Those We Lost: Recent Passings in the Irish-American Community

Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in Lisbon in 2009

By Irish America Staf
August / September 2011

William Craig

William Craig, a controversial political leader from Northern Ireland who founded the Ulster Vanguard, died April 25 at the age of 86. Craig’s political career ended in 1979 but his influence on Northern Ireland’s politics will not soon be forgotten.
While studying to become a solicitor at Queen’s University in Belfast, Craig founded the Unionist association. A few years later in 1953, he became chair of the Young Unionist Council, a position he held for several years. Throughout his political career, Craig worked in many areas of government, but he is most known for his time spent as Northern Ireland’s home affairs minister, during the beginnings of the early Civil Rights marches in the 1970’s. He was known for his willingness to use violence to suppress anyone who supported republicanism.

In 1972, he formed the Ulster Vanguard, a right wing group that vowed to resist a non-British regime.Craig began to develop a reputation for giving very provocative and threatening speeches. During one of his speeches he announced, “We must build up the dossiers on the men and women who are a menace to this country, because one day, ladies and gentlemen, if the politicians fail, it will be our duty to liquidate the enemy.” For the last 25 years, Craig has been out of the political spotlight. He was born in Co. Tyrone in 1924 and is survived by his wife and their two sons.


John Delaney

John Delaney, an Irish businessman and founder of the online prediction market website Intrade, died on May 21, 2011, within 160 ft of Mount Everest’s summit.

John Delaney was born near Dublin, Ireland in 1969 and raised in Ballinakill, Co. Laois. He earned an M.B.A. in finance from UCD and worked as an accountant early in his career. In 1999, Delaney founded Intrade, an online non-sports betting site.
On April 9, 2011, Delaney left for the Mount Everest expedition. An avid climber, this was his second attempt to climb Mount Everest after his first attempt five years ago ended due to bad weather. He was one among a climbing team of eighteen, including seven other climbers, eight Sherpas and two additional guides. On Friday, May 20th, the team left their camp at 27,230 feet to attempt to reach the summit. At approximately 28,870 feet, Delaney began to have difficulties and was moved down to 28,700 feet. He collapsed there and was pronounced dead after resuscitation attempts failed. Due to the hazardous conditions at that elevation, his body will remain on the peak.

Delaney is survived by his wife, Orla, his mother, Marcella, his brother and sister, two sons, Caspar and Alexander and his daughter Hope, born three days before his death.


Ryan Dunn

Ryan Dunn, 34, a star on the MTV show Jackass, passed away June 20th after a fatal car crash near his home in West Chester, PA.

Born in Ohio, Dunn moved to Philadelphia when he was 15 years old. On the first day of high school he met his future co-star Bam Margera. The duo began documenting their outrageous stunts and skateboard routines in the 90s, and eventually caught the eye of Johnny Knoxville who featured this footage on Jackass in 2000. Dunn began co-hosting the new show, Proving Ground, a week before he died.

Devastated fans have flocked to the scene of the accident, leaving flowers. A deeply saddened Bam Margera was interviewed at the crash sight. He told the New York Post, “He was the happiest person ever, the smartest person, with so much talent. He had so many things going for him. It’s just not right, it’s not right.”

Police believe Dunn’s Porsche 911 was going 130 mph when it jumped a guardrail, crashed into the woods, and burst into flames. A passenger, Zachary Hartwell, 30, also died in the accident. He had recently been married.

Dunn leaves behind his parents, Ronald Dunn and Linda Piscitello; his stepparents, his fiancée and siblings.


Garret FitzGerald

Leading politician, intellectual, economist and two-time Taoiseach of Ireland, Garret FitzGerald left behind a legacy of transformation, integrity and scholarship. The former Taoiseach passed away on May 19, in Dublin’s Mater Private Hospital, following a short illness.

FitzGerald entered politics in 1965, when he was elected to Seanan Éireann. In 1969, he was elected to the Dáil as a TD for the Fine Gael party. There he served as spokesman for education and then spokesman for finance, until Fine Gael came to power in 1973, when then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave appointed him Minister for Foreign Affairs. His broad understanding of and respect for Europe served him well in this role, as did his fluency in French, and he made many in-roads in terms of Ireland’s relations throughout Europe.

In 1977, Fine Gael lost the general election and FitzGerald was chosen as leader of the party following Cosgrave’s resignation. He served a brief term in office from June 1981 to March 1982, and was again Taoiseach from December 1982 until March 1987. His leadership was marked by great improvements in Ireland’s relationship with Britain. The poignancy of the fact that he died as Queen Elizabeth made her historic trip to Ireland cannot be ignored.

FitzGerald’s life outside of politics was equally rich. He was born in Dublin on February 9, 1926, to a Protestant mother from Northern Ireland and a Catholic father, Desmond FitzGerald, who was Ireland’s minister for external affairs. His parents shared nationalist beliefs and were both present in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising.

