The Easter Rising Remembered on Long Island
By Joe McDonald
On April 25th, more than 150 people attended the annual Easter Rising memorial service in Mineola, NY. At a location behind the courthouse, stands the now completed Irish memorial, a testament to those who gave their lives for Ireland’s freedom in the early 20th Century. Sponsored by the Irish Monument Committee each Easter Monday, the one hour ceremony allows all those present to remember the martyrs of 1916.
The committee is comprised of various Irish organizations including the Nassau County Board of the Ancient order of Hibernians, the Nassau Police Emerald Society, the Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, the Irish Culture Society of Garden City, Irish Northern Aid, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Irish Americans in Government.
“It’s important to have this ceremony”, said Nassau County AOH Freedom For All Ireland Chairman Vic Sackett, “because after 800 years of oppression by the British, Irish leaders who knew very well what freedom was, had the courage to plan and train an uprising to would have some chance of success. Although the rising was not successful, within two years, it rallied the Irish population to elect their own representatives and government, which then declared the 32 County Republic in 1919.”
This year’s ceremony, which was headed by the Police Emerald Society, included remarks from Consul General of Ireland Noel Kilkenny, and Leitrim County Councilor Martin Kenny. Kilkenny spoke about those who died in the Easter Rising and why it is important for people to believe in freedom and independence, while Kenny remarked about the culture of Ireland and how it is not a Catholic Protestant rivalry, but the mentality of peasants vs. planters. “And the Irish people rose above the peasant mentality to become something more,” he remarked. “Now the planters need to change their way of thinking, for Ireland to become the great county it can be.”
The monument has been located behind the Nassau County Court House since 1979, albeit unfinished. Recently, Irish groups throughout Long island decided to complete and renovate the project. Two years ago the top was put on the monument, a harp with 32 strings representing the 32 counties and the names of 15 who died on the base. Last year, flowers, lights and a walkway were added and to finish it off benches will be installed and the plaques will be placed back onto the memorial.
The memorial concluded with a laying of a wreath at the monument. “It’s rather unique that the Easter Rising is remembered on public ground in the United States,” said AOH Brother Robert Lynch. “I can’t think of any other place in America that has something dedicated to such an important event.”
The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in Utica, NY
by John E. Fox
The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in West Utica following discussions with city leaders, Great American Irish Festival Inc. organizers said. An Irish cultural center not only would be a benefit to West Utica’s Brewery District, but it bodes well for the entire city, Mayor David Roefaro said. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Roefaro said. “That piece of property is passionate to the Irish,” he said of the parking lot at Cooper and Columbia streets, where the former St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was founded in the 1850s. The $2 million project — funded almost exclusively from proceeds of the Great American Irish Festival — will yield a two-story building with an authentic Irish pub, kitchen, meeting rooms and office space. Matthew Sullivan, director of the festival, will serve as executive director of the center. A variety of Irish organizations, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, will make use of the space, Sullivan said. Construction of the 2-story multi-purpose, 10,000 square foot facility will include, a full basement, a banquet hall that will be able to accommodate about 300 people, a full commercial kitchen, an authentic Irish Pub, a cultural room, a meeting room as well as office spaces. Construction of the building will begin, “as soon as the weather will allow,” Sullivan said, adding that “We wanted this to be an investment in the hub of downtown and we wanted to be part of Varick Street, with the brewery,” A groundbreaking ceremony emceed by Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks and attended by about 150 people was held at 623 Columbia St. was held Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day. Brooks commended Sullivan for his efforts and joked about the fallacy of the phrase, “the luck of the Irish.” “The Irish got where we are by hard work and fighting for what we believe in,” he said. The center site was once home to the first Irish Catholic parish in the city, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which was founded in the 1850s but disbanded and later demolished in the 1960s. “This site is sacred ground for the Irish community,” Sullivan said. The plan has been through the city zoning and planning boards and has gained all necessary approvals Sullivan said. The entity that will run the center will be a non-profit, registered with the State Education Department as a Historical Society with Collections. The Irish pub will be open to the public and should be part of the Varick Street bar scene. Sullivan first began working on the project in 2003 through his involvement with the AOH, Brooks told the gathered crowd. Though some of the money came from other sources, both Sullivan and Brooks said no government money is involved. The ceremony also included several prayers from local priests, bagpipe tunes, the Irish and American national anthems and Irish ballads. Shortly after a procession down Varick Street, a robust party was held at the Celtic Harp.
The Honorable Michael Dwyer named Grand Marshal
by John E. Fox
Oneida County Court Judge Michael Dwyer was named as the grand marshal for Utica’s (NY) 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said Kevin Dowling, the parade director. Dwyer is a “standup” person who is very deserving of being named grand marshal and has a difficult job as county court judge, “He works very hard for this community,” Dowling said. Dwyer said there are many others who deserve the honor just as much or more than he does. “I am very proud, and also very humbled,” Dwyer said. 141 groups turned out for the annual parade down Genesee Street this year, according to event director Kevin Dowling. Other participants included seven bagpipe bands, nine or ten additional musical groups and a plethora of service organizations – all of which made their way from Oneida Square to Columbia Street.
“This is the third largest parade in the state behind New York City and Buffalo,” Dowling said. “Last year, we counted about 2,000 people marching in the parade. With 33 more units that entered this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got up to 2,500.” Many say for them the parade is a way to honor their ancestors by remembering Irish traditions and traditional music.
“I see the pride in being Irish; just being Irish you know, having it in your blood, but it represents the day and the spirit and the holiday,” said parade attendee Michael Collins.
Parade goers say the event wasn’t just about celebrating their heritage, but also about recognizing some important members of the community. It was a chance for local organizations — from emergency squads to food banks — to shine. Dowling, and other parade organizers, said the parade remains a community-oriented event, where rowdier celebrators mix with families and children – and where everyone has a good time. “The key theme that we try to stress is respect,” Dowling said. “Everyone is respectful of each other and we have a good time.”