wrong. New York is still passionate about life and now that very passion has been deepened and stretched by the avalanche of grief it has had to struggle through, to find its way back to the future again. Irish men and women can rightly claim to have planted their flags on the landscape of that future and the words those flags bear are courage, fortitude, perseverance and selflessness. The generations who went before them would be proud of a modern generation who have known the easy times and comfort of prosperity but who when tested, chose the hardest road of all.”

Then-President McAleese speaking at Irish America’s Top 100, which honored the heroes of 9/11.

March, 2002.


Pete Hamill

“In the late 1950s, I started to learn the craft of writing and that turned me more seriously to Ireland. I found my way to Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, to Yeats, and Joyce and O’Casey. I didn’t read them to affirm my Irishness, or to pretend that I understood every line they wrote, or to wrap myself in their unfurled banners. I never thought that because they were great writers, I could become one too. They weren’t even guides to conduct, models for the way a writer should live his life. I read them because no writer – no educated human being – could not read them.”

Interview by Patricia Harty. February / March, 2003.


Chuck Feeney

“Everyone knows when they’re born but nobody knows when they died. If you want to give it away, think about giving it away while you are alive because you’ll get a lot more satisfaction than if you wait until you are dead. Besides, it’s a lot more fun. Giving gave me a lot of pleasure.”

Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shops, quietly gave away a fortune over the years.

Interview by Conor O’Cleary.


Peter Quinn

“We worshipped FDR, and we thought the second coming was when Kennedy was elected president. School was a big deal. So was storytelling. Both my novels are stuffed with tales, facts and lore gleaned from a lifetime in New York.”

Interview by Tom Deignan. December, 2005.


2006 – 2010

05-09 Covers

From left: John McCain, Martin O’Malley, Tom Moran, Coca Rocha, and Bob McCann.


John McCain

“This right here is the promise of America. Look at the faces, look at the hope. Their eyes are alive with hero daring.”

Senator McCain, pointing to a photograph of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island late in the 19th century. McCain, whose ancestors are Scots Irish, sponsored an Immigration bill with Senator Edward Kennedy.  

Interview by Niall O’Dowd.  August / September, 2006.


Martin O’Malley

“I went into public service because I grew up in a house where that was considered an honorable and important thing to do. My parents met putting together a Young Democrats newsletter. My mom had her collection of campaign buttons and pictures of John F. Kennedy. My father was someone who, albeit a lawyer in private practice, raised us to be involved in the public affairs of our community and country. So that’s the motivation in my heart.”

O’Malley was then governor of Maryland, and is now a presidential candidate.

Interview by Patricia Harty. August / September, 2007.


Thomas Moran

“As you travel around the world you realize what an incredible influence the United States has and the potential that we have to do great good in the most difficult of situations. The peace process in Northern Ireland was greatly supported by the government of the United States, which believed that peace was possible and made it clear that it would be supportive of any efforts for peace. In Sri Lanka we heard stories about the U.S. military that came immediately following the tsunami to rebuild schools. In Africa, in the poorest countries, what a great sense of pride it is to see the Concern workers taking the bags marked ‘U.S. AID,’ and to know that the U.S. has supported efforts to keep children alive and to provide for a better existence and a better life. It’s awfully easy sometimes to see the negative sides of our world, but I think that those who have traveled and understood and heard from the people who suffer the most, recognize how powerful our country is for the good.”

Tom Moran is Chairman & CEO of Mutual of America and Chairman of Concern Worldwide.

Interview by Patricia Harty. April / May, 2008.


Coco Roca

“It was exciting. Usually when you dance, you dance in front of a crowd that has no clue who you are, so you can mess up, fall down, be exhausted and no one will really notice. But [at the Gaultier show] everyone knew me and I was really nervous because usually all I have to do is walk.”

Supermodel Coco Roach, whose grandmother is from Belfast, was discovered while performing in an Irish dance competition. She’s talking here about doing an Irish dance down the runway at a fashion show.

Interview by Kara Rota. June / July, 2009.


