On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, let me share the stories of just a few of the Irish women who make me proud of my Irish heritage. Discovering Irish heritage on both sides of my lineage, I wholeheartedly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and hope to serve that heritage with honor, as these ladies did:
- Especially striking a cord with me is journalist Veronica Guerin who was murdered for exposing criminal activities in Ireland. As a crime reporter for the Sunday Business Post and Sunday Tribune she investigated and exposed the activities of Ireland’s drug criminals. She pursued these criminals and their sordid stories in spite of the risk to her life. She received death threats and in October 1994 two shots were fired into her home as a warning. On another occasion she answered her front door to a man pointing a gun at her head. He shot her in the leg instead. In 1996 her Irish luck ran out, however, when two men on a motorbike pulled up beside her car at traffic lights and shot her dead. I’m not sure I could be as brave as she was, but she will always be a hero to me.
- Still alive and providing medical and educational services to children in Vietnam and Mongolia is Christina Noble. Her compassionate work with children probably arose from her own impoverished childhood in the slums of Dublin. After her mother died when Christina was 10, she spent years in orphanages and on the streets of Dublin. At one point she slept in a hole in the ground (she had dug herself) in a park. In the early 1970’s she began to dream about Vietnam and its children but was not able to do anything about it until the 1990’s when she set up a foundation in former Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and later expanded her operations to Mongolia. When she began her work she was a waitress raising three children on her own after leaving an abusive marriage. One of her programs is the Girls’ Sunshine Home in Vietnam that assists girls, like she was, who have had to live on the streets. Now in her 70’s, she still remains close to the “sunshine children” she has helped over the years. Her life has touched, and continues to touch, thousands of children — 700,000 and counting.
- Also still alive is Sonia O’Sullivan who during her track and field athletic career earned eight gold, six silver and two bronze medals including a silver medal in the 2000 Olympic Games at Sydney for the 5000m race. She still holds the world record for 2000m at 5:25:36, which has remained unbroken for more than 20 years, as well as a total of seven national records for various distances. She officially retired from competitions in 2007 and now works as a commentator for RTE Sport. Not being anywhere near athletic myself, I can admire her accomplishments as one of the greatest athletes Ireland has produced. She continues to be an inspiration in her home country and beyond.
- A class act until her last breath at age 95 was the beautiful Irish actress Maureen O’Hara (born Maureen Fitzsimons) who starred in such films as “How Green Was My Valley,” “The Quiet Man,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and one of my favorites, the original “Parent Trap.” She finally received an honorary Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards where she softly sang “Danny Boy” from her wheelchair at age 94. Who couldn’t love someone who would answer to children who recognized her from “Miracle on 34th Street” and asked her “Are you the lady who knows Santa Claus?” — “Yes I am. What would you like me to tell him?”