Some 220 guests attended the gala Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award ceremony on Sept. 14 in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel to celebrate this year’s recipients: the Boston based Homes of Donegal fundraising committee, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and the professional golfer and sports commentator Paul McGinley.
This award, which was first established in 2012 to mark the centenary of the birth of the great American politician Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, whose maternal grandparents hailed from Inishowen in Donegal, is presented annually by the Donegal County Council to members of the Irish diaspora who have made a remarkable contribution in their chosen field and for their interest in, and support, for Ireland and its diaspora.
In an emotional address, Oran McGonagle and Declan Houton accepted the award on behalf of the 20 members of the Homes of Donegal Fundraising Committee and dedicated the award to every Irish immigrant throughout the world.
The committee raised $120,000 in Boston to help the people in Inishowen affected by the devastating floods of August 2017.
They spoke of their pride in being the first Inishowen people to receive this award and of what Tip O’Neill meant to the people of Boston and, indeed, to the Irish community in Boston.
“We are fortunate in that we were able to come back and accept this award” said the Boston-based McGonagle, “but we are only two of twenty and the other committee members deserve our gratitude. We have a great community in Boston, we stick together and look out for each other, and that’s what it is like being Irish and living in Boston.”
Dunfanaghy native Mick McGinley accepted the award on behalf of his son Paul and thanked the Council, the organizing committee, and the O’Neill family for bestowing this award on Paul, saying “I am very proud of Paul and of all he has achieved and I would like to thank you for honoring him in this way.”
Martin O’Malley also spoke of his pride in receiving this award and recounted his own memories of the great Tip O’Neill and of the values and principles he brought to bear in his position as one of the most powerful people in the US. He concluded his address by telling the people of Donegal that “it is true what they say about you – ‘Your hearts are like your mountains in the homes of Donegal.’”
Tom O’Neill, on behalf of the O’Neill family congratulated each of the award recipients and spoke of their achievements and outstanding contributions to each of their respective communities. O’Neill said he believes they epitomize all that is great about our diaspora saying that it is not just about leaving and coming back, it is about giving back and each of these recipients ‘give back’ every day.
By way of conclusion Councillor Nicholas Crossan formally launched the new booklet produced by Leonard Roarty outlining three of Tip O’Neills many achievements saying, “this work illustrates Tip’s love and service to America and its people and in particular the Irish Diaspora and his unrelenting efforts and success in bringing peace to Ireland.” Each guest received a copy of the booklet.