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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
October 03, 2005
Judge Cory Speaks to Irish America
Honored for their work in Human Rights at the annual convention of the Irish American Unity Conference in Pittsburgh, PA were (holding placks from left to right) Judge Andrew Somers, former MLA Mary Nellis & Jim Campbell. The trio was praised by convention organizer, Sarah McAuliffe-Bellin (second left).
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News about Ireland & the Irish
DI 10/03/05 Judge Cory Speaks Irish America
DI 10/03/05 Congress Members To Visit North
DI 10/03/05 Catholics Forced To Endure Gauntlet Of Abuse
IT 10/03/05 Loyalists Threaten To Exhume Bodies In Cemetery
UT 10/03/05 Cemetery Challenge To Unionist Leaders
SF 10/03/05 Residents Seek Support From Loyalist Attacks
BT 10/03/05 Sinn Fein To Talk At Tory Conference
IO 10/03/05 Fitt Memorial Service Decision Overturned
BT 10/03/05 Adams Urges Priority Over Powers
BT 10/03/05 Scripts Already Written Over IRA: Dodds
IT 10/04/05 US Military Use Of Shannon Now At Its Highest
BB 10/03/05 Belfast Council Condemn Loyalist Violence
DI 10/03/05 Opin: Old Patterns Of Discrimination
IA 10/03/05 Gov't Increases Grants For Immigrant Groups
GG 10/03/05 How The Irish Built An American Icon
IT 10/04/05 Malin Head Records Warmest September Since 1971
IT 10/04/05 Tributes Paid For Fr Fergal O'Connor
IT 10/04/05 Work Restarts On Eyre Square
IA 10/04/05 Danny O’Flaherty Evacuates Twice
Collusion Probe Barriers
Máirtín Ó Muilleoir
Judge Peter Cory said at the weekend that a security
agency had withheld documents from his inquiry team
investigating allegations of collusion.
The Canadian judge was giving a rare public address at the
annual meeting of the Irish American Unity Conference in
"When I thought the report was ready, I wrote to all the
security agencies again and asked: 'Have you given me
everything?' As a result, I got a whole bunch more
[documents] and had to add an addendum," he said.
Judge Cory said he had had to observe stringent security
measures while examining documents held at New Scotland
Yard relating to the 1989 murder of human-rights solicitor
"Documents led to other documents. Some places were
extremely difficult. Some would even deny they exist.
"One lady from an agency left her purse behind when
delivering documents and, when I called her number to tell
her, the first question was: 'How did you get this number?'
"Then they said: 'We don't exist and anyhow, we don't know
"MI5 were more difficult. If I made notes, they had to see
them and ensure they accompanied me until they were put in
the safe," he said.
"I never went anywhere on their premises alone. Even if I
went to the john, they came with me — the first time that
had happened since kindergarten."
Judge Cory said his report on the Pat Finucane killing, the
first report to be finished, had been taken out of Britain
by the Canadian High Commissioner in a diplomatic pouch and
given to the Canadian secret service for safekeeping.
The Cory reports recommended public inquiries into the
killings of Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson, Pat Finucane,
Billy Wright and RUC superintendents Harry Breen and Bob
Judge Cory has condemned British efforts to limit the scope
of the Pat Finucane inquiry as "intolerable" and said he
could not imagine "any self-respecting Canadian judge
accepting an appointment to any inquiry constituted under
the new proposed act".
Judge Cory said the inquiries legislation proposed by the
British government was much weaker than the 1921 Public
Inquiry Act. He said it would create an "intolerable Alice
in Wonderland situation" where those being investigated
could veto the inquiry. He said his first inkling of his
appointment had come in a call from The Irish Times two
weeks before he was asked to meet the Irish ambassador to
Canada and the British High Commissioner.
"I told the reporter he must be mistaken as I knew nothing
about the matter," he added.
He said he thought long and hard before accepting his
"Then I thought: 'Remember the Beatitudes and remember the
peacemakers.' Perhaps this would be atonement for my sins
and, at my age, I needed a fairly swift atonement," he
He said there was sufficient evidence to warrant public
inquiries in the cases of Finucane, Nelson, Hamill and
"People say: Why worry about a bully like Billy Wright? But
we have to remember the innate dignity of every human
being," he said.
Judge Cory's report showed that security cameras had been
out of order in the H-block where Wright was shot dead by
Irish National Liberation Army gunmen, Wright's visiting
schedule was available to the INLA prisoners, and a prison
warder who oversaw the courtyard had been stood down.
"Was there collusion? There certainly was," Judge Cory
He said his prayers were for peace in Ireland.
"It was an awfully dirty war on both sides and there is
such a need to put an end to it and ensure fairness and
justice on all sides, but particularly for minorities," he
Congress Members To Visit North
Pittsburgh Congressman Mike Doyle told an Irish-American
audience at the weekend that a congressional delegation
would shortly visit the North to press for political
Speaking at the annual convention of the Irish American
Unity Conference, he said nationalists had done everything
demanded of them.
"They have nothing left to give," he said. "Our
congressional delegation will go over and put pressure on
the unionists to come to the table.
"Paisley and his bunch need to come to the table. The
President needs to hear that."
He added: "The Prime Minister needs to hear that and the
Taoiseach needs to hear that. We are going to Belfast to
keep the pressure on."
Mr Doyle accused some unionist leaders of inciting riots in
the aftermath of last month's banned Orange Order parade
along the Springfield Road in west Belfast.
"I have watched Gerry Adams become a statesman over the
past ten years," he said.
"Who would have thought you would see the IRA lay down its
weapons, yet what has been the response of unionists?
"Ian Paisley doesn't even take the word of a Protestant
minister who witnessed decommissioning taking place. Ian
Paisley stands naked.
"Unionists need to disarm their paramilitaries."
The Democratic Congressman said he supported efforts to
bring investment to the North but insisted that economic
inequality was "still not remedied".
"When I was growing up, the Troubles were only just
beginning," he said.
"I was proud to be Irish but I wanted to learn more about
Northern Ireland, and what I learnt was that there could
never be peace until there was justice and opportunity for
the Catholic minority."
Catholics Forced To Endure Gauntlet Of Abuse
Blockade targets cemetery blessing
Catholic worshippers were forced to run a vicious gauntlet
of sectarian abuse as they attended a blessing-of-the-
graves ceremony in Co Antrim yesterday.
Dozens of loyalist protesters gathered close to Carnmoney
Cemetery in Newtownabbey on the outskirts of north Belfast
as hundreds of Catholics gathered to hold their annual
Cemetery Sunday service at the multifaith graveyard.
A group of loyalists held a demonstration earlier in the
day and this passed off peacefully. However, loyalists
returned in the evening to hold a second protest.
Dozens of grieving relatives were forced to miss the start
of the service as loyalists threw a blockade across the
O'Neill Road, which leads to the final resting place of
hundreds of people from every denomination.
Dan Whyte, parish priest at St Bernard's Church on the
Antrim Road in Belfast, led the annual prayer service. He
confirmed last night that Catholics attending the cemetery
had been abused as they prayed for their dead relatives.
In September 2003, Fr Whyte was the victim of a loyalist
death threat after he slammed a loyalist campaign of
intimidation against a Catholic church.
"I am disappointed by this. It's a big cemetery and I was
at the other end of it so I didn't know this had happened
until people came up to me at the end," he said.
"I thought everything had gone peacefully and with dignity,
and that would have made it two years running without
"A number of people were not able to get to the cemetery in
time for the beginning of the service because they had to
take a detour," he said.
