The Ireland Funds Hosts its 26th Annual National Gala

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On Wednesday, March 14, The Ireland Funds, a global fundraising network for people of Irish ancestry and friends of Ireland, hosted its 26th Annual National Gala at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. The event symbolized the strong and lasting relationship between Ireland and the U.S. The Prime Minister of Ireland, Leo Varadkar, addressed over 750 guests at the gala, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and 25 members of Congress as well as Irish and Irish American leaders in business, government, the media, and the arts.

At the O’Neill and Associates’ table, COO Shelly O’Neill and Vice Chairman John Cahill hosted Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH-13), and former Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA). This year’s gala recognized the work of two Irish-American Congressmen – Representative Richard Neal (D-MA-1) and Representative Peter King (R-NY-2), Chairs of the Friends of Ireland Caucus in Congress. The celebration also honored Anne Finucane, Vice Chair, Bank of America and Sean McGarvey, President, North America’s Building Trades Unions.

In his remarks, Congressman Neal passionately reaffirmed the enormous commitment embodied in the historic Good Friday Agreement. Prime Minister Varadkar received a standing ovation for his speech on the shared values of Ireland and encouraged people to strive for peace and reconciliation at all levels in Northern Ireland.

The gala raised over $1 million that will benefit a variety of causes in Ireland.

The Sixth Annual Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards

By: Tom O’Neill

Shelly and I recently traveled to Northern Ireland for the sixth annual Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award. Every year we look forward to this event and award which celebrates the life of my father and honors his dedication to peace in both the United States and Northern Ireland. The award recognizes the significance of the Diaspora and celebrates the heritage and culture that has promoted such a strong, impressive presence of County Donegal natives abroad. While it has many functions, ultimately, the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award recognizes the achievements of influential members of the Irish Diaspora community who have found tremendous success in their field of choice while never forgetting their Irish roots.

This year I had the honor of presenting the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award to four impressive individuals:  President Marty Meehan, University of Massachusetts system; food entrepreneur Frazer Doherty, Founder of SuperJam and member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE); Barbara Koster, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Prudential Financial; Packie Bonner, Former goalkeeper for Celtic and the Republic of Ireland national team.

Each recipient has done much to promote the progression of Northern Ireland locally and on a global scale. The Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards recognizes this commitment to the betterment of the community and its’ recipients are a true testament to the incredible influence of Donegal and the importance of the Irish Diaspora.

The Premiere of In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America

By: Tom O’Neill 

Last night was truly an honor. I had the privilege of sitting beside friends and family and watching the story of my dear friend John Hume play out on the big screen in the U.S. premiere of In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America. The feature documentary was the opening night selection for the Boston Film Festival.

This film is the most succinct narrative on the history of Northern Ireland spanning from Bloody Sunday to the Good Friday Agreement I have seen. It depicts the involvement of each individual in the peace process clearly and precisely. The director, Maurice Fitzpatrick, paints an incredibly accurate picture of Hume, my father, the roles of other key political leaders and the struggles of the North of Ireland.

Following the screening, there was a panel discussion with MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen, director Maurice Fitzpatrick and myself. We were all actively involved in politics or journalism during John Hume’s peace efforts. As such, we were well versed and passionate about John Hume as a person and peace for the North of Ireland.

We discussed Hume’s politics. Chris Matthews describing Hume as being a “down-to-earth” politician who explained his views in a way that anyone could understand. He used an example of John discussing the economic needs of Northern Ireland. He believed that if peace could replace the bombings and violence then tourism would grow, more jobs would be create, and all households would benefit.

We discussed Hume’s party, the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP). “The SDLP was John Hume” Kevin Cullen said before going on to talk about how John’s actions essentially signed a “death warrant” for the party.

We discussed the future of Ireland. With the Brexit decision taking effect, Ireland’s peace will be put to the test. Given this, Maurice Fitzpatrick believes there is still a need for U.S. involvement in Ireland politically and economically.

I believe the atmosphere of the room last night can be summed up in a single moment. During the audience Q and A, one attendee declared to Maurice, “[Hume’s story] has got to be on the screen and you put it there.” I could not agree more. It was also special that John’s son Aidan joined us with his own son for this premiere. The story of John Hume’s fight for peace in Ireland is one everyone should know. My father used to say he had three role models in life: President Abraham Lincoln, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Hume. Hume is a symbol of peace, civil rights and the effectiveness of international relations. He is truly an inspiration to all.

In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America

By: Tom O’Neill 

My father, Speaker of the House Thomas “Tip” O’Neill Jr., is famously quoted as saying “All politics is local.” He believed politicians must always be privy to the needs and plight of the people and to immerse themselves in the community they represent. Having been born in an area in North Cambridge, Massachusetts commonly referred to at that time as “Old Dublin,” the community my father grew up in and later represented in Congress was predominantly Irish.  His roots defined him. During the conflict in Ireland my father felt a responsibility to aide in the peace process because “all politics is local” and those struggling in the North of Ireland were his people. This obligation and desire to assist the people of Northern Ireland during The Troubles was only furthered after meeting John Hume. My father had the utmost respect for John and often followed his lead when it came to developing a political strategy for peace in the North. In the late 60s, on his way to Boston and Washington DC to meet with influential Irish leaders at the invitation of my father, I had the privilege of meeting John. Since then, I have supported John and the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP) by acting as a foreign agent and supporting their cause in the United States. To this day, John remains a dear friend of mine. My wife, Shelly, and I have formed a strong relationship with his wife, Pat and their wonderful children. Hume is an incredible man with an incredible story that I am proud to be part of telling.

