Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards Gala Ceremony 2018

Tip O Neill Irish Diaspora Awards Gala Ceremony 2018
Pictured at the 2018 Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Awards Gala Ceremony

Tip O’Neill 2018 Award recipients honoured

Over 220 guests attended the gala Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award ceremony on Friday night in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel to honour this year’s worthy recipients; Boston based Homes of Donegal fundraising committee, former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and professional golfer and sports commentator Paul McGinley.

This prestigious award, which was first established in 2012 to mark the centenary of the great American politician Tip O’Neill whose maternal grandparents hailed from Inishowen in Donegal, is presented annually by 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 it’s 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. 

This committee raised a massive $120,000 in Boston to help the people in Inishowen affected by the devastating floods in 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.  They paid tribute to the many undocumented Irish living in the US and urged people not to forget about them and to try and understand their struggles. 

“We are fortunate in that we were able to come back and accept this award” said Boston based Oran 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 Donegal County Council, the organising committee and indeed 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 honouring Paul in this way”.    He also paid tribute to his wife for “all her good work with Paul”.

Former Governor of Maryland and Mayor of Baltimore 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.  Tom believes that they epitomise 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.

Cllr. Seamus O’Domhnaill Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council paid homage to the diaspora saying “it is because of the work done by people like Tip O’Neill, like Martin O’Malley, Paul McGinley, Declan Houton and Oran McGonagle and thousands more like them that when we travel to the US or any other part of the world on trade missions that we are pushing open doors.  These people have laid the groundwork, they have made the connections and have conveyed a positive reputation for a place like Donegal that makes our job so much easier when we are selling Donegal as a great place to live in, work in, do business in or visit.”

In welcoming guests to the Inishowen peninsula Cllr. Martin Farren Chair of Inishowen MD paid a special tribute to Tip O’Neill and to his dedication and commitment to Ireland and in particular to his endeavours in bringing Irish issues on to the agenda of the US government and bringing to bear his influence which ultimately helped secure the Peace Process for Northern Ireland. 

By way of conclusion Cllr. 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.

Virgin Media One star (formerly TV3) Ciara Doherty performed MC and the evening concluded with a superb performance by the Henry Girls.