Niall came to New York as a child with his parents, but they died shortly after and he has the faintest memories of them. Growing up on the streets he had to not only fend for himself, but he learned that the only way he was going to survive was by tolerating the insults and condescending attitudes towards people like himself. At 9 years old he started his first job carrying tools up scaffolding to high rise builders. Over the next 30 years he would work his way up to the position of foreman where he would use his influence to employ the Irish. 

Mr. Eli put Niall in the position of foreman because he saw that Niall was loyal, but also had no family. Eli knew he could work Niall hard, because he had no obligations outside of his job. Niall often saw himself as the buffer between the abuse dealt to the Irish and the recklessness of the Americans. He surrendered the fact he'd have no time for a family in order to protect the Irish immigrants from such abuse. Recognizing the toll such a life took on his workmen, he used his life saving to open up a pub. At Niall's pub the workers not only found some "medicine" to sleep at night, but they also found community. They sang, danced, and shared their stories. To Niall, this was all he could give.