IrishCentral caught up earlier today with Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphy’s. Ken was just off a plane, on the Jersey Turnpike on his way to perform a gig as part of their annual St. Patrick's Day tour. We wanted to chat with Ken about being Irish American, the charity Claddagh Fund he helped set up with the band in 2009 and being honored at the AIF Young Leaders St. Patrick’s Celebration taking place March 12 in Manhattan.
Tell us about your Irish heritage:
"For us growing up in Boston, just eight blocks from the city line, I would say 95% of my neighbourhood were Irish. There were lots of characters really into their sport, Irish culture and music. We grew up in a great community full of storytellers. We always had deep roots in our community. People often ask me ‘Say Ken, how come you are so big in Boston’ my answer always is, in my community, where I’m from, if there was ten thousand people at one of our gigs in Boston it was probably the case that we knew five thousand of them before we formed the band. That’s what our community is like, it isn’t Irish, it isn’t American, it’s Irish American."
"That’s why setting up this charity was so important for us. We don’t feel like we’re some band that’s out of touch with where we’ve come from. Before Claddagh we always supported other community work and we still do. I remember the great Boston Bruin Bobby Orr telling us about doing charitable works and told us that if we could use the name of the band that that would be so much more powerful than just doing what we had been doing. So that’s where the Claddagh idea came from really. And it’s been great, really fantastic."
The Claddagh Fund was set up to amplify the passion and generosity of their loyal fans. The fund raises money to support worthy, underfunded non-profits that support the most vulnerable individuals in our communities. These groups have been suffering from reduced state and federal funding that the band wanted to do something about. The main focus of the Claddagh Fund is to support charities and community groups in three areas, children, veterans organizations and programs that support alcohol and drug rehabilitation in cities across the US and around the world.
How did the band come together?
"We were all friends from the same area who grew up surrounded by Irish music and culture while also being inspired by local Boston punk bands. We wanted to take up where the Pogues left off, we just were louder than them. As Ronnie Drew once said to us, you gotta give kids music in the form the understand and like. And many American kids had their first exposure to Irish traditional music through us."
"This time of year is pretty special for us, while also being really busy. We’ve been doing this St. Patrick’s Day tour for 14 years straight now. It’s a tradition for us at this stage. We’re playing in New Jersey and Long Island this week before we do six shows in Boston."
Ken Casey is also in New York this week to be honored with the Irish Spirit Award for his work with the Claddagh Fund. The fund provides monetary support to underfunded non-profits serving children, veterans and drug and substance abuse facilities.
Honored alongside Casey will be another hero, MBTA Police Officer Richard “Dic” Donohue. Donohue will be receiving the Dylan Smith Community Service Award. Officer Donohue was gravely wounded during the manhunt for those responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing last April. The award is named after Dylan Smith, of Belle Harbor Queens, who rescued six people from their home during Hurricane Sandy using a homemade rope bridge and surfboard. Dylan, only 23 years old, tragically drowned a few months later on a surfing trip to Puerto Rico.
In the past the honorees have included; Chris O’Dowd, Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien and Denis Leary. Other initiatives the Ireland Funds promote include a partnership with U2 called “Music Generation,” which provides instruments to children in schools all across the Republic of Ireland, a business plan competition for college students as well as many other charities and non-profits in Ireland.
The Young Leaders Society attracts professionals ages 25-40. The Society cultivates an emerging generation of philanthropists while providing a networking forum and a connection with modern Ireland. With vibrant events around the world, members have raised over $2 million for the work of The Ireland Funds.
The New York Young Leaders St. Patrick's Celebration is taking place this Wednesday, March 12th, at Capitale, 130 Bowery (Corner of Grand). There will be a VIP reception from 6:30pm - 7:30pm with the main event kicking off at 7:30.