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Stamp unveiled

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jim Smith

BOSTON — The long-awaited issuance of a stamp commemorating Irish immigration took place last Friday during ceremonies at the John F. Kennedy Library in Dorchester. Parallel ceremonies were held Friday in Chicago and in Cobh, Co. Cork.

The 33-cent commemorative stamp is now available in post offices throughout the nation. It was designed by Howard Paine of Delaplane, Va., using an illustration by Dennis Lyall of Bridgeport, Conn.

Another version of the stamp is now available in Ireland, with the words “Irish Emigration 45 EIRE” featured across the bottom.

For over four years, Irish-American groups, spearheaded by the Ad Hoc Famine Stamp Committee, lobbied for a U.S. postage stamp marking the Great Famine in Ireland and the subsequent arrival of huge numbers of Irish in America.

It was learned late last year that the stamp would make no direct reference to the Famine, causing some disappointment within Irish-American circles.

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During Friday’s ceremonies at the JFK Library, postal officials and political leaders, including Sen. Edward Kennedy, who spoke via satellite linkup from Washington, made poignant reference to the Famine years and the ensuing waves of emigration to American shores.

Senators Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with Rep. Bill Lipinski of Illinois, were instrumental in successfully lobbying the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee last year.

The selection of Cobh, Co. Cork, as the site for the stamp’s unveiling in Ireland was a tribute to the many thousands of emigrants who left that port village for faraway lands.

Stephen O’Connor, chairman of Ireland’s postal administration, An Post, told the JFK Library audience that the ship portrayed on the stamp has a special significance: “The Irish ship depicted on our stamps to day is a potent and emotional image for Irish people. It carried away generations of our youngest, strongest, most handsome and treasured children. They went amid tears and many never returned or saw again the faces of their families.”

40.4 million Irish immigration stamps are now available for sale nationwide in sheets of 20. Envelopes featuring the U.S. and Irish canceled stamps are available by calling 1-800-STAMP-24.

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