This Thursday night, In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America, a documentary directed by Maurice Fitzpatrick, premieres in the U.S. as the feature film of the Boston Film Festival. The film chronicles John Hume’s approach to politics in Northern Ireland and includes a wide-range of interviews with pivotal figures in Ireland’s fight for a peaceful resolution, such as President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, American legislators, and Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair who helped to wrest peace from war in Northern Ireland.

Tonight, Maurice and I will be guests on Nightside with Dan Rea on WBZ Radio to discuss the premiere. In the Name of Peace: John Hume in America premieres Thursday at 7pm followed by a panel discussion with MSNBC Hardball’s Chris Matthews, The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen and myself. I am very much looking forward to celebrating my friend John Hume and all he has done for Northern Ireland. I hope you will join me. Tickets to the Boston Film Festival can be purchased here.

Dr. Arun Gandhi Delivers Inaugural Lecture for John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Chair in Peace

Gandhi Ireland.pngA year after receiving an honorary degree and delivering the commencement address at the University of Ulster-Magee Campus in Derry, Northern Ireland, Tom O’Neill returned to campus with his wife Shelly for the Formal Launch of the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace. Dedicated in honor of their efforts to foster peace and advance the reconciliation process during and after the Troubles, the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace seeks to use the lessons learned from peacebuilding in Northern Ireland to prepare future peacemakers of the world.

Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of the world-renowned non-violent Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, served as the keynote speaker of the inaugural events, which revolved around the commencement ceremonies for the INCORE Class of 2018. During his time on campus, Dr. Gandhi met with the Clinton Summer School INCORE participants and delivered a lecture around peace and nonviolence. The Smyth Memorial Lecture, “Building a Culture of Peace: Lessons from My Grandfather” emphasized the importance of learning in order for future peacemakers to create a culture of peace. Mahatma Gandhi led India’s non-violent independence from Britain and Dr. Arun Gandhi recalled learning from his grandfather that justice did not mean revenge but rather transformation through love.

Professor Brandon Hamber is the Director of INCORE and was appointed as the professor for the Chair in Peace to help future peacemakers in cultivating a more peaceful world. He was congratulated by Emmy-nominated actress and producer, Dr. Roma Downey, through a video message where she expressed her warm congratulations and her confidence in his valuable contributions while holding the Chair in Peace. Professor Brandon Hamber meditated upon the current violence conflicts around the world and recognized the great work that will be done to empower a generation of peacemakers.

While these events remind us that there is much that remains to be done to stimulate peace around the globe, the formal launch of the Chair in Peace was an opportunity to celebrate people like Mahatma Gandhi, John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill. Tom adds:

“The origin in modern history of peace, brought about in a non-violent way, for the essence of equity and justice to be realised, was really at the hands of the great Mahatma. It was the others that followed him, because they had been reminded of what peace can do.”

Looking forward, we can only hope the next generation continues to follow and be reminded of these great leaders and what peace can do.

Coverage of the Formal Launch included The Irish News, the Londonderry Sentinel, the International Fund for Ireland, and more.

Bringing the Irish Stage to Boston

Pictured above, left to right: Ireland’s Consul General Fionnuala Quinlin, Abbey Theatre Director and CEO Fiach Mac Conghail, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Pyramid Hotel Group CEO Rick Kelleher, and O’Neill and Associates CEO Tom O’Neill

On Tuesday, April 26, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Ireland’s Consul General Fionnuala Quinlin, along with many of the city’s most prominent business, cultural and community leaders, gathered at the Boston Harbor Hotel to welcome Fiach Mac Conghail, director and CEO of Dublin’s renowned Abbey Theatre.

Along with Mayor Walsh, Tom O’Neill, the inaugural chairman of the Abbey Theatre Association’s Boston chapter, joined together with co-chair Rick Kelleher to officially announce the Abbey Theatre’s upcoming fall residency at the American Repertory Theater with its production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars. The Abbey Theatre will also begin a cultural partnership with the Boston Public Library to create special cultural and educational programming.

The Abbey Theatre – the national theatre of Ireland – has stood at the heart of Irish culture for over a century. Founded in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, the Abbey Theatre seeks “to bring upon the stage the deeper emotions of Ireland.” This mission serves as the theatre’s central guiding principle. In 1925, the Abbey became the first state-subsidized theatre in the English-speaking world.

To learn more about the Abbey Theatre event at the Boston Harbor Hotel, visit the Boston Globe’s website. For more information on the Abbey Theatre and its production of The Plough and the Stars, click here. Visit the American Repertory Theater website for details on the Abbey’s September performance.