New York -- Actor Liam Neeson helped draw an overflow crowd to New York’s City Hall last night as he became the seventh recipient of the City Council’s Thomas Manton Irish Man of the Year Award. Previous recipients include Senators Ted Kennedy and George Mitchell, city sanitation worker and Gaeilge instructor Ed Shevlin, and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Left, actor Liam Neeson tells the audience of several hundred, "I was going to say Madame Mayor, but then I thought maybe I shouldn't." WG Photos / Gerry Regan from live broadcast by NYC-TV
Master of Ceremonies Christine C. Quinn, the speaker of the City Council, particularly praised Neeson for his support of Manhattan’s Irish Arts Center, a beacon of Irish culture in the borough’s one-time gritty Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood for 41 years. The center will be moving into a new facility, she mentioned, and Neeson’s presence at fundraisers has been a huge help, a gesture, the self-deprecating Neeson called merely “the power of celebrity.” Neeson, 60, lives in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Perhaps typifying the appeal of the Ballymena, County Antrim-born actor, one of the most accomplished of his generation, was the remarks of fellow honoree James McGovern, deputy chief of the city’s Sanitation Department. McGovern was honored for his role in helping steer the department’s round-the-clock, 6-week effort to clear debris from Hurricane Sandy from the front of hard-hit homes in the Rockaways. In his remarks, at turns light-hearted and poignant, told the audience of several hundred that he told his sister he was to be honored at City Hall, and he urged her to come. She was, he said, unenthused. “Liam Neeson will be there,” he added. At that point, he noted, she worried if she’d have time to get her nails and her done in time.
Right, James McGovern, deputy chief of the New York Sanitation Department, addresses the overflow audience.
Award namesake Thomas Manton was born in 1932 of Irish immigrant parents. He was a Democratic Party leader in the city’s borough of Queens, and represented a constituency in Queens and the Bronx in the House of Representatives for seven terms. He served in the U.S. Marines and the NYPD before embarking on his political career.
Also honored were Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, representing the efforts of the hundreds of volunteers who participated in the “Irish Day of Action” to help relieve beleaguered Rockaways residents, and Peter J.F. Meijer, from Team Rubicon, who helped organize the group’s hundreds of volunteer military veterans in support of Rockaways residents.
Providing entertainment were trad band Celtic Cross and several performances from the Broadway musical “Once,” which is set in Dublin and based on the Academy Award winning film. More than 80 people, unable to squeeze into the packed Council Chambers, watched the proceedings on a live video feed in a spare room in City Hall. WG