By Kathy McGee Burns
Breandan O Caollai, deputy consul general of Ireland, will receive a special award at the 9th annual Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame Dinner. He has become a favorite friend and special angel to the Philadelphia Irish Community.
He was born in and proud of an area, 5km north west of Dublin City called Cabra. Breandan said this is a Badge of Honor.He was educated at St. Declan’s Christian Brothers School. He received a BA and H.Dip.Ed from the University College Dublin.He also has an MA from the Institute of Public Administration. In the evenings, he furthered his education by doing graduate work at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
Breandan is married to Carmel and has a son, Eoin and teenage daughters, Fiona and Siobhan. He has been in America for three years and resides in New York City. Prior to the US, he has served his government in Italy, Belgium and the UK.
Breandan has a special affinity for Philadelphia. It is difficult to uproot children and take them from familiar surroundings but the O Caollai’s first trip to the City of Brotherly Love was the ice breaker. The family was the guest of Jean and Russ Wylie (former President of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick) who took them to dinner at the Hard Rock Café. For Fiona and Siobhan, this was the best treat and brought big smiles from the O Caollai’s teens.
Even through his wonderful worldly travels, Breandan finds Philadelphia to be a fabulous place. He describes it as “a beautiful city rich in history and yet modern in thinking.” He vividly remembers walking the “green path” in Center City, a trip made from the Commodore Barry Statue to the Irish Memorial to Penn’s Landing. He compares his first sight of the Memorial to that of Iwo Jima which is in Arlington, Va. It had a great impact on him.
One of his favorite places is the Irish Center. He refers to it as a hive. You can go from room to room and enjoy the sheer warmth and discover pieces of Ireland; the ceilis, the County societies, the GAA, the fireside room, the big ballroom and the 32 County Flags that encircle the ceiling. It gives everyone an appreciation of both sides of our world.
Breandan O Caollai’s opportunity to say thank you to Philadelphia was the role he played in bringing the Naval vessel LE Eithne to Penn’s Landing. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. The ships captain, John Barry, entertained the Irish community with a cocktail party aboard ship, designed to let us see the genuine hospitality of the Irish Navy and the beaming faces of the sailors, men and women alike.
We reciprocated by hosting a football game between the crew and the GAA followed by a great party at the Center.
Breandan will spend one more year in America. He says he will be sad to leave. “This has been a tremendous experience for me,” he says. He told me he will never forget our great vitality and our ongoing support of the Irish peace movement. “Ireland could never have peace without the help of Irish America,” he says.