Friday, March 1, 2024

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon


MORE than a million people lined the streets of New York's Fifth Avenue for a colourful St Patrick's Day parade in 2001. Despite the cold many stayed for hours watching over 150,000 marchers pass by, police, army, firefighters, hundreds of bands, and people from every county in Ireland.

Our green and misty island was well represented. The marchers included the Finglas Concert Band as well as a contingent from Dublin Bus while Garda representatives joined the New York Police Department at the head of the parade.

I was one of the 100 from Dublin Bus participating. The late Barney Coleman had put years of work into organizing it, ably assisted by Dublin Bus Management. One of our group was Limerick man, Joe Collins who was the PR man for Dublin Bus for many years and knew New York City like the back of his hand. No matter what information or help we needed all we had to do was (if I may borrow a phrase) “talk to Joe”

We met many who wanted to talk about their Irish roots. One man said he had stood in ehe same spot for the parade for 50 years. "It's a great day for the Irish," he said. His comments reflected the enthusiasm of many New Yorkers, for the parade, even those without Irish connections.

Among the dignitaries was Mayor Giuliani who was wearing a green woollen scarf over a green turtleneck sweater. He was hugely popular with the inhabitants of the Big Apple, some of whom shouted: "We love you, baby". Members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organisation were underwhelmed since they were once again refused permission to take part. They chanted: "We're Irish, we're queer, and we’ll be here every year". Their protest was peaceful, unlike the previous year when there were 11 arrests.

On the days on either side of the march our group divided into splinter groups. The shopaholics among us seem to spend most of their time in Macy's and such establishments. I was one of a small group who stood on the roof of one of the Twin Towers, looking down at the small planes going up and down the Hudson. Little did we know the fate that the same building and its twin would suffer six months later.

On the Sunday I compiled and presented a one-hour radio programme Ceol na nGael on WFUV20.7 broadcast from Fordham University. It is the most popular Irish radio program in New York, and according to the feedback my presentation was all right. One of my fellow travelers had told me, “You have the perfect face for radio.” I had prepared most of it before I left home and I brought Dublin Bus driver/ singer Angela Macari who gave a memorable, live, rendition of Grace.

Our little group was also in a world-famous submarine. It wasn’t submerged, of course. I’m referring to the nuclear sub, Growler.

At the time Growler was the only nuclear missile submarine available open to the public in the United States. As the information areas about the sub on Pier 86 are spacious, visitors were encouraged to learn and take in as much information as they could in the early parts of the tour before entering the submarine. Once on board, lines can move quickly and the ability to ask questions of the staff is limited, but encouraged. A couple of us there didn’t need any encouragement to ask questions. I prefer to think of us as having inquiring minds but unkind people described us as “inquisitive hours.

* * * * *

In September 1998, 40,000 people showed up to catch a glimpse of the President of the United States Bill Clinton, and his wife Hillary in Limerick. At a public event on 5th September on O'Connell Street, Bill Clinton was granted the Freedom of the City by my old friend, the Mayor of Limerick, Joe Harrington. As Bill was mounting the platform Joe whispered something in his ear and the world’s media didn’t find out what it was. But on March 18th two and a half years later I made a trans-Atlantic call, did a live on-air phone interview with Joe and he told me, and the Stateside listeners, what he had whispered to the President. I won’t share it with you but it was a piece of advice that Bill eventually took.

There have been many changes, both good and bad, on both sides of the Atlantic since that memorable day twenty-three years ago.

* * * * *

I was just a few pages into "Under the Bridge" by Jack Byrne, an English author of Wicklow ancestry when I got an email from the editor telling me that the deadline was staring me in the face. However, I was far enough into this gripping story to see the author's talent.

One reviewer has described it as "A truly British and Irish Thriller" and I couldn't agree more. Set in Liverpool in 2004, from the very first page the author's ability to describe everything including the weather, in detail and to bring the reader into the minds and hearts of the characters is obvious. We are steered into an intimate knowledge of the emotions of the two complex characters, Anne and Vinny.

Watch this space in April. And in the meantime, whether you are English or Irish or from anywhere else in the world I can already see that going out to buy "Under the Bridge" would be a good move. It is published by Northodox Press Limited and you will find the author at;

See you in April

Click on the author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.


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