Salute to brave Ukraine as Irish 40 under 40 gather in New York

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SINGING PRAISES OF YOUNG LEADERS: Nassau County District Attorney Dr Anne Donnelly addressing the Irish 40 Under 40 gala on 25 February
Nuala Purcell

When the best and brightest of Irish America gather in New York each year to celebrate the achievements  of the Irish Echo’s 40 Under 40, glasses are often raised to those heroes of yesteryear who took on an Empire.

And so it was in Rosie O’Grady’s hostelry in Manhattan on Friday night. However, on this occasion, it was the freedom fighters of Kyiv rather than the flying columns of Kerry which were in the thoughts of the young leaders who had come together from ten states across the USA for the annual gala. 

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Consul General of Ireland in New York Helena Nolan best captured the mood of the packed room when she said “our thoughts and prayers” were with Ukraine’s people and announced that Irish borders would be open to refugees fleeing the Russian onslaught

“We have opened up free access to all Ukrainian citizens who wish to come to Ireland at this time,” she said.

Her words were echoed by other award recipients on an evening which saw the next generation of Irish American champions singled out for praise.

Sponsored by fintech company Qarik, which has a substantial presence in Belfast, the Irish 40 Under 40 recognized high-flyers from the fields of sport, business, healthcare, climate change, PR, politics and charity relief. 

Guest speaker Nassau District Attorney Dr. Anne Donnelly sang the praises of the awardees. “After reading everyone’s biographies, one things is clear to me,” she said, “the future of Irish America is in good hands.”

She urged the young honorees to “slow down a little”. 

“You can accomplish anything in the world but if you haven’t shared a laugh with your friends in the last year, was it worth it?” she asked. 

She added: “As the granddaughter of immigrants from Cavan and Galway, I want to express my deep admiration for everyone here who is born overseas. You’ve come a long way and you probably didn’t know many people when you started out in the United States. But tonight you’re being honored for your achievements and the United States is better for having you here. When my grandparents arrived in this country, they struggled and worked hard. But they laid the foundation for myself, my siblings and cousins. You, too, are laying foundations for your children, or your nieces or nephews who may join you in America.”

And, in a special nod to honoree Clayton McGahn who had travelled from Hawaii for the celebration, DA Donnelly suggested next year’s Irish 40 Under 40 take place in his home state.

Among the special awards presented at the gala were:

  • Building America Award – Terence Cullen
  • Tech Ambassador – Ciara Schenk
  • Business Innovation Ambassador – Connor Coughlin
  • Empowering Women Award – Jessica Foster
  • Emerald Sustainability Award – Kaitlyn Frega
  • People’s Choice Award – Peter Fahy. 

You can see a 36-page brochure honoring all 40 recipients in last week’s Irish Echo e-paper. 

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