President Bill Clinton will receive a Lifetime Achievement award from IrishCentral's sister publication Irish America magazine on Wednesday, March 30, at the 2016 Irish America Hall of Fame and Special Commemoration of the 1916 Easter Rising Centenary.
Clinton, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011, is being recognized for his extraordinary role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and will welcome the 2016 inductees into the Hall of Fame.
The distinguished 2016 Hall of Fame inductees include Astronaut Eileen Collins, NASA’s first female space shuttle commander; former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey; novelist, essayist, and journalist Pete Hamill; and Edward J. T. Kenney, special consultant at Mutual of America.
Founded in 2010 in celebration of Irish America magazine’s 25th anniversary, the Irish America Hall of Fame honors Irish-American leaders for their significant accomplishments and contributions to American society, commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage and the betterment of Ireland.
The Irish America Hall of Fame is housed at the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience in New Ross, Co. Wexford.
ABOUT THE HONOREES
Bill Clinton was the 42nd President of the United States and throughout his tenure in office was a major supporter of the Irish peace process. Clinton involved himself in the pursuit of peace in Ireland in a way no other president ever has. In 1995 he became the first president to visit Northern Ireland, where an estimated 50,000 people from both sides of the sectarian divide amassed in Belfast to hear him speak a message of peace.
The previous year, he granted a U.S. visa to Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, a decision that paved the way to the first IRA ceasefire and played a huge role in the Irish peace process.
In September 1998, Bill and Hillary Clinton visited Omagh, a town still reeling from the effects of a bombing the month before. Bertie Ahern, then Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland), said later, during Clinton’s visit to Dublin: “The helping hand of the United States was always there in the hour of need. And there were many such hours.”
Clinton played a key role during the crucial lead up to the Good Friday Agreement – a milestone accomplishment that established the Northern Ireland Assembly. Senator George Mitchell, the man he personally appointed as his peace emissary, brought all of the parties together to sign the historic document on April 10, 1998.
Clinton's Irish roots come from his mother, Virginia Cassidy Kelley, who was the granddaughter of immigrants from County Fermanagh.
Former NASA astronaut and Air Force colonel Eileen Collins was the first female commander of a space shuttle mission and a career U.S.A.F. officer. In 1999 she commanded the Columbia on mission STS-93 to launch the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the most advanced X-ray telescope produced at the time.
Collins was born in Elmira, NY, the second of four children of Rose Marie and James Collins, whose ancestors are from County Cork. She had an interest in flying from an early age and received an R.O.T.C. scholarship to study at Syracuse University in 1976, marking her entrance into the Air Force in the first year women pilots were accepted. In 1990, she was selected for the astronaut training program and became an astronaut the following year. In 1995 she made history as the first woman to pilot a space shuttle when NASA chose her to fly the first U.S.-Russia Shuttle/Mir rendezvous. She retired from NASA and the U.S.A.F. in 2006.
Martin Edward Dempsey served as the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – he served two terms – and is a retired U.S. Army general who also previously served as the Chief of Staff of the Army.
General Dempsey graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974 and has been a career armor officer, serving in Operation Desert Storm, commanding the 4th Battalion, 67th Armor in Germany, and as an advisor to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, among other posts. In June 2003, he took command of the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad and served 14 months, before redeploying with the division to Germany. In August 2005, he returned to Iraq to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces as Commanding General of MNSTC-I.
Dempsey was raised in Goshen, NY in a strongly Irish-American family. His grandparents were born in counties Sligo, Mayo, Roscommon, and Donegal and he holds a master’s degree in literature from Duke University, where he wrote his thesis on the Irish literary revival. Dempsey has also learned conversational Irish from childhood summers spent in Ireland.
Pete Hamill is a much-lauded journalist, columnist, essayist, commentator, and novelist who has spent a career documenting stories from wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Lebanon, and Northern Ireland to rock and roll and the underclass of New York City.
Born in 1935 in Brooklyn to Belfast immigrants who arrived in New York the same day as the 1929 stock market crash, Hamill had artistic ambitions from a young age. He attended the School of Visual Arts and, following a 4-year enlistment with the U.S. Navy, studied painting in Mexico City before becoming a writer.
He joined the staff of the New York Post in the summer of 1960 as a night reporter and subsequently spent time at most of the major New York City daily tabloids, including the Village Voice, the Daily News, the Herald Tribune, and Newsday. In the 1990s, he served as the editor of the Post and as editor-in-chief of the Daily News. His feature articles and essays have appeared in publications such as the New Yorker, Esquire, New York, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. He also won a Grammy Award for his liner notes on Bob Dylan’s 1975 album "Blood on the Tracks."
In 1994, Hamill published "A Drinking Life," a memoir about his childhood and early years reporting, focusing on his embrace of drinking and eventual decision to abstain, which brought him national acclaim. Among his other books are: "Forever," a novel about the history of New York; "Snow in August," which follows the unlikely friendship between an 11-year-old Irish Catholic boy and an elderly Jewish rabbi in 1940s Brooklyn; and "Why Sinatra Matters," which has recently been reissued with a new introduction by Hamill in honor of Sinatra’s 100th birthday.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife, Japanese journalist Fukiko Aoki, and has two daughters.
Ed Kenney is a special consultant for Mutual of America, a firm he has been with since 1994 after retiring from a 25-year career as an F.B.I. agent. Throughout the peace process in Northern Ireland he used his diplomatic background as a liaison with other law enforcement and government agencies as a valuable tool.
Kenney joined Mutual just as chairman Bill Flynn’s invitation to Gerry Adams won the Sinn Féin leader a visa to the U.S. Flynn and Tom Moran, who succeeded Flynn as Mutual’s chairman, president and CEO, continued to extend hospitality to loyalist and nationalist politicians at the New York offices of Mutual of America, and it was Kenney’s job as executive vice president of external affairs to facilitate those visits and the many visits that Flynn and Moran made to the North in the ensuing years.
Ed is known for his philanthropic efforts, particularly in promoting the work of Concern Worldwide, the Irish international humanitarian organization that works to transform the lives of the world’s poorest people. Over the course of the past 20 years, as a board member of Concern Worldwide, U.S., Ed has made numerous trips overseas to countries torn by war, natural disasters and epidemics, and has been a key figure in persuading donors to support the organizations’s humanitarian efforts.
Born in Queens, NY to parents of Roscommon and Tipperary heritage, Kenney graduated from St. Joseph’s Seminary with a degree in philosophy. He and his wife Brigid live in Ossining, NY. They have five children.