In the News

Mayor Sarno and Congressman Neal Welcome Toireasa Ferris, Kerry County Councilor for Tralee, Ireland

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and William Tranghese, Chief of Staff to Congressman Richard E. Neal, along with Springfield Parks, Buildings and Recreation Executive Director Patrick Sullivan, and Caroline Murray, Associate Professor of Legal Studies at Elms College, welcomed Toireasa Ferris at the 1916 Garden of Remembrance in Forest Park. Her visit to the garden was to pay respect to the centenary death of Thomas Ashe and the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Toireasa’s father, Martin Ferris, Sinn Fein TD for Kerry, joined a reception at the Barney Carriage House via Skype.

Mr. Ferris is part of the Kerry Republicans who have written a story, “Ireland’s Hunger for Justice.” The book tells the story of 22 Irish Republicans who died on the Hunger Strike for the cause of Irish Freedom.  Toireasa will be traveling throughout Western Mass visiting the area Irish clubs. Her visit to Springfield marks the first for an elected official from Ireland to view the garden.

Mayor Sarno stated, “The City of Springfield is honored welcome Toireasa Ferris in person and her father via Skype.  Springfield has strong ties to Ireland, and we are proud to have accepted the invitation of the Irish Government to construct the first and only Garden of Remembrance in the United States. On this 100th anniversary of the death of Thomas Ashe, it is an appropriate time for reflection on the sacrifices made by our ancestors.  I believe that all nationalities can relate to the tenets of the proclamation set forth in 1916, and the Springfield community shares with Ireland the objective of achieving the goals set forth in the original proclamation.

“Everyone that has settled here came to seek a better life and to raise their family with dignity,” Mayor Sarno continued.  “This garden serves as a constant reminder for tolerance, honoring our beliefs, and ensuring that we respect one another as individuals."

“I have been good friends with the Ferris family for years and am delighted that Toireasa is returning to Springfield for St. Patrick’s Day and that her father Martin will be joining us through Skype. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, the international peace accord that brought peace to the island of Ireland. Martin Ferris played an instrumental role in the negotiation of that historic political settlement. I would like to congratulate him on his extraordinary career in politics and wish him well in his retirement. The people of Kerry could not have had a more dedicated public servant. I also welcome Toireasa back to western Massachusetts and wish her the best as she campaign’s for her father’s seat in the next general election,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

Patrick Sullivan said, “I would like to thank Toireasa for her commitment to visit Springfield. Springfield is a sister city to Tralee and we look forward to discussing potential opportunities for both communities. The visit of Councilor Toireasa Ferris will initiate a stronger dialogue of how we can facilitate both economic and cultural interests that can benefit both Springfield and Tralee.” Sullivan continued, “We congratulate Martin Ferris, TD Kerry, for his continued work in promoting peace in Ireland and for ensuring the story of Ireland’s oppression is shared with the world.”

Caroline Murray stated, “I’m thrilled Martin Ferris and Toieasa Ferris  can join us as we honor the 100th anniversary of hunger striker Thomas Ashe and the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. My family has strong ties to Ireland as my great-aunt Bridie Halpin was a member of Cumman Na Mban during the 1916 uprising. We are proud of Martin and Toireasa for their continued good work as they continue to promote peace.”

Background: Martin Ferris

Martin Ferris has been a Sinn Féin TD since 2002, having previously been a member of Kerry County Council and Tralee Town Council. He is married to Maire and they have 6 children and 13 grandchildren.

Martin was a member of Sinn Féin’s negotiating team in the lead up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and has traveled the world to promote the Peace Process and a United Ireland. He is Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Agriculture and Fisheries and is a member of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Martin has been a passionate defender of farming and rural communities, coming from farming and fishing background himself. He was the first politician to shine a spotlight on the growing drugs problem in Kerry during the 1990’s.

Martin is a former member of the IRA. He spent 47 days on Hunger Strike in 1977.

He is a passionate GAA man and won an U-21 All-Ireland Medal in 1973 with Kerry. He has also been involved with Churchill, Ardfert, and St. Brendan’s football.

Background: Toireasa Ferris

Toireasa Ferris, mother to Liadain (9) and Seadhna (5) lives with her family in Ardfert. Both she and her husband Pa Kelly have been active in their local Sinn fein cumann since their teens and Toireasa has been a Sinn Féin member of Kerry County Council since being co-opted in 2003. She was elected in 2004, and won re-election in 2009 and again in 2014 when she topped the poll in the Tralee Area.

She is a full time public representative and also works part time as a law teacher at Kerry College of Further Education.

A Gaeilgoir, Toiréasa is the third of the six children of Marie and Martin Ferris TD.

She is the former Mayor of Kerry (2005/2006) and since her election has sat, as an unpaid member, on many boards and committees including: NEWKD, Kerry Education and Training Board, the South West Regional Authority, HSE South Forum, Fenit Harbour Board, Fenit Fisherman's Memorial Committee, Kerry County Enterprise Board and Ardfert Development Association. Toiréasa is also a member of the Special Policy Committee of Kerry Local Authorities that deals with Housing, a position she has held for 14 years.

Toiréasa is an extremely hardworking Councillor with a reputation for standing up for what she believes in and especially those she represents. She has been a prominent campaigner on many issues such as job creation, Improving health services in the county, easing the burden of bank debt on ordinary and maintaining and improving services for our elderly and disabled.

More photos from the visit are available on the City of Springfield's Facebook page:

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