Bob McCann

“I remember it perfectly. It sounds like it’s out of a travelogue or something, but what I remember first is just how green it was. It really does strike you. I had no idea. From the sky, I remember wanting to understand all the walls that were up and what they represented. I couldn’t get over the value, in a host of ways, an Irishman puts on owning property.”

McCann, president of UBS Americas and Wealth Management Americas, on his first trip to Ireland. Interview by Kara Rota. August / September.


2011 – 2015

10-15 Covers

From left: Brian Kelly, Michael Fassbender, Judy Collins, Norah O’Donnell, and Shannon Deegan.


Brian Kelly

“My great-grandparents were from Ireland. My grandfather was a Boston cop for 35 years, and my first introduction to Irish culture was talking to him about where the term Paddy Wagon came from. We lived in Chelsea, Massachusetts, which was a naval pier town where all the Navy guys would come in and they’d have some beers and then the police would be called in to round them up. They [the police] drove an open-air police truck and it was so cold at night that the guys who drove it had to have a little Irish Paddy [whiskey] to stay warm and that’s why they called it the Paddy Wagon. Whether it’s true or not, I have no idea. But it’s a good story, and that’s why I tell it.”

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly on his Irish ancestors.

Interview by Niall O’Dowd. December / January, 2011.


Michael Fassbender

“I try not to take myself too seriously. When my best friend in Killarney, Emerson Johnson, and I were in school together and we’d bunk off at lunchtime sometimes, I’d always be really nervous, but I remember he used to say ‘What’ll it matter in 100 years’ time?’ and he’s right. If you can relieve yourself of that pressure and not take yourself too seriously, then you can afford to look like a bit of an idiot. I think I am quite immature, or maybe just childlike.”

Fassbender stars as Steve Jobs in the upcoming biopic Steve Jobs.

Interview by Patricia Danaher. August / September, 2012. 


Judy Collins

Do you still believe music will heal the world?

“Well, art and music are the only thing we’ve got. They have always been the only thing we’ve got, because we always have problems. We always have murder.  We always have greed. We always have people who are nuts and there’s always something awful happening somewhere.  So, you have to have art. Every culture in the world has realized that art is the thing, that art is primary.”

Interview by Patricia Harty. June / July, 2013.


Gina McCarthy

“I come from a very much service-oriented family. We have

firemen, policemen, post office, school teachers – my sister, Elaine, is a middle school history teacher – and it’s not like someone told you that was the thing you had to do, but public service was seen as very much an honorable thing to do. And that’s what I grew up wanting to do; my parents’ gift to me was two things, public service and hard work. I don’t know anybody I grew up with that didn’t teach their kids that there was a larger meaning in life.”

Gina McCarthy is head of the EPA.

Interview by Patricia Harty. August / September, 2014.


Shannon Deegan

“Play to people’s strengths, celebrate them, shore up weaknesses and, as my grandfather – a legend in Montreal’s professional baseball leagues in the early part of the 1900s – used to tell me, “Always play to win. “

Finally, I think a key element that often gets overlooked in sports and in business, is to have fun. The most successful teams I have been a part of – both in sports and business – have been a blast. While some of that was because it was fun to win, I think it goes the other way as well. Those fun teams I was part of were fun before we ever officially won, and the fun fueled the winning.”

Shannon Deegan is Google’s director of Global Security Operations, and was the Keynote Speaker at the 2014 Irish America Business 100 Awards.

Interview by Patricia Harty. December / January, 2015.

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Irish Aid for Europe’s Refugee Crisis https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/irish-aid-for-europes-refugee-crisis/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/irish-aid-for-europes-refugee-crisis/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:55:44 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23337 Read more..]]> On September 3rd this year, the photograph of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian three-year-old whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach, ran across the front pages of newspapers world-wide, putting a horrifying human image to the crisis that has embattled Syria for almost five years. Many periodicals, such as the Irish Times, debated whether or not to censor the image, but ultimately went forward with the undoctored photograph. Many have likened the harrowing picture to the 1972 “Napalm Girl” photograph, which put a face on the atrocities committed in Vietnam, rousing many in the western world to action.

