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Get Your Halloween On for the Derry Ball!

The Donegal Ball has its Mary from Dungloe.

The Mayo Ball has its Miss Mayo.

Philadelphia’s Sons and Daughters of Derry just might have their Frankenstein. Or Dracula. Or any number of attendees in full Halloween regalia.

It’s no coincidence that the Derry Society has chosen to have a Halloween Ball and Costume Contest, scheduled for October 27 at 8 p.m. at the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—aka the Irish Center. Continue Reading

Audio, News, People

“Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew”

Author, journalist and broadcaster Jude Collins visited the Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center in Philadelphia Sunday to give a talk on his new book, Martin McGuinness: The Man I Knew (Mercier Press).

The book is a collection of interviews with prominent figures in recent Northern Irish history, all reflecting on the late Martin McGuinness, prominent Irish republican Sinn Féin politician, a warrior turned peacemaker, who became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

McGuiness died in 2017.

Among those interviewed are prominent unionists, including Eileen Paisley (widow of Ian Paisley), Michael McGimpsey and John McAllister, peace talks chairman U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and friends and allies such as Gerry Adams and Martina Anderson.

Was McGuinness, as some thought, a terrorist who somehow became a different man? Or was he, as others believed, always the same man—a man who never wavered in his pursuit of the same goal but who, when the time came, simply embraced a new approach?

Collins digs deep to find the answers to this and many other questions. He sat with us for a brief interview preceding his talk.

Here’s what he had to say.

Editor’s note: All Irish Philly podcasts are now available on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and Spotify.

News, People, Photos

More Than 250 Walked From Darkness Into Light

The Sharpie-written notes on the “Banner of Hope” offered the answer to the question, “Why did you get up at 3 in the morning to do a 5K in the rain?”

“In loving memory of my dear Lori. Love you. This one’s for you.”

“In memory of Paddy, Love, Brigid.”

“Missing you always!” This tiny message appeared under a drawing of a yellow butterfly whose artist added a smudge of orange and two tiny antennae with care.

Some left lists of names; Sinead. Johnny. Keiran. Wee Pat. Eddie.

All of them, messages to people who died by their own hand.

More than 250 people gathered outside Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive at the top of Boathouse Row starting at 3 AM last Saturday to participate in the “Darkness Into Light” 5K to benefit Pieta House, an Irish organization that provides free counseling to those considering suicide or self-harm. Fox29’s Bob Kelly hosted the opening ceremonies and helped rally the runners and walkers who were already soaked by the persistent drizzle. Continue Reading

News, People, Photos

Meet the New Philadelphia Rose of Tralee

The 26-year-old executive director of a Philadelphia nonprofit serving homeless veterans was crowned the 2016 Philadelphia Rose of Tralee on Saturday night at the Radnor Hotel. The event was emceed by CBS3 consumer reporter Jim Donovan.

The latest Rose, Brigid Gallagher, has the inside scoop on what she’s in for this year. Her older sister, Colleen, was the 2007 Philly Rose. The two wrote and illustrated a children’s book and, along with running the Philadelphia Veterans’ House, Brigid Gallagher is completing her masters of art therapy and counseling at Drexel University. A graduate of West Chester University with a degree in graphic design and psychology, The new Rose is a marathoner and one of the newest members of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the oldest Irish organization in the US, located in Philadelphia, which recently opened its membership to women.

Brigid is the middle sister of seven girls—so there may be more Gallagher Roses to come. Continue Reading

News, People

“Darkness Into Light” Launches in Philadelphia

Jim Reardon of Havertown was there because of Christmas 1976, the day he returned to his Dublin home after visiting friends to learn that it wasn’t because of a card game—“we were a great house for cards,” he says—that the house was teeming with people in the middle of the night. Reardon’s father had been found dead. Laid off after 50 years at the same job, he committed suicide.

Siobhan Towey Regan of Glenside was there was there for her cousin, a young man in his 20s, who also killed himself.

Joan Freeman of Dublin was there because of her sister, Catherine. A 54-year-old mother of four, she too died by her own hand. Continue Reading

News, People, Photos

Biggest Little Parade Around

The Conshohocken St. Patrick’s Day Parade may only stretch out for a mile, but it’s jam-packed with marchers, bands, dancers, and floats. The sidewalks in this small town are also jam-packed, and there seem to be more people every year. It’s become such a tradition, some families show up decked out in green with food, drink, lawn chairs and even tables!

The festivities started with a 5K race up and down Fayette Street a few times, an outing that also brought out families who were running together.

John Tobin was grand marshal.

You can see our photos of the parade and the 5K below. Continue Reading

Music, News, People, Photos

Dropkick Murphys Welcome Vets Backstage

The Dropkick Murphy’s front man Ken Casey doesn’t just give his name to his charity, The Claddagh Fund—he gives his all. When DKM blew into town last weekend for a sold-out concert, part of its 20th anniversary tour, at The Electric Factory, Casey and crew carried a banner in the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade promoting the band and the charity, which raises money to help underfunded nonprofits in Boston and Philadelphia.

One of the Boston-born Casey’s pet projects is any organization that serves military veterans, so he met with some from one of the Claddagh Fund’s grantees, Healing Ajax, backstage before the show, where they mingled with fans who made donations to the fund to get into the meet-and-greet.

Healing Ajax is a peer support program in which veterans help other veterans adjust from the battlefield to the homefront. Many of the vets are young men from the Iraq and Afghanistan fronts who may be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, or other mental health issues. Continue Reading

News, People, Photos

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