Massachusetts State Senate President, Senator Therese Murray, was presented with the Tip O’Neill Irish Diaspora Award on Friday night in Buncrana.
The ceremony in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel was attended by President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, guests from Ireland and friends and associates of President Murray as well as members of the O’Neill family from the United States.
President Higgins said he was “delighted” to be in attendance to present the award in Tip O’Neill’s “ancestral home of Donegal.”
He told how the event celebrated the “many members of our global Irish families who make us proud and represent us so well in countries around the world.”
He said: “As a nation we are very conscious of the great debt of gratitude we owe to the many members of our Diaspora who remain loyal to the country in which they or their forefathers were born; generously supporting and encouraging those who remained at home and helping to shape and craft the modern Ireland we know today.”
President Higgins commended the work of the many organisations in the US who “network and advocate on behalf of Ireland “as we play our part on the global stage.”
He also spoke of the late Tip O’Neill himself, who he described as a “member of our far flung family.”
He said: “At the time of Tip’s death in 1994, Bill Clinton movingly summed up the life and persona of that great man in the following words: “He loved politics and government because he saw politics and government could make a difference in people’s lives. And he loved people most of all.”
President Higgins told how Tip O’Neill was one of the “most important US advocates for peace in Northern Ireland” and said the award, established in his memory, was a “fitting tribute.”
He said it was an “honour” to present the award to Senator Murray, who was also celebrating her birthday.
He told those in attendance how her record of legislative achievement was “remarkable,” citing how her interests include children’s rights, mental health, affordable housing and education.
She has also delivered reforms in areas “as diverse” as criminal justice, small business, public sector hiring and pensions.
He added; “That your greatest achievements are in the area of healthcare reform is a testament to your capacity for leadership - and more than anything a testament to your courage!”
President Higgins praised Senator Murray for being a “true friend of Ireland” and for developing economic ties, particularly in Donegal and Derry.
He said: “The North-West has faced, and continues to face, challenges unique to its geography and the complexities the political border places on economic development of this region.
“Therese works in the most positive way to help communities on both sides of the border to overcome those challenges.”
Senator Murray said she was “humbled and honoured” to receive the award.
She added that “having the opportunity to further strengthen and create economic and academic links between Massachusetts and in the Northwest of Ireland not only solidifies our historic ties, but also allows us to build a new bridge of cutting edge technology and innovation.”
She added: “It is these new connections that will help spur discovery and development, provide inspiration and opportunity, and move Massachusetts and the Island of Ireland forward in this global economy.
“Where there is opportunity ,there is hope and where there is hope, there is peace. Working together, we will achieve great things.”