By Ray O’Hanlon
Tony Dalton says his hips are gone but his upper body is strong enough to pull them through — the water, that is.
Dalton last weekend used his arms and experience as a long-distance swimmer to cover the 25-meter pool at St. Mary’s Recreation Center in the Bronx. He swam it once, and then an additional 999 times non-stop in aid of the St. Jerome’s Parish church repair fund.
"1,000 laps comes to 15 miles, give or take," the 58-year-old Dalton told the Echo.
He said that he was expecting his swim to raise as much as $25,000 for the church.
Fr. John Grange of St. Jerome’s explained that the church is now 100 years old and in need of urgent repair work.
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Fr. Grange was not alone in expressing his admiration for Dalton’s grit and stamina.
"He did it all on water and cranberry juice," he said.
Dalton, a youth worker who runs a gym, has made long-distance swimming both a hobby and a mission in his life.
Back in 1979 he set out to swim the English Channel but was forced to take to a boat three miles short of the French coast as a result of the infamous Fastnet storm, a hurricane-force tempest that sent some of the world’s best yachtsmen to their doom off England’s south coast.
There was no storm at St. Mary’s last weekend, just a lot of loud cheering as Dalton swam home in 10 hours and 36 minutes.
Dalton is off the Ireland this weekend to visit relatives, and perhaps take a relaxed dip or two.
Meanwhile, anyone who sponsored his swim can send their check, payable to St. Jerome’s Repair Fund, to the St. Jerome’s Repair fund, 230 Alexander Ave., Bronx, NY 10454.
Sinn Fein’s money
Friends of Sinn Féin in the U.S. is indeed on its way to the $5 million mark, though it has a few dollars to go yet.
The fund-raising group has reported a figure of $4,539,913.96 raised in its latest filing with the U.S. Justice Department.
The gross figure represents money raised in the U.S. between March 1995 and April 30 of this year.
The figure has risen a little since April," FOSF president Larry Downes told the Echo.
FOSF must file figures with the Justice Department for six-month periods covering November-April and May-October.
During the six-month period covering November 2000 through April of this year, FOSF collected almost $610,000, according to Downes.
FOSF’s latest filing coincides with an effort by the Irish government to pass legislation that would limit the amount of money collected outside of Ireland for use in Irish political campaigns.
The proposed legislation is being debated in the Dáil, where concerns have been expressed that campaign finance reform, Irish style, while severely limiting the amount of overseas money that could be donated to parties or individual politicians, might still end up in the coffers of pressure groups that could exert a pivotal influence on the outcome of elections.
One proposal under consideration is to restrict political donations to only Irish citizens living in countries outside Ireland, including the U.S.
Prison for playwright
Tony Kavanagh’s talent for comedy could never keep the tragedy from interrupting his life.
Now the 41-year-old award winning playwright and poet will have time on his hands to contemplate the razor-thin line that often separates both.
Kavanagh, whose play "Down The Flats" was hailed by critics and audiences alike when it made its stage debut in New York in the early ’90s, was recently sentenced to a five-year prison term by a Dublin court after he pleaded guilty to a series of robberies and attempted robberies in the city last year.
For Kavanagh, it will be a return to an environment where he first nurtured his talent as a writer. He served time in an Irish prison during the late 1970s and early ’80s before making for America and a new life.
In New York, where he worked as a doorman in Manhattan while living in Brooklyn, Kavanagh began writing plays and poetry.
His stage debut, "Down The Flats," which starred his then wife Marion Quinn, sister of the actor Aidan Quinn, was followed by other acclaimed works including "Johnny Jump Up" and "The Drum." Along the way Kavanagh was awarded the James Stewart Parker prize for poetry.
But success on stage was not mirrored in his personal life. Kavanagh returned to Ireland after his marriage failed. According to Irish newspaper reports, his crime binge began after his new partner left him for another man while also revealing that she had aborted their child.
Kavanagh’s barrister told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the robberies were committed while Kavanagh was under the influence of drink and drugs, a reaction to the break up of his relationship and the abortion.
Kavanagh, who acknowledged that he now needed intense treatment, apologized in court to his robbery victims.
Ciaran O’Reilly of the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York expressed the views of many when he heard of Kavanagh’s sentencing.
"Prison is not necessarily the place to help Tony, but I hope he can use his time there as he did before to write because he’s a terrific writer, a natural writer," O’Reilly said.