"People praying at the O'Neill Road end had to endure a
sectarian verbal assault, which is bad enough in ordinary
"But when you are trying to say your prayers, it's
unacceptable and beyond anybody's pale.
"I don't think there were any loyalist paramilitaries or
responsible community leaders involved in this.
"It's the cannon fodder we saw on the streets a couple of
weeks ago — youths and women who have nothing better to do,
people who have lost their way."
A similar blockade of the cemetery in 2003 resulted in
serious rioting between loyalists and the PSNI.
During that incident, several vehicles were hijacked and
set on fire. Unionists had earlier blown whistles and
jeered as Catholics prayed over the graves of their loved
Fr Whyte postponed the Cemetery Sunday service last month
after loyalists rioted following the Orange Order parade of
September 10. The parade had been rerouted from a
predominantly nationalist area of west Belfast's
"I was fairly relaxed in the run-up to this and, as a
gesture, I postponed our celebration on the weekend of
September 18. I didn't want to be calling out large numbers
of people and, in my innocence, I thought that sort of
gesture would be returned," he said.
Fr Whyte added: "I think that the police have to take a
look at this and come up with a solution which guarantees
people safety as they try to say their prayers.
"God save us, it's not asking much to pray for our loved
Sinn Féin Newtownabbey borough councillor Briege Meehan
also condemned the protest.
"Once again, the Catholic community in Newtownabbey has
been subjected to naked sectarian hatred and bigotry in its
most vile form as they took part in devotion to their
deceased loved ones in a dignified, peaceful and non-
triumphalist manner," she said.
Loyalists Threaten To Exhume Bodies In Cemetery
Loyalists opposed to the staging of a Cemetery Sunday
blessing of graves have threatened to exhume bodies and to
urinate on the resting places of Catholics in a shared
graveyard in Co Antrim, a parish priest has said.
The threat follows protests against the blessing of graves
in a municipal cemetery at Carnmoney by Glengormley priest
Fr Dan Whyte that was finally staged on Sunday.
The annual Cemetery Sunday blessing of graves was held up
for a time on Sunday by protests mounted by placard-
Their banners said "No Catholic blessing of Protestant
graves", "Stop Cemetery Sunday now" and "No Whiterock, then
no cemetery" - a reference to the forced rerouting of last
month's disputed Orange march which sparked prolonged
street violence and the postponement of the original
Cemetery Sunday blessing.
"I was disappointed when I learned that later there was a
protest that degenerated into a noisy chorus of sectarian
verbal assault," Fr Whyte said.
After the service, but before learning of the threats to
desecrate graves, Fr Whyte said that at one stage he
thought the worst days of violent protests were over.
However, he then heard that "verbal threats of grave
desecration" had been made.
"We had worshippers enduring direct threats to dig up the
dead and to urinate on their graves." He urged Catholics
and Protestants to stand together in the face of such
Fr Whyte was told of death threats against him two years
ago after violent anti-Catholic protests near the cemetery.
Graves have been attacked and desecrated, including that of
Catholic postal worker Danny McColgan, who was murdered by
the UDA as he worked in the loyalist Rathcoole estate in
Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginnis said: "It would be wrong
for any responsible unionist leader to do other than
totally and unequivocally condemn the protests that
occurred at Carnmoney.
"These protests in themselves are wrong," he stressed.
Citizens everywhere had an "absolute right" to worship in
peace, he added. "It is a right that should be unimpeded
from Drumcree to Carnmoney and I am ashamed that any of my
so-called fellow Protestants would act to hinder any church
William de Courcy, the DUP mayor of Newtownabbey, said he
was disappointed the protest took place, but stood by a
general right to protest.
"I think it's sad that they have to do it at a time of such
sadness and such sacredness of the Catholic community," he
Sinn Féin's Alex Maskey said although he did not believe
the majority of unionists supported the protests, all
politicians needed to combat prejudice. "I have no doubt
that many would reject these scenes of squalid sectarianism
allegedly being carried out in their name.
"There is a huge job of work required by those with
influence within the broader unionist community to tackle
sectarianism," he said.
SDLP Assembly member Thomas Burns said: "People have an
undeniable right to visit relatives that have been laid to
rest in peace in the cemetery."
He added: "They should not be expected to run a gauntlet of
hate and abuse to get there. They are not political pawns
or bargaining chips in any other process."
© The Irish Times
Cemetery Challenge To Unionist Leaders
Unionist leaders were today urged to make a stand against
sectarianism in their own community after loyalist
protesters threatened to desecrate Catholic graves near
The threats to damage headstones were made yesterday as
loyalists picketed Carmoney Cemetery in Newtownabbey while
a Catholic blessing ceremony was held.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Alex Maskey said while he did not
believe the majority of unionists supported the protests,
all politicians needed to combat prejudice.
"I do not believe that the majority of unionists support
what happened at Carnmoney cemetery," the South Belfast MLA
"I have no doubt that many would reject these scenes of
squalid sectarianism allegedly being carried out in their
"There is a huge job of work required by those with
influence within the broader unionist community to tackle
"Certainly I believe that we all need to show positive
leadership and challenge the demonisation of each other. We
need an open and honest debate about the nature, causes and
extent of sectarianism within our communities."
Carnmoney Cemetery has been attacked on several occasions
and headstones have been smashed.
The blessing ceremony has also been picketed by loyalists
in the past.
Nationalist SDLP Assembly member Thomas Burns said the
latest protest was undignified.
"People have an undeniable right to visit relatives that
have been laid to rest in peace in the cemetery," the South
Antrim MLA said.
"They should not be expected to run a gauntlet of hate and
abuse to get there.
"They are not political pawns or bargaining chips in any
"It is crucial that all those in with positions of
influence in the community, particularly within unionism,
work to bring these unsightly and undignified protests to
North Antrim Residents To Seek Dáil Support As Loyalist Attacks Continue
Published: 3 October, 2005
Residents of isolated nationalist communities in North
Antrim are travelling to Leinster House on Wednesday 5th
October where they hope to meet with the leaders and
representatives of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, PDs, Labour
Party, Greens and Independents. For many months now these
communities have been at the receiving end of a vicious
sectarian campaign with daily attacks on Catholic homes,
schools and churches and they will be seeking cross-party
support to bring these attacks to an end.
The delegation will be available to speak to the media
outside the Kildare Street entrance at 12 o'clock.
Speaking in advance of the visit Sinn Féin Dáil Group
leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said: "For some time now
residents of a number of isolated nationalist communities
across the North have endured daily attacks and
intimidation from unionist paramilitaries. And with
loyalist violence continuing people in such areas feel very
"There is a responsibility on politicians, north and south,
not merely to condemn such sectarian attacks, but also to
stand in solidarity with these communities and protect the
right of all to live free from sectarian harassment.
"I hope that parties in the Dáil will not be silent in the
face of such sectarian attacks. I hope that they will meet
with these residents and support the campaign to bring all
sectarian attacks to an end." ENDS
Sinn Fein To Talk At Tory Conference
By Noel McAdam
03 October 2005
Sinn Fein is to attend the Conservative Party conference
for the first time - more than 20 years after the IRA
bombed the Tories at Brighton.
MP Conor Murphy is due to become the first republican to
address the Tory faithful gathered in Blackpool for their
The Sinn Fein member is due to speak in a debate on the
fringes of the four-day conference tomorrow, which is also
expected to include a DUP representative.
