THE Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) held its inaugural Annie Moore Awards at Rosie O’Grady’s in midtown Manhattan on May 6. Named in honor of the Irish girl who was the first passenger to be registered through the immigration station at Ellis Island in 1892, the awards honor prominent Irish Americans for their efforts on behalf of the Irish immigrant community.

For their inaugural awards this year ILIR chose to honor businessman Patrick J. Donaghy and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in an event that was hosted by the actress Geraldine Hughes.

Event organizer and ILIR co-founder Ciaran Staunton told the audience that the need for immigration reform was now more urgent than ever.

“We finally have a bill being introduced in Congress by Senator Chuck Schumer,” said Staunton. “In those few pages the future of Irish American culture is contained. It will legalize those who are here and it creates 10, 000 working visas a year for Irish immigrants to come to the United States. If anyone wants Irish culture to continue here for another generation, this is the bill that has to get passed.”

Quinn, a longtime advocate on behalf of the Irish community in New York, underlined her own commitment to immigration reform.

“If we are going to keep New York the place it is we need to have comprehensive, fair, rational immigration reform. So many of the great contributions to New York City were made by the Irish,” she said.

“If that stream is cut off then the vitality, the creativity, the arts community, the musical community of New York will decrease, and that is something that this city can’t afford.”

Donaghy, the retired chairman and founder of Structure Tone INC, who originally emigrated from Co. Tyrone in 1959, told the audience of his strong commitment to comprehensive reform. Donaghy is a long time supporter of ILIR and due to his efforts, Staunton announced, all future awards will be called the Annie Moore and Pat Donaghy awards.

“When I look at the situation today and see what the young folks are going through, believe me I understand what the American dream means to them. We should all be prepared to help them with our support,” Donaghy said.