Golden Bridges Honoree 2022
Name: Councilor Erin Murphy
Councilor Murphy has a strong bloodline of civic activism. Her grandfather, Richard Murphy, organized various neighborhood groups under one umbrella, the Dorchester United Neighborhood Association, to turn a former landfill into a park and community buildings. His success led to the creation of the Richard J. Murphy School with surrounding sports fields and playgrounds. Her Auntie Kay and mother started the first Teen Center in the City of Boston right there in that gym.
After high school, Councilor Murphy enrolled at UMass-Boston. But then, at 19 years old, she had her first son, Brian. Her education had to take a back seat as she had to support her newborn. She picked up more waitressing shifts and dropped her course load. As a teenage mother, she was scared and knew in the long term, she needed to go back to school to make a better life for her small family. Eleven years after enrolling in school, in 1999, with a new one-year-old daughter Maisie and pregnant with Michael, her youngest, Councilor Murphy, finally graduated. Her twenties were a struggle, but she persevered and did what was necessary to achieve her dream of becoming a school teacher.
Many folks would have thrown in the towel on higher education at that point, but she did not stop there. She was determined to push forward and earned her business, history, and elementary education degree. Later, she earned her Master’s of Education from Fitchburg State University. Councilor Murphy just finished paying off her student loans a few months ago, at the age of 51 years old, so she knows how the college debt system needs to change.
As a teacher in the Boston Public Schools for 22 years, she became even more familiar with the things families have to deal with: educational challenges, economic setbacks, substance use disorder, and recovery. Enduring these struggles in her life, Councilor Murphy knew it was time to follow in her grandfather, aunt, and mother’s footsteps in civic activism and wanted to help people so they would not need to go through what she went through. Now, almost ten months on the job, Councilor Murphy is doing exactly that, representing and fighting for all the people of Boston, right in City Hall.”
Eugene O’Flaherty was appointed to the role of Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston in January 2014. In his role as Corporation Counsel, Eugene was the chief legal officer for former Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, President Biden’s newly confirmed Secretary of Labor. Eugene served as a senior cabinet advisor to the Mayor of Boston and was responsible for providing high-quality and effective legal advice and representation on all legal matters involving the Mayor, Boston City Council, all City Departments and Boards & Commissions. In that role he managed an office of 60 Attorneys, paralegals and administrative staff. As a cabinet member, Eugene was also part of a mayoral administration whose work has resulted in the largest growth of development in Boston’s recent history.
Prior to his appointment, Eugene served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for seventeen years and has been practicing law since 1994. Elected to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1996, O’Flaherty served on the Education Committee and as Vice-Chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee before being appointed to serve as the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee in 2002.
During his twelve-year tenure at the helm of the Judiciary Committee, Eugene was responsible for the drafting, review and implementation of the largest number of legislative proposals before the Massachusetts Legislature. He was the chief architect of the overhaul of impaired driving statutes, court reorganization legislation, stronger sex offender statutes, tougher penalties for violent habitual offenders, CORI reform and human trafficking. Eugene also repeatedly defeated attempts to reinstate the death penalty in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In addition to his legislative duties, Eugene served as a member of the House Leadership Team for more than a decade and under three successive Speakers of the House and played a pivotal role in advising, advocating for and polling the 160-member House on a wide variety of legislative issues involving economic development, education, health care, gaming, and revenue.
Eugene oversaw the legislation and led the discussions required for the implementation of the Goodridge decision, which legalized gay marriage, making Massachusetts the first state in the United States of America to do so and served as the House of Representative’s lead negotiator on a number of complex and high-profile conference committee negotiations with the Senate and Executive Branch.
Eugene spearheaded the sister city agreement between Boston and Belfast, Northern Ireland which results in annual exchanges and visits by elected officials and members of the business community and organized the Friendship Four Hockey Tournament that annually brings four American university teams to compete in Belfast for the BelPot Trophy during the Thanksgiving holiday. The tournament has been acknowledged as crucial in continuing initiatives to support the peace process there.
Known affectionately in Massachusetts political circles simply as “Gene-O”, Eugene was honored for excellence in his efforts by the Massachusetts Bar Association, Boston Bar Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, Massachusetts Legal Assistance, Children’s Trust Fund, Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Animal Rescue League to name a few.
Eugene is the youngest of five boys and the only member of his immediate family born in the United States. Eugene lives in Boston with his wife Patricia and their large extended families. Eugene is most proud of being a loving Uncle to his many nieces and nephews.
Name: Jane T. Bickford
Jane is a graduate of Trinity University of San Antonio Texas and received her masters from University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.
After completing her education, she worked as an Adult Librarian in San Antonio before moving back to Boston to work at the Boston Public Library at various locations. As Branch Librarian she manages the South Boston location, its staffing, collections and programming.
