Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gaelic Music - Kila

A Mother's Love

I first heard this song when my 94 year old Aunt Maggie sang this at our family reunion on St Patrick's Day in Foxford, Ireland 2008. It brought lots of tears to my eyes. I hope to post her version one day soon.....

Irish Music Video - Gaelic

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

3rd Year Irish Films Won Awards at Cannes

This is the third year in a row that Ireland has been honoured at Cannes, with the Ken Loach film 'The Wind that Shakes The Barley' and 'Garage' having received awards previously.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Irish-UK Co Production Film "Hunger" wins at Cannes

British artist Steve McQueen, who directed THE FILM Hunger , dealing with the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, received the Camera d'Or award at the closing ceremony of the Festival de Cannes last night.

The prize was accepted by director Steve McQueen, the British artist who won the Turner Prize in 1999. "I'm very proud for myself and the marvellous cast and crew I had on this film," McQueen told The Irish Times after the awards ceremony. "As we worked on it, I knew that we were making something special. Michael Fassbender [who plays Sands] is a star, as are Liam Cunningham and Stuart Graham, and our young actors, Liam McMahon and Brian Milligan. They are the weight, heart and soul of the film."

McQueen said last night that he identified with both sides of the political divide as he made the film.

"I'm a human being," he said. "I understand one side as much as the other. Sides don't matter to me. It is all about human beings, people in an extraordinary situation."

An Irish-UK co-production, Hunger was written by McQueen and Irish playwright Enda Walsh. It was funded by Channel 4, Northern Ireland Screen and the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland.

I have not seen the film yet but I echo the sentiment of the director in his comment "It's all about human beings". I will review the movie here after i view it......

Sunday, May 25, 2008

RadioIrish.Com - New York

Just ran across this. You can listen to the station online. Check it out.

Tribute - When New York Was Irish

I just discovered this song and I love it. I play it almost every day. It brings back great memories. I remember going to the St Patrick's parade every year with my mother. I aslo love the line in the song "we started out with nothing and ended up with it all".
The American Dream realized for the Irish who came here and helped build America.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Irish - Ellis Island Doc

I wonder what my parents felt on their arrival at Ellis Island in 1928

A Knight's Tale: Brave Boy to be King of O'Donnell Castle

A nice moving story about dreams and people making a difference...

BRAVE little Erin Logue, was yesterday made a knight in shining armour to realise the dream of a lifetime.

The nine-year-old from Loughanure, Co Donegal, rode up on his steed to be given a sword of honour at a medieval investiture ceremony in a real castle -- Solis Lough Eske Castle near Donegal town.

It was the start of a special weekend which will include a banquet in his honour before he gets to "battle" his way through enemy knights on Monday to rescue a golden Labrador in another castle, the 500-year-old O'Donnell Castle in Donegal town. He will also judge a jousting contest and other knight events.

Erin's adventure of a lifetime was all made possible by the Make a Wish Foundation when it was told of Erin's dream by a nurse at Letterkenny General Hospital.

Erin has been battling a rare cancerous brain tumour for 18 months. His illness was one of only three of its kind seen by his surgeon in the past 20 years.

His amazing courage is being recognised after he revealed his favourite dreams -- to be a knight and to own a dog.

His mum Mary said: "Erin has bounced back from his illness well and is in great form these days."

- Paddy Clancy

Irish-American Story Project

Article I wrote for Irish-American Story Project

Submit articles to them about your experiences as an Irish-American.......

Ireland at Peace - Bertie Ahern

The great day of hope has dawned

The following is an abridged version of the address by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to a Joint Meeting of the United States Congress, Washington DC, yesterday.

Your invitation to address this Joint Meeting this morning honours my country and honours me also. It reaffirms the enduring bonds of friendship and esteem between our two peoples and between our two republics. Those bonds have been built and nurtured and refreshed over the centuries. America and Ireland have something that goes beyond a friendship between countries. To be an Irishman among Americans is to be at home. So, Madam Speaker, I stand here before you as a proud son of Ireland. And I stand with you as a steadfast friend of the United States of America.