The Newry and Armagh MP said today it would also be the
first platform the party had shared with the DUP since the
IRA's 'final' decommissioning last week.
"Sinn Fein want to see the opportunity which this historic
move now provides grasped and built upon in the time
ahead," he said.
"I will be the first Irish republican to speak at an event
attached to the British Conservative Party conference.
Given the record of the British Tory party and their policy
towards Ireland over many years this event will provide for
the first time an opportunity for Sinn Fein to place on the
record the fact that there are those who share a different
vision of the future."
Mr Murphy said he would tell the Tory ranks if they
supported the Good Friday Agreement they needed to join
other parties in making the restoration of a Stormont
power-sharing administration as a priority.
Five people were killed and the wife of Tory peer Lord
Tebbit was paralysed when the Provisionals attempted to
wipe out Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet in the bombing
of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984.
Fitt Memorial Service Decision Overturned
Councillors in Belfast tonight overturned a block on the
family of Lord Fitt using City Hall for a memorial service
to the SDLP founder.
The original decision to deny the former MP's five
daughters use of the building as a religiously neutral site
had provoked uproar.
But at a City Council meeting tonight, the Democratic
Unionists, Sinn Féin and Alliance all supported an SDLP
motion tabled by Alban Maginness.
Mr Maginness said tonight: "It's good for the city that
this has been sorted.
"We are commemorating a distinguished member of the City
Council and it's appropriate given the service he gave to
"The vast majority of people in the council recognised his
contribution and the need for that to be remembered in a
Only the Ulster Unionists failed to support the motion, Mr
The request by the family of Lord Fitt, who died in August,
was turned down by the Policy and Resources Committee after
officials said memorial services within the building were
not in the rules.
But pressure grew for the public to be given the chance to
pay their respects to a political icon who served as a
councillor and Stormont MP as well both Houses at
Even though he was buried following a service in
Westminster Cathedral, it was felt many people who might
have liked to attend could not get to London.
At tonight's meeting councillors agreed to amend criteria
so that any serving or past member who has served more than
three terms can be commemorated in a non-religious service
at City Hall.
Mr Maginness added: "Hopefully now the family can have
their wish at a time that suits them."
Adams Urges Priority Over Powers
By Noel McAdam
03 October 2005
The British and Irish governments face a "heavy
responsibility" to inject fresh momentum into the political
process, Gerry Adams has said.
As he flew to Brussels today, the Sinn Fein president also
adopted the language of Secretary of State Peter Hain in
describing the restoration of devolution as the
After a meeting of the party's executive in Dublin at the
weekend Mr Adams also confirmed he is to meet Prime
Minister Tony Blair this Thursday.
"The DUP need space to consider all that has happened but
we need to move forward. There is a heavy responsibility on
the Irish and British governments to ensure that there is
momentum," Mr Adams said. "And the overarching priority at
this time must be to get the political institutions back up
Mr Adams was being accompanied by MEPs Bairbre de Brún and
Mary Lou McDonald in a series of meetings with MEPs, the
European Commission, diplomats and media interviews.
The party said purpose of the visit was to explore ways in
which the European Union can continue to assist the peace
process in the months ahead.
Meanwhile, the SDLP has told the Government it must stand
firm against the DUP which could settle its grievances by
joining the other parties in a Stormont Executive.
Senior SDLP negotiator Sean Farren said: "The DUP is
looking for problems where there are none, manufacturing
grievances to block change and block the Good Friday
Scripts Already Written Over IRA: Dodds
By Noel McAdam
03 October 2005
The absence of terrorist and criminal activity alone will
not qualify Sinn Fein or any organisation for government,
the DUP has warned.
Party secretary Nigel Dodds charged the Northern Ireland
Office and the Dublin government with already having
"written their scripts" in anticipation of the Independent
Monitoring Commissioning (IMC) giving the IRA a "clean bill
His comments came after Secretary of State Peter Hain said
early intelligence reports indicated the IRA is already
delivering on its pledge to end violence for good.
Mr Dodds said after his party met the IMC last week it was
clear the Commission is "not in the business of giving
anyone a clean bill of health".
"So it will be a matter of interpretation and I have no
doubt that the NIO, Dublin and all the usual suspects have
already written their scripts.
"But the Secretary of State must realise that the mere
absence of activity, whether terrorist or criminal, does
not in itself qualify any organistion for government."
The North Belfast MP said the Government was demanding
unionism should jump when the structures of terror and the
proceeds of crime are still "part and parcel" of the
republican movement - but his party would not be pushed.
Mr Hain made clear an end to the Provisionals' activities
must also include punishment attacks, intelligence
gathering and targetting.
But if the "crucial" IMC report in January confirmed a
cessation of all IRA activity, the Government would then be
urging fresh political negotiations to restore devolution.
Mr Hain also said his direct rule team intends to go ahead
with as much of its reforms package as possible before the
anticipated resumption of a power-sharing administration at
And that will include water charges, increases in rates and
dealing with rural hospitals and the rationalisation of
Mr Hain told the BBC Politics Show he would be working
"flat out" in the coming months on the restoration of
"So far the reports reaching me suggest they (the IRA) are
delivering on that - but it is early days yet."
US Military Use Of Shannon Now At Its Highest
Liam Reid, Political reporter
The number of US military flights passing through Irish
airspace and airports is expected to surpass 1,000 this
year, after figures released by the Department of Transport
showed that the level of military use of Shannon airport is
at its highest since the war in Iraq began in March 2003.
There have been calls for random inspections to be carried
out of flights at Shannon, because of concerns that
aircraft suspected of involvement in smuggling terror
suspects over international borders have landed in Shannon
on numerous occasions in the last three years.
According to details provided by the Department of Justice,
there have been no Garda inspections of any US military
aircraft at Shannon since January 2004, despite repeated
complaints about the issue to gardaí.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also said it had received
assurances from the US government that no prisoners have
been transported through Shannon at any stage.
Following a parliamentary question from Labour TD Ruairí
Quinn, the Department of Transport said that up to
September 23rd there had been 964 exemptions to foreign
aircraft carrying arms or munitions. These had sought leave
to land in Irish airports or use Irish airspace. This
compares with 973 for all of 2004, and 872 for all of 2003.
According to the figures, nine out of 10 aircraft are US
civilian passenger carriers with soldiers and their
personal weapons and ammunition on board. The remainder of
the exemptions are for civilian cargo aircraft carrying
munitions or weapons.
Under Irish law, aircraft and passengers are prohibited
from carrying arms or munitions on flights landing or
flying through Irish airspace, unless an exemption from the
Department of Transport is provided.
Mr Quinn said he tabled the questions out of concern over
continuing reports about the US "renditions" programme.
This concerns the alleged smuggling of terrorist suspects
on unmarked planes operated by US intelligence operatives
to third party countries for interrogation and then on to
Guantánamo Bay. It has been reported that a number of these
planes have been seen in Shannon.
Mr Quinn said there had been widespread media reports about
the so-called "rendition" planes landing in Shannon, and he
had serious concerns about this.
He was alarmed to learn that despite having the powers,
gardaí had carried out no inspections of US aircraft
involved in the war in Iraq. This was costing the taxpayer
considerable money, as the Government pays the air traffic
control costs associated with these aircraft.
"The statistics I received from Minister Cullen show that
already this year he has given permission for 964
overflights. This is almost the same as last year's total
"This means that the Irish taxpayer will pay almost €5
million in charges for these flights this year alone - up
from €3.5 million in 2004.
