A MAJOR census of elderly Irish people living in New York is underway following the death of an elderly, isolated Irishman, whose remains lay undiscovered for a week in the borough of Queens. The circumstances of the man's death shocked the city's Irish community.
The Gallagher initiative, which began in October and is expected to be completed by April, is reaching out to 400 elderly Irish people in Queens and carrying out extensive interviews with the emigrants.
The census is named after Tony Gallagher, a retired carpenter from Mayo who died at his home in Queens in December 2008 and was not found for a week. The body of the 72-year-old, who emigrated to the US in 1970, was discovered by firefighters when the building's superintendent contacted them.
The lonely nature of his death stunned New York's Irish community and the Gallagher Initiative will now attempt to ensure other Irish emigrants do not die in similar isolation.
While the 400 interviews are being conducted among first-, second- and third-generation Irish people over 55 living in Queens, there are plans to extend it to all five boroughs. The purpose of the initiative is to identify the needs of the elderly Irish community in New York, including their access to services, social networks, financial and health issues as well as their habits and feelings about having left Ireland.
"This is the first time there has been an ethnic study of white people in the US," said Dr Elaine Walsh, the gerontologist from Hunter College who is leading the study. "We are trying to identify the isolated older Irish people in Queens through interviews with the older Irish community. We have carried out about 70 interviews so far."
Walsh said one issue that was frequently raised in the interviews was concerns among the emigrants about the financial problems of their loved ones in Ireland as a result of the economic downturn. Some of those interviewed, who are still working, are sending money home to Ireland.
Another point raised by many of the interviewees is that their younger Irish relations are emigrating to Australia and Canada rather than following them to the US because of the problem associated with being undocumented in America.
"We hope that after we have completed our interviews, we will have a sense of what the issues are for older Irish people in Queens and then address these problems. But also, we want social networks, that aren't intrusive, to be created," added Walsh.
The New York senator Charles Schumer obtained $200,000 (€154,000) in federal funding for the Gallagher Initiative, and Christine Quinn, the Irish-American speaker of the New York city assembly, contributed another $25,000 (€19,360). Walsh plans to hold a conference on her findings in October.
She and her staff have approached Irish churches, pubs, shops, restaurants, building superintendents and neighbours in their search for elderly Irish men and women who may be cut off from the community.
Dr Elaine Walsh asks readers who know elderly Irish people in Queens to contact her on 001-917 575 7158 or at email@example.com
Comments are moderated by our editors, so there may be a delay between submission and publication of your comment. Offensive or abusive comments will not be published. Please note that your IP address (18.104.22.168) will be logged to prevent abuse of this feature. In submitting a comment to the site, you agree to be bound by our Terms and Conditions
Subscribe to The Sunday Tribune’s RSS feeds. Learn more.
Get off to a profitable sports betting start today at sportsbetting.co.uk