Over an estimated 4 million Syrians have left seeking refuge since the crisis began (which, according to Concern Worldwide US, is over one fifth of the total number of displaced people in the world), and while the majority have flooded into Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, roughly 200,000 are making their way to Europe. As émigrés stream out of Syria, the EU has called upon its members to accept more refugees.

Frances Fitzgerald, Ireland’s Justice Minister, recently confirmed that Ireland would accept 4,000 refugees. In her statement regarding this decision, Fitzgerald said, “Ireland will offer a welcome safe haven for families and children who have been forced to leave their homes due to war and conflict.” The head of the Irish Refugee Council has estimated that the country could house up to 40,000 Syrian refugees, and the government is currently examining vacant government buildings to determine if there is housing available for more than the agreed-upon 4,000.

“We have to decide at certain times in our life to do what is right and what is right is to come to the assistance of those who, like our own ancestors, were being lost in the sea of the Atlantic three generations ago,” said Irish president Michael D. Higgins, drawing on the parallels between Ireland’s Famine emigrants and the modern crisis in the Middle East.

In addition to the government’s response, Irish individuals and organizations are taking action. Rocker and humanitarian Bob Geldof has publicly stated that he and his wife, Jeanne, would be willing to open their homes in Kent and London to families of refugees. (The Dún Laoghaire native has a history of philanthropic activity; most notably, he was one of the main organizers of the Live Aid concert series in 1985, which raised over $125 million for famine relief in Africa.) Even Pope Francis has suggested a similar, community-level solution, wherein each Irish parish takes in a refugee family.

The Irish non-profit Concern Worldwide (whose chairman is Irish America Hall-of-Famer and CEO of Mutual of America Tom Moran) is engaging directly with the crisis in Syria and the neighboring countries. Though many displaced Syrian citizens have left the country, roughly 7.6 million within the country’s borders are homeless and in need of shelter. Concern has provided access to clean water for 250,000 people within Syria, as well as providing those displaced from their homes with hygienic products and supplies for the coming winter months. In Lebanon and Turkey, the organization is working to provide not only basic necessities for the refugees, but also access to education – Concern estimates that 80% of the school-age refugees in Turkey and Lebanon are not currently in school. The aid provided in Lebanon has proved just as crucial as the work in Syria itself; Concern’s President and COO, Aine Fay, tells us that “Lebanon, a country smaller than Connecticut, or roughly an eighth the size of Ireland, has provided a safe haven for 1.2 million Syrian refugees, an extraordinarily generous commitment that is increasingly strained, given the massive pressure this is having on the local economy and on overstretched health and education services.”

In addition to attending to refugees’ physical needs, Concern is spearheading a new program offering psychological support to male Syrian refugees, many of whom are experiencing rage and frustration and their newfound inability to support their families. One group leader, Ahmed (whose name has been changed for security reasons), shared the story of his escape with Concern and lauded the program, which led participants to discuss not only their concerns for the immediate future, but also the long-term damage of violence against women and early marriage. “In all of us, something changed 180 [degrees],” said Ahmed. “A stone began to be lifted from our hearts. After these sessions, we could breathe again.” ♦

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Turmoil in Northern Ireland https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/turmoil-in-northern-ireland/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/turmoil-in-northern-ireland/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:54:25 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23352 Read more..]]> As we go to press, the Northern Irish peace process faces one of its greatest challenges. First Minister Peter Robinson, the Democratic Unionist Party leader resigned his position in September, along with several other DUP ministers, following the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s (PSNI) claim that individual members of the Provisional IRA (PIRA) were involved in the killing of former republican prisoner Kevin McGuigan last August. According to news reports, some PIRA members believed McGuigan was responsible for the killing of former IRA commander Gerard “Jock” Davison in May.

