Death sparks call to help emigrants

 

MORE NEEDS to be done to help older Irish immigrants in the US if the fate which befell a 72-year-old man originally from Belmullet, Co Mayo, is to be avoided, it was claimed yesterday.

Anthony Gallagher died alone in his New York apartment earlier this month and his body lay undiscovered for more than a week.

Mr Gallagher, who had spent years working on the pipelines in Alaska before moving to work as a carpenter in New York, was only found after a caretaker called the emergency services. His elderly wife, Josephine, who suffers from Alzheimer's, has had to be cared for in a nursing home for the past few years. They had no children.

Ciaran Staunton, who is on the board of the Irish Centre in Queens, said: "None of our elderly immigrants should be ignored like this . . . Tony's death has been a wake-up call for our community. We should remember that charity begins at home," he said. "We've been sending money back to Ireland for years to help people at home and forgetting that Irish people here also need help.

"If we had kept back just 10 per cent of the money going to Ireland over the past 10 years, we could have funded our own outreach groups to maintain contact with our vulnerable Irish elderly here in the US," he added.

Fr Colm Campbell, of the New York Irish Centre in Long Island, said he was very upset about Mr Gallagher's death. "There is a big gap between the people who came here in the 1950s and 1960s and in the 1980s. The older people are on their own, their families are gone, some are widowed and . . . living in buildings where they are the only English speakers left, and they can't afford to move because of rent control," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said the State does provide funding towards day centres for Irish immigrants in New York but Mr Martin would look at funding an outreach worker to visit older immigrants in their homes in the city.