Ted Smyth


Ireland House

Speech by Ted Smyth on receiving

the Lew Glucksman Leadership Award at Glucksman Ireland House’s Gala Dinner,
New York University

February 24, 2015

Ted Smyth

Ambassador, Consul General, Ladies and Gentlemen

I accept this generous award on behalf of those diplomats, politicians, academics, writers and business people who have worked so hard, and continue to work hard for peace and prosperity in Ireland. And I also want to accept it on behalf of the leaders of McGraw Hill Financial , many of whom are here tonight. The Lew Glucksman leadership award is particularly meaningful as Lew was a mentor and great leader, a man always ready for challenges, who thought big and was never afraid of anyone, as demonstrated by his heroic war service. He also taught me the value of NY deli sandwiches, sitting down beside me on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin and pulling out a giant pastrami sandwich for the journey.
     I feel I am one of the lucky ones to have been born to a loving family on a farm in rural Ireland, educated at Trinity College, Dublin and enjoyed 3 fulfilling careers around the world (including one dining for Ireland). Then to share 35 years of that life with the woman I love, Mary Breasted, herself a wonderful novelist. Now a few minutes on how we got here from there. My American adventure began in 1976 as Head of Press and Information for Ireland. It was post herpes and pre AIDS, a good time to be single in NY.
     I had three assigned goals:
Build American support for equal rights for Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Loyalists
Use American pressure to change British policy on NI
And encourage American business leaders to invest in Ireland to create badly needed jobs
     We were a small band of Irish representatives in NYC including Padraic O Coilean of the Consulate, Tom Kennedy of Aer Lingus and Sean Carberry of Irish Tourism but we had thousands of generous allies amongst the Irish diaspora, including the “Big Four”, Tip O’Neill, Hugh Carey (whose daughter Susan is here), Pat Moynihan and Ted Kennedy.
     And there are those still with us, and those who have departed, who were ready to stand up for Ireland. To name but a few: Loretta and Lew, Tony O’Reilly, Dan Rooney, Don Keough (sadly departed today), Denis Donoghue, Pete Hamill, Jimmy Breslin, the First Friday group quarterbacked by Terry Moran with Neil Hickey, our rock star Frank McCourt, Malachy McCourt, Dennis Smith, the Irish Rep with Ciaran O Reilly, Charlotte Moore and Ellen McCourt, the Irish Arts Center, Patricia Harty of Irish America, Mary Pat Kelly, the Irish Voice and Echo. Together with so many more who are in this room tonight.
     And what talent we were able to bring to this mix from Ireland! John Hume, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Joe Lee, Nuala O Faolain, Garret FitzGerald, Maeve Binchy, Jennifer Johnson, Phil Coulter, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon. Not to speak of the departed greats, Joyce, Yeats, O’Casey, Beckett.
     As Irish diplomats we turned our hand to everything to get the job done, from working with the Irish American lobby to persuade Jimmy Carter to support an Irish Government role in Northern Ireland, to converting the consulate, then on 47th and Fifth, into a distribution center for smoked salmon from Derry, purchased by Irish bar owners like Gerry Toner and Eamonn Doran . It seemed that our files were somewhat fishy for months.
     But, one thing we were sorely missing was a national center for Irish and Irish American studies because back then Irish studies were mostly absorbed into English or History Departments. Loretta and Lew remedied that with the establishment of Glucksman Ireland House in 1993.
     As we heard tonight, Glucksman Ireland House is the jewel in the crown of Irish America, with an outstanding faculty, administration and Board. Ireland House has helped transform the Irish diaspora from a sense of displacement and loss to a positive diaspora, enriched by literature, art and wit.
     Final thanks to our co-chairs tonight, Loretta and Mary Shanahan for all the heavy lifting for a great cause. Now it was Will Rogers who wisely said, Never miss a great opportunity to shut up,
So I will conclude by thanking you again from the bottom of my full heart Good night!

Ireland House
Left to right: Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Ted Smyth, Paul Quinn, Mary Shanahan, Terry Golway