George Hamilton, head of PSNI said that PIRA leadership did not sanction the murder of McGuigan, but his assertion that some structures of the organization still exist, led the more radical Ulster Unionist Party’s sole executive to resign his post, and the other twelve MLAs to withdraw urging the DUP to do so as well, citing an inability to trust Sinn Féin who deny the continued activity of PIRA members.

Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the UUP were “playing fast and loose with the peace process,” and tweeted, “This decision by the UUP is more about inter Unionist rivalry than their & others feigned concern about our unequivocal commitment to #Peace.”

Robinson and the DUP initially resisted, and sought an intervention from Downing Street, but were refused, with British Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly asking the Assembly to find an acceptable solution on its own. But tensions reached a high point when the PSNI brought prominent Sinn Féin member Bobby Storey in for questioning in connection with the murder. Though he was released unconditionally a day later, Robinson under intense pressure from the UUP, resigned. Robinson retains his role as head of the DUP, but has appointed Minister of Finance Arlene Foster as acting First Minister, ostensibly allowing the Northern Irish Assembly to continue governance, but effectively causing a stalemate for the DUP – Sinn Féin power-sharing government.

“Isn’t it ridiculous that criminals, low-life murderers who killed two men have the ability to bring down these democratic institutions?” McGuinness asked.

Both Unionist parties argue that existence of the PIRA, violates the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and discredits their claim to non-violent governance. Yet they may be accused of ignoring the existence of other paramilitary organizations. A recent article in the New York Times, quoted a source as saying that there is abundant evidence that loyalist paramilitary groups are “not only still active, but have also been recruiting new members.”

According to the Guardian, Cameron and Robinson did discuss options “to comprehensively address all remaining paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.” ♦

For more updates, visit IrishCentral.com.

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One in Six Irish-Born Living Abroad https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/one-in-six-irish-born-living-abroad/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/one-in-six-irish-born-living-abroad/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:53:33 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23348 Read more..]]> Two recent reports from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Central Statistics Office show that more than one in six Irish-born no longer live in Ireland. In the latest biennial assessment of the Irish economy published by the OECD, it is reported that in 2014, 17.5% of all people over age 15 that were born in Ireland were living abroad, while the CSO reports a 34% drop in 20 to 24-year-olds over the last seven years, along with a 27.5% drop in 25 to 29-year-olds.

In a recent press release, Sinn Féin Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation spokesperson Peadar Tóibín commented on the figures: “A third of a million Irish people in the last six years voted with their feet, leaving an economy that put unsecured debt and upper income security above provision for citizens.

“We have a huge housing crisis, a health crisis, reduced educational investment, high levels of personal debt, low wages, precarious employment, rising rental costs, regressive taxation including water charges and property tax, crippling childcare cost, and exorbitant mortgage repayments. But one of the most tragic and long lasting outcomes of Fine Gael and Labour policy will be the loss of hundreds of thousands of our people.”

Ireland’s percentage of native-born living abroad was the highest amongst the OECD’s other members, surpassing New Zealand, Portugal, and Mexico by several percentage points. Though the CSO says emigration has begun to slow, net migration is still negative, meaning still more people are leaving Ireland than are moving there. ♦

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Queen’s University Making Waves in Europe https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/queens-university-making-waves-in-europe/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/queens-university-making-waves-in-europe/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:52:02 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23357 Read more..]]> This summer saw laurels upon laurels laid on Queen’s University Belfast, as cancer experts there received major U.S. and U.K. research awards, and researchers launched a €50 million, Europe-wide, cystic fibrosis drug treatment trial. Most recently, a £2.9 million U.S.-Ireland Research and Development Partnership Program grant was awarded to Queen’s, Dublin City University, and SUNY Buffalo to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer. “Working in partnership with researchers in New York and Dublin will allow us to generate valuable discoveries and innovations which can move our work out of the laboratory and towards clinical trials,” said Christopher Scott (pictured above), Director of Research, Molecular Therapeutics Cluster in the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s.

