Irish American broadcaster and political commentator Chris Matthews will receive the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora award in Buncrana, Co. Donegal on Friday, September 23.
It’s a unique award for the 70-year-old as he worked with O’Neill for six years.
Tip O’Neill was speaker of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987. The award in his name to recognize achievements of the Irish diaspora was initiated in 2012 on the centenary of his birth. His maternal grandparents were from Co. Donegal.
Matthews’ Irish heritage includes his maternal great-grandparents who emigrated to Philadelphia from Donegal in the mid-1860s, and his paternal grandmother who arrived in Philadelphia from Ballymoney, Co. Antrim in 1907.
Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh will present Matthews with his award at a gala function on Friday evening.
The $5 million a year host of the nightly hour-long talk show Hardball on MSNBC is proud of his Irish heritage.
“The Shields were from Donegal and were grandparents to my mom’s dad, Charles Patrick Shields. He was the local democratic committee man in Philadelphia and I loved the guy, we talked politics all the time,” Matthews said.
Prior to his flight to Ireland for the award, Matthews spoke emotionally of his time with Tip O’Neill.
“I had the honor to serve him for a half dozen years. He brought me aboard as his aide which was the top title back then. It was the time in which he was going head-to-head politically with the newly-inaugurated President Ronald Reagan,” Matthews recalled.
“It was a challenging time for him as he, the classic American liberal, was facing a popular conservative Republican president. I am proud of being part of his leadership and witnessing his courage and generosity during those years.”