Luck of the Irish: Joseph Cleary, executive director of the Irish Society, presents an engraved Waterford crystal vase to Irishman of the Year John McNesby, president of FOP Lodge 5. PHOTO: TOM KEENAN / IRISH SOCIETY
Philadelphia’s Irish Society recognized Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby as its Irishman of the Year during the Society’s annual awards dinner on Oct. 13 at the FOP’s Heroes Ballroom.
Alex Maskey, a former Lord Mayor of Belfast who now serves as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly representing the Sinn Fein party, was the keynote speaker for the dinner. He thanked the city’s Irish-American community for their longtime support of the peace process in Ireland and encouraged them to continue monitoring political developments on the island.
“We have made huge advances in our peace process back home, particularly since the 1990s,” Maskey said. “A lot of that has been possible particularly because of the support of people in the U.S. Despite the fact that we’ve made progress, there’s still a long way to go to end the conflict for ever.”
Maskey said that the recent Brexit vote in the United Kingdom is of pressing concern among Irish people. Northern Ireland is subject to the UK withdrawal from the European Union. The Republic of Ireland is not.
“For us, that will create serious potential difficulties because that would reintroduce barriers and borders across the island of Ireland. And of course the peace process was predicated on removing all those borders and barriers,” Maskey said. “We need to make sure that whatever happens with regard to the UK leaving the EU, we cannot have new borders introduced into Ireland again.”
Irish Society Executive Director Joseph Cleary presented McNesby with a custom engraved Waterford crystal vase. The Irishman of the Year Award recognizes a business leader, labor leader, political figure or humanitarian of Irish heritage who has continually strived to serve others and help people in need.
State Reps. Kevin Boyle, Mike Driscoll, Ed Neilson and Martina White presented McNesby with a Pennsylvania House citation recognizing his nine years of service as leader of Lodge 5, which represents Philadelphia’s 14,000 active and retired police officers. ••