The cystic fibrosis project, which was also launched in September and is expected to last five years, brings together world-leading lung specialists from across Europe, and is helmed by Queens’s Dean of the Medical School Stuart Elborn. “This work has the potential to deliver inhaled antibiotics that will improve the quality of life and survival of cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis patients,” he says. “It is the latest example of the commitment of researchers and staff at Queen’s University to advancing knowledge and changing lives by working with international experts.”

And in August, Queens’s Center for Cancer and Cell Biology received the CRUK (Cancer Research UK) Accelerator Award of almost £4 million in order to continue their work identifying faulty genes and molecules in tumors. The team, led by David Waugh, director of the center, will now lead a nationwide program dedicated to expanding the application and use of digital pathology to quantify specific tumor markers.

Speaking on behalf of the university, Professor Peter Hamilton of the Digital Pathology program, said that the awards demonstrate “how Belfast has been leading in digital biotechnology research and diagnostics,” and serve as a testament to the university’s growing influence among U.K. institutions. ♦

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Researchers Cite ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for Ground-Breaking Discoveries https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/researchers-cite-als-ice-bucket-challenge-for-ground-breaking-discoveries/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/researchers-cite-als-ice-bucket-challenge-for-ground-breaking-discoveries/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:51:41 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23366 Read more..]]> The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, co-founded by Irish America Hall of Fame inductee Pat Quinn and re-launched this past August, is being credited by researchers at Johns Hopkins University for recent breakthroughs in research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Jonathan Ling, Olga Pletnikova, Juan Troncoso, and Philip Wong of Johns Hopkins University recently published their findings in the journal Science, where they explain the function of TDP-43, a protein connected to ALS. TDP-43 is supposed to prevent unwanted genetic material from being used by nerve cells to make proteins. In patients with ALS, TDP-43 clumps together in the cells, ultimately preventing the protein from doing its job. Such a scenario leads to the death of brain and spinal cord cells.

“TDP-43 doesn’t do its job in 97% of all ALS cases,” Ling explained in a recent Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit.com. “Scientists didn’t really know its function – now we do. We also show that it’s something that can be fixed!”

Philip Wong, the Johns Hopkins professor who led the research team told the Washington Post that without the Ice Bucket Challenge “we wouldn’t have been able to come out with the studies as quickly as we did.”

Ling also praised the challenge in his Reddit thread by noting, “I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the Ice Bucket Challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false….With the amount of money that the Ice Bucket Challenge raised, I feel that there’s a lot of hope and optimism now for real, meaningful therapies. After all, the best medicines come from a full understanding of a disease, and without the financial stability to do high risk, high reward research, none of this would be possible!” ♦

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Limerick Student Wins Irish Invention Award https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/limerick-student-wins-irish-invention-award/ https://irishamerica.com/2015/10/limerick-student-wins-irish-invention-award/#comments Thu, 01 Oct 2015 03:50:36 +0000 http://irishamerica.com/?p=23360 Read more..]]> Cathal Redmond, a 26-year-old University of Limerick student, has won the 2015 Irish James Dyson award for his underwater breathing invention.

His device, called the “Express Dive,” allows divers to breathe underwater for up to two minutes. When their air runs out, they simply resurface and refill the apparatus. As opposed to traditional snorkels, Express Dive gives divers access to greater depths, but unlike traditional scuba diving equipment, which allow for similar feats, Redmond’s device costs roughly $500, as opposed to figures as high as $4,000. The prototype for which Redmond won is built of a compact air tank, an air regulator, and a compressor combination made of high-density foam, aluminum, and silicone.

Speaking with the Irish Times, Redmond discussed his inspiration for the project: “It was when I was on holiday in Greece on a boat excursion when I saw a shiny object on the seabed that I recognized my curiosity for a method of increasing the amount of time spent underwater without carrying heavy equipment,” he said. “I wanted to be able to go a little further than I could with just my lungs, but without the rigor and preparation required for scuba.”

An avid swimmer with an interest in adventure sports and music, Redmond received €2,500 from the James Dyson Foundation, named for the creator of Dyson vacuums, and will proceed to the international stage of the competition along with 600 students from 20 countries. The grand prize is €37,500. ♦

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