Parnell turned to the United States, as have many Irish leaders since, as we strove to emulate the achievements of America and to vindicate the principles that inspired your founding fathers: the principles of liberty, of equality and of justice.
In the early part of the last century, Eamon de Valera came here seeking help as Ireland struggled for her independence. In more recent times, many Irish leaders have come here in the quest for peace in Northern Ireland. Whenever we have asked for help, America has always been there for us -- a friend in good times and in bad.From the very outset, Ireland gave to America presidents, patriots and productive citizens of a new nation.....

The Irish helped to build America.

The New Ireland -- once a place so many left -- is now a place to which so many come....

The Irish are to be found in the police departments and the fire houses, in the hospitals, the schools and the universities, in the board rooms and on the construction sites, in the churches and on the sports fields of America.
Their contribution is seen in much of the great literature, film, art and music that America has given to the world. Each of them is a green strand woven into the American dream.
In all of America, there is Irish America.

On September 11, 2001, some of the most terrible, evil events in world history occurred. Close to Ellis Island, near this very building and in the skies and fields of Pennsylvania.
It is a day that is etched into the memory of all humanity.
On that day, Father Mychal Judge, the chaplain of the New York Fire Department and the son of Irish immigrants from Co Leitrim, rushed to the World Trade Centre to help those who were in danger and to minister to the injured and the dying. Along with so many other good, innocent people, Fr Mike died inside the Twin Towers that day. He was officially designated Victim Number 1. Of course, he was no more important than any other victim. He was just a simple man of faith and of courage trying to help others. In recognition of the bravery of all who died on that terrible day, I am deeply honoured to be joined here today by some of Fr Mike's comrades from the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department. I honour them and all of their fallen comrades -- those who fell on that day and all who have fallen doing their duty to serve the people.
There was a day of national mourning in Ireland after 9/11. Every city, town and village fell silent in remembrance of the dead.

Ar Dheis De go raibh a nanam dilis go leir.

In Ireland, we firmly believe our experience of hardship and of forced emigration is at an end. For that achievement, too, we owe so much to America.
Our two countries are reaping the rewards together. We are investing in each other's economies, bringing together our entrepreneurial energy and creating employment across Ireland and across America. That is the true measure of our economic achievements together. It points to a friendship every bit as strong in the future as it is today.

This year, in Ireland, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It was a defining moment in Ireland's history. In the years since then, some doubted that the Agreement would endure.
I never did.
I knew it would last because it is built on the highest ideals of democracy -- the ideals of liberty, of equality, of justice, of friendship and of respect for our fellow men and women. Above all, the settlement of 1998 will flourish because of one simple and unalterable fact.It represents the will, democratically expressed, North and South, of all of the people of Ireland to live together in peace. That is far more powerful than any words of hatred or any weapon of terror.

On St Patrick's Day 2008, a few short weeks ago, I came here to Washington. I came with a simple and extraordinary message: That great day of hope has dawned. Our prayer has been answered. Our faith has been rewarded. After so many decades of conflict, I am so proud, Madam Speaker, to be the first Irish leader to inform the United States Congress: Ireland is at peace.

Our dream, and the dream of all of the friends of Ireland in America and across the world, has come true. To you, to your predecessors and to all of the American leaders from both sides of the aisle who have travelled with us, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. We also recognise the steadfast support of President Bush, of President Clinton, their administrations, their envoys and of their predecessors.

Do not underestimate the good you have done. Do not forget the legacy you have forged. And if ever you doubt America's place in the world, or hesitate about your power to influence events for the better, look to Ireland.
Look to the good you have done. Look at the richness of so many individual futures that now stretch out before us for generations, no longer subject to conflict and violence. Look to the hope and confidence that we now feel on our island.
The healing of history. Look and be glad.

An American President once said: "The supreme purpose of history is a better world".
Making a better world is also the supreme purpose of representative politics in our two democratic republics.

I will shortly step down from the office of Taoiseach after almost 11 years.
I am honoured to have been elected by the Irish people to serve them in that great office.

On May 6, I will go to that famous field on the banks of the River Boyne in Ireland where, over three centuries ago, fierce and awful battle was waged between the Protestant King William and the Catholic King James....

