Home News Community In Pictures: Senior Navajo Nation diplomat finds her Laois roots

In Pictures: Senior Navajo Nation diplomat finds her Laois roots

Doreen McPaul, Attorney General of the Navajo Nation, visited Mountmellick this week with her family to explore her Laois roots.

Ms McPaul, who was in Ireland to receive a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad from President Michael D. Higgins, stopped off in Mountmellick recently.

She went on a whistle-stop tour of family in Ireland and was shown around by Trudy Carmody of Experiencing Ireland and Paddy Buggy, Manager of Webmill Digital Hub Mountmellick.

The Navajo Nation is a Native American territory covering about 17,544,500 acres, occupying portions of northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and a smaller portion covering southeastern Utah, in the United States.

This is the largest land area retained by a Native American tribe in the United States.

Ms McPaul received the award for charitable work with the Irish Cultural Centre and McClelland Library in Phoenix, Arizona in raising funds for members of the Navajo Nation impacted by Covid 19.

She said: “For the first time in my lifetime my two cultures were intertwined in the most beautiful way … I was so proud to be Navajo and so proud to be Irish.”

Trudy Carmody, an active member of Laois Tour Guides Forum had contacted Ms McPaul last year and offered to help her trace her Laois family, following a press report about the family’s Mountmellick connections.

Trudy said: “Genealogy is such an important way for members of the Irish diaspora to connect with their roots and we were delighted to help Doreen trace her father’s family.

“I was so touched to meet Doreen with her Dad Art Hobson and sister Denise on their visit and look forward to showing them around more of Laois on their next trip home to Ireland.”

Local TD and former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan also commented on this remarkable story.

He said: “The life story of Doreen McPaul is truly remarkable, and her presence and her distinguished award is fully deserved.

“I am delighted she took the time to visit Mountmellick and her ancestors and I would hope she will return soon.

“The fact that the Attorney General for the Navajo Nation can claim Mountmellick heritage proves beyond doubt that the Irish footprint is everywhere and truly global. “

Paddy Buggy, Manager of Webmill Digital Hub in Mountmellick said: “Mountmellick Development Association were delighted to welcome Doreen McPaul, her sister Denise and father Art Hobson to visit our museum as they learned more about their ancestral home.

“We look forward to welcoming them back in the near future to meet with the ladies responsible for our marvellous museum.”

Writing on Facebook Ms McPaul said: “Our Quaker & Kerr roots are tied to Mountmellick, Ireland in County Laois.

“Divine intervention connected us to Trudy Carmody. Our great-great grandparents were neighbours here. Small Irish world!

“She & Paddy kept the museum open late for us tonight and treated us extra kind.

“Super special unplanned stop in this amazing town. Would love to spend much more time here…next trip!”

Caragh Burns-Sharma, Chair of Laois Tourism said: “Congratulations to Ms Mc Paul on her richly deserved award and well done to Trudy Carmody on her ever fantastic research and connection building.

“Welcoming tourists to Laois and helping them discover the story of their ancestral roots in Ireland is a key part of our tourism offering.

“Our visiting diaspora often become frequent repeat visitors which is a huge opportunity for our sector.”

Genealogy forms an important part of the Irish Tourism industry, with increasing numbers of people tracing their Irish family roots with the help of organisations like Experiencing Ireland and Mountmellick Museum.

While a huge array of information is now available online, many visitors welcome the personal approach offered by a genealogist and tour-guide like Trudy to help them to really connect with the home place of their ancestors.

Traditional Navajo necklace presented to Trudy Carmody by Doreen McPaul, Attorney General of the Navajo Nation during her visit to Mountmellick.
Doreen McPaul, Art Hobson, Denise Hobson Ryan with Paddy Buggy of Mountmellick Webmill Digital Hub and Trudy Carmody
Doreen McPaul receiving Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad from President Michael D. Higgins

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.