‘Best Irish Pub in the World’ competition entry: Finn McCool’s, New Orleans

‘A social life-jacket that kept many afloat after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina’

The Irish Times' Generation Emigration project is on the hunt for the best Irish pub in the world outside Ireland. The following is one of the nominations. To read more click here.

Finn McCool’s is so much more than a pub. It was both a neighbourhood anchor and a social life-jacket that kept many afloat despite the devastation and catastrophic flooding that destroyed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Many business owners would have walked away after seeing their livelihood submerged under eight feet of water. Owners Stephen and Pauline Patterson from Belfast however came back and rebuilt the bar by hand.

At a time when the whole area was an empty post-apocalyptic landscape of ruined homes and abandoned vehicles, they made a statement that they would rebuild, recover and renew their neighbourhood. The fact that Finn McCool’s opened on St Patrick’s Day 2006, just six months after the city had been decimated, gave others in the area the spur and confidence to return and rebuild their homes and lives as well.

Before the disaster Finn McCool’s was a wonderfully welcoming place, a drinking establishment where Celtic and Rangers fans could watch football side-by-side. It was a place where everyone was welcomed and encouraged to wear their team shirts and colours, no matter what side of the political or religious divide they inhabited.

After the hurricane that special bond became even more important as many of the bar regulars, and those who played on the pub’s football team, relied on each other to give both emotional support and practical help. Many of them had lost their homes, their jobs, or both, and those friendships forged at Finn McCool’s literally saved families from being on the street. Today it has built on those ideals of being welcoming and inclusive, and is a thriving, successful and fantastic bar. The owners and regulars went through something that those outside of New Orleans can not even imagine - and came out the other side stronger for it.

To read more nominations click here.

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