Today, both sides, proud of their history and confident of their identity, can come together in peace and part in harmony. They can offer each other the open hand of friendship. They will reaffirm again what Ireland has achieved and what we know in our hearts to be true.
Centuries of war, of strife and of struggle are over, and over for good. The field of slaughter is now a meeting place of mutual understanding.
Our children will live in peace. And their children will enjoy the fruits of their inheritance. This is the triumph of people and of politics. This is the achievement of democracy. The great achievement of Ireland and the great blessing of peace.

There are no finer words with which to finish and upon which to say: In history, in politics and in life, there are no ends, only new beginnings.

Let us begin.

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.
A thousand thanks to you.

Read the full speech......

Ireland Homecoming - #1 Glanduff Co Mayo Cead Mile Failte

The journey home started Mar 14th on a Aer Lingus flight from LAX. Feeling excited and a little anxious. Twelve hours later we land in Dublin. We need to clear customs and catch our plane to Shannon. We have less than two hours to get to our plane. It's not looking good. Customs is moving at a snails pace and airport personnel are not interested in hearing about making your next flight. An hour and forty five minutes later we have cleared custom and we're told we need to RUN to catch our flight and it's a good ten minute Run and they can't hold the plane. OK we bolt thru the airport with my 10 year old daughter in the lead. I'm sweating but running like OJ in a old Avis commercial. Ten minutes later still running but we see the gate and we just barely make it.

We sweat the whole forty five minutes to Shannon but it's all good, we made our flight. We arrive and now it's the next challenge. I have to drive three hours to Foxford. Normally no big thing but I'm exhausted, very little sleep, still tired from our run and I have to quickly adapt to driving on the other side of the road and drive from the other side of the car. I won't say the wrong side but not my comfort zone. I think I'm up for it but first I get lost looking for my rental car in the parking lot. Not a good sign. I find it and hey I'm in Ireland. I'm cool. So I start out of the airport and it's taking all my attention to not drive on the wrong side of the road. I'm not doing bad and then I run into my first roundabout....... Okay I got to read four signs very quickly and they are in two languages and I'm on overwhelm. My wife is trying to help but I am stressed big time and let's say we are both a little testy at this point. Fun, fun fun except if you're the driver and I'm the driver. The look on my face would have made a good YouTube video. Well I survived my first roundabout but there were many more to come. Next up was a narrow and I mean narrow road with rock walls on both sides and a bus coming in my direction going at least seventy and I got no room to move over. If I could have I would have closed my eyes and prayed but somehow the bus doesn't hit us. I've lose all sense of space and physics. I'm in Ireland.

Finally four hours later we arrive in Foxford and I'm happy to get out of the car. We greet my second cousin Sharon who made this miracle reunion possible. We meet her family. They have traveled from the UK to the reunion, also a long trip for them.My niece and her family has arrived already from New Jersey and we greet them. We later meet Sharon's dad and my first cousin and his wife. They also travelled from the UK a few days earlier to organize the event. We are all very happy to finally meet in person for the first time. Finally we decide that my niece Jennifer, my cousin Tony and my second cousin Sharon and myself will go up the hill tonight to meet my Aunt Maggie and my cousin Marie. Our spouses will stay with the six kids. I'm exhausted having not slept in twenty so hours but I'm used to long hours on a film set so I'm not going to let a little exhaustion get in my way.

We arrive on top of the hill after a fifteen minute drive. The door opens and I see my 94 year old Aunt Maggie. It's a very emotional reunion. She's crying, my niece is crying and I'm crying and we are hugging each other and all talking at the same time about the miracle that brought us back together........

To be continued.........

Six Degrees of Separation - Optimism

I post this article because over 20 years ago when I was a anti-arson organizer for the People's Firehouse in Brooklyn I used to play basketball with NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson. It's truly amazing to see him with two lifelong enemies from Northern Ireland coming together to make a better life for both Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. I just returned from visiting Northern Ireland for the first time in my life and hearing about the improvement the peace process has made in Northern Ireland. A testimony to optimism and how people can work together.......

NYC Pledges Millions for North
April 16, 2008
By April Drew

FIRST Minister of Northern Ireland Dr. Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were in New York on Friday welcoming the announcement of a $150 million investment from New York Pension Funds to Northern Ireland.

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson announced the largest U.S. investment to date since the peace process in the north at his office.

Thompson, chief advisor to the New York City Pension Funds, committed to investing $150 million with the potential of eventually reaching $750 million.

