By Ray O’Hanlon
Buffalo might not be the first U.S. city to come to mind in the context of Irish immigration to America.
But it should come to mind.
The second largest city in New York State has a rich Irish history, a slice of it laid bare in the recently published book “Against the Grain: The History of Buffalo’s First Ward,” by Tim Bohen.
The links between Buffalo in particular, and Western New York in general, and the island of Ireland, are many and varied.
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But it’s the specific tie between Buffalo and County Mayo that that have lately come into focus with the announcement, by New York State Assemblyman Michael Kearns, that links have been established between Irish Network Buffalo, and Mayo County Council Enterprise and Investment Unit.
Suffice it to say, the flow of good will between the western reaches of the American state and Irish county is going to be a strong one – literally.
Assemblyman Kearns, whose roots trace back to Westport in Mayo, is a member of the New York State Assembly and represents the 142nd Assembly District, which spans South Buffalo, half of the city of Lackawanna, West Seneca and Orchard Park, all within the state of New York.
“With our region experiencing significant investment, and our young entrepreneurs evolving and being creative, the time could not be better to establish solid links with an international partner such as Mayo County Council,” Kearns said in a statement announcing the new relationship.
“To acknowledge this connection through Irish Network Buffalo, it is with great pleasure that I announce Niagara Falls will turn the green and red of Mayo in celebration of the first ever International Mayo Day on May 2.
“What better way to celebrate than by turning one of the natural wonders of the world, Niagara Falls, to the county colors of our new international partner.”
Kiltimagh native, and chairperson of Irish Network Buffalo, Padraic Walsh, warmly welcomed the new link.
“What fantastic news that Niagara Falls will be illuminated in the green and red of County Mayo so to help us celebrate our connections with Mayo County Council,” Walsh said.
And he continued: “There are 9.3 million people around the world with County Mayo roots, with many of them arriving into Western New York, and Southern Ontario. For Niagara Falls to recognize the contributions of these men and women by lighting up in green and red for Mayo Day is a credit to the Irish Diaspora from around the world.
“Where would Mayo, and Irish people be without the tireless work of Assemblyman Michael Kearns? He embraced this project from the very beginning. For our own economy to remain strong, and to grow, we need to be reaching out across the Atlantic to our friends in Ireland.
“With links established between Mayo County Council, and Irish Network Buffalo, it is a leap in the right direction, and we look forward to many years of international collaboration between Western New York and Co. Mayo.”
Irish Network Buffalo is the local chapter of the umbrella group Irish Network USA.
IN USA is the work of volunteers and helps members of the networks in a number of cities connect with their peers and to develop relationships that will foster success in business, economic, cultural and sports ventures.
Assemblyman Kearns said that the City of Buffalo, and the greater Western New York region, was excited for the future as a result of the new connection with County Mayo.
Padraic Walsh said that Irish Network Buffalo was looking forward to hosting many Mayo events in the future, while helping to promote Mayo business and tourism.
“Our group is also looking forward to welcoming County Mayo dignitaries, businesses, colleagues, friends and, hopefully, an Taoiseach Enda Kenny to our region in the future,” he said.