Former governor Blanchard named to Muskegon-based Michigan Irish American Hall of Fame

The Michigan Irish American Hall of Fame has announced its 2016 class of inductees.

The Hall recognizes Irish Americans who have made important contributions in various fields of life in Michigan.

The honorees will be inducted in a ceremony at noon on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Michigan Irish Music Festival in Muskegon.

Former Gov. James J. Blanchard will be honored in the category of Public Service. Blanchard, a member of the U.S. Congress from 1975 – 1982, served as Governor of Michigan from 1983 – 1991. He was U.S. Ambassador to Canada from 1993 – 1996. He has been consistently active in Irish-American affairs, and has been Grand Marshall of the Detroit St. Patrick’s Day Parade. As governor he hosted the Lord Mayor of Dublin in Michigan. In Congress he was a member of the Irish Caucus and championed the McBride Principles to fight discrimination in Northern Ireland. He is a member of the international law firm of DLA Piper, and remains active in state and national matters.

Michael Patrick Shiels will be honored in the area of Arts and Entertainment. Shiels is the star of “Michigan’s Big Show,” a syndicated morning radio talk show. Named “Network Radio Personality of the Year” by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters on multiple occasions, Shiels hosts his show live from Ireland each St. Patrick’s Day and, as a travel writer and author, has written extensively about the Emerald Isle.

The Hall of Fame has named three members in the field of Education:

Kathleen Dewan O’Neill, a special education teacher in the Detroit Public Schools for over thirty years, is President of the Gaelic League/Irish American Club of Detroit and host of a Sunday morning weekly Irish radio show on WNZK. Kathleen is a leading voice for many years in Michigan’s Irish community and co-authored a book on the history of the Irish in Detroit, making countless presentations at cultural institutions, schools, and community events about the impact of the Irish in Michigan and the United States.

James J. O’Kelly has been actively involved with the Ancient Order of Hibernians for more than 50 years. He is a past President of the AOH of Michigan and past President its Stephan Walsh Division while currently serving as the National AOH Historian. He assisted in writing “Modern Journey,” the two volume history of the Irish in Detroit. O’Kelly participates in all the events of the United Irish Societies, the AOH, the Knights of Equity, and other Irish organizations, and is an adjunct professor at Schoolcraft College..

Michael W. Kerwin has participated in the Detroit Irish American Community for several decades, serving on the Executive Board of the Gaelic League and as Chairman of its Cultural Committee. Kerwin founded and was Chair of the Cultural Committee of the Detroit Ethnic Riverfront Festivals; Chair of the Tri-Centennial Committee of the United Irish Societies; and Chair of the Committee of The Archive of the Irish of Detroit and Michigan in the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library. He also was named honorary Chair of the Gaelic League’s 100th Anniversary of the Easter Uprising.

The Michigan Irish American Hall of Fame was founded in 2012 by the Muskegon Irish American Society. It is permanently displayed at Hennessy’s Irish Pub in Muskegon and on the Hall of Fame website.

For more information please visit the Hall of Fame website at

Categories: Festival

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