AIF New York Gala Dinner Photos: Click here

The American Ireland Fund pulled off a huge coup last night.

At a time when black tie dinners are falling by the wayside like road kill, the American Ireland Fund New York dinner managed to defy the current recession and raise over $2.3 million, in one of their most successful dinners ever.

At every table at Lincoln Center there was a clear buzz about the size of the crowd and the extraordinary ability of the American Ireland Fund, despite everything, to attract the great and the good of Irish America every year.

Bart Murphy, in from San Francisco had put together a California table for the night—no mean feat. “This event is always tops on our calendar ,” he said "like a gathering of the clan."

“Incredible,” said Ian Hyland of Business and Finance magazine in Ireland as he surveyed the room. “This is the kind of crowd that truly shows the power of the American Ireland Fund.”

How did they do it? “Simple” cracked John Duffy, one of the key fundraisers on the night – “we extended our dinner committee to 66 people.”

Clever move, multiply those 66 by even one table each and you have the ingredients of a great night which it certainly was.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg was there, running for office of course, but he managed to keep things light. He got a huge reception from the Irish crowd which certainly bodes well for him for November.

His likely successor as mayor four years hence, Christine Quinn was working the crowd too. Christine will likely be the first-ever Irish and gay mayor.

There was a dearth of celebrities, but sad memories too, of the same dinner last year when Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson were the star turns.

With the news that Obama will not endorse his Democratic opponent after meeting with Bloomberg yesterday need we state the obvious any further? Michael Bloomberg will be Mayor of New York for four more years. Bet the bank on it – if the bank has any money left.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was supposed to accept an award but dire economic times kept him in Europe for a European Union summit.

Micheal Martin, his Foreign Minister was a great substitute, remarking on how the Diaspora is now central to long-term Irish government thinking.

Also honored were Jack Dunn and Dennis Shaughnessy of FTI Consulting, one of the world’s largest financial consulting firms. Shaugnessy spoke movingly of how his grandfather struck out on his own and made the trek from Ireland around 1900.

Kingsley Aikens, head of the funds worldwide said the Diaspora was even more important now than at any recent time as Ireland again struggles and looks to America.

Chair Loretta Brennan Glucksman said the Irish response to the global financial crisis was both correct and courageous and would be seen as such in time, 

American Ireland Fund president Kieran McLoughlin paid tribute to the Irish American community for staying committed to the fund.

"Despite the current economic crisis, we are delighted by the funds raised this year. This year's Gala is among the most successful fundraising events in the U.S. this year, and is a true testament to the strength and commitment of the Irish-American community."

One intriguing note –the dinner was held the day that Fund’s co-founder Anthony O’Reilly finally retired in Ireland from his numerous positions. No doubt a sad day for him but he would have been delighted with what happened in New York in terms of his legacy.

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