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News, People

Come Out and Support the Irish Center

The Commodore John Barry Arts and Cultural Center—otherwise known as the Irish Center—will hold its summer fundraiser at Tip O’Leary’s in Havertown on Sunday, July 11. This will be the Irish Center’s first big live event since COVID restrictions have been lifted. After a year that put financial strains on many, this fundraiser is vitally important for the Irish Center, located in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.

“This time every year, we do a fundraiser,” says Lisa Maloney, vice president of the Irish Center board. “It’s for regular operating expenses and for maintaining the building. We work within a very limited budget.” 

Last year, everything was shut down so an in-person event was out of the question. Instead, they sent out an appeal letter asking people for donations so that the Irish Center could make it through the year.

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News, Travel

It’s Back to the West with Trad Tours

The tourism industry was one of many industries badly affected by the COVID pandemic. As travel restrictions begin to lift this summer, though, many people will be eager to book trips and start traveling again. On July 19, Ireland will start easing border restrictions for tourists from the United States. 

The lifted restrictions came as great news for Marianne MacDonald, who has been running group trips to Ireland called Trad Tours since 1998.

“I had been on a couple of tours and I branched out from a tour I was on and took on some people in the group in a taxi to go out and do dancing in County Mayo,” MacDonald says, “and one of the couples said, ‘You know, you should really do your own tour because now we’re getting to see the real Ireland and getting to meet Irish people.” 

The primary goal of these tours is to experience a connection to Ireland through the people, traditional music and dance.

This is the kind of authentic experience of Ireland that MacDonald has been providing for years with Trad Tours. MacDonald is able to give these authentic experiences because she has done a lot of traveling herself, but she has also made some unique connections. 

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News

Remembering the 40th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike

On October 3, the Philadelphia Irish Community will commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike, the culmination of a protest carried out by Irish republican prisoners after the British government withdrew their status as prisoners of war. By that point, The Troubles in Northern Ireland had taken its toll on the population and as hunger strikers began to die in 1981, it provoked even more outrage. 

October 3 marks the end of the hunger strike. It had gone on for five months. In all, 10 men died in the process, beginning with Bobby Sands on May 5. Within two years after the end of the hunger strike, all five of the prisoners’ demands were implemented.  

The Good Friday peace agreement in 1998 brought relative calm to Northern Ireland, but there are still plenty of people who want to keep the memory of the hunger strikers alive in America today. 

One of those is Bob Dougherty, whose interest in the Irish republican struggle began when he was a young man. 

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News, People

Irish Diaspora Center Hosts Mindfulness Event

It has been an incredibly difficult time for many, if not most of us. The covid-19 pandemic has triggered bouts of stress, anxiety and even depression for people who normally might not be subject to those mental health issues. 

As we begin to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, maybe now is a particularly good time to take a candid self-assessment and explore ways to give our emotional health a boost.

The Irish Diaspora Center, working through its CHAT committee—it stands for Community Help Awareness and Trust—is hosting “Mindful in May,” an open-air event providing a day of opportunities to do just that.

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History, News

Easter Rising Commemoration 2021

A little rain—more like a downpour at the end—couldn’t stop the 2021 commemoration of the Easter Rising at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon on Sunday.

A few dozen marchers, led by the Philadelphia Emerald Society Pipe Band and the Pennsylvania 69th Irish Brigade, wound its way through the cemetery to visit the gravesites of local Irish patriots Luke Dillon, Danny Cahalane and Joseph McGarrity.

Members of those families laid wreaths of flowers, and a representative of the 69th Irish Brigade sprinkled Irish soil over each gravesite.

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News

A Pandemic-Era St. Patrick’s Fundraiser Benefits Local Irish Charities

This is the time of year when Philly-area Irish charities would be asking you to dig deep into your pockets to help them raise money for their big St. Patrick’s Day events.

With the coronavirus pandemic rules meant to keep us safe and attendance at live events seriously limited, those events just aren’t going to happen. We’ll miss them, but for now you’ll have to be satisfied—actually, we confidently predict that you will be well and truly satisfied—by a virtual fundraiser called Shamrock Aid 2021.

It’s scheduled for Wednesday, March 10, from 7 to 9 p.m. You’ll be able to see it on the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Facebook page . If you are typically inclined to support organizations dedicated to Irish causes, now is the time to give, and give generously.

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News, People

Providing Hope Over Pain: Former Blackthorn Guitarist Seamus Kelleher Joins Suicide Prevention Effort

Seamus Kelleher, the multitalented guitarist-singer-songwriter and alum of the celebrated band Blackthorn, has struggled with depression and anxiety for decades. When he was 20, he spent five weeks in a psychiatric hospital.

During that time, when he was living in his hometown of Galway, he recalls going into his kitchen, pulling out a bread knife and holding it to his wrist.

“This is a very clear memory,” he says, “I was incredibly depressed. I was suicidal. I had no intention of doing it then, right? None. But that was my insurance policy. If it didn’t get better, I could end it. And that was at 20 years of age. I had my whole life ahead of me, great rock and roll bands. On the surface, I had everything. But for me, if the pain got any worse, that was my exit strategy.”

Kelleher says he entertained thoughts of suicide again, about seven or eight years ago, but he was extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by people who recognized that he was in bad shape and steered him in the direction of the help he so badly needed. 

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News

Join a Virtual Town Hall for the Irish Community

How will Brexit affect U.S.-Irish relations? Are there any new insights into business ties between the States and Ireland? What issues are affecting the local Irish and Irish-American community?

These concerns and more are up for discussion Wednesday, February 17, in a virtual town hall meeting sponsored by the Irish Diaspora Center.

Ireland Consul General Ciarán Madden and U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5) will be on hand to answer questions in a discussion moderated by Professor Joseph Lennon of Villanova.

The town hall is an outgrowth of a conversation with Rep. Scanlon at last year’s open house for the Irish Diaspora Center in Havertown, according to center executive director Emily Norton Ashinhurst.

“We had our grand opening at the new center on March 1, and she came and joined us,” says Ashinhurst. “We talked about the potential for her getting a town hall going, to talk to the Irish community. She is part of the Friends of Ireland Caucus.”

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