I remember as a young immigrant strolling down Fifth Avenue and stopping to look in the windows at Tiffany’s. I was enthralled.
I lived in the Bronx and most evenings after my shift I headed to the subway or took a Checker cab with the other waitresses, girls from all over Ireland.
Like generations before us we were “brought up to leave.”
We emigrated in our thousands, leaving behind Ireland’s dismal economy and the Troubles in the North. “Did the last person leaving Ireland turn out the lights?,” a witty U.S. Customs’ officer commented as I passed through immigration. Back then, there was not even a faint glimmer of the bright future that was to come.We had not even begun “Our Epic Journey of Affluence” (see Declan Kibert’s Last Word column, pg. 112) that is now the talk of Europe. The North was in turmoil and would continue to be for a long time.
That summer of ’72, I met girls whose brothers had been interned. Bloody Sunday had happened the January before. (The 17-year-old uncle of boxer John Duddy, who is featured in this issue (pg. 96), was one of those killed.
But all has changed, and changed utterly. The fact that a record-breaking 17 percent of our Business 100 honorees are Irish-born speaks volumes about Ireland’s success and the entry-level at which today’s Irish immigrants are joining the American workforce. And the North is poised for lift-off. With a true power-sharing government imminent, its economic future looks bright. See Turlough McConnell’s story about the new Titanic Quarter in Belfast, pg. 90.
As always, when compiling our Business 100 list we are reminded of Irish-American contributions to Ireland’s economy miracle and the cause of peace.
Dan Rooney, whose Pittsburgh Steelers, won the 2005 Super Bowl, is one such Irish-American (see Michael Quinlin’s interview, pg. 68). A founding member of The American Ireland Fund, Dan has also been helping with business initiatives in Newry, Co. Down.
Meanwhile, Jim Quinn, president of Tiffany & Co., whom I interviewed for this issue (pg. 40) is chairman of the North American Advisory Board of The Smurfit Business School at UCD. He and his colleagues on the board are helping to ensure that Ireland’s graduates are well-equipped for the future, whether they stay at home or choose to emigrate. The fact, that Tiffany’s & Co., is looking at opening a store in Dublin, surely, as Jim says of the company’s distinctive blue box, holds “a promise of good things to come.”