One of America’s best known political commentators Chris Matthews has said he was honoured to be awarded the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award in Inishowen this weekend.
Mr Matthews and his wife Kathleen were joined by a host of dignitaries from both sides of the Atlantic on Friday night for the official conferring of the award at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel in Buncrana.
Among those in attendance was John Hume and his wife Pat and Joe McHugh, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, as well as a host of local politicians.
Representatives of Tip O’Neill’s family were also in Buncrana for the event.
Tip O’Neill, whose maternal grandparents hail from Buncrana and Clonmany, was an American politician and Statesman who served as a Speaker of the US House of Representatives from 1977 until 1987.
The Diaspora Award is presented annually to a chosen member of the Irish Diaspora in recognition of their achievements in their chosen field, and for the interest in, and support for Ireland and its Diaspora.
Chris Matthews, who worked with Tip O’Neill for six years, took time out from his busy TV schedule ahead of the US Presidential elections to become the receive the award.
His own maternal grandfather was Charles Patrick Shields, whose grandparents both emigrated to Philadelphia from Donegal in the mid 1860s.
Speaking about what the accolade means for him, he said: “It’s great. I’ve always been proud and happy to let the O’Neill family share me with Tip O’Neill and let the O’Neill family share Tip O’Neill with me. To get honoured for it is a great thing.”
Mr Matthews said Top O’Neill was a “tough” man, who stayed in touch with people on a grass roots level throughout his career.
“He had real compassion. He had a big heart for people in trouble. He was a true liberal. I think it was from years for looking out for people. He loved the fact he could get people jobs,” he said.