Music and Merriment at Irish America’s 2019 Hall of Fame
By Maggie Holland, Assistant Editor
On Thursday, March 14, hundreds gathered in the Cotillion Room of the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan for Irish America magazine’s 10th annual Hall of Fame luncheon. This year’s inductees were lawyer, public servant, and peacemaker John C. Dearie; broadcaster Adrian Flannelly; Academy Award-winning director Terry George; Irish Repertory Theatre founders Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly; Grammy Award-winning musician Arturo O’Farrill; and NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. Each inductee received a Waterford Crystal Lismore bowl.
The event began with a cocktail reception in the Regency Room, where the honorees and guests mingled and took photos with Irish America founders Patricia Harty and Niall O’Dowd.
At noon, the inductees and guests made their way into the adjoining Cotillion Room and were seated. Niall O’Dowd welcomed everyone and introduced Adrian Flannelly, host of The Adrian Flannelly Show, which has been on the air for the last 50 years. Flannelly acknowledged his cousin Brian O’Dwyer, the prominent lawyer, immigration lobbyist, and Grand Marshal of New York City’s 2019 St. Patrick’s Day parade, as well as other family members who were in attendance, and he thanked his wife, Aine Sheridan, saying she was “the person who actually made the radio show a success. She refuses to be associated with 50 years of broadcasting because she claims she wasn’t born at that time.
He added: “What Irish America magazine brought to America is a miracle in itself, and trust me when I say that when Niall and Trish Harty arrived in this town here with even roaming out the concept of a glossy magazine, I thought to myself, ‘God, this is something I would absolutely love to be associated with.’ It’s terrific, and I’m very, very, very grateful and honored to get this award from what has brought Irish America up several notches to the top rung. Again, congratulations.”
Flannelly also congratulated fellow inductee John C. Dearie, who spent 25 years as his cohost of the radio program.
Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Irish America magazine Patricia Harty, who introduced NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill. O’Neill expressed his great pride in being the grandson of four Irish emigrants. He recognized his mother, Helen, and prompted a round of applause for her raising seven kids. He joked, “Growing up, I was number four at a time when I wasn’t really sure if she knew what my name was, but that’s okay.”
“I certainly wouldn’t be standing up here if it wasn’t for the 54,000 men and women of the New York City Police Department,” said O’Neill, “and the thousands of people that have come before us. NYC was transformed, and it wasn’t transformed by magic.”
Harty then introduced a special guest, Grammy winner Judy Collins, who sang her song “Dreamers” followed by “Danny Boy.”
Following Collins, the next inductee to speak was Afro-Cuban jazz musician Arturo O’Farrill, who expressed his honor in being among the other inductees, saying, “I was deeply surprised to be informed of this induction. To find myself in the company of Commissioner O’Neill – not behind bars – Adrian Flannelly – not on the air – Ciarán O’Reilly, Charlotte Moore, and Terry George – and not in the audience! John C. Dearie and not in litigation is a huge surprise and an honor. Their achievements and accolades are the stuff of legend.”
He added: “We O’Farrills like the idea of being confusing. We like being many things: Irish, German, Mexican, Cuban, jazz, classical, Latin, New Yorker – but citizens of the world, as is the predilection of the Irish…I am grateful to immigrants and the vitality that they bring to the shores that they land on. I am thrilled to know that wherever we go we initiate dialogue and bring about change.” O’Farrill then played a one-of-a-kind rendition of “Danny Boy” on the grand piano.
Harty invited everyone to enjoy their lunch as the main course was set. Later, as dessert was served, singer Niamh Hyland and guitarist Shu Nakamura performed “Fields of Gold.” Harty then introduced Consul General Ciarán Madden, who reflected, “Of all the things the Irish have brought to America – the music, the literature, the dance – the one that stands out above all, I think, is public service.”
The next inductees to speak were Charlotte Moore and Ciarán O’Reilly, who together founded the Irish Repertory Theatre 30 years ago. “Most days,” said O’Reilly, “the glamor of running a theater company has to do with the minutiae of fixing a broken toilet or running out for lozenges for the actor who has gotten bronchitis, or getting on the phone to persuade an agent that his movie star client would become an even bigger star if he were to act at Irish Rep for no money. And then comes a day like today, when Irish America calls us and we get to put on a suit and tie and put on airs and come to the Pierre Hotel and mix with police commissioners and Academy and Grammy Award-winners.”
Moore then took to the microphone, saying, “If all life is a circle, this honor today is significant for me. My ancestors left County Wexford in another century, landed on these shores and made their way west to Kentucky and southern Illinois to work in the coal mines. They left with little in their pockets, but their blood was plush with heritage… It’s been a privilege to honor the heritage of a country that’s produced the finest playwrights in any language. The fact that my name will hang in the Hall of Fame in New Ross, County Wexford, is deeply meaningful to me.”
After that, O’Dowd introduced John C. Dearie, who called on Irish Americans to be more hands-on with Irish issues, saying, “What we need to do is get the CEOs and leaders in all the fields of cultures in our country – the Irish presence – to be more involved in not only the search for peace in Northern Ireland, but for the support of all of these other issues: immigration, the McGuinness Principles, the concern about Brexit and what it means for the Good Friday Agreement. That’s our challenge. Our challenge is to get activation and motivation.”
Finally, O’Dowd introduced Oscar-winning director of films such as Hotel Rwanda and In the Name of the Father, Terry George. “This room epitomizes America – Irish America,” said George, “what happened to me and what’s great about both our countries. Because gathered here is just the epitome of decency, hope, luck, and talent… This is the land of hope, the land of dreamers. I couldn’t even have dreamed the possibility of this. Clearly, my mother didn’t when she said I should get another job.”
He added: “I try to transmit the great sense of justice, humanism, passion, and caring that our nation has, to transmit that into literature and into a movement, that we can lay the foundation for generations to come to say that they can be great Irish Americans, that they can be great citizens of the world.”
Niamh Hyland and Shu Nakamura closed out the presentation, performing “Wild Mountain Thyme.” Inductees and guests finished their desserts and mingled more before departing, taking the newest issue of Irish America on their way out.
The Hall of Fame is located in Ireland aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross, County Wexford. Founded in 2010 in celebration of Irish America magazine’s 25th anniversary, the Irish America Hall of Fame honors the extraordinary achievements of Irish-American leaders, from their significant accomplishments and contributions to American society to the personal commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage and the betterment of Ireland. ♦
See slideshow below for more photos of the Hall of Fame!