New York local politics will get a major Irish boost on Tuesday when Deirdre Feerick, a second-generation Irish American, squares off against two other Irish-American candidates in the September 15 Democratic primary election in Queens to succeed well known Council Member Eric Gioia who has endorsed her.
Feerick, an attorney, is a lifelong resident of the section of Queens she hopes to represent as Councilmember for the 26th Council District that includes well known Irish strongholds Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City, Hunters Point and parts of Maspeth and Astoria. Currently the narrow favorite to win, if successful Feerick will become the district’s first female elected council member.
To secure the coveted post Feerick must beat out her party rivals (and fellow Irish Americans) Jimmy Van Bramer and Brent O’Leary in next Tuesday’s primary. Queens may be the most diverse community in the world but all three candidates can claim distinct Irish ancestry, as their parents and grandparents have lived in the neighborhoods for decades. Feerick was raised in Woodside alongside her grandmother, who originally hailed from near Cong, County Mayo. Her Galway-born grandmother lived in Manhattan.
Van Bramer’s paternal grandmother hailed Enniscorthy in County Wexford and lived in Woodside where she was well known (the candidate has Irish roots on both sides of his family). O’Leary, who’s grandparents originally came from County Clare, grew up in the neighborhood - his grandparents settled on 40th Street in Sunnyside. O’Leary himself opted to study history for a year at University College Galway.
In the crucial days left before Election Day on Tuesday, candidate Feerick is wasting no time getting her message out. At the weekend she spoke to a crowd of her supporters at a picnic held in Sunnyside, many of whom have actually known her since her grammar school days at St. Raphael’s, and who are strongly supporting her candidacy.
“The diversity of all the people who showed up today shows how much support this campaign has and they are the reason I’m running,” Feerick told the crowd. “I want to make sure this district stays a great place to live for people who love their neighbors and respect diversity.”
In recent weeks Feerick’s candidacy has attracted the support of prominent Irish community leaders like Ciaran Staunton, leader of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and Brendan Fay, the human rights activist and same-sex marriage advocate. Irish American Congressman Joe Crowley and well-known attorney Brian O’Dwyer have also lined up in recent days.
The eldest of six sisters, Feerick is a graduate of St. Raphael’s grammar school, the University of Albany and Brooklyn Law School. Her late father was a retired NYPD detective and her mother is a nurse.
With just days to the election Feerick has also won the support of a broad spectrum of elected officials and labor and civic groups, including Borough President Helen Marshall, the city’s police, fire, correction and sanitation unions, Queens County Puerto Ricans for Political Action and the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens.