A naval service ship has received a huge honour from Boston after its mayor declared that from now on the US city will mark every October 6 as LÉ Samuel Beckett Day.
The honour was bestowed by Boston mayor Marty Walsh through a special proclamation he issued in recognition of the ship’s rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea during which it saved 4,200 migrants from drowning.
He likened the modern-day migrant plight to that of those who fled the Famine and whose US descendants number many millions. The ship’s captain, Lieutenant Commander Eoin Smyth and some of the crew, laid a wreath at the Deer Island memorial in Boston where the bodies of those who died on the Famine coffin ships were buried when they docked in the US.
When LÉ Samuel Beckett arrived in Boston it was given the city’s most prestigious berth, next to the USS Constitution, the oldest warship in US history, and one of the Irish sailors was given the distinction of firing one of the cannons that form part of a traditional daily salute.
The ship’s time in Boston attracted significant attention from US media, including the Boston Globe. The ship’s visit to the city was part of an Irish diplomatic and trade mission which also covered a stop-over in New York.
LÉ Samuel Beckett acted as a hospitality platform for the Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and Enterprise Ireland on its mission to the US, from which it is just returning.
The 50-strong crew was kept busy as on many days they were visited by up to 3,000 people. The visit was also designed to bolster Ireland chances of getting a seat on the UN Security Council.
At one stage, they were nearly over-run by visits from members of the New York Police Department (NYPD), many of whom are descendants of Irish people and are proud of their Irish heritage.
A naval service spokesman said NYPD members reciprocated the Irish hospitality by ensuring the crew were treated to the sights of New York and nights on the town. The ship also stopped for a minute’s silence off the city’s Irish Hunger Memorial in Manhattan.
The ship was presented with the City of Boston flag and in recognition of the honour conferred on it on October 6, will fly that flag on it on that date every year.