Bruce Morrison is being honoured for his outstanding contribution to Irish America and his significant and long standing support for the Northern Ireland peace process.
Bruce Morrison graduated from Yale Law School determined to use his talents and his education in pursuit of the public good. Eschewing a lucrative career in corporate or private law, Mr. Morrison opted to become a public defender. The call of public office was a natural one. Mr. Morrison fought and won a seat in 1982 as the Democratic Congressional Representative for the Third District of New Haven, Connecticut.
With his background in law and an interest in immigration, Congressman Morrison was appointed chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. It was from this position that he would make his mark by amending immigration law and in so doing immeasurably assist the new Irish immigrants in the United States who were unable to secure permanent resident status. As a result of the Immigration Act of 1990 sponsored by Bruce Morrison, in the region of 50,000 Irish nationals living and working in the United States were granted permanent resident status. Because of his support for the cause of the undocumented Irish, Congressman Morrison became an honorary Irish American and was welcomed into their community. His identification with Irish issues deepened as new opportunities emerged to help in the nascent peace process.
Mr. Morrison has made an invaluable and direct contribution to the lives of tens of thousands Irish people living and working in the United States. His support for the peace process has helped embed the transition from conflict to peace and stability. His continued interest in Ireland and in particular his recent passionate advocacy regarding Ireland's immigration laws serve to contribute to public dialogue that is crucial to a healthy and open democracy.
Dr Pearse Lyons is a scientist, innovator and entrepreneur. Long before the term became fashionable, he was engaged in forging the knowledge economy. In 1980 Dr Lyons founded Alltech, a company that has offices today in 76 countries and employs over 1300 people. Pearse Lyons was born in Dublin and educated at University College Dublin where he was awarded a First Class Honours degree in Biochemistry (BSc) in 1967. Just three years after graduating from UCD with his primary degree, he was awarded a doctorate by the University of Birmingham.
Alltech is regarded by its industry peers as highly innovative and knowledge driven. Dr. Lyons pioneered the concept of Bioscience Centres, where research and marketing teams work together to develop innovative products and bring them quickly to the market.
A notable feature of the company is its commitment to fostering links between academia and industry. Each year Alltech Symposia, lecture tours and technical meetings are held in different parts of the world bringing together experts and leaders from academia and industry. Dr. Lyons participates in all of these events and has a reputation as an extremely stimulating lecturer. He is very committed to the development of Irish science graduates. Alltech has programmes for both undergraduate and doctoral students that provide invaluable opportunities for young scientists. At any one time there are two or three doctoral students at the Europe Bioscience Centre at Dunboyne.
Charlie Bird, Chief News Correspondent for RTE, is a national figure. He is the best known Irish journalist of his generation. His intense face and urgent voice are woven into the fabric of contemporary Irish society. In fact Roddy Doyle has taken him beyond the confines of journalism into fiction. Charlie was born on the 9th of September 1949 in Sandymount. While at Sandymount High School his maths teacher, John Kelly, told him to give up maths and go into politics instead. Charlie did not quite heed the advice.
Charlie Bird joined the RTE newsroom twenty-five years ago and has covered most of the major domestic and international stories of the last quarter century. His pre-eminence among Irish broadcast journalists stems from his distinctive style, his hard work in chasing the story and his ability to ask the questions that man in the street would like to have the opportunity to ask.
On the international front, Charlie reported on both Gulf Wars and was the only Irish journalist in Syria for the release of Brian Keenan. Since the early 1990s, Charlie was the only point of contact between RTE and the Provisional IRA. He witnessed at first hand the ceasefires and the subsequent twists and turns of the peace process. In 1998, Charlie and his colleague George Lee broke the National Irish Bank story. The DIRT inquiry followed. As a consequence almost one billion euro was recouped by the Revenue Authorities. More recently, the AIB whistleblower went to Charlie about overcharging in foreign exchange transactions, prompting Fergus Finley, in one of his opinion pieces, to end with the words, 'Thank God for whistleblowers and Charlie Bird'.
First and foremost, Niall O'Dowd is and always will be a journalist. Right from the time of his arrival in San Francisco in the early 1980s he began to write on Irish American issues. His West Coast apprenticeship in journalism served him well, when he went to New York to found "Irish America" magazine and the "Irish Voice. The key to Niall's success with both publications was that he quickly learned the American way. He began to build a huge network of business and social contacts through Irish America's Top 100 Business leaders and later its Top 100 Irish Americans. His publications brought their readership not only a far greater appreciation of the rich heritage of Ireland but also how a modern Ireland was evolving.
Niall O'Dowd was pivotal in putting together a key group of concerned Irish Americans to work with the Sinn Fein leadership to bring peace to Northern Ireland. In his role as an intermediary between the White House and Sinn Fein, he helped to internationalise the Northern Ireland peace process through the active involvement of President Clinton and later Senator George Mitchell. The Group lobbied, despite huge local opposition, to help secure the granting of a US visa to Gerry Adams and organised a prestigious speaking forum to facilitate his visit. The granting of the visa in 1994 was undoubtedly instrumental in the subsequent declaration of an IRA ceasefire later that year.
Born in Waterville, South Kerry Michael John O'Dwyer was destined to become a legend in Gaelic sport. His consummate skills as a schoolboy footballer were displayed in St Finnins National School and Waterville Vocational School and led to selection for the Kerry Minors in 1954, the Juniors in 1955 and 1956 and the Seniors in that same year.
For an astonishing 18 years until retirement in 1974, he thrilled Kerry supporters and true GAA fans with his football artistry. He played in 10 All-Ireland Finals, securing 4 All-Ireland medals and was Texaco Footballer of the Year in 1969. But the end of one star-studded career was the start of another memorable one - as inspirational manager.
From 1975 - 1986 he led the unrivalled Kerry teams to an unprecedented 8 All-Ireland Championships. Their extraordinary skill and panache, and their titanic battles with Dublin, will live long in the memory. Later, he was to focus his formidable managerial skills and passion for the game on bringing two Cinderella counties to Leinster final triumphs, beyond their wildest dreams. Kildare, and later Laois, savoured football glory because of the passion, discipline and self-belief that Mick O'Dwyer inspired.
Paralleling his sporting feats, Mick O'Dwyer demonstrated his shrewd business acumen as a successful hotelier, restauranteur and publican, despite being a teetotaller and non-smoker.