Members of the Irish community gathered to honor the special contributions of Paul Bryce and Laurence McGrath to the Irish American story as first generation Irish Immigrants.

The Annie Moore awards, named after the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island, were held Wednesday of last week at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.

 The awards annually celebrate the achievements of two prominent members of the Irish community and are sponsored by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.

 This year’s gathering was hosted by ILIR co-founder, Ciaran Staunton, and immigration reform was the main talk of the evening.

Staunton told assembled guests that after the November elections the ILIR would again be lobbying on Capitol Hill to ensure an easier route and more visas for Irish people seeking to live and work legally in the U.S.

Presented with the Patrick J. Donaghy Award on the night was Paul Bryce, President and Chief Operating Officer of Henegan Construction.

Bryce relocated with his family from Belfast to Albany, New York, in 1959, and has over forty years of experience in construction, as well as an educational background emphasizing business, construction management, and real estate.

As a proud supporter of the Irish Peace Process, as well as a staunch supporter of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform since its founding, Bryce spoke of the importance of citizens using their vote this November to ensure the continuance of the Irish community in years to come.

This year’s elections, he said, “might be the most important elections in the history of this country when it comes to immigration reform.

“So I would urge all of you to talk to people about Irish immigration. I would ask you to vote for people with the same passion and same commitment as we have.”

Also accepting an award on the night was Laurence McGrath, Chief Executive Officer of DL Contracting and the current President of the Gaelic Athletic Association of New York. 

The Donegal native received the Irish Spirit Award.

He owes his life in the U.S. to his receiving a Morrison Visa.

McGrath, also the founder of DL Contracting, first arrived in New York to play for the Donegal team which he later went on to manage.

Following this, McGrath was elected chairman of the Donegal Team. 

Later he was elected vice-chairman of the GAA New York County Board and in 2015 became the first Donegal man to be elected President of the Gaelic Athletic Association New York.

In accepting the award, McGrath thanked all those who have worked for visa reform over the years and stressed the importance of immigration reform as a means of allowing the GAA to continue in the U.S., and in turn to strengthen the American-Irish community.

“The one thing about New York GAA is that it’s like a home away from home,” McGrath told the gathering.

“When young people come out from Ireland they always get involved with a club, meet new friends, meet new people, they get a job and accommodation. They build their lives from there,” he said.

Pictured at the Annie More Awards were (l-r) Laurence McGrath, winner of the Irish spirit Award, presenter Ciaran Staunton of the ILIR, and Paul Bryce, winner of the Patrick J. Donaghy Award.Nuala Purcell