Mayor Andre Sayegh presented Mr. Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of the Republic of Ireland to the United States, with a key to the City of Paterson Friday morning in his office at City Hall. He was joined by Ms. Helena Nolan, Consul General of Ireland in New York, for the occasion.
“Ambassador Mulhall recognizes Paterson’s steep history, which is reflected in the diversity of its community,” the City said in a statement, “including the Irish immigrants who began arriving in 1820. The Irish community left a stamp on Paterson, giving one of the City’s first immigrant neighborhoods the name Little Dublin. In doing so, the community inaugurated one of the first waves of immigrants, a trend that continues today.”
While the dignitaries posed for pictures and exchanged stories, Mayor Sayegh pointed to a wall where he has a copy of the official presidential portrait of John F. Kennedy, with his arms crossed, looking down. “We love JFK, our first Irish-American president,” the mayor said, explaining the pose of the painting was representative of the assassinated president’s unfinished work.
To lighten to mood, the mayor took off his shoe, revealing a blue presidential campaign sock. “I wore these just for you, my Joe Biden socks.” President Biden himself is of Irish ancestry.
“Governor Murphy told me to wear green socks, maybe I’ll have to start wearing Biden socks,” Ambassador Mulhall laughed.
Mr. Mulhall told of his recent encounter with Dr. Anthony Fauci and his wife Dr. Christine Grady, describing her as “a good Irish-American” doctor. “You have a combination of the Italians and the Irish, a combination I think happens quite a bit.”
The atmosphere was jovial and the mayor and the Irish delegation soon left for a tour of Paterson’s Great Falls, now a National Park.
It must have been a relaxed and welcome moment of civic pride for the mayor, whose battle with Ward 3 Councilman Alex Mendez has reached a low timbre. Mendez, defeated by Sayegh in the 2018 mayoral election, is running again and accused the mayor of trying to “take me out” of the race, sabotaging his campaign and challenging the validity of his petitions.
The mayor’s race for the state’s third most populous city has proven to be a circus of the absurd for the civically-conscious New Jerseyan. As Mayor Sayegh pursues a second term in office, former Mayor Jose Torres, legally barred from holding office again after a stint in prison, ran his own campaign anyway, only to be—unsurprisingly—shut down by the state. Obviously angry with the inconvenient truth of the law actually being enforced, he has since thrown his support behind Mendez, a man who has been indicted, along with Councilman Michael Jackson, by a state grand jury on charges of election fraud and other offenses connected to the special election on May 12, 2020. If convicted, Mendez could face years in jail and tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
Mendez, in his response to Mayor Sayegh’s attempts to dismiss his petitions, went so far as to call him “Vladimir Putin,” using taxpayer dollars to direct City resources to, in his view, obstruct his campaign.
As bombs rain down on Ukraine by the Russian president’s orders, the death toll rises daily. Millions of refugees have fled their homes in Ukraine. Mendez’s remark, Sayegh said, showed a lack of perspective on the councilman’s part.
“He is the one who is criminally charged, and he calls me Putin?” Sayegh told Insider NJ. “He is reckless, that’s what has gotten him into the position he is in. His petitions are being challenged, his ballots were being challenged as well. It’s just a pattern of criminality.”