Celebrating 40 Years Of US-Ireland Friendship At The National Building Museum
More than 850 guests joined the American Ireland Fund this week at the National Building Museum for its 24th Annual National Gala. The evening celebrated both the St. Patrick's Day season and the 40th anniversary of The Ireland Funds; 2016 also marks the centennial of Ireland's momentous Easter Rising.
The gala raised $1M for projects including promoting peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Dedicated to philanthropy, The Ireland Funds have raised $226M since '09 with the Promising Ireland campaign to assist Irish nonprofits.
The evening's award recipients included former Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Tim Kaine, Lord of the Dance creator Michael Flatley, and Laborers' International Union of North America president Terry O'Sullivan. Sen. Kaine also delighted the crowd by joining the the 19th Street Band onstage to play his harmonica.
Speaker Paul Ryan introduced John Boehner and presented him with the Leadership Award. Ryan is here with H.E. Anne Anderson, Ireland's ambassador to the US. She's the first woman in that role, and was previously the first woman to be the Ambassador of Ireland to the UN, EU, France and Monaco.
Boehner came onstage saying, "America would only be half of what it is without the Irish," which garnered cheers and applause. He spoke about his friendship with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, which grew through the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon hosted by the Speaker of the House, a tradition started by Tip O'Neill in '83.
The former Speaker, who has Irish heritage, worked to improve trade between the US and Ireland. Since the Taoiseach spends each St. Patrick's in the US, Boehner visited Dublin for the Fourth of July last year with a group of Congress members.
Minority Leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was also in attendance. Before dinner, guests could bid on silent auction items including trips to Ireland—with round trip Aer Lingus tickets, hotels and golf, a tour of the British Ambassador's residence gardens, a Maggie O'Neill giclee of the Capitol, tickets to a Notre Dame game, Irish step dancing lessons, and a football signed by Tom Brady.
We snapped Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, second from left, with Democratic Deputy Chief Counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Ryan, Office of the Vice President staff assistant William Ryan, attorney Lisa Ryan, and McDermott government strategies practice chair Stephen Ryan.
Stephen, a former GC to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, tells us that his father moved to America from Ireland. In the 1980s, Stephen worked on immigration reform to legalize the status of undocumented Irish immigrants.
Sen. Tim Kaine—here with his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, and former MD Gov. Martin O'Malley—is a member of The Irish National Caucus. During his acceptance speech for The American Ireland Fund Leadership Award, he talked about his family's 2006 trip to Ireland, where they found the ruins of his great-grandfather's cottage in Killashee Parish.
Michael Walsh and Shannon Group chairman Rose Hynes were in DC from Ireland on business. The two lawyers deal with commercial aircraft leasing; they tell us that approximately half of the world's leased aircraft are based in Ireland. Large airlines like Delta and American Airlines may lease some of their planes to have flexibility in growing or shrinking their fleet, while smaller airlines may lease all of their aircraft.
Guests enjoyed a dinner of Irish salmon with smoked trout mousse and watercress horseradish sauce and sage-crusted medallions of lamb with creamed spinach and champ potatoes.