The National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO) has presented the International Ellis Island Medal of Honor to three important leaders of Northern Ireland; First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the former First Minister, the Reverend and Right Honorable Dr. Ian Paisley, The Lord Bannside.
The Medal was awarded in recognition of their part in delivering peace and stability enjoyed by the people of Northern Ireland. The Medal is also presented in appreciation of their continued efforts to maintain this peace and their steadfast resolve to find long-term solutions resulting in conflict transformation.
The International Ellis Island Medal of Honor was given by NECO to all three honorees at Hillsborough Castle, one of the most beautiful and interesting historic properties in Northern Ireland. Serving as compere for the evening was New York City WPIX-11 news anchor, Senior Correspondent Marvin Scott.
Each year since 1986, NECO has honored our nation's diverse past by sponsoring the Ellis Island Medals of Honor. The Ellis Island Medals of Honor annually pays tribute to the ancestry groups that comprise America’s unique cultural mosaic. The International Ellis Island Medal of Honor is presented to individuals whose professional, personal or philanthropic contributions benefit our global community
According to Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of NECO, “Tonight is a celebration of these fine men and the progress they have made towards tolerance and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. I appreciate that there are still concerns to address, but tonight I want us to consider how far these men have taken their country towards peace. We are here tonight not because all problems have been solved, but because we believe that Northern Ireland has the leaders with the vision and humanity to resolve these issues in the best interests for all of its citizens. That is certainly something to celebrate.”
In regards to NECO’s visit to Northern Ireland, Mr. Kazeminy continued, “I have personally visited Northern Ireland many times and have many friends and professional relationships here. I have seen first-hand the changes created by the peace accords under the current leadership. I truly believe that now is the time to not only recognize these changes but to encourage the continued work towards total conflict resolution for the good people of Belfast and all of Northern Ireland."
Past International Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients include Sir Michael Smurfit ‘04, Xavier Guerrand-Hermes ‘13, Hubert Guerrand-Hermes ‘13, former President of Ireland, and Belfast native, Mary McAleese ‘12, His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II ’11 of Armenia and Serzh Sargsyan ‘11, President of Armenia, Executive Chairman of Digicel, Denis O’Brien’11 among others.
Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipients include six Presidents of the United States, Nobel Prize winners, athletes, and leaders of industry, artists and others. Well-known Irish American recipients include President Bill Clinton ’97, Joe Biden ’92, Mary Higgins Clark ’01, traditional Irish fiddler Seamus Connolly ’13, among others.
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”