Memorial Day: The Sullivan Brothers
As the United States mourns the many fallen military personnel who have served the nation, Irish America remembers the Sullivan brothers who died during World War II.
All five brothers had been serving aboard the USS Juneau when it was torpedoed by the Japanese on November 13, 1942. The brothers perished in the attack during the naval battle of Guadalcanal.
The tragedy of the Sullivan brothers touched the hearts of the American people. Navy Destroyer the USS The Sullivans was one of two ships dedicated in their honor The USS The Sullivans would earn 9 battle stars in WWII and in Korea before being decommissioned in 1965.
The destroyer, which is currently docked at the Buffalo and Erie County Military & Naval Park, started taking on water in April and became partially submerged. The New York Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and Senator Chuck Schumer soon joined the effort to save the decommissioned ship, now used as a museum. More than $1 million was raised to repair the ship’s breached hull. It was scheduled to re-open for Memorial Day Weekend, however, WBFO-FM, a local Buffalo radio station has reported that while the park will reopen Memorial weekend the USS The Sullivans remains closed.
The ship itself adopted the Sullivan brother’s motto “We Stick Together.”
Further Calls for Gun Reform after Elementary School Shooting
This week the United States experienced yet another mass shooting, this time at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas which left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Many politicians have joined the public outcry for gun reform following the latest tragedy, which occurred just 10 days after a shooting at a store in Buffalo, New York left 10 people dead.
Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger for Texas Governor, confronted current governor Greg Abbott during a press conference in the wake of the attack.
“Governor Abbott, I have to say something,” O’Rourke said as he approached the stage. “The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing.”
O’Rourke, who has been an advocate for gun reform, continued his remarks outside the event, after having been removed from the venue.
“This is on all of us if we do not do something, and I am going to do something. I’m not alone,” he said.
These sentiments were echoed by Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who spoke from the Senate floor on Tuesday in the hours following the shooting.
Murphy was formerly a representative of a district that included Sandy Hook Elementary, where 20 students and six adults were killed in a mass shooting in 2012.
“Sandy Hook will never, ever be the same. This community in Texas will never, ever be the same. Why? Why are we here? If not to try to make sure that fewer schools and fewer communities go through what Sandy Hook has gone through. What Uvalde is going through.”
Murphy described the U.S. government’s failure to act as “a quiet message of endorsement” towards pro-gun organizations such as the N.R.A.
Governor Abbott was scheduled to speak at an N.R.A. event on Friday.
U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin offered her “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims.
“The majority of the victims were children. These senseless mass shootings do not have to happen,” Cronin said in her statement, in which she went on to speak about gun control.
“I am proud that in my home state of Massachusetts, we have some of the strictest gun laws in the United States. States with strict gun laws have lower gun ownership rates and significantly lower gun death rates. As a country, we must do more. Actions must be taken now to prevent this from happening again.”
Northern Ireland Protocol “Problem to be Solved,” Says Richard E Neal
As the debate regarding the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol continues, U.S. Representative Richard E. Neal has weighed in.
Speaking earlier this week from Dublin, Neal said “the protocol dispute seems to me to be a manufactured issue. I have on this delegation people who are experts at trade and they also would confirm that they think these issues on the trade front if that’s really the dispute, could be ironed out quickly.”
Neal expanded on this comment, saying “I hope this is not about domestic politics, I hope that this is about the historic accord that we call the Good Friday Agreement.”
His comments were met by anger from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who are opposed to the protocol and are refusing to nominate a Speaker or a deputy first minister to the Northern Ireland Assembly until it is “resolved”.
The Northern Ireland protocol refers to the trade arrangements made in the region following the UK’s exit from the European Union.
After Brexit, a new system was needed in relation to checks on certain trade items such as meat and eggs. The EU has strict rules which require border checks on food items that arrive from non-EU countries.
Both the UK and the EU signed the protocol in the interest of maintaining the Good Friday Agreement. However, unionist parties are opposed to a border check between mainland UK and Northern Ireland as they believe the system undermines their place within the UK.
Despite comments from DUP members, Neal remained optimistic about the protocol’s future. Following meetings with political party heads at Stormont on Thursday, Neal released the following statement:
“Today, our delegation had the honor of meeting with leaders of the political parties of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. The common thread between all the voices, as well as my own, was support for negotiated solutions to resolve challenges related to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.”
The statement continued: “We have urged parties to stay at the table and negotiate in good faith to sort out their differences. We shared our support for a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland in which all communities can enjoy the gains made possible by the Good Friday Agreement now and in the years to come.
“Each party shared their eagerness to deliver for their constituents and to return to the regular order of governance. The people of Northern Ireland need Stormont up and running.”
Irish Author Among Time 100 Most Influential
Irish author Sally Rooney has joined big names such as U.S. President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the 2022 Time 100 list of most influential people.
Rooney’s first novel Conversations With Friends was adapted for television and aired on HULU earlier this month.
It was the success of her critically acclaimed novel Normal People that shot Rooney to international fame. The on-screen adaption of Normal People premiered in 2020 and was a global hit.
