The heart of Irish America
Whatever about the devil being in the detail, the magic at Irish American celebrations is the familial embrace from a people both proud and splendid.
Yes, we had rousing speeches to stir the heart and stiffen the spine at the Irish Labor 10 gathering in Manhattan on Friday night — surley Larkin lives again in the soaring oratory of Terry O’Sullivan, leader of the 600,000 member LiUNA union — but we also shared in the intimacies of Irish America.
As when outstanding academic and fair wage activist Professor Linda Donohue told us her father’s advice every time she went out the door: “Remember your name is Donohue”.
Or how New York horse carriage driver Christina Hansen, whose Teamster union is resisting efforts by Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio to close down their Central Park institution: “I have read my history and know the Irish like the Teamsters stand up for what is right,” she said.
And then Leo Fahey, Boston labor legend, who recalled his Galway-born parents meeting in America and pushing hard to point their children towards education and public service.
Their efforts were best summed up by Irish American Labour Leader 2015 James Callahan who said the Irish trade unionists of the early 1900s were “fired by a passion for justice which was born from their experiences of repression in their homeland’.
But let’s leave the last word to Terry O’Sullivan, who, with Belfast native and President of the 600,000-strong California Trades Construction Council, Robbie Hunter, has made the Irish Labor 10 THE key celebration of the Irish American contribution to the US trade union movement: “Just as the Dublin workers in 1913 laid the foundation for the uprising of 1916. So these ten Irish trade unionists are laying the foundation for a resurgent, growing and expanding labour movement. Let them, let all of us, be the spark that lights the fire of a new workers’ revolution. A revolution that puts Ireland and the United States on a path towards prosperity for all their sons and daughters not just for the fortunate few.”
On Wednesday, the Assembly Finance Committee continued its relentless pursuit of the truth behind the “dirty scheme” by which £5bn of Northern property assets were sold off by NAMA for just £1.3bn. Evidence was given by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who had been kept in the dark by his ministerial colleagues from the DUP about the sale and loyalist activist Jamie Bryson. Later this week, we travel to Dublin to meet with colleagues from the Public Accounts Committee who will be grilling NAMA bosses who sold the Project Eagle portfolio at a loss of hundreds of millions of euro — a tab picked up by the Southern taxpayer. You can see the entire Assembly Commitee session online but here’s a short clip where I note that while DUP MLAs boycotted a debate on the refugee crisis in the Chamber on Tuesday, they turned out en masse for this Finance Committee meeting to vote against hearing a key witness . I also debated the issues with DUP MP Gregory Campbell on Inside Politics this week.
Meanwhile, In Belfast we are preparing for the Homecoming — which this year will feature input from three prominent British MPs with Derry, South Armagh and Andersonstown links: Conor Burns (Tory), Conor McGinn (Labour) and Philippa Whitford (SNP). It promises to be a magnificent few days for the city and will show that, despite our problems on the Hill, the rise of Belfast will not be halted. We will be moving up a gear, metaphorically but also literally, because the week will kick off on Sunday 4 October with Ciclovía, the first-ever time a major city in these islands, closes off its roads to join in the global movement which gives the highways back to the bike. Hope to see you in the saddle.