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Stories From Main Street: Queens, NY

Ellis Island is seen from Liberty State Park - Jersey City, NJ - Oct 11, 2009 - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

Ellis Island is seen from Liberty State Park – Jersey City, NJ – Oct 11, 2009 – Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) - Two years ago, 72-year-old Tony Gallagher, an Irish immigrant from County Mayo died in his apartment in Queens.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports

More than a week passed before authorities discovered the body.

The community cried out how, ‘How! How could this have happened?’

This sad end has given rise to the Gallagher Initiative.

“The Gallagher Initiative is a study of the Irish elderly in the borough of Queens, to look at  how the Irish are coping,” says Hunter College professor Elaine Walsh.

Walsh says the dislocation of leaving one’s homeland sometimes severs ties and isolates people.

“Particularly, the very old, who came alone, have lost contact with family or their family is  no longer alive in Ireland,” she says. “We’ve had, also, many calls from Ireland asking us about relatives here that they’ve lost contact with and could we find them.”

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Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

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Researchers are looking for 400 elderly Irish in Queens.

Walsh says, “We are looking at their social networks, health conditions, financial situations, what their needs are, how they’re coping.”

They’re in the pubs and senior centers, but it is difficult finding subjects.

“[That is] because one of the things we know about the Irish is that they’re very private. They’re very stubborn. They don’t like to ask for help,” says Walsh. “Many of them who worked here are not on Social Security, did not have pensions.”

Professor Walsh hopes the findings lead to support networks in the Irish community, plus, “I would hope that this is definitely a template for studies of ethnic groups.”

For more information about the Gallagher Initiative, call 917-575-7158 or e-mail gallagher.initiative@gmail.com