President Barack Obama has praised the efforts of the Gaelic Players Association who sent a work party of players and tradesmen to New York last month to assist with the rebuilding work following Hurricane Sandy.
Speaking at the St Patrick’s Day reception for An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the White House yesterday, Obama made special mention of the work carried out in the Breezy Point community where several current and former GAA stars travelled to assist with the reconstruction of the local facilities.
“A great nation is one that contributes more to the world than it takes out, and by that definition, America owes a profound debt of gratitude to the great nation or Ireland,” President Obama commented. “And together, our people have never stopped dreaming of a better future and never stopped working to make that dream a reality.
“We saw that again in October, when Hurricane Sandy set off one of the worst residential fires in New York City’s history. Hundreds of homes were left charred and flooded, and many families were suddenly faced with the task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives, including in Breezy Point, a neighbourhood with a large Irish American population. In fact, more than half of Breezy Point residents can trace their families to the old country, and the folks back in the old country were not about to sit by and watch their American brothers and sisters struggle alone.
“So they pitched in. Gaelic rock stars raised money. Athletes from the Gaelic Games did construction work and brought the Sam Maguire chalice with them to lift spirits. The Irish Tenors came over to sing Christmas carols. The Irish government pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars, not just to help the residents of Breezy Point, but to help folks rebuild across the region. And the Taoiseach himself was in Breezy Point on Sunday to attend mass.
“As one official said, New York has been very good to the Irish; now the Irish are giving back to New York. And that’s the story of America and Ireland: We look out for each other, we have each other’s backs, and we recognize that no challenge is too great and no obstacle is too high if you’ve got a friend beside you and a nation behind you. That’s been our history; that will be our future,” the President added.
The GPA work party, which was supported by Aer Lingus, travelled to New York at the end of January and was headed by Players Association chairman Dónal Óg Cusack and former Dublin senior football manager Pat Gilroy. Tipp hurling star Lar Corbett, former Galway ace Ollie Canning and Tyrone football legend Brian McGuigan were also among the group.
The players helped with the reconstruction of several community facilities in Breezy Point and also assisted with fundraising efforts to rebuild the local sports hall and provide new equipment to the youth sports groups.