By Ray O’Hanlon
New York Gov. George Pataki has given the green light for a Great Hunger memorial in downtown Manhattan.
And $3 million has been set aside in the current New York State budget to fund the project, which will take shape in Battery Park City.
"The Irish Famine Memorial will serve as a reminder to millions of New Yorkers and Americans who proudly trace their heritage to Ireland of those who were forced to emigrate during one of the most heartbreaking tragedies in the history of the world," Pataki said in a statement.
Cardinal John O’Connor will serve as chairman of an honorary committee, while Gov. Pataki will appoint an executive committee headed by James Gill, chairman of the Battery Park City Authority.
Members of the executive committee will, according to the Pataki statement, "choose the theme, message, goals and art associated with the project."
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Bernadette meets Hillary
The U.S. Justice Department is attempting to deport her, along with her husband and four children, but Bernadette McAllister was given the green carpet treatment by the same government on St. Patrick’s Day.
McAllister, whose husband, former INLA member Malachy, was recently ruled "British" by a federal judge in New Jersey, met with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Clinton at the White House St. Patrick’s Day party.
The visit provided the chance for a second meeting between the women, who had also met during the recent Woodside St. Patrick’s parade.
"She was very nice and Chelsea was a lovely girl," Bernadette McAllister told the Echo.
She said that she did not get a chance to discuss her family’s case with either the first lady or president but was hopeful that the visit, organized by Rep. Bob Menendez, would help the family’s efforts to remain in the U.S.
The trial phase in the case against the McAllisters is due to begin in June. The family fled Belfast after loyalist gunmen attacked their home.
D.C. station’s mea culpa
A Washington, D.C., radio station has issued an apology for a St. Patrick’s day joke that had Irish listeners seeing more red than green.
WGMS presenter Dennis Owens posed a question during his show: "What’s three miles long and has an I.Q. of 40? The New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade."
The remark prompted an angry response, not least from Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus. Accusing the classical music station of "bad taste," McManus demanded an on-air apology.
In a statement, WGMS said it would broadcast one this week. "We very much want to acknowledge the inappropriateness of Dennis’s remarks," the station’s general manager, Kari Winston, said in a statement.
Smith presents testimony
Rep. Chris Smith presented the testimony of relatives of slain attorneys Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane to Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson during the latter’s visit to Washington for St. Patrick’s Day. Relatives of both the assassination victims had previously testified at a hearing organized by Smith, a New Jersey Republican. During the testimony, Geraldine Finucane, widow of Pat Finucane, accused RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan of being involved in her husband’s 1989 murder.
Mitchell for veep?
Former Sen. George Mitchell, architect of the Good Friday agreement, has been tipped in the Wall Street Journal as a possible vice presidential candidate alongside likely presidential nominee Al Gore on this year’s Democratic party ticket. Journal columnist Albert Hunt described Mitchell as "genuinely presidential" and also "a Catholic and a hero to all who care about Northern Ireland for his masterful efforts to bring peace there."
The Catholic Alumni Club of New York is hosting a lecture on 17th century New York Provincial Gov. and Earl of Limerick Thomas Dongan this Friday, March 24, at 7 p.m. in the Rathskeller Room of Kolping House, 165 East 88th St., NYC. The lecture is by Dr. Joseph McCarthy, professor emeritus of education at Fordham University. Details, Kathleen Collins at (718) 654-3072.