For Irish American activists, all roads will lead to New Rochelle, NY on 19 August 2022.
Their destination: the third annual Big Irish Campfire on the campus of Irish America’s University, Iona College.
Their aim: to shape the future of Irish America.
And there’s an open invite to all Irish Americans to join the Irish Echo-hosted event (in-person or online) to ensure all points of view are heard at this pivotal period in the Irish American story.
The Campfire will reflect on the current state of play for the Irish American community.
And for sure, Irish America has much to be proud of:
The continued expansion of the GAA with growing number of US-born players enjoying the sports;
Ambitous plans for the largest ever Irish center west of the Mississippi and the opening of the Irish Arts Center in New York – the cultural jewel in the crown of Irish America;
Increasing numbers learning the Irish language in multiple locations across the US;
The resumption of transatlantic music, theatre and arts initiatives as Covid restrictions on travel are lifted.
The election of the most Irish President since JFK and a bipartisan Capitol Hill offensive to defend the Good Friday Agreement and prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland.
The establishment of new organisations such as the African American Irish Diaspora Network to reach out to new constituencies.
And that’s only a snapshot of some of the advances made by Irish America.
CAMPFIRE CHUMS: Iona University President Seamus Carey and Irish Echo Publisher Máirtín Ó Muilleoir at the famed St Columba's cross at the New Rochelle college
But the Campfire faithful is also alive to the multiple challenges facing Irish America:
A steady fall in the number of Americans declaring Irish ancestry (down from 34.7m in the 2010 Census to 31.5m in 2021);
A precipitous drop in the number of Irish-born in the US – now hovering around 120,000 — and the ageing of the immigrant population;
An effective block on new Visas for Irish applicants;
A lack of progress on Irish Government promises of voting rights for the Irish diaspora;
The aftershocks of Covid which have left many Irish halls and community centers struggling for survival.
Iona University President Seamus Carey and Irish Echo Publisher Máirtín Ó Muilleoir at the famed St Columba's cross at the New Rochelle college
So the pros and the cons will be on display around the campfire but the emphasis will be firmly on solutions rather than problems.
GATHERING: Ó Muilleoir on the Iona campus
And how could it be otherwise with such a prestigious band of leaders on hand to lead the discussion.
With the exampsive campus of Iona University as basecamp — the only university in the world established by the Irish Christian Brothers — Campfire delegates will have an opportunity to assess whether their glass is half-full or half-empty. Leading the day of debate and dialogue will be Iona University President Seamus Carey who has spent a lifetime immersed in all-things Irish – he played senior football and hurling for New York in his youth.
Also participating will be Rob Walsh, Presenter of the Bottom Line for Small Business on WINS 1010 in NYC, Liam Reidy, President United Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco, Natalie Nugent-O’Shea, founder Celtic Junction Arts Center, St Paul, Maureen Kennedy, Co-founder Irish Heritage Center of Cincinnati and Sonnie Hereford IV, the former organizer of the Huntsville, Alabama, St Patrick’s Day Parade who was the first African-American child in the Alabama public school system.
Said Irish Echo Publisher Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: “The Campfire is the only occasion when every strand of Irish America – sports, arts, business, politics, dance, societies, museums, heritage centers, clubs, hospitality and academia — come together as one. We have put together a compelling and fun programme for this year’s Campfire and would encourage every Irish American organisation in the country to be represented in person or, via our livestream, online. The task of building a bright future for Irish America is the work of many hands and all will be given a hearty céad míle fáilte at the third Big Irish Campfire.”
To subscribe to attend in person or to follow online, click here. You can follow the run-in to the Big Irish Campfire on social media by searching the hashtag #IrishCampfire
The Big Irish Campfire was hybrid last year - an in-person audience but live-streamed - you can watch back on the event below: