Irish Australia

Irish-born former WA senator dies, aged 73

Cavan-born Jim McKiernan has died at the age of 73. 

Cavan-born Jim McKiernan has died at the age of 73. 

Former Labor Senator for Western Australia and proud Cavan-man Jim McKiernan died at his home in Perth on Friday after a long battle with cancer. He was 73.

WA Labor paid tribute to the Irish-born parliamentarian, who represented his state in the Australian Senate from 1985 to 2002.

"Sad news for the WA Labor family today, with the passing of the great Jim McKiernan," they posted.

"A unionist, a great parliamentarian, and one of the great senses of humour in politics.

"From Cavan, Ireland to the Dillingham shipyards in Fremantle, to the Senate in Canberra, his story is one of a working class kid made good, and a life well lived. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Vale Jim."

The third of eight children of James and Mary (Maisie) McKiernan, Jim left school at age fourteen to help support the family.

He worked as a petrol pump attendant and an abattoir worker before emigrating to England. In 1969, having gained a trade qualification as a first-class machinist, he migrated to Perth,  taking advantage of an assisted passage scheme.

He took on a position as a machinist/fitter and turner at Dillingham Shipyards in Fremantle, where he remained for the next four years.

He joined the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) which later became the Amalgamated Metal Workers' Union (AMWU). In 1976 he was appointed as the AMWU's first full-time education officer in Western Australia,.

He joined the Australian Labor Party and became increasingly immersed in politics.

He put his name forward for preselection to run for a Western Australian Senate seat and in the 1984 half-Senate election, McKiernan was elected to Canberra.

After his first marriage to Jean ended in divorce, McKiernan married Jacqueline (Jackie) Watkins, a sitting member of the Western Australian Legislative Assembly who held the seat of Joondalup (1983–89) and, later, the seat of Wanneroo (1989–93).

McKiernan was re-elected to the Senate in 1987, 1990 and 1996, the latter two from the top of the ALP ticket.

During his time in Canberra, he agitated to remove references to the Queen from the oath or affirmation of allegiance to be made by new Australian citizens.

The passage of the Australian Citizenship Amendment Bill 1993 brought this campaign to a successful conclusion and many Irish permanent residents became Australian citizens as a consequence. According to those closest to him, it was his proudest political achievement.

One of his roles was as returning officer for the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party (1990–96) a role which famously saw him preside over and announce the results of both leadership ballots held between Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, in June and December 1991.

During these contests McKiernan was a vocal Hawke supporter and a critic of Keating, effectively precluding him from a ministerial post under a Keating-led Government. In his final days, Hawke gave him a call to wish him well.

McKiernan became an early victim of Section 44 of the Constitution when he was forced to give up his Irish citizenship before the 1990 election.

He said in 1999: “Regrettably in the late ‘80s I had to, on advice, relinquish my Irish citizenship. It was something I didn't particularly enjoy doing at the time, but it was something I had to do in order to hang on to my job.”

McKiernan remained in the Senate until his retirement in 2002.

He used his valedictory speech to reflect on his personal experience of migration. He stated that his generation of Irish were 'born for the road' and that, in his case, fortune had smiled upon him, in both England and Australia.

According to his parliamentary biography, "His fellow senators lauded his contribution to and expertise in the field of migration and noted the assistance his staff had provided when negotiating difficult migration processes. They also noted that he had brought a great sense of humour to the chamber and had been one of its outstanding characters, with his unorthodox taste in ties drawing considerable comment."

He is survived by his wife Jackie, his and her children Steven, Donna, Jimmy, Lisa, Kim, Kate and Ben, their partners as well as 14 grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A celebration of his life will be held at Pinnaroo Memorial Park on Monday, August 20 from 3pm. His coffin will be draped in an Irish tricolour and the Eureka flag.




Craic everywhere - St Patrick's Day 2018

The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW is just one of the greenings in 2018.  See the  Tourism Ireland website  for the full list of Australian and global greenings. 

The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW is just one of the greenings in 2018.  See the Tourism Ireland website for the full list of Australian and global greenings. 

IN Sydney, St Patrick’s Day gets underway with Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral at 10am with Bishop Terry Brady. After early Mass, there is a lunch at The Castlereagh Club.

