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Pre-Parade Festivities in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney recalled the first time he ever met Paul Doris. Doris, who was born in County Tyrone and came to the US in 1974, drove Kenney and then Mayor Ed Rendell to the Philadelphia airport to meet Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams, who had finally gotten a visa to come to the United States. On the way in Doris’s station wagon, said Mayor Kenney at Thursday’s pre-St. Patrick’s Day Parade ceremonies at City Hall, he and Doris gave Mayor Rendell a short course in Irish politics before he met the famed Northern Irish politician. “Not being Irish, he really didn’t know much,” said Kenney.

So when Kenney hugged Doris, this year’s parade grand marshal, it was the real deal–two old friends, in different places in their lives, meeting up again and bonding over Irish things.

Kenney used the moment to draw a parallel between the antipathy towards the immigrants of today and the Irish immigrants who came to the city in droves, fleeing starvation and oppression in their native land. “As we debate this issue, let’s remember 1844 when a group called the ‘know nothings,’ or nativists” burned down two Catholic Churches and took part in a “pitched battle” with troops at another because of anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment. That bigotry was “directed to us very vigorously and violently,” said the mayor, the first Irish mayor in this very Irish city in 20 years. Continue Reading

News, People

Wear Green, Give Green

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is hoping that the folks who’ll be wearing the green for the next couple of weeks will be willing to part with the green too—and we’re not talking soda tax here.

Through a unique partnership between the Office of the City Representative and the nonprofit Citizen Diplomacy International (CDI), the mayor is asking the Irish community—and everyone else who feels Irish on St. Patrick’s Day—to donate to a special fund for two of the region’s largest and best known nonprofits established to end hunger and homelessness. It will run through the end of March, which Kenney will be proclaiming Irish Heritage Month at city hall ceremonies on Thursday, March 9.

You’ll be hearing more about the “Wear Green, Give Green” initiative during this Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade which is being broadcast for the first time on Fox29 TV and, if you stop in to a pub for a pint along the parade route, you can read about it on your coaster, made and donated by Condrake, a Philadelphia printing firm. Continue Reading

Audio, Music, News

Podcast: Here’s How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Without the Booze

It’s almost time for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade. Sunday, March 13, will be here before you know it. It will also be time to celebrate at the 2nd Sober St. Patrick’s Day at WHYY studios at 6th and Race, immediately following the parade.

St. Patrick’s Day—which would include parade day—can sometimes serve as an excuse for people to drink till they fall down or get sick in the street. Some of them, including a fair number of Irish-Americans no doubt, believe boozing and carousing is what day is all about.

Really? Not necessarily. OK, party—but your party can still be lots of fun without the hooch. And if you want to drink in anything, drink in some of the fun, food, dance and some of the best Irish music you’ll hear anywhere at the Sober St. Patrick’s Day party—and we hasten to add, this is all G-rated family fun. By all means, bring the kiddies.

We spoke with Katherine Ball-Weir of the Irish cultural organization Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Delaware Valley Branch, who together with Frank Daly of American Paddy’s Productions and the great local Irish band Jamison, is working hard to get this party started. Continue Reading

Music, News

Good News RUNA Lovers–They’re Playing at Home!

These days, it’s not unusual for Shannon Lambert-Ryan and her RUNA band members to get recognized in the airport. “We’ll hear, ‘hey, aren’t you from RUNA,” says Lambert-Ryan a Philadelphia native. “We’ve had a lot of fun moments like that and they’ve been steadily increasing.”

One reason is that RUNA spends a lot of time in airports and on the road. They’ve criss-crossed the country, taking their unique brand of Celtic roots music from Canada to Florida, from New England to the Pacific Northwest, picking up fans all over whom they fondly call “RUNAtics.”

“In January we left two and a half feet of snow to head to Florida where it was 80 degrees,. It was bizarre,” says the singer, who founded the band with her Dublin-born husband, Fionan de Barra. Continue Reading

News, People, Photos, Videos

Irish American Business Chamber Honors Northern Irish Company

For the first time in its 16-year history, the Philadelphia-based Irish American Business Chamber and Network gave its top award—the Ambassador’s Award—to a company founded in Northern Ireland. The ceremony took place on Friday, February 26, at The Union League in Philadelphia with more than 400 people in attendance

The IABCN honored Almac, a pharmaceutical and health care development company with North American headquarters in Souderton, where it employs more than 1,000 people. The company was founded by Sr. Alan McClay in Craigevon, Northern Ireland.

Also honored were IACBN founder, Bill McLaughlin and his wife, Natalie, who run McLaughlin & Morgan, a business and development firm in Philadelphia (the Taoiseach Award) and Msgr. Michael Doyle, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Camden whose work has led to many improvements in the city’s waterfront area. Continue Reading

News, Photos

Philly Parade Fundraiser Draws Record Crowd

When you can fill a place where you could hold two wedding receptions simultaneously, you know you’re doing something right. The FOP Hall in Northeast Philadelphia–where the bar is big enough to accommodate a police car and does–was jam-packed on Sunday, February 28, for the biggest ever fundraiser for the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The parade marches down the Parkway on Sunday, March 13.

Fundraiser organizer Mary Frances Fogg, vice president of the St. Patrick’s Day Observance Committee, was a green streak on Sunday as she dashed from raffle tables to the stage for the nonstop prize giving. Fox29 personalities Kathy Orr, Bob Kelly (with his wife, Carrie and son, Austin) and Mike Jerrick were on hand to conduct a pep rally for foils who had plenty of pep to start with. This is Fox29’s first year broadcasting the parade, though it will be Orr’s thirteenth year as parade host. She previously announced the parade when she was chief meteorologist at CBS3, where Kelly was traffic reporter. Continue Reading

Audio, News

Audio Podcast: Interview with Diarmuid Johnson

014_5582Diarmuid Johnson, noted scholar and musician, is in town to present “The Crooked Road: A Ramble through Irish History in Words and Music,” Saturday, February 27th, at 8 p.m. at the Commodore Barry Club/Philadelphia Irish Center.

Johnson takes “a musical and poetic journey through Irish history leading up to the Easter Rebellion of 1916.”

The event is sponsored by the Philadelphia Ceili Group.

We chatted with him a few days ago. Here’s what he had to say.