“This announcement follows the Pension Funds’ longstanding, 20-year commitment to promoting peace and equality of opportunity for all in Northern Ireland,” he said......

“Now is an attractive time for investment… in this stable political environment,” said Thompson, a probable candidate for New York Mayor next year.

Paisley, who was stunned into silence by the multi million-dollar investment — “I never thought I’d say this but I am speechless,” he said — graciously thanked Thompson and his colleagues “from the depths” of his heart and said such an investment will provide “great stimulus” to Northern Ireland at this time.

“Their decision to choose Northern Ireland as a place to do business ma-kes this a truly great day for us and for New Yo-rk,” he added.

“This in-vestment confirms that North-ern Ireland has turned a corner. We are now a sound in-vestment location that can provide the right caliber of people and projects to successfully underpin further inward investment, particularly from the U.S.,” said Paisley.

McGuinness, who accompanied Paisley on a four-day visit to the U.S. in an effort to promote the Northern Ireland investment conference in Belfast next month, described the investment as “another piece of history.”

“New York led the way and Bill Thompson put its money where its mouth is,” said McGuinness.

Read full article....

Film Ireland - It's a Beautiful Country

Book Review - The Pope's Children

I picked this book up prior to my 1st trip to Ireland and just finished it on my return. If you are interested in business, economics, culture,history or just want to expand your world I recommend you read this book. This is a thought provoking, funny, entertaining and educational book all wrapped into one. The book shows how Ireland has arrived and become a global nation. Ireland is now one of the richest nations in the world with the largest middle class.

My trip allowed me to see everything from the old rural Ireland on the west to the industrial north to the cosmopolitan Ireland in Dublin. The Pope's Children complimented my trip and opened my eyes to the new Ireland and the new Irish Dream.

Be prepared to learn a bunch of Irish words like craic (fun), as Gailge (in Irish), and failte (welcome) and also a bunch of fascinating terms and descriptions created by the writer including Expectocracy, Stakhanvite, Commentariat, Kells Angels, Deckland and many more. Reading the book in a lot of craic.

What's the most important theme of the book is the amazing economic progress Ireland has made in 10-15 years. Ireland has went from a nation that exported it's young to a nation that the young are moving back and it's an immigration magnet to Eastern Europe. It's a fascinating story of the good, bad and ugly of economic progress but it take a positive and optimistic view of the progress Ireland has made.

The book is the #1 best seller in Ireland but it's a book that will be enjoyed by everyone. Check it out.

St Patrick's Day 2008- Foxford, Co Mayo, Ireland

The O'Donnell Family Reunion - St Patrick's Day -March 17, 2008

Another Door Opens - County Mayo, ireland

Tomorrow I get on a plane and journey back to my parents past and...... Only Time......

Erin Go Bragh - We are Family

Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

Book Review - The Billionaire Who Wasn't by Conor O'Cleary

I just read a fascinating book about Chuck Feeney. I never heard about him before and I'm sure you probably haven't either. I picked up the book because of a quote on the back that talks about his contribution to Ireland. Mr Feeney is an Irish-American born in New Jersey to a working class family during the Great Depression. He made his billions creating the Duty Free Shops you see at airports all over the world.

The story especially resonated with me as I am a first generation Irish-American about to make my first trip to Ireland for a family reunion. His story is one of financial success, great contribution and social significance.

The story of how he made his money makes for a great read. The book tells a great story about how he created tax shelters and protected his identity while becoming the the thirty third richest man in the world.

What he has accomplished in the area of philanthropy is even more interesting. He took to heart the spirit of Andrew Carnegie and has promoted the "Giving while Living" philosophy, He has given away through his Atlantic Foundation over $1 billion dollars and is on track to giving away over $4 billion dollars while he is alive. Mr Feeney not only gave away his money but leveraged it by getting countries to match his contributions. business

If that wasn't enough Mr Feeney got involved behind the scenes in trying to support a end to the violence in Norther Ireland and to create the conditions for peace and reconciliation.

The book is truly inspiring and Chuck Feeney is a role model on many levels.