Ms. Bickford has worked to expand the library’s collections and was very excited to partner with Údarás na Gaeltachta when approached in 2019 regarding their program. Their generous donation of Irish language books to the South Boston Branch is an unique aspect of the branch.
Personally she has studied the Irish language with Cumann na Gaeilge in Boston, summer immersion program at Oideas Gael in Donegal and hopes to be able to continue her studies in the future. She enjoys worldwide travel and hot air ballooning along with her frequent travels to Ireland to visit family and friends.
Her passion for Ireland and its culture started early with her grandparents who hail from Co. Sligo and the many opportunities to experience Irish culture growing up in the Boston area.
Name: Joe Gillespie
Joe Gillespie currently serves as a Boston Police Captain where he is the Commander of District E-18 in the Hyde Park section of Boston. He has been a member of the Boston Police Department since August of 1982. He is a third generation Boston Police Officer as his father was a patrolman for forty years in the Boston Police Department and his grandfather, James Gillespie from Ballyshannon, Donegal, was a member of the Department who was fired during the Boston Police Strike in 1919. He is the ninth of ten children with four brothers who have worked for the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police and the Suffolk County Sherriff’s Department. He is also married to Melissa and has four children, Kathleen, Joseph, John and James.
He is the grandson of Bridget Barron from Creevy Pier near Rossnowlagh beach and James Gillespie, know as the saddler, from Ballyshannon who although only living about eight miles from each other, only met when they both emigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. His maternal great grandparents were also from the Galway area and all of his grandparents as well as his parents were of Irish descent.
During his career, he has been assigned to numerous positions throughout the Department as a Police Officer, a Sergeant, a Lieutenant, and for the last five and a half years as a Captain. Early in his career, he spent three years as an Instructor at the Boston Police Academy teaching Crime Scene Response, Court Procedures, Drug Identification and Physical Fitness among other courses. He has held many positions as a Captain including the Commander of the Operations Division, the Night Command Division, and the Commander of District E-5 in the West Roxbury and Roslindale sections of Boston as well as his current position.
He spent nine years as the President of the Boston Police Superior Officers Federation, the union representing uniformed Captains, Lieutenants and Sergeants, and four years as its Vice-President. He has been a practicing attorney in Massachusetts since 1993 and was working at the Boston Marathon in 2013 and responded to the man hunt three days later in Watertown, Massachusetts, considering that to be one of the most difficult and challenging incidents in his law enforcement career.
Name: Senator Lydia Edwards
Prior to being elected to the State Senate and Boston City Council, Lydia worked extensively in the legal field. She worked as a public interest attorney with Greater Boston Legal Services focusing on labor issues such as fighting for access to unemployment insurance, back wages, fair treatment for domestic workers, and combating human trafficking.
Additionally, she coordinated a statewide campaign to pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights – and she won. Following the bill’s passage, she was named Bostonian of the Year, Honorable Mention, by the Boston Globe.
As a City Councilor, she led efforts to protect Boston’s affordable housing stock through innovative and bold policy proposals. She spearheaded reforms to Inclusionary Development and Linkage and passed through the council a real estate transfer fee on the sale of properties valued at over $2 million, with all proceeds dedicated to affordable housing.
Lydia pushed to reduce airport pollution, expand water transportation, address traffic congestion, ensure community voice in major energy projects, rebuild public housing and stop proposed highway expansion. She solidified her role in the community as a bridge-builder, convening and organizing community meetings to take on larger conversations like Suffolk Downs in East Boston, the Bunker Hill Redevelopment project in Charlestown, and climate resilience in the historic North End.
She spearheaded the effort to get the city’s charter amended and democratize the $3 billion city budget through participatory budgeting. Lydia advocated for greater transparency in city government while maintaining fiscal responsibility. She has fought to reform the Zoning Board of Appeals to reduce influence-peddling in the development process. Lydia fights for a Boston that works for everyone.
Her job title may change, but her values never have. Lydia Edwards has always been on the side of the underdog- and she’s found new ways to make change at each new role. As a State Senator, Lydia is continuing to fight for workers, renters, unions, immigrants, teachers, to make our commonwealth more affordable, more inclusive, and more democratic.
Lydia was raised by her mother, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and current union worker with the Veterans Administration. Lydia graduated from American University Washington College of Law and received an LLM in taxation from Boston University School of Law. She lives in East Boston and loves to run along the waterfront, and practice martial arts. Sometimes, she even skydives.
