A very special gathering took place last weekend on the Inishowen peninsula of County Donegal, for the second Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award. It was the Irish-American politician who coined the phrase "All politics is local" but there was a distinct international feel to last weekend. A full catalogue of events took place in the region, including the award ceremony, which was hosted by Buncrana Town Council in conjunction with Donegal County Council. The award is given in recognition of the work of individuals who strive to promote the interests of Ireland on the world stage.
Tip O’Neill’s family congregated in Buncrana, Co. Donegal to be present at the awards presentation where Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana was honored as the 2013 recipient.
“Coming here is like coming home,” said Tommy O’Neill, “our father’s grandparents were born just outside Buncrana so we still see this place as home. When you’re an Irish-American, you never forget your Irish roots because it means so much about what we are and who we are.” Upon receiving the award from Minister of State Dinny Mc Ginley TD, Governor Schweitzer stated “This award means the world to me; it is a wonderful honor to come back to Donegal and be presented with this prestigious award.
”He also spoke with tremendous pride of his grandmother, Hannah Friel, who left Rathmullan at the age of 22.
A very warm atmosphere of togetherness and kinship was palpable throughout the night as the audience listened to heartwarming speeches from luminaries such as John Hume who warmly conveyed as sense of the man that inspired this event. Donegal County Manager, Seamus Neely read a message from President Michael D. Higgins to hundreds of guests, in which the president remarked that “The Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award is yet another reminder of how much our Diaspora has contributed to their new communities around the world and how the culture and heritage of our forefathers continues to play an important role in the lives of those who are Irish.” He also stated that the event was taking place in the context of the Donegal Diaspora Project which recognizes the fact that our Donegal community includes those who have a connection of any kind to Donegal no matter where in the world they might be located.
Loyola Hearne, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, presented bursaries in honor of Tip O’Neill to National Schools in the area before the Tip O’Neill Diaspora Lecture which was attended by over 100 people. The lecture with the theme Poetry and Power and the Diaspora was given by Professor Paul Arthur, an authority on Irish and American politics. The weekend concluded with Tip’s children, Tommy and Shelly O’Neill, unveiling the Tip O’Neill Interpretive Panels on the Buncrana Shorefront.