When we watched bombs bursting in air on the Fourth of July, did we remember the bloody struggle a band of rebels fought to free us from British rule? During our month-long observance of St. Patrick’s Day, was there any recognition of the religious and nationalistic roots of the holiday?
Well, thanks to Forest Park resident Vincent Casey and the organization Clan na Gael Chicago, we’ll have a chance to celebrate Irish culture and support the movement to peacefully and democratically unite Ireland. It’s a free event called Family Day and will take place this Saturday at the Grove, starting at 4 p.m.
As martyred hunger striker Bobby Sands said, “No one is too old or too young to do something” for the cause of a united Ireland. That’s why Family Day will have something for all ages. There will be Irish music and dancing, a pipe band, a pig roast and, of course, beer. The guest speaker, Cara McShane, a Sinn Fein representative, is flying here from Ireland. Casey said the purpose of the rally is to engage Irish Americans in the effort to reunite Northern Ireland with the south.
Casey grew up in Northern Ireland during “The Troubles.” His town, Coal Island, was a rebel stronghold in County Tyrone. British soldiers would stop him on his way to school and he could hear bombs in the distance. Many of his friends were killed in action, or imprisoned.
Eleven years ago, the U.S. was instrumental in bringing the warring parties to the table to hammer out a peace accord. Long before that, Clan na Gael was founded in this country, supporting the use of ballots instead of bullets to bring about the reunification of Ireland.
Now there is peace in Ireland. When Casey returned to his hometown, he saw the watchtowers had been taken down, the border checkpoints gone and the police station emptied. Peace was achieved through the IRA disarming, Sinn Fein winning assembly seats and compromises made by the ruling Protestants. Still, Ireland remains divided with one of its “four green fields” in English bondage.
A free, united country – that’s what Casey found when he moved to the U.S. in 1986. A carpenter by trade, Casey came to Forest Park because his Uncle Jerome lives here, with Uncle Brendan just across the street in River Forest. He married Angela and they have three children. During the last two decades, Casey has seen Forest Park “bloom into a great village.”
When he was looking for a venue for Family Day, Casey approached Mayor Anthony Calderone. The mayor was delighted to have an Irish-themed event at the Grove. So, if you want to help erase the divisions in Ireland, or just want to soak up some Irish entertainment, come to the Grove. If you’re lucky, Casey might be persuaded to play the pipes.