By Ray O’Hanlon
The Irish American Unity Conference has started a national campaign aimed at securing political asylum for Belfast man Malachy McAllister.
The group will be petitioning state governments in an effort to have them persuade the Bush administration to allow McAllister and his family stay in the U.S. The family lives in New Jersey.
"We are running the campaign out of New Jersey but with the full backing of the IAUC at national level," said Eileen Kelly Kean, president of the Mid Jersey chapter of the IAUC.
The campaign has already attracted bipartisan support in Trenton, where State Senator Bernard Kennedy, a Democrat, and Republican colleague Henry McNamara are backing Senate Resolution 42, a measure that urges U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to grant asylum to the McAllisters, who fled Belfast 13 years ago after loyalist gunmen fired 26 shots into the family’s home.
McNamara referred to the line in the Republican Party platform from last year’s presidential campaign.
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"[It] says, ‘The sufferings of the people on the island of Ireland have been our sorrow too’ and calls for a review of issues of deportation and extradition," he said.
Jim Gallagher, national president of the IAUC, said that if forced to return to Belfast the McAllisters "will be placed in grave danger."
Malachy McAllister’s appeal against a federal deportation ruling is currently under appeal.
Great Hunger scholarships
The Great Hunger Foundation of Westchester County is offering memorial scholarship awards for high school seniors and college undergraduates in New York State.
The foundation, which is behind the soon to be unveiled Famine memorial in the county, said in a release that the aim of the awards was to foster a study of Irish history and relate this to current events.
Students will be selected and required to present a written abstract of their work and up to 10 finalists will be selected to make an oral presentation. The topic for this, the first annual presentation of the scholarships, is "What was the Great Hunger in Ireland in 19th Century Ireland and what are some of the valuable lessons we learned from it and what would help us deal with such a crisis in today’s world?"
The deadline for both application and abstract is May 25 and oral presentations will me made in early to mid-June. For details on how to apply and to obtain detailed instructions, the Great Hunger Foundation can be contacted at 335 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains NY 10605. The number is (914) 948-5580 and the web page is www.thegreathungerfoundation.org.
Tributes to Butch Moore
The Irish show business world has been mourning the death of Butch Moore, the popular Irish singer who died recently at his home in Sutton, Mass.
Moore, who was the first Irish contestant in the Eurovision Song contest, had been battling cancer. He was 64.
"I was shocked and saddened," Showband legend Brendan Bowyer said from his Las Vegas home Tuesday.
"I toured Ireland last fall with Butch in the Showband revival show and he seemed to be in prefect health. He was looking forward to doing it again in the future."
During the mid-1960s, Moore, a native of Dublin, rose to the top of the Irish Showband scene while fronting the Capitol Showband.
Moore was one of the most popular singers in Ireland. He had seven top-10 single hits from 1964-66 and three of them reached No. 1 in the pop charts.
Sands vigil May 5
A vigil will be held outside the British Consulate in Midtown Manhattan on Saturday, May 5, to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of hunger striker Bobby Sands and the deaths of nine other hunger strikers in the days that followed.
The vigil is being organized by the 1980-81 Hunger Strike Commemorative Committee, a joint venture of Irish Northern Aid and Clan Na Gael and will take place from 1-3 p.m. The consulate is at 52nd Street and 3rd Avenue. Details from www.hungerstrike81.com.
Former St. Patrick’s Day Parade grand marshal Al O’Hagan was honored by New York city Council at a recent ceremony marking the council’s annual Irish Heritage Celebration.
Also honored at the event, hosted at City Hall by Speaker Peter Vallone, was this year’s New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade grand marshal, Ed Malloy, and Dr. Kevin Cahill, who led the parade up Fifth Avenue in 2000.
O’Hagan was honored for his work as chairman of the Great Irish Fair held every year at Coney Island in Brooklyn.