On Wed, July 5, 2023, our sister publication the Irish Voice newspaper, in New York, went to print for the last time. The paper's Founder, Niall O'Dowd, looks back on its 36-year journey.
After 36 years, this week the last printed copy of the Irish Voice, the newspaper I founded in November of 1987, went to press. All news and updates going forward will be found on IrishCentral.com, founded by the Irish Voice in 2009.
Surviving in print is very tough, but the Irish Legal 100, a very successful annual event with its own website, www.irishlegal100.com, will for sure carry on every October.
From 2002 to 2020 revenue from newspapers has fallen to $22 billion from $46 billion according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Come back in 20 years and printing press revenue will have gone the way of the extinct dodo bird.
It was a fortunate tide that brought me to America, and the Irish Voice has been a huge part of my life here.
We set out to be simply a local paper that happened to be located in New York and, for many years, Boston. We aimed to cover a vibrant community, one centered around all of the new Irish arrivals to the U.S. in the 1980s and ‘90s – the vast majority undocumented – and we prospered, becoming the first Irish American newspaper to succeed since 1928.
On the front page of our first issue was a poll of undocumented Irish immigrants voting on whether they would ever return home. The majority said they would not, and the Irish Voice became their voice.
On the cover of our first issue was a young girl called Kathleen Flannelly, daughter of the still-going strong legendary radio host Adrian Flannelly, holding the Sam Maguire trophy, the cup presented to Ireland’s best football team every year.
We also had a story about IRA stalwart Seamus Twomey who somehow had got his visa to come to America. Immigration, Northern Ireland and, of course, Irish sport and culture have remained touchstones for the Irish American community after all these years.
We will still be breaking stories, but from now on our readers can switch to IrishCentral.com, which has two million visitors monthly.
This column twice a week will also move online so you will continue to have to put up with me. Our other publication, Irish America magazine, stays in print and online and our event management side, which includes the Wall Street 50, Hall of Fame, Business 100 and Healthcare 50, will continue to thrive.
Frankly, printing newspapers is a self-defeating effort in these days of online news consumption. Debbie McGoldrick, editor of the Irish Voice for 32 years and the very lifeblood of the publication, made the call that we knew was eventually coming.
Johannes Gutenberg built the first printing press in 1440, arguably one of the greatest achievements in the history of our world. Now we have the new Gutenberg, the internet, which has also utterly changed the world.
The massive social media and online publications have simply overwhelmed the printing press. Gutenberg would not recognize the new landscape.
We made this decision also because of another reality: the Irish are mostly not coming to America anymore because we are pretty much blocked by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. That reality has been profound.
There’s no denying, also, that Ireland is a vastly more prosperous country these past two decades, and the need to seek a new life in the U.S. isn’t nearly as urgent. Young Irish adventurers are seeking other options, including moves to places such as Canada and Australia where they can be almost instantly legal, and who can blame them?
The Irish Voice’s contribution to the battle for Irish legalization was to become heavily involved in the Morrison and Donnelly visa programs for Ireland which resulted in more than 60,000 green cards. Who can forget the massive crowds that ended up at an obscure post office in Merrifield, Virginia in 1991 where millions of Morrison visa applications were processed – many of which were personally delivered in a U-Haul van driven by Voice staffers.
There are many wonderful friends we’ve made through the decades, with exceptional writers, advertisers – led by the one and only Danny Moloney, founder of Liffey Van Lines – and above all you, the readers.
If you have read this far you will likely know we have been a crusading paper. We are, indeed, an activist paper; we don’t believe in journalism that uses phrases like, “On the one hand and the other.” Have an opinion and defend it!
The Irish Voice co-founded the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) and organized lobbying trips to Washington, D.C. where thousands of young Irish stood up to be counted. At those events, Senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Edward Kennedy among others all came and spoke.
On the actual news front, we were the first to report in January of 1994 that Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams would get an American visa, a seismic story that made the peace process possible.
The previous year, we were the first outlet to publish a weekly column from Adams, in his own words. He worked closely with Debbie McGoldrick on that effort and, indeed, she traveled with Gerry around New York for pretty much all of the 48 hours that his visa was valid.
We were invited to accompany President Clinton on his visit to Ireland in 1995, a never to be forgotten trip.
Another story we broke in 2015 was the decision to finally allow an LGBT group to march in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue which garnered worldwide headlines. The parade committee, led at the time by then-Quinnipiac University President Dr. John Lahey, took a huge step forward which was supported that year by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who agreed to serve as grand marshal for the 2015 march.
One of our strangest coups was revealing that a bunch of billionaires – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet to name but two – had gathered in Manhattan to discuss becoming part of a new philanthropic initiative called “Giving While Living,” the philosophy originally of Irish American philanthropists championed by Chuck Feeney, a great supporter of the Irish Voice. Fortune magazine was so upset we had scooped them they wrote a very angry piece belittling us. We lapped it up.
In the arts world, we published two culture columnists, Terry George and Jim Sheridan, both starting out their stellar careers and both eventually receiving Oscar nominations, with George winning Best Live Action Short in 2012.
Of course, the biggest story of all was 9/11 and the huge number of Irish American cops and firefighters who gave their lives in the act of terror against the United States.
To the end of my days, there will be one indelible image imprinted in my brain – the Fire Department of New York marching up Fifth Avenue on St. Patrick's Day 2002, unbeaten and undaunted, Stars and Stripes waving and the incredible reaction of the crowd. What a memory.
A heartfelt thanks to all who have read the Irish Voice throughout our 36 great years.
Slán Go Fóill! (Goodbye for now!)