President McAleese Stops by the Hub

Ed Forry

Ireland President Marty McAleese was in Boston in May, visiting the city for three days after a trip to western Massachusetts where she was commencement speaker and an honorary degree recipient at Mt. Holyoke College.

In the state capital, McAleese and her husband, Dr. Martin McAleese, were welcomed at a Parkman House ceremony by Mayor Thomas Menino and his wife Angela. The official party posed for photos with invited guests, and afterwards the Irish president chatted over coffee, pastry, and fresh fruit.

McAleese is in the fifth year of her second seven-year term as president. She said she had come to the elective office after a career in law, and expects to step down in 2011, due to a statutory two-term limit.

Although born and brought up in Belfast, she and her husband have lived in Dublin since she first took office on 1997. Born Mary Lenaghan, she said her dad was from Roscommon. "We sold our home in Belfast four years ago, and built a new home in Roscommon, next to my father's home," she told guests. She said her husband, a dentist with a specialty in orthodontics, plans to return to his work in Honduras in central America. Dr. McAleese is also quite an athlete: As a Gaelic footballer, he won an Antrim Senior Championship medal in 1973, and he has completed three marathons, including Berlin, London and Virginia Beach.

Most of the President's visit to Boston took place after the BIR's press deadline; we'll have more complete coverage in our July issue.

Eire Society Honors Two

The busy Boston Irish social scene got underway on May 7 with the Eire Society of Boston 72d annual dinner at the Parker House roof, where the 2009 Gold Medal awards were presented to two longtime Irish-American friends of Ireland, Michael F. Donlan of West Roxbury and John J. Cullinane of Dedham. The awards were presented in ceremonies in the hotel ballroom filled with more than 200 guests. Msgr. Tom McDonnell delivered the invocation, and Rev. Brian Dixon gave the benediction. Head table guests included Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Ireland Consul General David Barry, and Great Britain Vice-Consul Joseph Pickerill. The awards were presented by Eire Society president Peter Estes.

Volvo Boats Stir Attention

Also last month, in Boston Harbor, seven world-class "extreme sailing" boats lay in port for more than two weeks on a stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race, one of the world's most formidable "extreme" nautical adventures. Spanning 37,000 nautical miles and more than 2,600 hours of "extreme sailing," the around-the-world ocean marathon began last October in Alicante, Spain, and will conclude in St. Petersburg, Russia, later this month. Prior to the first boat's arrival in Boston on April 26, the sailers visited Capetown, South Africa, Kochi, India, Singapore, Qingdao, China, and Rio de Janeiro. Other stopovers include the current Galway, Ireland, then Marstrand and Stockholm in Sweden, a return to Alicante, and the finish in St. Petersburg.

The Boston home base was Joe Fallon's Fan Pier on the South Boston waterfront, and the local favorite was the Green Dragon, sponsored in part by Tourism Ireland. The Green Dragon team was greeted by local well - wishers who came out to see the Dragon into port, and also by Maurice Keller from Good Food Ireland, who presented the crew with a well - deserved Green Dragon Buttie; an organic Irish fillet of beef, topped with sea salt, West Cork Country relish, and freshly baked bread! On the day of departure, Sat., May 16, a flotilla of local boats, large and small, were scattered about the harbor to watch the beginning of the race to Galway. We were fortunate to be aboard a ferry boat hosted by Tourism Ireland that day, and watched as a cold fog slowly enveloped the tops of the downtown buildings, and eventually most of the harbor. By the time the boats began the race, visibility was reduced to several hundred feet, making it difficult for viewing from the shore, including crowded vantage points at Fan Pier and at Castle Island.

A feature of the local event was a three-day Irish Festival that was free and open to the public. One performing group really stood out: "Trad on the Prom," a Galway-based performing troupe featuring Máirín Fahy and Band, made multiple performances before increasingly enthusiastic crowds. Billed as "The number one show in Ireland, a spectacular celebration of Irish music, song and dance," Trad on the Prom more than lived up to its billing. The group is booked to plan all summer long at the Salthill Hotel in Galway - if you're headed there this summer, don't miss them!