Time has described the Mayo writer as “the minimalist examiner of modern romance.”
Rooney was nominated for the honor by Time100 alumnus Lena Dunham who said, “her ability to swerve means she won’t just be the hottest young novelist of the year – she will be a permanent fixture, not just as a hardback in the hands of appealing youth but as a critic in the collective conscience.”
Irish influence on the Time100 list also came in the form of 2019 honoree Ailbhe Smyth. Smyth, who featured on the list for her activism in Ireland’s pro-abortion Together For Yes campaign, nominated fellow abortion activists Ana Cristina González Vélez and Cristina Villarreal Velásquez for the 2022 list.
“I know what it takes to move a country…And these two women have it in spades,” Smyth said in her tribute to the Columbian duo.
Joining President Biden on the list is fellow Irish-American Kevin McCarthy who serves as the House Minority Leader.
For the full Time100 list click here.
Ancient Order of Hibernians to Vote on Allowing Female Members
The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) is set to vote on whether to allow female members in July.
The historic conference was announced after the AOH, which is the largest fraternal Irish organization in the U.S., experienced a 20% drop in membership over the last decade.
The organization will revisit its long-standing male-only policy at a conference in Pennsylvania this summer. However, opposition to the proposal comes from the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH), which says the move would be detrimental to its organization.
The LAOH, which is completely separate from the AOH following a tax audit in 2012, has argued that female members of the AOH would not be treated as equal members of the organization.
Daniel O’Connell, the current national president of the AOH, told the Irish Times he is “hopeful the LAOH leadership and membership moving forward will embrace a proposal that would give women residing in America another opportunity to embrace their Irish heritage.”
The decline in AOH membership is thought to be due to aging members while some current members believe that younger men are reluctant to join an organization that does not permit female members.
Currently, AOH members must be male, Catholic, and able to prove Irish ancestry, according to the organization’s constitution. The group currently boasts 30,000 members while the LAOH reports just over 10,000.
Insurance Issues Causing “Thatched Cottage Crisis” in Ireland
Ireland could see a decline in traditional thatched cottages as sky-rocketing insurance policies encourage homeowners to favor modern housing.
The “Thatched Cottage Crisis” has seen thatch cottage owners quoted as much as 8,500 to insure annually while others have been forced to go without insurance at all.
Only one insurance company in Ireland insures thatched housing, with just 1,000 cottages remaining on the island.
The company is no longer taking on new customers due to “serious deterioration in the claims experience,” while UK insurance providers have exited the Irish market as a result of Brexit.
Many thatched homeowners and thatchers alike have called for support from the Irish government. Thatching is not regarded as a craft in Ireland and therefore there are no bodies that provide official training.
Seán McLaughlin owns a thatched cottage in Donegal where he has lived since the 1970s. He spoke to the Irish Independent about the ongoing issue of insurance.
“I was insured for about 10 years. I didn’t have any claims or anything, but around 2007, when the big slump came, I got a letter from my insurers to say that the underwriters weren’t willing to underwrite anymore. That’s the last time I was insured.”
When McLaughlin purchased his home it was one of six thatched cottages within 100 yards. However, only his house remains in the village today.
“When you think of Ireland, you think of a pint of Guinness and a thatched house, but it’s one aspect of our history that is rapidly disappearing,” McLaughlin said.
Irish Translator Wins Dublin Literary Award
Irish translator Frank Wynne has won the 2022 Dublin Literary Award alongside French author Alice Zeniter for the novel The Art of Losing.
The award, sponsored by the Dublin City Council, is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English.
Zeniter will take home 75,000 and Wynne 25,000 for their accomplishment. Wynne was a previous winner in 2002, as a translator of Atomised by Michel Houellebecq.
Speaking after the announcement Wynne said:
“In a very real sense, I owe my career as a literary translator to the Dublin Literary Award, a prize I cherish because it makes no distinction between English and translated fiction, treating authors and translators as co-weavers of the endless braid of literature.”
The Art of Losing is the 10th novel in translation to win the Dublin Literary Prize.
Historic Houses to Host Events for Ireland’s Free Creativity Day
And finally, if you find yourself visiting Ireland this June be sure to check out Cruinniú na nÓg 2022 on Saturday 11 June.
Ireland’s “Gathering of Youth” will see a free creativity day with over 450 events across the country, including eight live music stages with live-streamed performances.
Catherine Martin, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media released a statement announcing further details of the day’s events.
“This year we are delighted that most of the events will be live and in person. Alongside the events planned by our strategic partners – Dance Ireland, Garageland, Irish Street Arts, Circus, and Spectacle Network (ISACS), Nenagh Children’s Film Festival, Youth Theatre Ireland, and the Historic Houses of Ireland – we have more than 450 events programmed by local authorities in venues around the country. We are so thrilled that the restrictions of the last two years are behind us, and that this year everyone can join together to be creative, express themselves, and have fun.”
All events are free and a full list, including events hosted by historic houses around Ireland, can be found by clicking here.♦