Paul O 'Dwyer

Paul O 'Dwyer
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Bohola, Co. Mayo

Humanitarian, Statesman, Civil Libertarian, Politician, Author, Councillor.

This interesting Mayo native forged a very successful career in the United States.  He spent over twenty – five years in a Political capacity in New York.

Peter Paul O ‘Dwyer was born in Lismirrane in Bohola, Co. Mayo during 1907.  [i] 

He was the youngest sibling of eleven, his brother Willian was seventeen years older.  His mother was Bridget (nee McNicholas), his father Patrick (originally from Cork) was the first Principle of Lismirrine National School while his mother had been an Assistant Teacher there.  [ii]  His Grandfather Pat was Proprietor of a shop named O ‘Dwyer’s. William was his oldest brother along with three other siblings they emigrated to the U. S.  Two of his sisters were Teachers in Mayo that supported his education at U C D.  [iii]  On the 1901 Census a Patrick O’ Dwyer is listed at Lismirrane.  [iv]

Emigration

Following a letter from his brother Frank in NYC to work by day, study by night: O’ Dwyer left Ireland aged eighteen years during 1925.  [v]  He lodged with Frank & Jack at Mrs. Mc Guire’s boarding house in New York City.  O’ Dwyer became an American Citizen during 1930.  [vi]

Further Studies

Six months later with several jobs undertaken that included one at the Shipping Department of Susquehanna Silk Mills, O ‘Dwyer enrolled as a pre – law night student at Fordham University.  The following September he enrolled at St. John’s University in Queen’s.  His brother William assisted him to obtain a position as Checker on the Waterfront.  While there he joined the All – Jewish King’s County Democratic Club (his Yiddish was fluent) plus the Longshoreman’s Organization.  As the Depression hit the States O’ Dwyer graduated from the Law School, he was admitted to the Bar during 1931.  [vii]

Law Career

He joined his brother Bill at the firm Holmes & Bernstein.  However, he soon decided that he could not shake off the “big brother” effect.  He borrowed three hundred dollars from his brother: then opened his own office at 51 Fifth Avenue!  During 1932 O’ Dwyer found himself in the middle of a Labour Union Movement (that had been revitalized by Roosevelt’s new Legislation.)  During that time his brother stated “He had a gift of discharging the pickets without antagonizing the police…..we never worked better.”!!  When William became a Magistrate Paul O ‘Dwyer returned to his original office where Oscar Bennet became his mentor.  His home also was a Salon for Actors, Labour Leaders, Thinkers, Activists plus Politicians.  He was accepted as a full – time Partner to the practise that came to be known as Holmes, Bernstein & O ‘Dwyer.  His readiness to represent politically different, diverse clients was shown in his work for the Iranian Government in their quest for the Shah’s money.  [viii]  O’ Dwyer was very successful in several cases ie. in the defence of the following known as the Harrisburgh Seven, Rev. Frs, Berrigan who also were siblings, Srs. Joques Egan, Elizabeth Mc Alister, Egbal Ahmad.  [ix]  He litigated a Landmark 1951 fight against the powerful Metropolitan Life Insurance Company that opened the way for Blacks to live in Stuyvesant Town, a huge Manhattan housing complex.  He succeeded in his defence of Kentucky miners accused of blowing up a bridge during a labour dispute, he won the acquittal of a Black teenager accused of homicide during a New York City mid 1960’s riot, he also defended an unpopular Chief during a City garbage collection strike.  O’ Dwyer sued City Hall to force extra budget for public transport, he was also successful against the Supreme Court for the right of Mainland Puerto Ricans to take their Voter Literacy tests in the Spanish language.  During 1958 he joined with Eleanor Roosevelt & Herbert H. Lehman (the former Governor) to establish the Committee for Democratic Voters, the State Party Reform Movement. [x]

Politics

O ‘Dwyer spent over fifty years working on the struggle for Irish Freedom from England.  He supported Irish Republican interests.  He provided grants to Sean Mc Brides Irish Amnesty International, the Yeats Summer School, Co. Sligo, Trinity College Library, Dublin, Kilkenny Design Workshop, Ciste Colmcille, Merriman Summer School, Co. Clare plus the restoration of Ballintubber Abbey in Co, Mayo.  He was an enduring Politician who impressed generations as an eloquent battler in the name of conscience: he also stood, in the anti – war movement as “a Patriarchal example in the eyes of young people intent on trusting no one over the age of thirty.”  [xi]  A true American with an open spirit, O ‘Dwyer was the leader of the Irish American subculture that had developed in New York.  In his autobiography, ‘Council for the Defence’ he provided a glimpse of the political social ideas that shaped his highly intelligent well thought out views on Ireland.  He became Chief Liaison between the City Council with the individual diplomatic community.  [xii]  O ‘Dwyer’s life – long commitment to his native Ireland was highlighted by two significant accomplishments, namely his service as the National Coordinator for the American League for an undivided Ireland plus his endowment of a home for the handicapped on his family homesite in Mayo. [xiii]  His influence protected several Irish Republican Army gunmen from deportation including ‘The Fort Worth Five’ also Vincent Conlon.  [xiv]

