The Irish Emigrant, in conjunction with IrishCentral and the Irish Voice, presented Quinnipiac University President John L. Lahey with one of its most prestigious honors at a ceremony held Oct. 11 at the Irish Consulate in Boston.
Lahey was named “Irish Person of the Year” for his lifetime contributions to the Irish community and for spearheading the creation of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Músaem An Ghorta Mhóir, home to the world’s largest collection of visual art, artifacts and printed material relating to the Irish Famine. The museum is located at 3011 Whitney Ave. in Hamden, near Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel and York Hill campuses.
Lahey joined six other Irish luminaries, including Joseph P. Kennedy III of Massachusetts, a candidate for the U.S. Congress, who were honored at the 2012 Irish Leaders of New England Awards ceremony for creating jobs, helping those in need or making the Irish community proud. This was the first presentation of the awards which were created to mark the new partnership formed after IrishCentral acquired the Irish Emigrant newspaper.
In a joint statement, Connell Gallagher, publisher of the Irish Emigrant and Niall O’Dowd, publisher of IrishCentral and Irish Voice, said, “We are delighted and honored to present the Irish leaders in New England awards, which will be an annual event. The extraordinary accomplishments of this year’s honorees show how successful, vital and caring the Irish throughout New England are.”
Lahey said, “It’s an honor to be named the ‘Irish Person of the Year.’ I am particularly pleased that this award recognizes Quinnipiac University and the Lender family who have helped me to keep the story of Ireland’s Great Hunger alive.”
The museum builds, preserves and presents its art collection in order to stimulate reflection, inspire imagination and advance awareness of Ireland’s Great Hunger and its long aftermath on both sides of the Atlantic, said Lahey, who has been widely honored for his visionary leadership in assembling the collection, begun in 1997 when he was grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The collection focuses on the famine years from 1845-52, when blight destroyed virtually all of Ireland’s potato crops for consecutive years. The crop destruction, coupled with British governmental indifference to the plight of the Irish, who at the time were part of the United Kingdom, resulted in the deaths of more than 1 million Irish men, women and children and the emigration of more than 2 million to nations around the world. This tragedy occurred even though there was more than adequate food in the country to feed its starving populace. Exports of food and livestock from Ireland actually increased during the years of the Great Hunger.
Works by noted contemporary Irish artists are featured at the museum, including internationally known sculptors John Behan, Rowan Gillespie and Eamonn O’Doherty; as well as contemporary visual artists, Robert Ballagh, Alanna O’Kelly Brian Maguire and Hughie O’Donoghue. Featured paintings also include several important 19th and 20th‐century works by artists such as James Brenan, Daniel MacDonald, James Arthur O’Connor and Jack B. Yeats.
The museum is open to the public Wednesdays 10-5; Thursdays 10-7; Fridays and Saturdays 10-5; and Sundays 1-5. For more information, call 203-582-6500.