Shock at the news that Sean McNeill, the former president of the Irish Business Organization in New York City and well-known member of the wider Irish American community there, has passed away after an illness.
The news came late on Friday afternoon, just a day after a Go Fund Me drive for $50,000 had been announced to match the Roscommon native's medical bills, and it sent shock and sorrow through the New York Irish community, many of whom were still unaware of the gravity of his condition.
His life will be honored and celebrated at The Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral at 263 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012 on Wed., July 31, 2019, at 10:00 AM. Sean's remains will be repatriated home to Castlerea where he will be reunited with his parents and niece at St Joseph's Cemetery in Castlerea Co. Roscommon.
McNeill identified himself as a Broker and owner of McNeill Real Estate and a member of the Real Estate Board of New York, also as a Notary Public, and Past President of @IrishBusinessNY.
McNeill, a self-motivated entrepreneur, ran a successful real estate business and two online shopping start-ups, but his health challenge meant that his income had suffered as his medical bills and living costs mounted, ranging from his rent to the formidable medical fees that were not covered by health insurance.
The contributors to McNeill's Go Fund me campaign read like a Who's Who of Irish American community of New York, a testament to how beloved he is in the wider Irish community here.
Many are shocked to hear how rapidly his health deteriorated and there is still widespread shock at the sad news. As of Friday evening, the community had raised $36,842 raised of $50,000 goal.
"Sean has taken part in Concern fundraising runs, Solace House Sunrise Walks, the Irish “Meitheal” to aid in the recovery of the post-Hurricane Sandy Rockaways, Irish County Association events, and other many fundraising events in the community," a statement on the Go Fund Me page reads.
"We donated (to the medical fund) from Emerald Isle Immigration Center as we can't count the number of ways Sean has supported us and New York immigrants," one statement reads. "Sean was one of the early volunteers who gave his time to the Senior Help Line, he also was one of our earliest Meals On Wheels volunteers, he guided so many newly arrived immigrants to our doors to help them with their job search and to see if we could help with immigration cases. Sean has helped so many. He did this in his own quiet and unassuming way..."
IrishCentral reported on Friday that Sean was in the hospital suffering from an aggressive and debilitating form of gall bladder cancer facing an uncertain prognosis, so news of his sudden passing has shocked and saddened all who hear it.
Sean self-identified as a gay man and was instrumental in helping to bring the wider Irish LGBT community in from the social and political isolation it often experienced in the wider Irish American community here.
"I was not always welcome at Irish events but I ignored that and put my face where they could see me," he told this reporter, with a twinkle of mischief. He was unabashedly delighted by the positive changes the community has seen from being invited to participate to march in the main St. Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Avenue to the Irish Consulate and many Irish allies marching in the LGBT Pride parade on the last Sunday in June.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. May his soul be on God's right hand.