BY JOE LEARY
There is no doubt that the Boston Irish Reporter has been a most important force in strengthening and build-ing the Irish American community here in the Boston area. Since Ed and Mary Forry began publishing this extraordinary newspaper 30 years ago, we have witnessed the growth of many new and revitalized Irish organizations and events.
Now the organization is modernizing and going digital, an outlay that will be buttressed by print specials from time to time, to serve our community better. No longer will we have to wait till the end of the month to access Irish news. We wish them well and Godspeed.
It was in1990 when, as president of The Irish American Partnership, I found myself frequently traveling to Ireland. On one of my trips to Belfast it was suggested that I visit an area called The Short Strand in East Belfast, an enclave of approximately 5,000 Catholics set within 12-to-36-foot walls protecting them from the 60,000 or so Protestants who lived just outside the walls. This was during the time of violence, bombings, and killings in Northern Ireland, with riots and sectarian violence of one sort or another occurring most every day.
It was a memorable experience that I will never forget. Though I have been back several times with groups of Partnership supporters, I had never imagined such hostility to members of my own religion.
I was picked up at my hotel and brought to the Short Strand by a number of their residents who told of the flaming bombs that frequently were thrown over the walls, requiring many residents to put up 4-by-8 wooden panels to protect their windows. Ironically, the panels were brightly painted to show spirit, humor, and resiliency. During the day, they were moved to let in the light. As I walked along, I stepped over thick fire hoses that had been left on the ground ready for putting out the nightly fires.
St. Matthew’s Catholic Church with its school for 300 young people was set in the middle of this mess. The Protestant school, Beechfield, with approximately 90 students, was just over a 30-foot wall with a chain link fence on top. Troublemakers would sling shot steel balls or golf balls over the wall to break windows or hurt people. For my part, I was surprised at how calm my guide was. To me this was a horrible way to live every day.
As soon as I got back to Boston I called Ed Forry to tell him of the experience and ask if I could submit an article about the conditions at the Short Strand. Bos-ton should know about such a place, I said. Ed was as generous as he always is and welcomed the submission.
“If America is watching, the British and others will be far more careful” is the way I began the first of some 225 articles that I would write for the Boston Irish Reporter over the past 18 years. It was an honor to be associated with the newspaper and the wonderful people who work there, most notably my editor, Tom Mulvoy, who ushered my prose into print.
The Boston Irish Reporter printed news that other media simply did not cover. Describing Irish life, Irish elections, the terrible conflict and how the Irish people were able to cope with such conditions.
Over the last decade, the newspaper has honored selected Boston Irish individuals and families at its annual Boston Irish Honors Awards Luncheon. This has become a major event reinforcing our Irish heritage
Hats off to the Boston Irish Reporter: May its future be as bright as its past!