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More than 1,300 guests gathered last week at the American Ireland Fund's 33rd Annual New York Gala to honor acclaimed Irish actor Liam Neeson and renowned Wall Street leader and philanthropist, Lewis L. Glucksman, who passed away in 2006.

Neeson, a native of Northern Ireland received the 2008 Performing Arts Award, and was honored for his contribution to film and theatre over the past 30 years, and for the friendship and support he has shown the American Ireland Fund by donating his time and efforts to help promote its mission.

“Enormous strides have been made in my native Northern Ireland in the past decade, demonstrated by political, social and economic changes that came about through a combination of courage, generosity and persistence.” Neeson said during his acceptance speech, “The American Ireland Fund has been instrumental in investing in some of the deeper social changes that are needed and has tirelessly supported peace, education, the arts and reconciliation projects on the island of Ireland. I am proud to have been able to play a part in the American Ireland Fund’s efforts and am honored to be part of the continuing transition underway in Ireland.”

The event raised over $3.5 million for important projects in Ireland, including a $1 million gift to PeacePlayers International, an organization that brings Catholic and Protestant children in Northern Ireland together through the neutral sport of basketball.

Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Chairman of the American Ireland Funds, accepted the 2008 Humanitarian Award on behalf of her husband, the late Lewis L. Glucksman, who dedicated much of his time to raise funds for many of the peace and educational initiatives of the AIF.

AIF CEO, Kieran McLoughlin commented on this year’s event, “It is a credit to both the philanthropists and the wider patronage of the Gala that this year’s event is among the most successful in our 33-year history. It is also noteworthy that over a third of a million dollars came from Ireland itself this year, an indication that the roots of philanthropy that the Ireland Funds has been sowing in Ireland are starting to yield fruit. Home-grown Irish philanthropy is ready for take off.”

About The Ireland Funds: The mission of The American Ireland Fund is to be the largest worldwide network of people of Irish ancestry and friends of Ireland dedicated to raising funds to support programs of Peace and Reconciliation, Arts and Culture, Education and Community Development throughout the island of Ireland. The Ireland Funds host more than 100 events in 40 cities attended by over 40,000 people. Since 1976, The Ireland Funds have raised over $300 million. For additional information please go to http://www.irlfunds.org.

PeacePlayers uses the game of basketball to foster mutual respect and tolerance by enabling Catholic and Protestant children to play the game together. By competing together on mixed teams on a regular basis, children from historically divided groups are discovering common ground and forging new friendships. Prejudices are being overcome by the desires to play, have fun and win. PeacePlayers International can be found fostering mutual respect among kids in Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East, Cyprus, and New Orleans. Visit PeacePlayers online to learn more.

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