seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Irish National Day of Mourning

BERTIE AHERN IRISH RESPONSE TO TERRORIST ATTACK ON UNITED STATES OF AMERICAThe Irish government declares a National Day of Mourning on September 14, 2001. Schools, businesses, and shops are shut down in an unprecedented gesture of sympathy following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City three days earlier.

Thousands of people queue for hours in front of the United States Embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin, waiting patiently to sign one of the many books of condolences to be presented to the U.S. government in the aftermath of the attack. At John F. Kennedy’s ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford, the U.S. flag flies at half-mast and the house is closed to visitors.

As it was on the day that Kennedy was assassinated, everyone remembers where they were on September 11. But on September 14 in Ireland, the churches are full and the offices, shops and pubs dark and silent as the country mourns with its American relatives, colleagues and friends.

Bouquets of flowers, teddy bears, candles and messages are left at the Embassy, as thousands stand with heads bowed. The building’s facade is turned into a shrine to those who died in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. There are both tears and applause when 250 firefighters from all over Ireland parade past the Embassy as a mark of respect to the hundreds of firefighters lost in New York. People weep openly as they hear of the casualties and more details emerge of that terrible morning.

The nation prays as industrial and commercial life comes to a halt and offices, government departments and all places of entertainment close for mourning. In every parish and diocese religious services are held, with the biggest, an ecumenical service in Dublin, attended by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, President Mary McAleese and many other cabinet members. At least 2,000 people attempt to squeeze into St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, which holds only 1,500. Outside, a group of U.S. students break into the American national anthem and the crowd falls silent.

The bells of Christ Church Cathedral ring muffled for 90 minutes to mark the occasion, and at 11:00 AM towns and villages fall silent as the people join in a European-wide three minutes of silence. At noon, all trains stop for five minutes and special services are held in practically every town in the country. In Bray, County Wicklow, so many people show up that the church runs out of communion. A number of people approaching the altar are given a blessing instead.

In Dublin’s universities in the months following the attacks, Irish students who were present in New York at the time are offered free counseling to help them deal with the “nightmares and flashbacks.”

A fund for the families of the victims started by Independent News and Media, which donates the money from the sales of all its newspapers on September 14, reaches more than 120,000 punts. It is given to The American Ireland Fund in the presence of U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Egan. Money is collected throughout the country for many months.

(From: “Ireland’s National Day of Mourning” by Irish America staff, http://www.irishamerica.com, December/January 2002 | Pictured: Taoisearch Bernie Ahern and Tanaiste Mary Harney with members of the Irish Cabinet sign the book of condolences in the U.S. Embassy in Dublin three days after the terrorist attacks)


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Frederick A. Sterling’s Ambassadorship to Ireland Ends

frederick-a-sterlingFrederick Augustine Sterling, United States diplomat and first U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, completes his mission in Ireland on March 7, 1934. He later serves as U.S. minister to Bulgaria and Sweden.

Sterling is born in St. Louis, Missouri on August 13, 1876 and is an 1898 graduate of Harvard University. After working on a ranch in Texas and manufacturing woolen goods, he becomes a career Foreign Service Officer in 1911. Assignments include work in Peru, China, Russia, and England.

On July 27, 1927, Sterling is the first person appointed U.S. minister to the Irish Free State. After confirmation by the United States Senate, and presentation of his credentials to Irish leaders W. T. Cosgrave and Timothy Healy in July, he holds the formal title of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.

Sterling’s post in Ireland ends on March 7, 1934, when he becomes U.S. minister to Bulgaria, a position he remains in until 1936. In 1937, he is appointed to minister roles for both Latvia and Estonia, however he does not accept the post. In 1938, he becomes U.S. minister to Sweden and remains in that role until 1941.

For years Sterling owns a summer house in Newport, Rhode Island, which he shares with his wife, two sons and one daughter. He dies in Washington, D.C., on August 21, 1957, and is buried in Falls Church, Virginia.


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Ireland Reacts to Terrorist Attacks in U.S.

tricolour-at-ground-zeroPresident Mary McAleese goes on RTÉ Radio on September 11, 2001, to express her shock and horror at the terrorist attacks in the United States.

The President says that these atrocities are “crimes against the very foundations of our humanity.” She comments that “it is unbearable and almost unbelievable for the rest of the world to be witnessing such wanton destruction of human life in front of our eyes.”

President McAleese speaks by telephone with the United States Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Egan, and asks him to convey to President George W. Bush the heartfelt sympathies of the Irish people in this hour of great tragedy for the people of America, a nation which Ireland holds so dear.

The Irish government names more than a dozen of its natives among the dead in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Based on family names and individual stories, there are many hundreds of American dead with Irish heritage, including Americans who through parents or grandparents have become Irish citizens.

The website www.IrishTribute.com, set up in reaction to the September 11 attacks, estimates that perhaps one-sixth of the dead are in some way “Irish.” The website claims that “September 11, 2001 may well go down as the bloodiest day in the history of the Irish people. An estimated 1,000 people who were of Irish descent or of Irish birth were lost in the violent events on that day.”

A National Day of Mourning is held in Ireland on September 14 and a remembrance mass is held on September 12, 2001. Ireland is one of the few countries to hold a service day. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and President McAleese are both in attendance.

Families in Limerick take in American tourists grounded at Shannon Airport after all flights into and out of the United States are cancelled.

The only flag, other than the U.S. flag, to fly at the Ground Zero site is the Irish tricolour, which is put in place by the Carpenters Union #608 and FDNY Command Post.

In the wake of the attacks, the Irish government immediately begins reviewing security arrangements.