Name: Michael Heaney
Michael Heaney was born in South Boston and was raised there and in Carna Co. Galway when his family returned to Ireland when he was 11 years old. Michael has just completed a five year term as CEO of Udaras na Gaeltachta, the Gaeltacht Development Authority. Prior to that he was Director of Services with Donegal County Council. He has also worked in a range of Local Development, Community Development, Social Enterprise and Educational projects in the Republic, in the North of Ireland and across various European regions. At present he is Vice President of the AER ( Assembly of European Regions), a body with members in 135 regions across Europe. He is also Secretary of Donegal Tourism CLG. He now works as a Development Consultant/Advisor across a range of sectors, including Enterprise and Trade, Community, Sustainability, The Green Economy, Digital Economy, Marine Resources and Tourism. He has always placed a strong emphasis on Diaspora links and engagement. He was involved in the establishment of the Donegal Diaspora Project and of Tógra Diaspora na Gaeltachta. Michael has had an involvement in the Golden Bridges event since 2009, initially as a board member with ILEX (Derry City), then when with Donegal County Council and latterly when with Udaras na Gaeltachta.
He served in the 1st Marine Division in Da Nang, Vietnam where he was awarded the “Cross of Gallantry” for combat action.After returning from Vietnam, Richie attended the New England Institute of Anatomy where he obtained his Funeral Director and Embalmer License.He is a member of the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Assoc., National Funeral Directors Assoc., and the Irish Assoc. of Funeral Directors.
Richie has been a member of several organizations throughout the years.He has served as an elected Commander of the V.F.W. Post # 2902, a member of the Fogg Roberts American Legion Post #78, Silver Star D.A.V., Ancients and Honorable Artillery Co. of MA, B.P.O.E. #10, Knights of Columbus #3049, Irish Holy Ghost Committee, St. Theresa’ Usher Club, St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Co. Leitrim Society, President of the Boston Irish Social Club, He has also been a past President of the Co. Roscommon Assoc. of Boston.As a member and former Director of the Irish Cultural Center, he voted to obtain the Center’s current location in Canton.He organized and flew on the first historic air flight from Boston to Knock airport Co. Mayo Ireland, with the approval of the Dept. of Transportation.He has also been a Director of the Roxbury-Highland Bank for over 20 years and served on their finance committee.He has sponsored numerous athletic teams including the Giants of the Parkway Little League and the Gormley Club of the Parkway Soccer League.
In 2003, the Parkway Soccer League named him Man of The Year.In 2004, he was named Citizen of The Year, by the Boston Lodge of Elks, and in 2005 he was named Person of The Year by the Boston Police Emerald Society.In 2012, he was elected Mayor of West Roxbury. In 2014 he was awarded the Silver Key award from the Charitable Irish Society, awarded the 2016 Irish American Hero Award of New England by the Irish Central and Irish American magazine. In 2019 he was named Man of the Year by the Boston Police Relief Association.
Governor Charles Baker appointed him to serve on the Massachusetts Veteran Advisory Committee and also appointed him to the Division of Licensor for Funeral Directors and Embalmers for the Commonwealth.
He was an invited guest of President Trump at the White House for the St. Patrick’s Day ceremony in 2019.
He currently serves as the president of the Boston Irish Social Club located at 119 Park St. West Roxbury, the largest Irish Hall in the United States.He serves as the American Ambassador for Muintearas.
Names: Michael Quinlin and Colette Quinlin
In 2000, Michael and Colette Quinlin launched the Boston Irish Tourism Association, the first full-time, year-round initiative in the United States to market Irish-American culture and heritage directly to the tourism industry, while strengthening travel ties between New England and the island of Ireland.
At its inception, BITA benefited from the advice and wisdom of numerous colleagues: Dave Burke and Bill Sullivan, Mike Cummings and Tom Flatley, Orla Carey and Ruth Moran, Larry Reynolds and Seamus Connolly, Brian O’Donovan and John Curran, Tom McNaught and Helen Brady, Diane Russell and many more.
Dave in particular understood the value of developing an authentic, enduring brand to portray the Irish-American community in a positive and uplifting manner. He was an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of BITA.
Today, BITA’s key partners include Tourism Ireland, Aer Lingus and Delta, Greater Boston CVB, Discover Newport, John F. Kennedy Library, Irish Cultural Centre, AOH, Rockport Music and dozens of small businesses and cultural venues.
BITA’s website IrishBoston.org features stories on New England destinations, community leader profiles and updates on concerts, seasonal festivals and parades. Additionally, it offers tips on distinctive travel destinations in Ireland.
Travel + Culture magazine, also available online, is published three times a year in Spring, Summer/Fall and Winter. The free magazine is distributed at visitor centers, museums, hotels and cultural venues, and to media, travel agencies and tour operators.
BITA also created Boston’s Irish Heritage Trail, which Mike and Colette first introduced in their 1994 book, Guide to the New England Irish. The Trail features 20 downtown and 20 neighborhood landmarks that illustrate the Boston Irish experience. BITA has distributed 300,000+ free Trail maps to visitors, educators and tour groups.
Mike was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and Colette in Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary. They met in Boston, married in 1994 and live in Milton. They cherish their two sons, Leo and Devin and their extended families.