"In addition to these appalling facts, I have also learned
that neither the customs and excise department, the Garda
nor the Defence Forces have examined, or intend to examine,
a single aircraft landing at our airports or at Casement
Aerodrome to ensure that the declarations regarding weapons
and passengers are correct.
This is extraordinary considering the evidence that exists
indicating that people have been illegally kidnapped and
transported through Ireland to destinations unknown for
© The Irish Times
Council Condemn Loyalist Violence
Belfast City Council has passed a motion condemning several
days of violence which erupted in the city after last
month's Whiterock parade.
The motion, introduced by Alliance councillor Mervyn Jones,
called on all elected representatives to disassociate
themselves from such violence.
It also urged support for the PSNI in their efforts to
restore and maintain law and order throughout the city.
"I think what happened did great damage to Belfast," Mr
"I thought there was a great lack of leadership within the
Violence began in the city after the Parades Commission
refused to allow the order's Whiterock march through a
nationalist area of north Belfast.
A proposed DUP amendment to Monday night's motion was
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/10/03 21:51:51 GMT
© BBC MMV
Opin: Old Patterns Of Discrimination
Senior elements in the North's civil service and Northern
Ireland Office have, for decades, managed the cancer of
structural discrimination in the North. That hegemony was
preserved by gin-soaked white-collar bureaucrats blending
fluently with industrial blue-collar Billy boys in the
closeted surrounds of Masonic and Orange halls — the brains
and the brawn acting collectively in the interests of
The Good Friday Agreement marked a sea change in the public
discourse adopted by the British government in terms of
John Bull's political slum.
A crescendo of committed campaigning forced the British
government to publicly affirm that generations of
discrimination and inequality could only be resolved by
"targeting objective need".
The fact that base examples of social inequality — such as
the unemployment differential — have yet to be tackled,
more than seven years after that commitment was given in
the Good Friday Agreement, should be instructive for Tony
Blair and his senior advisers in Downing Street.
More worringly, signs have been emerging in the recent
weeks and months to indicate that a much more sophisticated
form of discrimination is being introduced under the radar
screen, the intent being to repeat old patterns through new
Together with senior and influential figures in the civil
service and NIO, the Democratic Unionist Party is now
engaged in a concerted lobby to skew much-needed government
finances into unionist areas — based solely on the fact
that they are unionist.
Official British government statistics published in Daily
Ireland today prove that deprivation affects all
communities in the North.
However, the figures also demonstrate that Catholics are
more likely to be worse off. The grounds for tackling all
inequality must be effectively "targeting objective need".
That is one Good Friday Agreement commitment from which the
British government cannot be allowed to walk away.
Gov't Increases Grants For Immigrant Groups
By Debbie McGoldrick
Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern brought plenty of good
cheer to U.S.-based immigration groups last week with the
announcement of a huge 40% increase in the annual funding
that the Irish government provides to the advice centers
operating throughout the country.
"This, of course, represents the government's longstanding
commitment to further developing our support for our
community abroad," Ahern said in announcing the grants,
which total $915,000 and are spread among 13 organizations.
New to the list this year is the New York Irish Center in
Long Island City, Queens, founded by long-time immigrant
advocate Father Colm Campbell. The center, which does a
particularly notable job in catering to the needs of the
elder Irish community, received $85,000.
"It will make such a big difference to the work that we
want to do," said a delighted Campbell.
The Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York and the
Irish Immigration Center in Boston each received $130,000.
Project Irish Outreach in New York was allocated $92,000;
the Aisling Irish Center in Yonkers and the Irish
Immigration and Pastoral Center in Philadelphia received
$85,000 each. The Irish Pastoral Center in Boston was
earmarked for $117,000.
Irish groups in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Ocean
City also received financial support from the Irish
government, which has allocated more than $5.6 million
since first offering assistance to groups in the U.S. in
Ahern held a press conference for local Irish media at the
Irish Consulate last Friday before attending a reception
there in his honor. He said that the Irish government would
continue to lobby the U.S. government to pass immigration
reform that would help the undocumented community here.
"We're aware of the various bills," he said, noting
particular support for the bill co-sponsored by Senators
Edward Kennedy and John McCain.
"We want to work in partnership with the immigration
centers here. I would welcome a broad consensus approach
not only from the Irish but across other nationalities as
well. We will do what we can with the Irish American
Ahern pointed out that the chairman of the Irish
Parliament, Dr. Rory O'Hanlon, traveled with a delegation
to Washington, D.C. last week for meetings with a number of
politicians on the immigration issue, including Senator
"They had a good meeting," Ahern said. "Arising out of that
there is a suggestion that the (Irish) Parliament pass a
motion endorsing the Kennedy McCain bill. I wouldn't see
any difficulty with that. Senator McCain thought that would
Ahern said the government is acutely aware of the personal
problems the undocumented Irish face in the U.S.
"We're all working politicians, we're close to the ground
in Ireland. I would have constituents who have grave
difficulties, some very sad stories of not being able to
come home to sick parents, funerals or weddings," he said.
"They can't risk coming home. It's pretty heart-rending
stuff. So we are aware that the situation is much more
The Irish government estimates that the number of Irish
illegals in the U.S. is "somewhere between 20,000 and
25,000," Ahern said.
How The Irish Built An American Icon
October 3, 2005
Thomas Kelly, author of "Empire Rising," joined Gotham
Gazette's Reading NYC Book Club on September 28 for a wide-
ranging discussion about the Empire State Building,
political corruption, Irish immigrant in New York and
writing about New York City.
Gotham Gazette: Your book tells the love story of two Irish
immigrants: Michael Briody, an ironworker working on the
construction of the Empire State Building, and Grace
Masterson, a bohemian artist-type living on a houseboat on
the Brooklyn waterfront -- something I don't believe you
can do anymore.
Thomas Kelly: No, but you could then. She's based on a
great aunt of mine who did live on a houseboat.
Gotham Gazette: Both of these characters have a connection
to the Empire State Building. They are also somewhat
involved in the inter-related worlds of Tammany Hall and
organized crime. The setting seems to be a crucial part of
the book. There's a lot going on in the New York that Mr.
Kelly describes, big development and labor issues, the
thriving Irish immigrant community, and, of course, money
and corruption in government. Why did you decide to write
about New York during this time period?
Thomas Kelly: My previous two books dealt with a lot of the
same themes but in a contemporary setting. I worked in
construction for about ten years, and that has reared its
head in all my books.
James Elroy once asked, "How do you write about crime and
not write about the Kennedy assassination?" In New York
City's history, as far as construction, the Empire State
Building is it. More than all the other great projects --
the Brooklyn Bridge, the aqueducts, the water tunnels, the
other skyscrapers -- the Empire State Building represents
New York City to America, and America to the world.
For a novelist it's very rich territory -- this whole
transition, the mafia and the gangs becoming ascendant, and
switching to an Italian and Jewish thing from an Irish
thing. The Irish have kind of made it by this point:
They've got the mayor, the governor, the police department
and the fire department. They're barely into law yet, but
they're moving up, moving on.
As a novelist, all of this is going on on the macro level.
On top of that I put these characters, some of whom were
based on family members. Michael Briody was a great uncle
of mine who met a certain fate in the Bronx at that time.
He was an Irish immigrant. It was one of those things that
gets whispered about. He's buried at St. Raymond's in the
Bronx. I went to visit his grave and decided to write a
book describing what happened to him. Of course it's
fiction, but it's within the realm of possibility.
