UNITED STATES PRESIDENT Barack Obama yesterday praised the delegation of GAA stars who travelled to one storm-damaged part of New York last year to help in the rebuilding process.
A group including Gaelic Players Association chairman and former Cork hurling goalkeeper, Donal Óg Cusack as well as All-Ireland winning Dublin boss, Pat Gilroy, travelled to Breezy Point in October in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Yesterday at the annual White House reception for Irish officials during St Patrick’s Week, President Obama singled out the contribution of several ‘Gaelic rock stars’ and Irish athletes.
“A great nation is one that contributes more to the world than it takes out, and by that definition, America owes a profound debt of gratitude to the great nation or Ireland,” he said. “And together, our people have never stopped dreaming of a better future and never stopped working to make that dream a reality.
“We saw that again in October, when Hurricane Sandy set off one of the worst residential fires in New York City’s history. Hundreds of homes were left charred and flooded, and many families were suddenly faced with the task of picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives, including in Breezy Point, a neighbourhood with a large Irish American population. In fact, more than half of Breezy Point residents can trace their families to the old country, and the folks back in the old country were not about to sit by and watch their American brothers and sisters struggle alone.
“So they pitched in; Gaelic rock stars raised money. Athletes from the Gaelic Games did construction work and brought the Sam Maguire chalice with them to lift spirits. The Irish Tenors came over to sing Christmas carols. The Irish government pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars, not just to help the residents of Breezy Point, but to help folks rebuild across the region. And the Taoiseach himself was in Breezy Point on Sunday to attend mass.
“As one official said, New York has been very good to the Irish; now the Irish are giving back to New York. And that’s the story of America and Ireland: We look out for each other, we have each other’s backs, and we recognise that no challenge is too great and no obstacle is too high if you’ve got a friend beside you and a nation behind you.
“That’s been our history; that will be our future,” the President added.
The players’ efforts were featured on NBC Nightly News at the time of their trip:
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