Actor Saoirse Ronan, Verizon’s Ronan Dunne, and Bridgewater Associates’ Eileen K. Murray are Honored at the 2019 Gala

Three times Oscar-nominated star Saoirse Ronan was the headliner at Irish America’s biggest gala event as close to 1,000 guests from business, the arts and politics came together to support The Ireland Funds in New York.

Held annually in May, the Gala is now one of the key social events on the NYC calendar. The night raised over $2.3 million and, over the course of its 44-year history, the event has raised over $65 million in support of Irish charities and causes. The Ireland Funds is the largest private grant-maker to the not-for-profit sector in Ireland.

Saoirse Ronan was honored by The Ireland Funds with its 2019 Performing Arts Award in recognition of her prolific work on stage and in films such as Atonement, Lady Bird, Brooklyn, The Grand Budapest Hotel and most recently, Mary Queen of Scots. This Christmas, she will start as Jo March in Sony and Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.

“I’m standing here bc I was surrounded by ppl who valued creativity and good character. “ Congrats #saoirseronan performing arts honoree #irnygala @irelandfundsamerica

— Margaret Molloy (@MargaretMolloy) May 3, 2019

Ronan talked about her parents living illegally in New York from Ireland but always keeping Ireland alive in their hearts. She spoke too, of her strong support for nondenominational schooling in Ireland.

Great Night at Pier 60 #EducateTogether #SaoirseRonan #irelandfunds

— Thaddeus.Dagger (@Moonshine_Boys) May 3, 2019

Emigration and the dreadful hard times faced by those who came on coffin ships was remembered by Ireland Funds Chairman John Fitzpatrick who stated we must never forget the words on the Statue of Liberty

Eileen K. Murray received the 2019 Leslie C. Quick Jr. Leadership Award which annually recognizes a person of outstanding character and business acumen and she is the first woman to receive the Award. Eileen is currently Co-CEO of Bridgewater Associates, LP and has held senior leadership roles at Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and numerous other leading companies within the financial sector.

Murray spoke emotionally and powerfully about her own ancestors and what they overcame against all odds. She also talked about her own upbringing as a  family member living in a small apartment in The Bronx and how fellow dwellers of all creeds helped her out when she needed it. She told funny stories of the old neighborhood and received a very warm ovation at the end.

Also recognized on the evening was Ronan Dunne, Executive Vice President and President of Verizon Consumer Group, the largest division of Verizon Communications, the leading US Telecoms provider. He received the 2019 Corporate Leadership Award in recognition of his leadership in business and philanthropy.

"Tonight's Gala is such a testament to the unwavering bonds between New York and Ireland," said John Fitzpatrick. "This annual gathering is so much more than just a celebration. It is a chance for our supporters to express their care for Ireland through philanthropic partnership with The Ireland Funds. Thanks to them, we are able to identify and invest in outstanding Irish organizations that strengthen the island of Ireland.  We are immensely grateful to our supporters and tonight is a great opportunity to say thank you.”

In a message sent to those attending the Gala, Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland said, “The Ireland Funds, by harnessing the power and goodwill of the Irish diaspora, enables donors to connect with innovative charitable giving opportunities that impact and transform society. I thank you for the work you do, which is making a real difference to the lives of people on the ground, and which gives back to Ireland in a meaningful and lasting way.”

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland, also greeted those gathered saying in a video message, “The Irish Government greatly appreciates the continued generosity of The Ireland Funds. For over 44 consecutive years, this event has raised more than $65 million benefiting thousands of cross-community projects on the island of Ireland. It is a tangible demonstration of your commitment to peace and reconciliation, North and South. A commitment that continues to make a phenomenal difference in the lives of so many people.”

Notable guests at the 2019 Gala included Ciarán Madden, Ireland’s Consul General; Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations; and Norman Houston, Director of the Northern Ireland Bureau.

For more information on the work of The Ireland Funds visit and follow #IFNYGala.