Many of us on staff at the time made the trip down the Jersey Turnpike to help deliver the tens of thousands of applications we had. But we were far from the only ones. Merrifield was a mob scene that weekend, a melting pot of nationalities from around the world, particularly Europeans and especially Irish, desperate for a rare chance at the American Dream.
The Morrison entry rules changed after that first experience, understandably. For the remaining two years applicants could mail entries that had to be received during a set time period with winners picked afterwards, thus eliminating the need for a mad dash to the post office.
I wonder how many of the envelopes we delivered to Merrifield were picked for selection. It’s gratifying to think that even one of them made it through, that one person’s life was changed forever by our efforts.
It’s a time that I’ll never forget – and unfortunately it’s impossible to think of it ever being repeated, given the immigration stalemate that’s currently afflicting the country.
The Morrison program – christened, of course, after Congressman Bruce Morrison -- offered permanent legal status to nearly 50,000 during its three-year lifespan. The good old days indeed.
Scroll ahead to the present, and my second standout which happened only days ago – an interview with Bono.
He needs no introduction, of course. U2 has been the world’s biggest band for decades, period. Their last tour, U2360, grossed well over $700 million and was seen by more than seven million fans around the world, making it the biggest concert tour of all time.
Many have come, and many have gone – current darlings One Direction will eventually fade too, girls! – but U2 never goes out of style.
In addition to his day job, Bono has been one of the world’s most prominent and effective advocates on behalf of the African poor. For decades he’s traveled the globe lobbying politicians, pleading for relief for those who don’t have a voice.
And most of all, he’s fiercely proud to be Irish. He talks about that and so much more in our chat.
It was truly a pleasure interviewing Bono, something I always hoped I’d have a chance to do. And hearing him talk so nicely about the Irish Voice? Doesn’t get any better than that!
There are so many people who have been instrumental in ensuring that the Irish Voice reached its 25-year milestone. Our best friend and fervent supporter for years has been the one and only Danny Moloney, founder and president of Liffey Van Lines and Big Apple Storage, and his wonderful wife Rose.
Simply put, Danny and Rose have been there for us every step of the way. I can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done. They’ve helped so many down through the years – and if someone has connections to their counties of Clare and Mayo, even better!
Rory Dolan, proprietor of the famous Rory Dolan’s on McLean Avenue in Yonkers, and Joe Carty, owner of the Rambling House on Katonah Avenue in Woodlawn, have been with us forever. Brian O’Dwyer from O’Dwyer and Bernstien, Ciaran O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore from the Irish Repertory Theatre – thank you, thank you, thank you.
It’s not easy being in the newspaper publishing business these days.
We’ve had to find ways to somewhat reinvent ourselves, which thankfully we’ve managed to do through our website Irish Central – now with one million unique visitors each month – and two exciting end of year projects that have gone from strength to strength, the Irish Legal 100 and the Irish Education 100.
An old friend of mine from the IIRM days, John Dillon, is the creator and driving force behind the latter two efforts. He’s got boundless, 24-7 passion for what he does, and it really shows when the end product is complete.
Thanks to our financial controller Kevin Mangan, one of my Best BFFs, and so many others I’ve worked with throughout the years – Nuala Purcell, Cahir O’Doherty, Gen McCarthy, Steve Travers, April Drew, Robbie Hogan, Nicola McClean, Darina Molloy … the list goes on and on.
And of course Cormac MacConnell and John Spain, who have been with us since Day 1.
And last but definitely not least, thanks to the guy who had the nerve to come on the scene back in 1987, our publisher Niall O’Dowd. As it turns out, we wound up getting married and having an amazing daughter, Alana, now 12, who is the senior editor of her newspaper at her school. Thankfully those reporting genes seem to have passed down, and perhaps one day Alana will have a career in the publishing world as fulfilling and interesting as mine has been.
To our readers – of course we wouldn’t be here without you. Here’s to another 25 years of keeping you entertained and informed!
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