The Mercantile Hotel, the oldest Irish pub in Australia kicks the big day off with its annual St Patrick’s Day Breakfast, including a three-hour beverage package with Irish coffee, live Irish music and dancing.

For the first time in over 20 years, The Mercantile has been granted access to George Street with pop-up bars and food stalls making it an Irish street party. Paddy’s weekend at the Bald Rock Hotel, overlooking Sydney Harbour, includes live music all day.

You can enjoy St Patrick’s Day at any of the four PJ Gallagher’s pubs, where you will find traditional Irish music, Irish dancers and Guinness giveaways. There will also be festive fun at the St Patrick’s Race Day in Gosford. You can join the craic for PJ O’Brien’s St Patrick’s Day Weekend whether you are in Cairns, Port Douglas, Melbourne or Sydney.

NSW State Library is going green in 2018

NSW State Library is going green in 2018

There will be live Irish music all weekend. On Sunday, the festivities continue in the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park. There will be a variety of music on the big stage from 12pm, a children’s parade and play area with bouncing castles and face painting galore, Irish dancers and marching bands displaying the very best in local talent.



You can catch Eireborne, The Rebirth of Irish Dance, on March 17- 18. They perform at Wentworthville on Saturday and Dee Why on Sunday. More than an Irish dance show, Eireborne is a theatrical experience like nothing you have seen before. Featuring a live band, dancers from hit Irish shows Riverdance and Lord Of The Dance kick up their heels performing traditional and modern Irish dance as well as ballroom and tap dance. Canberra Irish Club is hosting a range of events over St Patrick’s weekend with Saturday filled with fun, including Irish dancers and Irish-style dishes. On Sunday, you can recover with a BBQ and drink deals from noon.

Perth St Patrick’s Day Parade and Family Fun Day takes place on the day itself. Starting at 10am, the streets of Leederville turn green for parade day, with floats, walking groups and marching bands. The Family Fun Day includes kids activities, food stalls, live entertainment and a bar. Also in Western Australia, you can head to St Patrick’s Race Day at Ascot Racecourse. There, you can celebrate all things Irish with plenty of Guinness and Kilkenny on tap, live music and a full race day schedule. In South Australia,

Adelaide Oval is turning green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in conjunction with the Irish Australian Association. There will be food and drinks, live music and entertainment all day. In the Northern Territory, you can join in the festivities at Shenannigan’s St Patrick’s Race Day on Saturday 17 March. You are encouraged to come dressed in green to enjoy a relaxing luncheon and a three-hour drinks package.

Lots of laughter in Qld BRISBANE’S St Patrick’s weekend celebrations get underway with the Irish Ausralian Chamber of Commerce’s annual St Patrick’s Day corporate lunch. Starting at 12pm, March 16, the event will be addressed by prominent speakers and a guest appearance by comedian Paul Martell.

Queensland Irish Association’s St Patrick’s Eve dinner takes place at the Pullman Hotel from 6.30pm on Friday, March 16.

LEADING THE WAY: The Queensland Irish Association Pipe Band will be playing at Brisbane's Parade.  PHOTO: Katherine O'Malley

LEADING THE WAY: The Queensland Irish Association Pipe Band will be playing at Brisbane's Parade.  PHOTO: Katherine O'Malley

The day itself starts with a St Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral of St Stephen at 8am before the parade gets under way at 10.30am. The parade begins at the Botanic Gardens with more than 700 participants and 40 floats to travel through the city before returning to the botanics. This will be the 29th St Patrick’s Parade in Brisbane.

Entertainment will be provided by Celtic Fusion on the rotunda while stalls in the Gardens will offer food, drink and crafts for sale. Jimeoin, the Northern Irish comedian who has long called Australia home, will take to the stage at Paddyfest, a day of Irish music and entertainment at Eagle Farm Racecourse. General admission and VIP packages have already sold out but a Celtic Stable Party package has been added. There will also be performance by pipe bands, rock bands (including a U2 tribute act) and Irish dancers.

The festivities start at 11am and continue until 10pm. Fortitude Valley’s Brunswick Street Mall will also turn into an Irish street party. Finn McCool’s pub, celebrating its second St Patrick’s Day, extending its outdoor area to incorporate two stages and food stalls. The festivities will wind down with a performance by the Queensland Irish Choir at the Brisbane German Club from 2pm on March.

Full St Patrick's Day What's On details here