FitzGerald studied history, Spanish and French at University College Dublin, and then qualified as a barrister, though he never practiced law. Instead, he joined Aer Lingus then later entered academia as an economist, earning his doctorate degree in 1969. Until his death, with the exception of his years in office, FitzGerald wrote a lauded, respected, and well-read column for the Irish Times on the economics and politics of Ireland and Europe.

FitzGerald is pre-deceased by his wife, Joan, and survived by his daughter, Mary, and his two sons, John and Mark.


Brian Lenihan

Former Irish Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan passed away at his home in west Dublin on June 10th, at the age of 52.
Lenihan was born into one of Ireland’s most well known political families. His father, the late Brian Lenihan, Snr, was a cabinet minister for over 25 years. His grandfather, aunt and brother all had political careers. Born in Dublin, Lenihan was educated at Trinity College and received his master’s degree in law from Cambridge University. He had been involved with Fianna Fail since he was a teenager but did not run for office until 1996 when he was asked to stand for the Dublin West seat on  his father’s death.

In 2008, Lenihan became Ireland’s Minister of Finance and by the summer of that year was up against the greatest economic freefall in Ireland’s history. Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December of 2009, Lenihan continued fighting to rescue the country from fiscal despair. As finance minister he made many controversial changes to Ireland’s budget. The citizens of Ireland were outraged by tax increases and Ireland’s international bailout deal. Despite the varying opinions of Lenihan’s political legacy there has been an outpouring of mourning from colleagues. At his funeral, Attorney General Paul Gallagher said, “ If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would not have believed such courage was possible.” Lenihan leaves behind his wife, Patricia, and their two children.


Breon O’Casey

Artist and craftsman Breon O’Casey passed away on May 22, 2011 at the age of 83 in Penzance, Cornwall, England.
Breon O’Casey was born in London on April 30, 1928, the son of Irish playwright Sean O’Casey and Irish actress Eileen Carey Reynolds O’Casey. The eldest of three children, O’Casey moved with his family from London to Totnes, Devon in 1937. His love of visual arts developed while attending Dartington Hall. After completing national service, O’Casey moved to London and studied at the Anglo-French Art Centre. In the late 1950s, O’Casey moved to St. Ives, Cornwall and became associated with the St. Ives School. He worked for artist Denis Mitchell and sculptress Dame Barbara Hepworth from 1959-1963. These years were his apprenticeship of sorts, in which he developed the tools necessary to create his art. In 1961, O’Casey married Doreen Corscadden, a native of Northern Ireland.

O’Casey began making jewelry after his time with Hepner and continued until his 1996 exhibition, “The Last Jewelry Show.” He then focused on sculpting,creating wax figures which he cast in bronze. O’Casey took up weaving in the 1960s and continued until he physically couldn’t weave anymore. A recent exhibition of his paintings, sculptures and prints was at Somerset House in London from October 2010 to January 2011. O’Casey is survived by his wife, Doreen, son Brendan and daughters Duibhne and Oona.
Joan O’Dwyer

Hon. Joan O’Dwyer passed away on June 6. Judge O’Dwyer, who was in her 80s, was one of only 12 women in a class of 200 at Columbia Law School. Her father, James O’Dwyer, born in Bohola, Co. Mayo, was killed on active duty while serving as a New York City firefighter.

O’Dwyer passed the New York State Bar in 1950 and joined her uncle Paul O’Dwyer’s law practice. Paul, who is also remembered for his social and political activism, served as president of the City Council. His brother William O’Dwyer became Mayor of New York. In 1960, Joan became the first woman appointed to the Criminal Court in Queens, New York.

She went on to devote 50 years to judicial service She was the widow of the late Hon. Anthony P. Savarese, and is survived by her sons,  Shane and Liam O’Neill, and their spouses, Karen Frieman and June Ma; her daughter, Kelly O’Neill Levy and her husband Harlan Levy; and her grandchildren Jamie, Max, Gavin, Caitlin and Emily. Kelly is a Civil Court Judge assigned to Family Court in in the Bronx.


Patricia Preston

Pat Preston, the “Ireland Expert,” passed away on May 17 at her home in the Hudson Valley town of Red Hook, NY. She left behind a forty-year legacy of exquisite and informative travel writing, and a life-long love of Ireland.

Patricia Ann Tunison Preston was born on March 18, 1944, the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Preston first visited Ireland in 1996 – the first trip of hundreds throughout her life. After returning, she persuaded the Irish Tourist Board to hire her, making Preston the first American employee in the Board’s history. She worked there until 1985, when she left to devote her time to freelance travel writing, focusing on Ireland.

Preston authored over 20 travel books – 13 of them about Ireland – including the 1st and 2nd editions of Frommer’s Dublin, the 1st edition of Frommer’s Ireland, and Ireland Memories. She also contributed to many other travel books and to magazines, including National Geographic Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Ireland of the Welcomes, and Irish America.

In addition to her work in print, Preston also maintained irelandexpert.com, a popular website, where she offered her valuable and friendly advice to all those planning a trip to Ireland.  With her husband, John, who died in December 2010, Preston led more than 30 trips to Ireland. She is survived by her sister, two sisters-in-law, and 10 nieces and nephews.

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