Grace Masterson is based somewhat on a great aunt of mine.
When I was fairly well into the book, I found out this
woman lived on a houseboat in Williamsburg. My father's
sister told me about this aunt they used to visit in the
1920s, how they would take the train to Manhattan and then
the ferry across to Greenpoint. I thought, "Wow, this is
great stuff!" I already started the book, so I had to go
back and put her there. For me, she's a stand-in for the
novelist. It's like getting that little bit of remove from
Manhattan: She's across the river, painting, taking in the
My family came in the 1920s from Ireland. I think about the
Empire State Building going up at the time. I wanted to
write about family history, and they sort of melded at that
time. I don't want to write a nonfiction story of my
family. I just wanted to take a little bit of the truth and
imagine the world they lived in.
THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING: PUNCTUATION POINT TO THE ROARING
Gotham Gazette: Why does the Empire State stand out as
unique, as opposed to say the Chrysler Building, which was
built a couple years of earlier as the world's tallest
Thomas Kelly: For a lot of reasons. It's not that much
taller than the Chrysler building or 40 Wall Street. But
the Empire State Building is a much more massive structure.
The Chrysler Building has about 18,000 or 20,000 tons of
structural steel; the Empire State Building has 65,000. So
it's three times as big, even though it's only about 15
The Empire State Building was also the punctuation point to
the Roaring '20s. Those other buildings went up when things
were still going crazy. Then they demolished the Waldorf-
Astoria hotel to build the Empire State Building. The
destruction of that building started the day the stock
market crashed. It's a symbol of ambition, drive and human
endeavor. It's going up and the city is falling into
depression, as is the county around it.
In addition, there's the involvement of Al Smith and the
whole history of Tammany and what it symbolized to Smith.
So I felt it had a much richer history than those other two
buildings. There were a lot more stories to tell.
Gotham Gazette: The other plot line in the book is Tammany
Hall. From the beginning of the book there's a sense that
Tammany Hall has created a well-oiled machine to make
itself rich. But there's also a feeling of an impending
reformist wave. Fiorello LaGuardia actually did get elected
as a reformer several years later. So is this, in a sense,
Tammany's last hurrah?
Thomas Kelly: Tammany is a fascinating institution for a
lot of reasons. We see it today as a negative thing, as
these corrupt party bosses. But you have to understand
Tammany. It was started by Aaron Burr and staunch, Anglo-
Protestants around the Revolutionary War.
At times, it was wholly corrupt, but it did a lot of things
for a lot of people, especially in the 19th century. There
were no government programs for anything at that time.
Basically you had a barbaric capitalist system, and if you
didn't survive, nobody cared. Tammany and other machines
around the country provided services, jobs, they paid
doctor bills, they brought a turkey on Christmas. And the
only thing they wanted in return was your vote. They
recognized this was democracy and whoever gets the most
votes wins. They very shrewdly capitalized on that. At
times they got out of control.
The 1920s fascinate me for a lot of reasons. It was the
most revolutionary decade in American history. People talk
about the 1960s, the sexual revolution. Nonsense. The
1920s, that was the real sexual revolution; the '60s were
like a rich kid aftershock. The modernization, the movement
from rural to urban. The country kind of exploded in the
1920s, in a lot of positive ways, and Tammany was in the
mix of this.
The back story here is really Prohibition. In 1919, the
politicians are telling the gangsters what to do. By 1930 -
- and this is what I tried to get at in this book -- the
paradigm is shifting. There's this noble Protestant effort
to keep the animals in the ghetto, but out of the saloons,
scrubbed, up to work early and praying to a Protestant God
at the end of the day. And this backfired horribly. It
created, for the first time and maybe the only time ever, a
real power in the underclass and the underworld in America.
By 1930s, a real reckoning is at hand. The balance is
shifting, and the guys with the guns are saying to the
politicians, "Wait a minute, why should we listen to you
anymore?" That's what I wanted to get at.
The book lays out the back story of what led to the
downfall of Jimmy Walker a year and a half or two years
after the book ends. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is cunningly
playing his angles, knowing that to run for president in
1932 he needed Tammany locally, but nationally he needed
MACHINE POLITICS, THEN AND NOW
Gotham Gazette: In your other books, you also write about
machine politics, which in some ways, are still with us.
Can you contrast the machine politics of the different
Thomas Kelly: One anecdote that describes this difference
very strongly is that at the Democratic Convention in 1932,
a fellow named Jimmy Heinz, a big Tammany leader from Upper
Harlem, had as his roommate, very openly, Lucky Luciano.
It's the equivalent of Clarence Norman and John Gotti being
roommates. That's not going to happen.
Then, it wasn't seen as doing something wrong; it was seen
as "there's power to be exercised, we control it now, and
this is how we're going to exercise it." Tammany, and even
some gangsters, would say, "Wait a minute, you got your
money from putting ten-year-olds in coal mines and slave
trading. Now we want to get our piece of the pie and we're
the bad guys?"
The guys who ran Tammany Hall in 1920s had a very big say
in who became the Democratic nominee for president. They
could deny someone, or basically appoint someone. They had
a lot more power.
But it's the same stuff now. The buying of judgeships --
that's how Judge Crater [a state supreme court judge who is
a character in "Empire Rising"] got his judgeship. Now they
try to hide it more, but it still goes on.
TAMMANY'S GOOD SIDE
Jacqueline Arasi: People could go to a Tammany Hall
location and get help, that's how they got to be known.
They were very nice -- even when I was passing out leaflets
for La Guardia they brought us coffee and cake. There was a
real positive element to Tammany Hall. I think it's a more
positive history than a negative history.
Thomas Kelly: Absolutely, there was a real positive
element. Unfortunately, the negative history has been
written by their enemies, and you're looked at like you're
abetting some sort of criminal enterprise if you point out
they did good things. For the Catholics and Jews at the
time, the Protestant churches would give out money and say,
"Sure we'll help you out; why don't you convert?" All
Tammany wanted you to do was to show up on Election Day.
When the demographics started changing in the 1880s and
1890s, when waves of Italians and Eastern European Jews and
Poles started coming, Tammany was very smart. Guys like
Charlie Murphy and Big Tim Sullivan saw the writing on the
wall. They reached out to those communities, took care of
them and brought them into the fold. They did a lot of
things: getting people jobs, bailing kids out of jail who
had done something stupid, and on and on.
Gotham Gazette: But Tammany wasn't just asking for your
vote. Aside from enriching themselves, they were involved
in things like widespread voter fraud and so on -- correct
me if I'm wrong.
Thomas Kelly: Well, what's your definition of fraud?
The period I'm talking about in the book was a little more
sophisticated than it was 20, 30, 40 years before when it
was guys with bats showing up at voting booths. Again, it's
one of those things -- there's no black and white here --
people trying to survive and trying to get ahead. The
decisions they made are probably not dissimilar to the ones
CONSTRUCTION AND CORRUPTION
Gotham Gazette: How much documented corruption was there in
the building of the Empire State Building?
Thomas Kelly: Well, there's almost none documented, and
much of what today we would consider corruption was
accepted business practice then. For instance, at that time
if you wanted to break a slab of sidewalk, you'd give a
kickback to the building department.
