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Unsung heroes: Irish eyes smile on charities

They have raised more than $20,000 for Bermuda's charities in their short existence as a group.

Now, with an historic Irish anniversary coming for the year ahead, the Bermuda Irish Association has bigger plans for 2016.

“We're hoping to grow and bring more of an emphasis on Irish culture — not just to the Irish here but the community of Bermuda,” said Brian Quinn, the co-founder of the group.

Ireland's Easter Rising of 1916, a rebellion by nationalists fighting British rule, served as a battle call for Irish independence. Its 100th anniversary will be marked in April by communities around the world, including that of Bermuda.

John Kane, the honorary Irish consul of Bermuda, has estimated there are 400 to 500 Irish people on the Island.

“At one point there were about 750 Irish, which went down to about 300 with so many going back,” Mr Quinn said.

Ireland's economy tumbled in the 2008 recession, and qualified Irish people remain keen to find work elsewhere, which has bolstered Bermuda's numbers.

The Bermuda Irish Association's charitable efforts in the year ahead will go in tandem with more activities.

More Gaelic football includes the potential for an inter-island match in Bermuda with Irish communities elsewhere. Hurling, another Gaelic pastime notorious as a high-speed contact sport, would likely prove more difficult.

“I don't think we have enough people here that can do it without killing anybody,” Mr Quinn said.

Formed in 2013 by Mr Quinn with Aine Madden, its co-president, the association took the place left by the Emerald Isle Society, which had dwindled out.

A lunch gathering acquired an enthusiastic following and grew swiftly into a group keen to have “a social responsibility for local charities as well”, Ms Madden said.

Mr Quinn added: “We started up as a networking organisation and developed more into a cultural organisation, bringing Irish people and local people together.”

“Equally, we have become able to cater to different audiences existing within the Irish community now,” said the group's treasurer, Michael Veale.

The group is now approaching 300 members, although listed members are just the principal contacts in each household, leaving off spouses and children.

With the help of supporters, donors and the funding and donation matching of Digicel and BTC, the group has brought much to many.

The Salvation Army has been a repeat beneficiary; the association has also given to Meals on Wheels, the Eliza DoLittle Society, Big Brothers and Big Sisters and the cancer treatment cause of the late Neehari Robinson.

For more information about the group, e-mail Mr Quinn at bquinn@granite.bm. To learn about Irish culture and the Easter Rising, go to www.ireland.ie.

• Do you know an Unsung Hero who deserves recognition? Call Lisa Simpson on 278-0137 or e-mail lsimpson@royalgazette.com

Charity donations: from left, the Bermuda Irish Association's Brian Quinn and Aine Madden, the joint presidents, and treasurer Michael Veale (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

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Published December 23, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 23, 2015 at 8:26 am)

Unsung heroes: Irish eyes smile on charities

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