Stories of Irish men and women caught in the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey, which continues drenching Houston, are surfacing in media.
“I have never seen anything like it in my life,” County Down (NI) man Chris Bohill told RTÉ (via The Belfast Telegraph.) “Where I live there was a park and a baseball field now it’s just an ocean. It is phenomenal.”
The Irish Echo has a story about a County Carlow girl battling a rare form of cancer who was trapped in an apartment as she waited to see a specialist at the city’s Children’s Hospital.
I’ve been away from the blog for an Easter trip to Rome. During my absence, two Irish Americans made headlines for very different reasons:
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney dies
In my native Pittsburgh and across most of America, Dan Rooney was best known as chairman of the NFL Steelers, the son of the team’s late and much beloved founder. But he also was U.S. Ambassador to Ireland from July 2008 to December 2012, a co-founder of The Ireland Funds, and principal benefactor of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature at Trinity College Dublin.
He died April 13 at age 84. His grandfather emigrated from Newry, County Down to Montreal, Canada, then moved to Ohio and Pittsburgh, where the late ambassador was born.
“Deeply committed to Ireland and the Irish people, he was always conscious of his Irish roots,” Irish President Michael D. Higgins told The Irish Times. Said former U.S. President Barack Obama:
Dan Rooney was a great friend of mine, but more importantly, he was a great friend to the people of Pittsburgh, a model citizen, and someone who represented the United States with dignity and grace on the world stage. I knew he’d do a wonderful job when I named him as our United States Ambassador to Ireland, but naturally, he surpassed my high expectations, and I know the people of Ireland thank fondly of him today.
Bill O’Reilly ousted from Fox News
Conservative news anchor Bill O’Reilly and the Fox News Channel parted ways after 20 years in the wake of a New York Times exposé about the media company paying $13 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against the cable television ratings king.
O’Reilly describes the claims as “completely unfounded” and himself as the victim of “the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”
His great-grandfather emigrated from Clonoose, County Cavan, according to a 2016 episode of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” O’Reilly also was a 2014 inductee in Irish America magazine’s Hall of Fame.
The honor recognizes “the extraordinary achievements of Irish-American leaders, from their significant accomplishments and contributions to American society to the personal commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage and the betterment of Ireland.” Among 45 honorees since 2011: liberal cable television anchor Chris Matthews; former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to Ireland nominee Brian P. Burns.
But not Dan Rooney, though the magazine has written about him.
I’ve reached out to the New York-based publication by email and Twitter to ask if they plan to keep O’Reilly among their honorees. Maybe they could switch him with Rooney. If you agree, contact the magazine at: @irishamerica, or email@example.com.
Queen Elizabeth II, who last September became the longest-reigning monarch in British history–64 years and counting–turns 90 on 21 April.
“Through seven decades, she has remained gloriously and relentlessly enigmatic in one of her signature pastel outfits and colorful hats,” writes The New York Times. “The queen could be forgiven for showing emotion when she blows out her candles. But it is unlikely.”
I’m a republican more than any fan of the monarchy, British or otherwise. But I’ve admired this queen since her historic 2011 visit to Ireland. So does Father Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America: The National Catholic Review. In his 18 April “Of Many Things” column, he writes:
[S]he was determined to make the trip, motivated in large part by her sense of Christian duty to reconcile the estranged, to be a healer of the breach. “God sent into the world a unique person—neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are)—but a Saviour, with the power to forgive,” she said in her Christmas broadcast that year. “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
…the queen’s visit to the republic was not just a moment of reconciliation between two long-estranged peoples, but her personal act of forgiveness. When Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed by agents of the Irish Republican Army in the summer of 1979, the queen suffered the loss of one of the most beloved members of her family … It was a truly extraordinary moment, therefore, when she laid a wreath at a memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of “all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom.” She had somehow found the courage within her to forgive, to rebuild, to begin anew. …
In the course of a century, the editors of this magazine have unashamedly championed the cause of Irish freedom. In doing so, we have had a few unkind words to say about the British and the queen’s predecessors. As we mark the centenary of the Easter Uprising, we celebrate the fulfillment of our forebears’ dreams, but we also repent of what we too have done and failed to do. Yet in repentance there is hope, the very hope we saw during those mid-May days in 2011.
In June 2012, in Belfast, the queen and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness had one of the world’s most celebrated handshakes. Two years later, McGuinness accepted the queen’s invitation to attend a British state banquet at Windsor Castle. By then, many of us had grown used to seeing soaring sounders of swine.
Earlier this year, a 12-year-old schoolboy from Dublin wrote a letter to the queen asking for “the return of the six counties” of Northern Ireland, which were partitioned from the rest of the island in 1921 and today remain part of the United Kingdom. Buckingham Palace politely replied to the boy that Her Majesty does not intervene in such matters. “As a constitutional Sovereign, the Queen acts on the advice of her Ministers and remains strictly non-political at all times.”
And so a birthday bonfire will burn atop Slieve Donard in County Down, as well as the highest peaks of Scotland, Wales and England, in addition to all the other pomp to mark Elizabeth’s 90th. I’ll just add: Sláinte!
Today (26 September) the National Famine Commemoration is being held for the first time in Northern Ireland, in Newry, County Down.
In recognition of the fact that the Great Famine affected all parts of the island of Ireland, the location of the annual commemoration has rotated in sequence between the four provinces since 2008. The 2011 event was in Clones, County Monaghan, an Ulster county in the Republic of Ireland.
“The annual Famine Commemoration is a solemn tribute to those who suffered in the most appalling circumstances that prevailed during the Great Famine,” Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys said in a release earlier this year. “While the scale of suffering was greater in some parts of Ireland than in others, all parts of the island suffered great loss of life and the destruction of families and communities through emigration.”
The BBC has a nice package of stories and info-graphs about the commemoration and the impact of the famine in Ulster/Northern Ireland.
Coinciding with this year’s commemoration is the release of the first paperback edition of “Commemorating the Irish Famine: Memory and Monument,” by Emily Mark-Fitzgerald. The 2013 book explores more than 100 monuments around the world that recognize the events of 1845-1852.
Dr. Tim Campbell, left, director of the St. Patrick’s Centre in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, visited the Franciscan Center in Tampa, Florida, on Feb. 27. He is shown here with blogger Mark Holan, a member of the Franciscan Center’s board of directors.
Campbell was on a week-long tour of the United States to promote the County Down centre dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint, and to encourage more charitable activity among “Friends of St. Patrick’s” groups.
During his Tampa visit, Campbell met with members of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University, and with Tampa Councilwoman Mary Mulhern and Mayor Bob Buckhorn. His day concluded with a reception at the Franciscan Center.
On March 2 and March 16, the city of Tampa and the Salvation Army, in partnership with the St. Patrick’s Centre, are collecting canned food for the needy in the spirit of St. Patrick. “Homelessness and hunger have been very familiar to generations of Irish immigrants,” Campbell said at the Franciscan Center.
The Milwaukee Irish Fest has led the way for making such charitable activity part of its annual celebration of Irish heritage. Now Tampa is trying to do the same as it prepares for the Mayor’s Second Annual River O’ Green Fest.