Two building code changes made the Empire State Building
possible. One was elevator speed, and the other was steel
thickness. The technology in steel had advanced so much by
the 1920s that you could use much thinner, lighter steel,
which was much stronger than the old stuff. If you're going
up 102 stories, it's something you want. If you have people
going up so high, how can you do so without faster
The changes were mysteriously vetoed twice by Mayor Walker,
and then, after the materials were already ordered, he
reversed himself. I find it hard to believe, given what
went on at the time, that there wasn't a significant
payment to somebody. I imagine a scene at the beginning of
the book with a million dollar payoff.
Walker's this great figure. He died broke, basically. The
Protestant experiment to keep the animals in line created
power and corruption. Walker rode that wave, and did it
with a lot of charm, and people loved him -- not just the
Irish. He was a very charismatic guy; he was always witty
and good at tweaking the noses of the powers that be
outside of politics. He raised his salary from $25,000 to
$40,000, which was a lot of money back then. There was an
outcry in the press, and he responded by saying 'Well,
imagine what I'd charge if I worked full time!'
But he was very popular. He brought in baseball on Sundays,
got boxing legalized as a state assemblyman. Then, at the
end of the story, he's going to Yankee Stadium and gets
booed. Even he knew that the Depression changed everything.
All of a sudden it's not good times, people are suffering.
And there's this guy driving around in his Duesy with a
THE CHANGING CULTURE OF CONSTRUCTION
Gotham Gazette: The culture of construction is a big part
of the novel. Do you have a sense of how much that's
changed, how different it's going to be for the workers
who, for instance, build the Freedom Tower if they ever
start building it?
Thomas Kelly: It's probably changed a lot less than people
think. Different materials, but a lot of the process is
exactly the same. There's a line I use in the book that,
during the 1920s, building the skyscrapers is the closest
peacetime equivalent to war -- all the planning and energy
that goes into it. They're still huge undertakings. People
still get hurt, people still die. It's hard work.
Gotham Gazette: Is it still mainly Irish, or has that
Thomas Kelly: Construction unions in this city have long
been very tribal, and they still are, though less than they
used to be. I was a sandhog, and that's been Irish and West
Indian since the days of the building of the Brooklyn
Bridge. You have the third or fourth generation working
The ironworkers are mainly Irish. Most come from
Newfoundland -- they call them "fish" or "newfies." There's
this sort of exaggerated myth of the Native American
ironworker. Joseph Mitchell started it when he started
writing about it in the 1940s, and Gay Talese continued it
with "The Bridge," writing about the Mohawks. They were
never more than five percent of the union. They got into it
because, when they were building bridges upstate and
Canada, the ironworkers brought some of the locals into the
union, and they happened to be Mohawks. It became this
weird reverse racism with some of these writers. Not to
take anything away from what these Mohawks did and still
do, but it's kind of funny how that happens.
In the beginning, a lot of Swedes and Norwegians came off
the tall ships and were used to working in heights. They
lived in Bay Ridge. There's a little bit of everything now:
Italians, African Americans, Puerto Ricans. But still the
biggest group would be Irish, and the biggest subgroup
would be the newfies.
It's different with different trades. For the carpenters,
there used to be about a half-dozen locals: the Jewish
local, the Italian local, the black local, the Irish local.
There's always a lot more peaceful co-habitation and
intermingling than the negative stuff, but the negative
stuff gets the press. Building trades now are almost 50
percent minority. I don't think Wall Street has gotten that
WORKING CLASS NEW YORK
Gotham Gazette: In the New York you describe, the culture
seems very much influenced by the working class. I don't
think many people would say that the working class is
driving the image of New York City today. What do you think
Thomas Kelly: That's a 12-part lecture.
Let's focus on Manhattan. I hate it when everyone focuses
on Manhattan, but let's face it, when the rest of the world
thinks about New York City they think about Manhattan from
about 96th Street down. In the 1930s, that slice of
Manhattan was filled with middle class, working class, and
poor people. It was a lot of immigrants and a lot of
regular people, families. What has happened -- and what is
happening now at probably a faster rate than ever -- is the
displacement of the population that can't afford it. I saw
in the paper that 44 percent of the apartments in Manhattan
are $1 million apartments.
A friend of mine once said that he liked New York better
when the corporals ran the city. And what he meant by that
was that you didn't have to be a big shot to be treated
like a big shot. The city was run by the workers, and they
felt invested in the city. Things have changed a lot in
that regard and not always positively.
I write mostly about that other New York, which for me is
the real New York. I try to go against the images of New
York that go out to the world. It's not Donald Trump; it's
not Central Park South. It's a much, much bigger story, and
unfortunately over the last few generations less and less
of that story is being told. What's going on today with the
Dominicans and Bangladeshis, it's not much different from
the story of the Jews and the Italians and the Irish.
They're hard-working people who came to a crazy place from
far away and want to make their lives better. That story is
ongoing. Unfortunately as it becomes less white, it
probably also becomes less attractive.
THE MYSTERY OF JUDGE CRATER
Kevin Baker: Any theory on the Judge Crater bones?
Thomas Kelly: In the book I deal with the disappearance of
Judge Joseph Crater who, for those of you who don't know,
disappeared off the face of the earth in August, 1930. He
became one of the most famous missing people in American
history, to the point that if you didn't show up for work
they'd say you pulled a Crater.
I have my version of what happened in the book. It's not a
big part of the book, but it's emblematic of the level of
corruption at the time. Judge Crater represents the
audacity of the corruption. Someone said, "Alright, we'll
just disappear a state Supreme Court judge off the street."
That just doesn't go on in America. This isn't Columbia
during the drug wars. Things got so out of hand because of
RESEARCH VS. IMAGINATION IN HISTORICAL FICTION
Gotham Gazette: How much of your work is based on research
and how much on imagination?
Thomas Kelly: I think it was E.L. Doctorow who, when asked
how much research he does, said "just enough." A lot of
historical novels are written by historians. They're
histories; they're not stories. I didn't want to do that. I
wanted to be meticulous about detail, and I missed one or
two. I had Babe Ruth batting fourth in the Yankee lineup,
when he wore number three because he batted third; and I
had him using a doughnut on his bat. Luckily, someone
caught them for me. These tiny details are important. As a
storyteller you're creating an illusion, and anything that
jars people out of that is bad.
The great thing about the 1930s is that there were still
enough people who had been adults at the time. They were 90
when I talked to them, so they would have been 20 at the
time. I talked to a friend of mine's great aunt who just
died at 100. She was the daughter of Tammany Hall district
leader in Hell's Kitchen. I also talked to, I think, the
last guy alive who worked on the Empire State Building. He
gave me great details. He was 17 at the time.
The amazing thing about the Empire State Building is that
they built it in 13 months, and they built it on straight
time - 40-hour weeks with no overtime. This man told me
that on Friday they would pick a floor, say the 34th floor,
and when the bell sounded on Friday afternoon they would
bring barrels of beer and girls up and they would drink and
gamble and have a casino in the sky.
He told me: "I'd leave around midnight, and come back
Monday morning and they'd still be there, then they'd go
right back to work!" If they hadn't done that, they'd
probably have built it faster! That's a detail you're not
going to find in a history book.
The other thing I did was go to the public library and read
the tabloids of the day, which put you there in a way the
history books just don't. The tabloids of the 1930s, they
make the New York Post seem like Readers Digest. It's just
blood and guts and sex; it's just pre-code America, it's
amazing. It was the Wild West.
IRISH IMMIGRANTS AND THE WARS IN IRELAND
Gotham Gazette: How much of the involvement of Irish
immigrants with the Irish Republican Army and the wars in
Ireland was true?