Some of Chuck Feeney's Contributions:

Education in Ireland: He funded all seven universities in the Republic of Ireland and two in Norther Ireland to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hotel System in Ireland: He built the first large modern hotel in Ireland since WWII, The The Castletroy Park Hotel

Peace in Northern Ireland: Mr Feeney wanted to assist in taking the guns out of Irish politics. He directed over $30 million through his Atlantic Foundation to worthy projects in Northern Ireland including $2.5 million to help Republican and Loyalist ex-prisoners to move into peaceful politics.

It doesn't stop here he continued to fund education in Eastern Europe to support the move towards freedom there and other social projects in South Africa and Vietnam. His focus on finding worthy projects and worthy people provides a lot to learn from. His uniqueness was doing all this while trying to maintain his anonymity and to give credit to others instead of himself.

Mr Feeney is a truly unique individual and his story is one worth reading.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hollywood Ending _ Family Lost and Found

The story I'm about to share is a true one but it feels more like a movie script. The story starts with my parents leaving Ireland in their 20's and journeying to America circa 1928-29. It's a story of the American Dream but it's also a story of the family lost in the process. My 1st real memory as a child was watching my father die of pneumonia in our apartment. I was four years old and the year was 1956. Shortly after my mother had a falling out with her sister and we lost contact with the only family we had in America. My mother lost contact with her family in Ireland so we grew up with only my mother, my brother and myself being our only family.

My father became a US citizen and fought in the US Army in the Philippines during WW II. He died young ten years later and I never really got to know him. My mother always dreamed of returning to Ireland and maintained her Irish citizenship. I remember going regularly with her to the post office to renew her Irish passport. My mother never returned to Ireland after the death of my father. She died in the Bronx with the dream in her heart. My mother died in the 1980's and our family was now even smaller. It was now just my brother and his family and myself. If this was the way life usually works the story would end here. But it doesn't and here it spins in a direction I could never predicted. If I was writing a script this is the point where you put in the Hollywood ending.

Flash forward to the present six months ago and I receive a call from my niece in New Jersey that a relative of ours from the UK contacted her on the Internet. After a lot of back of forth communications to decide if we were indeed related we discovered that we were. Now it gets better.

This is the story as I've come to know it so far. My second cousin in the UK traveled with her parents (my cousin) to a famous shrine in Ireland called the Shrine of Knock to pray for some divine intervention with some health issues. On that trip her great-aunt who is 93 years old requested that my cousin find out what happened to her two sisters who went to America in the 20's. One of those sisters was my mother.

My cousin from the UK in the middle of dealing with her health problems took on the mission on to find us and she did. I guess you could say that partial it had to do with the power of the Internet. But it doesn't end here. She also with the help of my niece tracked down my cousins in the US who I hadn't seen since I was 6 years old and reunited us.

My niece and myself called my Aunt in Ireland and she told us we better come there for Easter to see her. So we are headed to a family reunion in the West of Ireland, County Mayo. Family is coming from America, the UK and Ireland.

Okay so let me try to wrap my mind around this. Six months ago I had no contact with any relatives and because of a trip my cousin made to Ireland and decision she made to find the family I no have family and have been reconnected with cousins in three countries.My daughter's world has grown and she now has extended family from both parents.

In one moment life has changed forever. I guess you can say it's a story of the power of the human spirit and maybe even some Irish magic thrown in. Now I tend to be a down to earth pragmatist but this whole experience is one of those moments that make you go Hmmmmmm! It just makes me realize there is so much I'll never understand. I would go as far as to say it feels almost like a little miraculous. So if I was making this story up I might call it the "Miracle of Knock", but I'm not making it up I'm just living it. I guess I had to go to Hollywood to get a real Hollywood ending for my real life story.

So as I journey to Ireland I know I am making my mother's journey home for her and completing the circle. I know she's got to be looking down on me and crying tears of happiness and maybe ...........Hmmmmmmmmm.

Streets of The Bronx - Ireland to the Bronx and ....

My parents made the journey from Ireland to Ellis Island just in time for the Great Depression. They lived and worked in the Bronx, I was born and raised on the streets of 141st and Willis Ave. As I begin to make my trip to their homeland I reflect on my childhood in the Bronx. My next post will share the journey to Ireland.

Danny Boy Ireland - A Journey Home

Over 80 years ago my parents made the journey to America. Now I am making the journey back for a family reunion. I will share this amazing story in my next post.