Journalist Toni Frederick-Armstrong Remembers Dr George Irish

So very saddened to hear of the passing of a Montserratian/Caribbean icon. An academic, musician, trade unionist and community leader, Dr. George Irish was the recipient of the University of the West Indies’ first PhD in Spanish. He taught at UWI and in the Dominican Republic before migrating to the United States.

He co-authored Montserrat’s National song “Motherland” and he founded the Leeward Islands Debating Competition in 1972, but his contributions went far beyond his homeland and the Caribbean.

Among his many accomplishments he served as Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College and the head of the Caribbean Research Center (CRC), where he documented and analyzed policy and programs as they affect the Caribbean immigrant community.

He also served as a consultant on Multicultural Education to the New York City Board of Education and the New York State Education Department. He was a member of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee at St. John’s University, N.Y. (Linguistics) and Boston University, Massachusetts (Education); and he was a doctoral supervisor at Logos Christian University, Jacksonville, FL.

Dr. Irish was Editor-in-Chief and founder of the Journal of Caribbean studies and he was President of the Caribbean Diaspora Press Inc. and the Caribbean American Research Foundation Inc. in New York. He co-founded and was Chancellor of the Universidad Popular de Desarrollo Sostenible de Las Americas (UNIPOP) and founding Board member of the International Center for Sustainable Development (CIDES) in Panama.

In 2014 he was awarded the Order of Excellence by the Government of Montserrat.

Dr. Irish was an exceptionally gracious, affable and unassuming man who had the most exquisite use of language. I am honoured to have known him…even as a child I think I always understood that he was a pretty ‘big deal.’

When I think back of those days I recall hearing him in thoughtful and passionate conversation with my Aunt Edith (Bellot-Allen). I’m not even sure that I understood what they were talking about, but it felt that it was important and I loved how he (they) used words…and I remember him wearing beautifully patterned afro jacks. He was the first person that I can recall back then, who openly and proudly embraced our African heritage. At that age, I’d never thought about things like that before. As I reflect on those early years, it is his pride in his roots, in ‘our’ roots that resonates in my memory most.. RIP Dr. Irish, and thank you.

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