O ‘Dwyer was a vehement opponent of American involvement during WW11. During the 1940’s he fought for the Labour Movement plus embattled immigrants, against Mc McCarthyism against racial segregation in the 1950’s while during 1960’s his mission was to oppose the Vietnam War. [xv]

He travelled to Russia to denounce the treatment of Soviet Jews plus to Spain to appeal the treatment of its people during Franco’s Regime. [xvi]  O ‘Dwyer was elected President of the National Lawyers Guild in 1947, he served on the National Board from 1948 to 1951.  He was personally close to a generation of Black Politicians: he managed the campaigns of several.  [xvii]  Aged sixty – six years he was elected to the City Council, he served Manhattan from 1963 to 1966. [xviii]  As New York City Council President for three years he was successful in the alteration of the City’s official founding date from 1664, when the British landed, to 1625 when the Dutch Settlers arrived. [xix]  He was a life – long Democrat: during 1968 he delivered a most powerful speech at a Democratic Convention. [xx]  O ‘Dwyer accepted the role of the City’s Commissioner for the United Nations during the Dinkins Administration he soon boycotted the U.N. cafeteria for its anti – unionism then later resigned due to his personal position on human rights. [xxi]

Personal Life

He married Kathleen Rohan of Connamara, Co. Galway: they had four children: William, Eileen, Brian also Rory.  They lived on a farm sixty minutes from New York: he stated that it was “very like Mayo in the vegetation and topography and shared with Connamara ponies.”  His wife’s demise occurred during 1981. [xxii]  O ‘Dwyer’s second marriage was to Patricia Hanrahan (the Upstate Chief of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo’s Women’s division) during 1984. [xxiii]

Mayo Cheshire Home

Paul O ‘Dwyer had his family home demolished following his sister Mary’s demise.  He replaced it during the 1970’s with the Cheshire Home for thirty patients plus sixteen staff members.  At the sod – cutting Ceremony he stated that “I am happy that I can do something for people who have not been fortunate in life.” [xxiv]

Interests

Paul O ‘Dwyer enrolled as a member of The Mayo Men’s Association of New York.  He travelled overseas to Buenos Aires, Rio, Santos also Montevideo. [xxv]  He was honoured by the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota with an Honorary Doctorate for his Humanitarian work. [xxvi]  The O ‘Dwyer Forestry Foundation was established as a Charitable organization in Ireland.  His Foundation planted six hundred – fifty acres of trees throughout the five counties of Connaught.  At his direction the Foundation became a 32 – County entity. [xxvii]

Ill – Health

Following a Stroke O ‘Dwyer continued on with his professional interests although confined to a wheelchair; one aspect was his support for the Good Friday Agreement in Ireland.  He celebrated his ninetieth birthday at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City during May 1997.  O ‘Dwyer was honoured by Mayor Rudolph Giuiliani for “making a better life for tens and thousands of other people” also that he was “an exceptional example of a great New Yorker.”  [xxviii]  His Autography ‘Council for the Defence,’ 1979 Simon & Schuster, New York; describes his long career in support of progressive causes.  Copies are housed within the National Library of Ireland both in Dublin, Galway, England & Germany.  [xxix]

Paul O ‘Dwyer’s demise occurred during his ninetieth year at his residence in Goshen, New York on 24th June 1998.  He was interred at the Old Cemetery at Bohola, Co. Mayo. [xxx]

O’ Dwyer Quotes

O ‘Dwyer once recalled that in his youth children were expected to work without pay; “I don’t remember really liking full work; I don’t remember resenting it either.”  In his Autobiography, ‘Council for the Defence’ he wrote that “here and there in Bohola you could see the ruins of abandoned dwellings – mute evidence that hunger, the battering ram, the landlord’s dreaded demolition machine, had overcome these occupants during famine and eviction.”  “You could say we blazed the way for the Ireland fund.”   [xxxi]  He also stated that; “The one issue is fair play over the period of a lifetime.”  “If I’ve had any success at all, its been a large measure from listening to young people.”  “The ideals should always come first.” [xxxii]  Another quote was “Politics is the only machinery on which you can really straighten things out.”  [xxxiii]

