Securing the future of St. Brigid’s church, built by and for Famine immigrants in New York City in 1848, appears to be one such issue. Nobody has taken a poll on how people feel about that East Village landmark. However, the fact that more than 500 turned out last week for a Midtown Manhattan fundraiser for the Save St. Brigid’s Committee is a pretty strong indication that the campaign to stop demolition is gathering pace.
Conservatives, moderates, progressives and those with no discernible political views have expressed their backing for the preservationist cause.
The authors who lent their support at last week’s benefit themselves came from across the spectrum in terms of age, perspective and origins. Some of the speakers had Irish accents: Colum McCann, Joseph O’Connor, Anne Maguire, Tom Phelan, Malachy McCourt, Carmel Quinn and the evening’s MC, Black 47 front man Larry Kirwan; others were raised in Irish families in American cities: Pete Hamill, Thomas Fleming, T.J. English, Marion Casey, Peter Quinn and Dennis Smith among them.
The local parishioners and activists have battled bravely to stop the wrecking ball. The intervention of outside groups like the Grand Council of United Emerald Societies has boosted their efforts.
But last week’s event could someday be seen as a turning point in the campaign to save the church, not so much for the amount of money raised – $20,000 – but because it indicated that the Irish community was willing to stand up to defend what it had come to see as an important part of its heritage.