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Dissidents Honor Their Heroes

INTERESTING to note the guests at the Cumann Na Saoirse Irish Freedom Committee dinner on Friday, January 27 at the Astoria Manor in Queens. This dinner is the closest equivalent to the dissident Republican Oscars.

And the honorees are:

Mary Holt Moore, the second female grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, who will receive the Pearl Flannery award, named after the wife of the late founder of Cumann Na Saoirse Michael Flannery.

Flannery, who was also founder of Irish Northern Aid, started Cumann Na Saoirse because of his opposition to the peace process. The blurb notes that Mary’s grand uncle, John Kevin O’Reilly wrote, “Wrap the Green Flag Around Me Boys” and fought in the GPO in 1916.

Our next honoree does not appear to have such a close Irish connection. Karen Ingentron Lewis is being honored apparently because she is the wife of Al “Grandpa” Lewis from The Munsters television show, who was himself honored a few years ago.

Karen’s work on Irish issues is a trifle light, it seems, from her resume, but hey, the wife of one of the Munsters is bound to be a celebrity, right? “Page Six,” anyone?

The third honoree is a bit surprising. Larry Kirwan of Black 47 will receive the Michael Flannery Spirit of Freedom Award. Kirwan is also an accomplished playwright and writer, but quite how he got mixed up with Cumann Na Saoirse is not clear from his biography.

All in all a great night, full of the kind of people who will set Ireland free from the center to the sea any day now. No ifs, ands or buts.

Kerry to Derry

FORMER SDLP leader John Hume will host the former Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry in Co. Derry this Saturday.

Hume is also professor in the Tip O’Neill chair of peace studies at the University of Ulster at Magee, and he invited Kerry to deliver the first of this year’s O’Neill lectures.

Hume still has unrivaled contacts in the U.S., and he will always be remembered here as the man who first began to create links between Washington and politicians back home.

Through the years Hume has been responsible for bringing some of the biggest names in world politics to Derry. Previously, he has welcomed former President Bill Clinton, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern, former European Commission President Romano Prodi, Senator Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In a statement Hume said, “I am delighted to welcome Senator John Kerry to Derry. The Tip O’Neill Lecture is always a major event for Northern Ireland and I have no doubt that John Kerry will be well received.”

It will certainly do Kerry no harm to visit Ireland. He still has ambitions to run again for the White House, so touching base with the Irish American constituency will do him no harm at all.

Will Adams Get Fundraising?

THE big question already being asked is whether Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will get his fundraising visa stamped to come to the U.S. around St. Patrick’s Day, given the fact that he was refused fundraising rights during his proposed visit last November.

Sinn Fein have traditionally used St. Patrick’s Day as a major occasion for the party to get out and about in America, and fundraising has been a major aspect of the trips. Indeed, in the past Sinn Fein have had as many as six or seven reps from coast to coast during the period.

It is important to note that there is no possibility of Sinn Fein members being refused visas. Rather it is the fundraising issue that is at stake.

Given that the last ban hardly helped matters, it seems likely that this time the powers that be in the Bush administration will change their minds and allow it this time.

Bruton, Adams, May Meet

GERRY Adams is set to address St. John’s University students on March 14 in New York, and there is a nice symmetry to that given the incredible amounts of Irish Americans who have graduated from there over the years, including civil rights legend and Mayo-born Paul O’Dwyer, one of Adams’ heroes.

Adams is also expected at the Washington dinner of the American Ireland Fund on March 16. Doubtless he may run into former Taoiseach John Bruton, now EU ambassador to the U.S.

Bruton earned fame or infamy, depending on your point of view, with an elongated and very harsh attack on Adams from the podium at this dinner when he was taoiseach a few years back.

There will also be a morning reception on St. Patrick’s Day for the Northern Irish and Irish party leaders, plus a meeting between Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and President Bush. ‘All in all it promises to be an interesting St. Patrick’s season, as new efforts to get the peace process underway will take place.

A Great Irishman Passes

THIS column would be remiss if it did not note the passing of Kevin O’Sullivan, a great Irish American who died on January 9 at Mount Sinai hospital in Manhattan. Kevin, the son of Kerry parents, resided in Long Island, and huge crowds turned up for his wake and funeral.

Kevin was always a committed supporter of Irish causes, but his real legacy is in the O’Sullivan Children Foundation. If you ever turn on PBS you will see so many programs, especially those for kids, funded by the foundation.

Kevin’s extraordinary philanthropy had a sad origin. Three of his own four children, Kevin, Colleen and Terence, predeceased him at a young age.

Kevin was a huge hit in the media world. He rose from modest circumstances to become president of ABC Films and ABC International Television. In 1973 he acquired the rights of ABC films (including the all time hit Dallas) to create a worldwide television distribution company.

Kevin was a committed Irish American who was always available to help out on Irish issues. We have a particularly strong memory of sitting with him at the White House some years back when Bill Clinton was hosting an event for the Irish.

Kevin, like all of us, was bursting with pride that at last the Irish had been made welcome in the most important venue of all. May he rest in peace.




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