Normile jpg

Historical Society President General is dismissed from post

James S. Normile


By Ray O’Hanlon

The President General of the American Irish Historical Society was dismissed Friday morning from his position atop the prestigious organization.

James S. Normile, an attorney, had been President General for the last two-and-a-half years.

The announcement of the dismissal came in a statement from Mr. Normile’s law office.

The statement pointed to financial issues at the society and Mr. Normile’s call for an investigation.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

The statement said that Mr. Normile had “upset the status quo” by asking “too many questions.”

It also pointed to a series of recent resignations by several members of the board.

Normile, whose Irish roots are in County Limerick, is an attorney who specializes in public finance.

The statement from his firm said that Mr. Normile was “deeply disappointed by the failure of the board to express even mild curiosity about the Society’s finances. Many of the members of the board have not attended meetings for many years.”

“It is a sad day for the Society and for the memory of those great men who formed it. I know they would be disappointed by the board’s actions,” Mr. Normile himself said in the statement.

Mr. Normile is a partner in the Madison Avenue firm of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.

His profile states: “James Normile concentrates his practice in the area of public finance. With more than 30 years of experience, Jim has served as bond counsel, underwriter's counsel, bank counsel and borrower's counsel for a variety of both single-family and multi-family projects, not-for-profit hospitals, nursing homes, continuing care retirement communities, universities, colleges and cultural institutions, as well as municipalities, state agencies, industrial development agencies, and other units of state and local government. Many of these financings have been credit enhanced by bank credits, FHA mortgage insurance or private bond insurance.

“Jim has served as a trustee of the Citizens Budget Commission for the past 10 years and is co-chair of their Recruitment and Retention Committee. He serves as president-general of the American Irish Historical Society and has recently joined the board of the University of Limerick Foundation, Limerick, Ireland.”

The AIHS headquarters is at 991 Fifth Avenue, across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

According to its Wikipedia posting, with around 10,000 volumes, the society "maintains the most complete private collection of Irish-American and Irish literature and history in the United States. The society publishes a journal entitled The Recorder and hosts cultural and historical events.”

The AIHS “is a historical society devoted to Irish American history, founded in Boston in the late 19th century. In continuous operation since 1897, “the society has been non-partisan and non-sectarian since its inception. The society was founded as a response to the establishment of the Scotch-Irish Society which was founded in 1889.”

The society moved from Boston to New York in 1904.

Added the Wikipedia entry: “During the holiday seasons of 2016 and 2017, AIHS was home to the Irish Repertory Theatre's production of The Dead, 1904. The show was an adaptation of James Joyce's The Dead, adapted by novelist Jean Hanff Korelitz and her husband, Irish poet, Paul Muldoon. “For The Dead, 1904, the building had 57 guests at a time, who for part of the performance joined the cast for a holiday feast drawn from the original novella.”

The American Irish Historical Society annually awards the AIHS Gold Medal to an Irish-American or Irish national of significant accomplishment. Past honorees have included Bono, George J. Mitchell, Mary Higgins Clark, Wilbur Ross, Michael J. Dowling, and Robert McCann.

It is understood that Mr. Dowling was one of the board members who recently resigned.

For years, the AIHS building was a desired viewing spot for the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade but the shortening of the parade route by the Bloomberg administration left its ending point a couple of blocks shy of the AIHS front balcony.

But while the society lost out on its parade prime spot, it has been widely viewed as having undergone something of a renaissance in recent years.

A request for a statement/comment from the AIHS on today’s dismissal of the President General had not received a response by the time this story was posted.