Tributes

Many tributes were attributed to Paul O’ Dwyer following hid demise including these; “He appreciated the individuality of people also passionately believed in the rights of others.”   Ireland’s former President, Mrs. Mary Mc Aleece paid tribute in a speech at the Irish Voice ‘Dreamer of Dreams’ event.  Sean Cronin stated that “O ‘Dwyer was an advocate for countless causes but essentially, he was Ireland’s Advocate in the U. S.”  [xxxiv]  An Irish Echo Editorial recalled O ‘Dwyer as a “man of Principle who wished to be right not popular”’  [xxxv]  Also “To his deathbed, Paul O ‘Dwyer, a white – maned, fiercely browned advocate, embraced a raft of minority causes, identifying with indigents and immigrants, progressives and underdogs well beyond America – from the guerrilla fighters for a Jewish home state to the diehard rebels of his beloved Ireland.” [xxxvi]  Jim Callaghan in the Irish Echo stated that for Paul O ‘Dwyer “Principle, not the lust for Power drove his agenda.  He was to be sure a man in politics, not of politics.” “He built his Law and his Political career pushing issues that mattered to his natural Constituency of working – class, powerless, also oppressed peoples worldwide.”  [xxxvii]

The Paul O ‘Dwyer Memorial Award is awarded annually to worthy recipients with President Bill Clinton as the original recipient; during 2018 Eileen Flannell Markel (Vice – President of the Central Royalty Container Collection Fund of the Longshoremen’s Association & Maritime Alliance won the award.  [xxxviii]  The Paul O ‘Dwyer Peace & Justice Award was established following his demise.  [xxxix]

The Irish American Heritage Museum at 37o Broadway, Albany, New York City has a Library dedicated to Paul O ‘Dwyer that houses his books plus many letters as well as hundreds of volumes relating to Irish history, culture customs that have also been donated by several individuals.  It has been designated by the National Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians as a repository of their history.  Documents at the Library include microfilms and printed copies dated from the early 1920’s.  [xl]

Bibliography

[i] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal, Jubilee Edition 1954 [assessed 13th April 2019]

[ii] An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 27th June 2019]

[iii] New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal, Jubilee Edition 1954 [assessed 13th April 2019]

[iv] McNicholas Glan Gathering (https://familyscroll.wordpress.com/) [accessed 27th June 2019]

[v] Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 27th June 2019]

[vi] An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 27th June 2019]

[vii]  An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 27th June 2019]

[viii]  An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 27th June 2019]

[ix]  An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 27th June 2019]

[x]  Paul O  ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 27th June 2019]

[xi]  Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 27th June 2019]

[xii]     Paul O ‘Dwyer (https://www.irishtimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xiii]  Paul O ‘Dwyer Library  (https://irish-us.org/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xiv]  Paul O ‘Dwyer Genealogy (https://www.geni.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xv]  Paul O ‘Dwyer Library  (https://irish-us.org/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xvi]  Our Campaigns Candidate (https://www.ourcampaigns.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xvii]  Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs (https://www.nytimes.com/l) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xviii] Paul O ‘Dwyer – The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xix]  Paul O ‘Dwyer Library  (https://irish-us.org/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xx]  An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxi]  Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs  (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxii] An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxiii]  Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxiv] Paul O ‘Dwyer – The Irish Times (https://www.irishtimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxv]  New York Mayo Men’s Association Journal, Jubilee Edition 1954 [assessed 13th April 2019]

[xxvi]  An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxvii]  Paul O ‘Dwyer – The Irish Times (https://www.irishtimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxviii] Our Campaigns Candidate (https://www.ourcampaigns.com/ ) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxix]  Council for the defence – the autobiography of Paul O ‘Dwyer (https://www.worldcat.org/ ) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxx]  Paul O ‘Dwyer (https://www.irishtimes.com/ ) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxi]  An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxii]  Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs  (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxiii]  Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs  (https://www.nytimes.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxiv]  An Advocate for Ireland who helped shape the peace (www.irishtimes.com/)  Sean Cronin, June 25th, 1998 [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxv]  Editorial A Man of Principle / Archive (https://www.irishecho.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxvi]  Paul O ‘Dwyer: New York’s Liberal Battler for Underdogs  (https://www.nytimes.com/ ) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxvii]  For O ‘Dwyer, Principle always outweighed the political cost (https://www.irishecho.com/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxviii]  Paul O ‘Dwyer Memorial Award (https://thetablet.org/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xxxix]  Our Campaigns Candidate (https://www.ourcampaigns.com/ ) [accessed 28th June 2019]

[xl]  Paul O ‘Dwyer Library  (https://irish-us.org/) [accessed 28th June 2019]

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