Thomas Kelly: In 1923, you had the Irish War of
Independence and following that immediately the Irish Civil
War. One side decided to sign a treaty with the British,
which cordoned off a part of Northern Ireland, something
that we still deal with today. The other side said we
shouldn't give the British anything. It degenerated into
this nasty, ugly civil war that lasted 18 months. Only
about 660 people were killed, but it wasn't armies; most of
it was assassinations, atrocities.
The losing side of this war became the second largest Irish
migration to the United States. That was during the 1920s,
and that's when my family came over. This was a very rural,
very embittered population. They were as angry with the
Irish who sold them out as they were with the British. They
were mostly young.
When you look at the South Bronx, where a lot of them went,
the second or third generation Irish didn't accept them.
The established immigrants were like, "Who are these
animals coming off the boat?" The Irish weren't accepted by
the established Irish.
This was a very impoverished population, and what's amazing
to me is how few of them got involved in the rackets. Very
few of them became gangsters at a time when there was
plenty of opportunity to get involved and make good money.
So these really were committed soldiers to the cause.
Gotham Gazette: Were they people who fled the war, or
people who moved to the United States with the specific
intent of carrying on the war?
Thomas Kelly: They were the losing side of the civil war. A
lot of them left because they couldn't get jobs or they
were shut out of opportunities in Ireland. Some of them
just came here and said, "the hell with Ireland," and never
looked back; others continued the struggle. This is sort of
a twilight period for the IRA, but there was still very
much going on.
I get into this in the book with Michael Briody. He's
trying to raise money and send guns back. There was a
committed cadre of people at this time that was devoted to
that struggle. I found notes of meetings of the American
political wing of the IRA where they had a debate over
whether they should open a speakeasy to finance their
cause. They voted against it because they didn't want to be
seen as criminals. They were revolutionaries.
A lot of them got involved in starting the subway union.
Here is a great New York story that hasn't gotten a lot of
play. They were Irish, and they went to the church, which
said "Commies! Get out of here"; The Ancient Order of
Hibernians said, "What are you crazy?" So they ended up
going the Communist Party, which was Eastern European
Jewish. This combination of these Irish farmboys and
Eastern European Jewish intellectuals created the Transport
In the 1920s the subways were all privately owned
railroads, and they were some of the most vicious employers
in the country. There were big strikes that were viciously
put down, violently put down. And one of the ways they
organized the unions was the Irish guys would speak in
Irish -- Gaelic. They would hold secret meetings. This was
necessary because spies for the companies called beakies
were paid an extra dollar a day to rat out anybody who was
a union sympathizer.
So all that's going on, and I have these characters that
are caught up in these crosscurrents.
Gotham Gazette: Did the involvement of immigrants in New
York have much of an effect on the situation in Ireland
Thomas Kelly: No. It was a tragic lost cause by that point.
These guys were dreamers; they were madmen to a certain
extent. It was a pretty pathetic effort at that time.
And you can't underestimate the power of the idea of
America and these freedoms. Many of the Irish coming over
here, they were fleeing not just the Brits, but the
Catholic Church, and now their fellow Irishmen.
That's what happens with this character. First he falls in
love, and he had never been in love. This guy joined the
British army when he was 15 to fight World War I. He comes
back and gets involved in the IRA, fights against the
British, fights the civil war. Now he ends up in America.
He's 30 years old, he's been at war his whole life. He
falls in love with this woman who is from where he's from;
he's got this job he loves. And all of a sudden he's like
"Wow, maybe the past should just be the past."
And I think that sort of thing happens all the time in this
city. People come into Kennedy Airport every day leaving
something like that behind. Some of them think they'll get
back to it. My grandparents never went back. A lot of them
WRITING ABOUT FAMILY
Gotham Gazette: You mentioned that your family was the
basis for some of the characters in the book. What did they
think of it?
Thomas Kelly: Well, for me all that matters is my aunt Mae,
my father's sister who died last year. She was quite a
character. She came over at seven years old and went on to
become an English teacher at Roosevelt High School. She was
always the one who gave me books, and inspired me to read.
My first two books were filled with a lot of profanity. The
first book has about 38 homicides. So the English teacher
reads the first book and says, "Obviously you're a good
writer but the language is a bit rough." She doesn't
mention the 38 homicides -- how Irish is that?
So I really wanted to tip my hat to her, because a lot of
the inspiration was family stuff. So the F word appears
once. She said she really enjoyed the book. And I asked her
if she noticed anything and she said: "Yes, I can read it
to my grandchildren."
But the real beauty of writing fiction is that you can say
"Well, no, that wasn't you." And it wasn't.
Sylvia Price: My grandparents are getting older, and they
don't remember much. It's hard to get them to talk.
Thomas Kelly: I couldn't get everyone to talk, and you've
really got to work your way into it. For many of these
families coming to America there's almost this insane need
to be clean, to be perfect, to be upstanding. They want to
be accepted. It was that whole "work hard and do the right
thing, and don't allow yourself to justify those
I would just start asking her about what it was like. For
me, we had this whole conversation about the iceman, and
then the coal man, and then Jimmy the tea man who came by
horse and wagon to the Bronx. Just details like that. From
that, it would lead her to something else.
People are uncomfortable talking about themselves, and a
past they'd maybe rather forget. So it's kind of tricky.
But I'm compelled to get those stories, because I believe
that when those people die, those stories die with them.
WRITING ABOUT WORK, WRITING ABOUT NEW YORK
Gotham Gazette: You mentioned a problem you had with Gay
Talese's "The Bridge." Your book reminded me in many ways
of that book, about the building of the Verrazano Narrows
Bridge. The day-to-day routines and interactions of the
people who were working on the bridge and, in your book, on
the Empire State Building, seemed very similar. What did
you get out of that book?
Thomas Kelly: It's a great book, and the focus on the
Mohawks is legitimate. I wish there were more like it. I
think he's a fabulous nonfiction writer. He's very
meticulous in detail, very graceful.
Gotham Gazette: Are there any other books that you would
recommend, either about this topic, or about New York in
Thomas Kelly: There aren't a lot of books about work. It's
kind of sad. In one of the reviews of "Empire Rising," the
guy reviewed it very positively, but said it was a
throwback to whole socialist-realist novels of the 1930s,
like "Christ in Concrete." But you can count these titles
on one hand.
Who built the pyramids? A bunch of slaves. Who built the
Roman aqueducts? We don't know. What were their
experiences? We don't know.
Book Club member: What are you working on now?
Thomas Kelly: I'm writing two pilots for television, one
for HBO and one for CBS. The one for CBS, One Police Plaza,
is kind of a cop thing: the West Wing meets the NYPD. The
other is about Manhattan at night, it's about a family. One
brother's a night watchman type and the other's a sandhog.
It's about how the city is changing. One brother is just
home from prison after 15 years, comes back to the West
Side and it's like stepping onto the planet Mars.
I'm starting a new book. I want to do this epic thing about
the rise and fall of postwar New York. It opens in 1945
when the guys get back from the war and ends around the
time of the Knapp commission [on police corruption] in the
1970s. It's a little more about cops and a little less
about construction. It's really about how the city evolved
and changed over that quarter century. I want to show cops
in a place like New York as those who have a front-row seat
to history and use them as a way to look at these big
Book Club member: Are you going to use family members for
Thomas Kelly: I had an uncle who just died who was quite a
character. He arrested the guy who killed Kitty Genovese.
