The Irish lend a helping hand in the Rockaways
(Photo: Sean McPhail)

The success of the Irish Day of Action in Rockaway when 1,000 Irish descended on the devastated Rockaway Peninsula has led to a new spirit in the Irish community.

Rocked back on its heels by the lack of emigration and the tough times for many of the older Irish organizations, the Rockaway day was an amazing insight into how much the community can still accomplish.

From earliest dawn on Saturday all over New York and in many places upstate the Irish came together in the best spirit of the Meitheal, the Gaelic word meaning a gathering to help neighbors in need.

What was truly heartening was the mixture from the youngest of Irish organizations to the oldest, to the geographic spread across all communities.

The role of the Irish consulate in coordinating the original response was immense.

Many years ago such a leadership role would have been far more difficult. The Northern Irish issue divided the community leading to boycotts stand offs and bad blood.

Read more: 1,000 Irish show up for Rockaway ‘Day of Action’ to rebuild community

That is no longer the case, allowing organizations to exist in a cooperative fashion as was proven on Saturday.

What was also obvious was how perfectly tailored to the problem the Irish response was.

We are a community that deals heavily in construction and skills related.

The Rockaways’ crying need was for such skills, especially electricians who are highly valued there because of the number of houses in need.

What was also stunning was the number of women who turned out, well over the 50 per cent mark.

It was an interesting insight into that Irish quality of empathy and caring so strongly represented in medical fields and child care by women in the main.

For many of the Irish-born who were unfamiliar with the Rockaways and Breezy Point the sight of so many tricolors and Irish name plates outside homes was itself an education into how important the Irish heritage and association for so many.

It was a learning curve all around and a day that ended with good cheer and good feeling. “Ni Neart go Chur Le Cheile” is the old Irish adage. “No strength until we pull together.”

How true.