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Elderly Irish-Americans to be catalogued in new 'census'

‘The Gallagher Initiative’, named after an elderly man who was dead for a week before being discovered, begins next week.

Ellis Island in New York, where many Irish immigrants would have first arrived in America.
Ellis Island in New York, where many Irish immigrants would have first arrived in America.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

A NEW CENSUS of elderly Irish people living in New York will begin next week, named after a retired mayo man who lay dead in his home in Queens for a week before he was discovered.

The survey, named ‘The Gallagher Initiative’ after Tony Gallagher, will survey 400 older Irish people in the New York borough of Queens on their living conditions and the story of their emigration from Ireland.

When the initiative was launched, according to the Irish Times, many of the senior citizens who would be surveyed were too frail to carry their own plates from the lunch buffet to their tables – underlining the urgency of the initiative.

Dr Elaine Walsh, a lecturer in social policy and planning at Hunter College who is leading the study, remarked that many of the people she hopes to survey said they themselves were fine, but that they knew of other people who lived alone and needed help – concluding that many were thinking of the welfare of others before themselves.

Census staff are trying to approach elderly Irishmen and women who may be otherwise isolated from the community through churches, pubs, shops and restaurants.

Among the questions interviewees will face will be how they feel about having left Ireland, whether they would like to have stayed or want to return, how often they visit their homeland, whether they send money home, and how regularly they are visited by family.

“If they’re not seen for a couple of days, someone should ask, ‘where are they?’,” Walsh told the Times.

$200,000 in federal government funding has been secured for the census, through the assistance of New York senator Charles Schumer. Municipal funding of $25,000 was also secured by Christine Quinn, the Irish-American speaker of the New York city assembly.

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Gavan Reilly

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