At 80 he was 6-foot-3, 220. I can imagine what it was like
in 1963 trying to keep a confession from him. Just the
story of a guy like that, starting in the 1940s, with all
the stuff going on in New York, race and class, money, and
The funny thing about New York is we don't have a Saul
Bellow. There are so many stories to be told. How do you
wrap your arms around it? In a way it's true, but I want to
attempt broader stories and the way all these worlds
New York is a way that this interaction goes on, as much as
it's becoming polarized. Those guys living in the
penthouses are still going to have to get out on the
streets and go past the kids from the projects. That
doesn't happen in a place like Greenwich, Connecticut. It
doesn't happen in a lot of places in the world. We have
this forced interaction that has made New York probably a
much greater human experience than other cities. We can't
ever be LA.
From a storyteller's point of view there's a lot to be said
about New York. I feel like I could write for the next
1,000 years and not crack it.
Heat Is On As Malin Head Records Warmest September Since 1971
It was the warmest September for between six and 11 years
in much of Ireland and the warmest since 1971 at Malin
Head, Co Donegal, according to Met Éireann.
The first half of the month was very warm, with both day
and night temperatures about three degrees higher than
normal for the period.
However, sunshine totals for the month were a little below
normal at almost all weather stations, and despite a very
sunny first week it was the dullest September for between
five and eight years.
Rainfall totals were above normal in coastal counties in
the west and south. However it was a relatively dry month
generally, with approximately three-quarters of the normal
September rainfall recorded in parts of the east and
The number of wet days in September varied widely from 10
in the Dublin area to 21 at the Valentia observatory.
The highest temperature reached 24.5 degrees in Belmullet,
Co Mayo, on September 4th. The lowest air temperature was
recorded at 0.1 degrees at Mullingar, Co Westmeath, on
There were between three and five ground frosts recorded at
inland stations during the second half of the month, with
air temperatures falling close to freezing on September
Many stations measured their lowest September air and
ground temperature for between 10 and 20 years on that day.
Average wind speeds were between seven and 13 knots. After
relatively light winds during the first half of the month,
they were much stronger during the second half, with the
highest gusts measured at 51 knots at Belmullet on
September 26th and 30th.
Thunder was only recorded on September 4th, 5th and 26th.
Fog was most frequent on September 5th, 6th and 26th.
© The Irish Times
Tributes Paid At Funeral Mass For Fr Fergal O'Connor
Tributes were paid to former university lecturer and
Dominican priest Fr Fergal O'Connor at his funeral Mass in
Fr Larry Collins, vicar provincial of the Dominicans,
commented on how many members of the order and laypeople
had described Fr O'Connor in recent days as either "great",
or "one of the greatest".
Echoing such thoughts, Fr Collins said Fr O'Connor was a
skilled communicator, an inspirational teacher and a good
philosopher but what really made him great was his
"He was no armchair philosopher," the vicar provincial
"He was Christian to the core, and a true Dominican."
Hundreds of people filed into St Saviour's Church in the
north inner city for the Mass.
Among the mourners were many former clients of Sherrard
House, a hostel for homeless young women that Fr O'Connor
helped to establish in Dublin.
One such client paid tribute to Fr O'Connor at the end of
Mass, describing how he had helped her and other women to
open their minds to new ways of thinking.
Also in attendance were a large number of Dominicans and
priests from the Dublin Diocese, and many former colleagues
and students at University College Dublin, where Fr
O'Connor taught political philosophy for 30 years.
Fr O'Connor, who was perhaps best known to the public as a
regular panellist on The Late Late Show in the 1970s, is
survived by his sister Philomena.
© The Irish Times
Work Restarts On Eyre Square
Lorna Siggins in Galway
Hard hats are once again in Galway city centre this week
as a new contractor moved into Eyre Square to complete a
controversial multi-million euro redevelopment.
SIAC Construction began setting up equipment on site
yesterday, and Galway City Council expects work will begin
in earnest on Monday. It says the firm will complete the
project in six months.
No figure for the new contract has been released by the
council, but it is expected to be above the €9 million
quoted for the scheme before the original contractor,
Samuel Kingston Construction, quit the site on June 27th.
Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely said he would be
looking for detailed information on the costs. He believed
the cost would reach €11 million.
"I also want to know at what stage sign-off negotiations
have taken place with Samuel Kingston Construction Ltd and
what financial agreements may have been entered into with
The council says it is still in legal negotiations with the
original contractor and will release a schedule and cost of
works in "the coming weeks".
Mr Conneely said yesterday the Oireachtas Committee of
Public Accounts had agreed to put the Eyre Square issue on
the agenda for its next meeting, and he welcomed this.
SIAC Construction Ltd is one of Ireland's leading
construction firms. It has undertaken several urban renewal
schemes over the past three years, including the
redevelopment of Dublin's O'Connell Street.
© The Irish Times
Bar Owner Evacuates Twice
By Sean O' Driscoll
A New Orleans pub owner is back on the refugee trial again
this week after Hurricane Rita wrecked his temporary home
Danny O'Flaherty said that he was "exhausted" and wanted to
get back to work after his family had been forced to escape
both Katrina and Rita.
Danny, who owns O'Flaherty's, New Orleans largest Irish bar
and Celtic culture center, was interviewed by the Irish
Voice last week about his last minute escape from New
Orleans before Katrina hit.
He, his wife, Susan, and their children fled to Jasper,
Texas where his brother-in-law offered them a house.
However, the town was evacuated before it was flooded by
Hurricane Rita, which smashed a tree into O'Flaherty's
O'Flaherty, an Irish traditional music player originally
from Connemara, Co. Galway, was coming back from a tour in
Ireland when his flight was diverted from Houston to
"I had to way of reaching my family. My family was
evacuated on Thursday from Jasper to the town of Texerkana,
where they met up with Susan's mother," he said.
Meanwhile, Susan's grandmother narrowly avoided being hit
by a flying tree when she fled coastal Texas with a friend
to be with her granddaughter.
O'Flaherty said he spent two nights in Dallas before he
could be reunited with his family in the town of Benton,
Texas, where they are staying at his brother-in-law's own
He said that it would be two to three weeks before they
will be allowed to return to the house in Jasper.
Meanwhile, his bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans
will probably not reopen until January.
Irish folk and traditional musicians, including the
legendary Tommy Makem, are putting together a CD to help
get the pub up and running. O'Flaherty has legendary status
among musicians as a one of the best venues in the U.S. The
venue also hosts an Irish cultural center.
O'Flaherty said that he would likely separate from his
family for some weeks so that he can get back to New
Orleans and get the business restarted.
He said that East Texas had many pine forests and that his
temporary family home in Jasper was right in the eye of the
storm. "We're suffered tree damage, but we're not as badly
off as other people," he said.
"Katrina was bad for us, but this is another nightmare,
we're tired of it, I swear to God," he added.
He said that when he first heard that Rita was coming, he
felt like leaving the country.
"I remember thinking, Not another one coming. I'm going
back to Connemara!" he said.
During his visit to Ireland, O'Flaherty played a concert in
Ennis, Co. Clare on behalf of Red Cross efforts in
"I'm very grateful to all those who have helped us and I
want to help others who haven't been as lucky," he said.
He added that people are out of touch with nature and no
longer able to read its signs.
"It's a real pity that has happened because I feel we are
really out of sync with nature and that could be the
problem," he said.
O'Flaherty added that there was a lot of speculation that
global warming could be responsible for the increase in
hurricanes in the gulf.
"It could be heating up the oceans and feeding the
hurricanes but opinion seems to be divided," he said.
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