Story by Lon Tytell
Denis Mulcahy, a Greenwood Lake resident, has made an impact on the lives of over 22,000 young children from Northern Ireland for the last 41 years. The documentary, “How to Diffuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story,” narrated by Liam Neeson, shown at the Monroe Theater on Sun., Apr. 2, presented a history of this special project.
In August 1974, Denis, his brother, Pat, and friends decided to offer a brief respite from the everyday violence and strife experienced by young boys and girls who were exposed to endless fighting between Catholics and Protestants. Bombings, shootings, rioting and deaths were an everyday occurrence on the streets of Northern Ireland.
Through fundraising, the cooperation of host families, and the coordination of teachers, social workers and parents of the children in Northern Ireland, six young children spent six weeks in 1975 enjoying Greenwood Lake and some of the sights of New York. Mulcahy has been the chairman since the inception and is currently the National Chairman.
Duke and Carol Hoffman, who served as one of the host families for the first year and continued as a host family, were featured in the movie and were also present for the movie showing in Monroe. The Hoffman’s requested to house two boys, one Catholic and the other Protestant. The two boys, Kevin Brady and John Cheevers, shared their experiences with the Hoffman family.
They frequently came back for several years including when they were adults to thank their host family for their generosity. The boys became good friends. They immigrated to the United States, became American citizens, and were best man at each of their weddings. Each year more and more host families volunteered in other parts of New York and nationwide and the program kept on accepting more children each year.
“Project Children was made possible by the generosity of American families who supported financially and opened their homes and their hearts to the children and showed how people could live together regardless of religious denominations and ethnic backgrounds,” said Mulcahy.
Volunteers for Project Children in Washington D.C. met with members of Congress. In 1995, Mulcahy received the Top Cop Award as a member of the Bomb Squad in New York City in Washington, D.C. When Denis Mulcahy was presented the Top Cop Award for his work on the New York City Bomb Squad at the White House in 1995, he met President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. He informed them of the importance of Project Children and the trouble in Northern Ireland that needed to be addressed by the United States.
In November of 1995, President Clinton asked Mulcahy to join him on his historic trip to Northern Ireland. In the documentary President Clinton says Project Children gave the young children a chance to see the world in a different setting and helped bring peace to Northern Ireland.
As the tension in Northern Ireland has lessened, Project Children has incorporated an Intern Program for the past 20 years. About 600 university students from Northern Ireland have come to the United States volunteering one week for Habitat for Humanity and several weeks concentrating on practical experience. Many of these young adults have received amazing jobs as a result of this experience.
In 1975, Denis Mulcahy was instrumental in founding the Greenwood Lake Gaelic Society and served as its first President. In 1987, Mulcahy was awarded the Medal of Honor by the NYPD for the extremely dangerous task of diffusing a bomb. Also in 1987, he was honored with the Bene Merenti Award from Pope John Paul II.
In November of 1989, Mulcahy and his brother, Pat, were awarded the People of the Year Award in Dublin, Ireland. Mulcahy was also nominated in 1993 and 1994 for the very prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for all his work for the children of Northern Ireland. In May 2016 he was bestowed by Her Majesty the Queen with the honor of Officer of the Most Excellent Order at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.
He is married to the former Miriam O’ Rourke. They have four children, Deniis Jr. Maureen, Sean and Tara.