Category: Archive

Death of a Dream

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

It must have seemed like a golden opportunity. A chance to live abroad, earn enough cash to live well and still send a little something back home. Instead, say friends, Liam Mason’s American dream turned into a desperate, exploitative nightmare.

After months of 14-hour days with little of the money he had expected, last weekend the young man from County Monaghan could face no more. Almost penniless, he made his way to Kennedy Airport in a desperate attempt to get home.

The following Monday afternoon, June 15, Mason, who was 23, was found hanged from a tree by a belt, inside a small clearing off a footpath in Van Cortlandt Park in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx. His Irish passport was still in his pocket, the date on his three-month visa waiver card set to expire just a day after he ended his life.

Mason’s death has officially been ruled a suicide and investigators found no signs of struggle or criminal action, said a Bronx detective involved in the case.

“It seems he was promised a pot of gold over here, and it didn’t work out for him. In the end all he did was talk about going home. He had nothing here,” the detective said.

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With the help of a local New Jersey police chief, the Irish Consulate and Catholic Charities, Mason’s body was removed to a funeral home and eventually flown back to Castleblayney, where his family lives.

But while law enforcement officials may have closed up the case for now, several of Mason’s friends and neighbors allege that Mason was driven to desperation by the treatment he suffered at the hands of a sub-contractor in Perth Amboy, N.J.

Mason and several other young men from Castleblayney worked long hours for little money as paving and concrete workers, and one of the sub-contractors eventually left them stranded without money, the dead man’s acquaintances claimed.

“It’s a tragic thing to happen to any young lad. You can’t blame a suicide on anyone, but he was driven to it. If he had gotten home, he’d still be living,” said one Castleblayney friend now living in the Bronx, who, like others interviewed, asked that his name not be used.

Piecing together the last few months of Mason’s life from conversations with law enforcement officials, friends and neighbors, it seems the County Monaghan man moved to New Jersey after being offered a flight over here with accommodation and the promise of $600 to a $1,000 a week.

“No one is going to turn that down; digs, a flight and money,” said one friend in the Bronx.

But in fact, Mason ended up earning no more than $40 a day, the detective said.

Distraught and without much money, Mason eventually ended up staying with friends in the Woodlawn area of the Bronx four days before his death. His housemates said they could not believe the story he told them and that he showed no indications of how desperate he had become to get away.

On Saturday, June 13, Mason took a cab to Kennedy Airport, where, without a ticket, he tried to get a British Airways flight back to Ireland, the Bronx detective said. Unable to get a flight that day, he took a yellow cab back to Woodlawn. He was last seen running toward the park at about 6 p.m.

While immigration advocates and other residents said such tales are not uncommon, those who work within the Irish community lamented the loss of a life when help was available.

“It’s tragic that boys here feel that they have to do that to find a way out,” said Father Colm Campbell, director of the Irish Apostolate in Queens.

“What we have to do is make people aware they have another option; there is support out there,” he said.

Meanwhile there will be a fund-raiser to defray expenses. The benefit starts at 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 28, at The Quays Bar, Katonah Avenue, the Bronx. For details, call the bar at (718) 652-9153 or Peter Hennessey at (718) 325-2936.

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