Aon Sceal?

[cincopa 10736225]We learned this week that local Irish folk sensation, The John Byrne Band, has been booked to play the presidential reception at the National Constitution Center for this year’s Liberty Medal ceremony. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is receiving the award, which is given annually to “men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.” Previous winners have included former US Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, U2’s Bono, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, James Watson and Francis Crick (they discovered DNA), Sandra Day O’Connor and Colin Powell. Blair was chosen for the award for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process, so it seems fitting that he’s serenaded by an Irish band. President Bill Clinton will be presenting the medal to Blair on September 13. If you haven’t been invited to the president’s reception for Blair (our invite must have been lost in the mail), you can catch John Byrne at Slainte on Market Street on Monday nights and at the Wildwood first annual Irish Summer Fest next weekend.

All That Glitters

Philadelphia’s 2010 Mary from Dungloe, Keira McDonagh, arrived back in town from the week-long pageant in Ireland with something shiny. No, alas, not the crown. That went to the Edinburgh Mary, Jemma Ferry. But Keira came back with a more lasting memento: an engagement ring! No whirlwind romance story to tell. She’ll be marrying her longtime beau, Center City attorney Justin Gdula, sometime next year.

Immigration Center to Honor Immigration Activist

Anne O’Callaghan, executive director of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians and a tireless advocate for immigrants, will be the recipient of the first annual Mathew Carey Hibernian Award at a gala on Saturday, October 30, at the Hyatt on Penns Landing, sponsored by the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia. Born in Ireland, O’Callaghan was trained in Ireland (University of Dublin School of Medicine, Oswestry and North Staffordshire School of Physiotherapy) as a physical therapist and practiced and taught for 20 years after coming to the US in 1970. She founded a software development company that serves the home health care industry. Since 2003, the Welcoming Center has focused on helping new immigrants find both services and employment in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia in particular. Mathew Carey, whose name the award bears, was an Irish immigrant from Dublin who came to Philadelphia where he became the Revolution’s biggest ally in the press. He started his own bookselling and printing in 1775 in Ireland, moved to Paris to escape the authorities (he was a fiery polemicist) and it was there he met Ben Franklin, then ambassador to France, who also knew a thing or two about publishing and rabble-rousing. He started many publications in Philadelphia but is probably best known as the publisher of the Douay-Rheims Bible, the first Roman Catholic version of the Bible to be printed in the US. Carey is buried in St. Mary’s Church graveyard on Fourth Street in Philadelphia—not far from John Barry, father of the American Navy–and his portrait hangs in the church.

New Consul General in New York

Noel Kilkenny will succeed Niall Burgess as the Irish Consul General in New York. Kilkenny is the former Irish ambassador to Estonia. We’re fairly sure he’s not the banjo player from Mayo you can see in this video, but that would certainly make some stuffy official events very entertaining if he were. Prime Minister Brian Cowen introduced Kilkenny (the consul, not the banjo player) during Cowen’s recent visit to New York.

A Bucketload of Beckett

If there were a Guinness Book of World Records’ entry for “actor playing the most Samuel Beckett roles” the honor would probably go to Conor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, who, his PR release says, has racked up 17 roles in 23 different Beckett productions. Figuring out that math made our brains hurt (math always makes our brains hurt), but we’re looking forward to seeing Lovett in his next Beckett incarnation. He’ll be bringing a one-man performance of Beckett’s “First Love” to the Philly Fringe Festival September 3-5 at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Broad Street. Info on tickets is on our interactive calendar.

Kildare’s Pub’s Global Strategy: One College Town at a Time

We like to think of Kildare’s Pubs as a local phenomenon. And since chiropractor and former restaurant dishwasher Dave Magrogan built his first one in West Chester in 2003, they’ve pretty much been a fun place to pretend you’re in Ireland while never leaving the Philly area. But over the past few years, Kildare’s has been quietly importing itself to other parts of the world. Like Scranton. Can’t you just see the guys and gals from “The Office” playing Quizzo one night at Kildare’s Scranton? (Hint, hint to Dave: Catch Carell before he leaves the show.) Today, there are Kildare’s Pubs in Newark, DE, Chapel Hill, NC, and, pretty soon, you’ll be able to go to a Kildare’s after seeing Penn State crush some opponent or another in State College, PA, or after seeing Notre Dame crush some opponent or another in South Bend, IN . This college town strategy seems to be working. Magrogan has a few other irons in the fire, including Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House and Harvest Seasonal Grill, a brand new restaurant in Glen Mills, PA.

Aon Sceal, roughly translated from the Gaelic, means “What’s new?” So, what’s new with you? Let us know and we’ll tell everyone. Email us at

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