Portland Irish center gets $10K preservation grant

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PORTLAND — Things are looking up at the Maine Irish Heritage Center at 34 Gray St.

“There is a lot of good news and we are looking to share it,” Vinny O’Malley, a center advisory council member, said Monday in advance of a Wednesday news conference with Mayor Michael Brennan and Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. to announce a big visit and a big grant.

The big visit will come Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., from Consul General of Ireland Brendan O’Caollai and Vice Consul Jillian O’Keeffe.

O’Caollai will discuss his duties and services in Boston, including how his office processes applications for citizenship and passports. O’Caollai and Brennan are also scheduled to meet earlier in the day.

Shettleworth will announce the award of a $10,000 grant from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission for maintenance and renovations at the center, located in the former St. Dominic’s Church, which was closed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in 1997.

The church was then bought by the city and given to the Irish American Club and Friends of St. Dominic’s. The center opened in 2003. O’Malley said recent improvements include new heating for the upstairs sanctuary and installation of a ramp and lift providing access to all visitors to a library and genealogy center.

O’Malley noted the center has expanded its collection of DNA samples to help in genealogical studies and its Maine Gaeltacht project, which connects family members in Maine and around the world. The project has been called “groundbreaking” by the Irish Echo newspaper.

Center Chairwoman Mary McAleney shared O’Malley’s optimism in an Oct. 13 press release.

“With some Irish luck at our backs, we are looking ahead to a year of further growth, exciting new programming, and a much-needed restoration of the beautiful church built by our ancestors and left in our care,” she said.

For more information on Center events, visit maineirish.com.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.