News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

February 25, 2007

SF Campaigns For Yes Vote on Children's Rights

News about Ireland & the Irish

SF 02/25/07 SF Campaigns For Yes Vote on Children’s Rights
IV 02/23/07 ILIR Set For Biggest Rally Ever
RO 02/25/07 Hibernians To Lobby For Immigration Reform
SB 02/25/07 John McCain: American Maverick
UT 02/25/07 Two Emergency Workers Killed
BT 02/25/07 O'Toole Leads Irish Hopes At Oscars
US 02/25/07 Mick Moloney & Friends Return For 13th Year
WP 02/25/07 Bk Rev: A Search For Irish America


Sinn Fein Establish Ard Chomhairle Sub Committee To
Campaign For A Yes Vote On The Constitutional Referendum On
Children's Rights

Published: 25 February, 2007

Sinn Fein this afternoon announced that it is setting up an
Ard Chomhairle sub committee to run the party's campaign
for a yes vote on the constitutional referendum on
children's rights. The group will be headed by Joanne
Spain, from the party's children's policy committee and
candidate for Dublin Mid West and will include Mary Lou
McDonald MEP, Caoimhgh¡n O Caol in TD, Aengus O Snodaigh
TD, Sue Ramsey MLA and Waterford Councillor David
Cullinane. The group will hold its inaugural meeting in
Leinster House tomorrow, Monday 26th.

Speaking prior to the meeting Joanne Spain said:

"Sinn Fein believes that the bulk of the proposals put
forward by the government represent progress in terms of
childrens rights and on that basis we will campaign for a
yes vote and will be encouraging all parties to facilitate
the holding of the referendum no later than the general
election date this summer.

"Contrary to some media reports that the opposition want
the referendum to be confined to the protection of children
from sexual predators, Sinn Fein welcomes the proposals to
include children's rights, custody, care, guardianship and
adoption. In fact we would like to see it go further.

"At our meeting tomorrow we will be discussing amendments
which Sinn Fein intends to put forward in an effort to
ensure full human rights compliance and the best possible
outcome for children. We will specifically be seeking a
provision ensuring that the best interests of children will
be paramount in all actions concerning them.

"The Government's proposal does fall short of a Sinn Fein
proposal in 2005 for a new article to be inserted into the
Constitution expressly detailing children's rights and
based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
However Sinn Fein will support this referendum on the basis
of progress for children albeit limited."ENDS


ILIR Set For Biggest Rally Ever

By April Drew

THE Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) is two weeks
away from its biggest rally ever in Washington, D.C.,
according to the group's executive director Kelly Fincham.

"The hard work that ILIR has done this past year is really
beginning to show across America. Everyone wants to go to
the rally on March 7," Fincham said.

"We're even getting calls from people who are planning to
make it a family outing," she added, referring to some who
have family out to visit in March.

Fincham said the real success behind the lobby day would be
down to the incredible amount of effort and persistence of
the various ILIR chapters nationwide.

"We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to the organizers
of all the events that have taken place and are coming up,
and to all the people who are on the ground trying to get
people to Washington," she said.

In just over a year, ILIR has grown into the largest active
Irish American organization in the country. Mary Brennan,
who has been involved since day one, has seen a huge growth
in the organization and is delighted to be involved in
making history.

"It's grown like something else and now were heading back
to Washington for a third monster rally," she said.

The Bronx office already has 500 people signed up to leave
from the Bronx, Yonkers, and upstate New York. "It's still
early days and we also keep hearing about people who are
driving down and making a trip out of it," Brennan said. It
is also expected that more people will sign up after the
New York ILIR dinner dance on March 2.

"We know from past experience that several people will sign
up at the last minute and we will get a huge crowd below
there," Brennan said. Although the numbers won't be final
until the day of the rally people in the community are
keyed up and emotive about March 7.

If people wish to sign up for the Bronx and Queens buses
then they are advised to call the ILIR office at 914-420-

Deirdre Hickey in Queens told the Irish Voice that over 160
people in her borough have already put their names down to
travel to Washington.

"The response is great to date," she said.

The Queens ILIR committee plans to use strong-arm tactics
this weekend when they go to the bars in the area and re-
inform people about the rally and persuade them to attend.

Hickey, who knows that people are aware of how important
the lobby day is, said the Queens committee just wants to
refresh their memories and make sure that they get on the

"Everyone we spoke with has been following it in the
newspapers and have all given us their word that they will
attend, so we're pretty positive on numbers and really
looking forward to a very successful rally," she said.

After a successful fundraiser held in Philadelphia last
Friday, the local committee there has pledged to send 1,000
delegates to Washington. Tom Conaghan, executive director
of the Immigration and Pastoral Center of Philadelphia,
said that no one wants the Irish community to die in their

"The loss of one's community would be a terrible tragedy,"
he said. "This is our big push and we expect everyone there
and we're getting good vibes from people telling us that
they will be attending."

The Philadelphia GAA will also be sending a delegation to
meet with senators and representatives on

the day in an effort to push immigration reform. Conaghan
feels passionate that people, both undocumented and
documented, especially previous winners of green cards,
should get out to Washington on the 7th to participate in
the fight for legal status for the estimated 50,000

Referring to last year's election results, Conaghan said
that in Pennsylvania voters took a stand against anti-
immigrant politicians such as Senator Rick Santorum, and
new seats were won by pro-immigrant voices such as Senator
Bob Casey.

"The likes of Casey will help us especially when they see
us at their offices in Washington," he said.

Conaghan urges anyone who hasn't signed for Washington to
do so soon by calling 610-789-6355.

Hughie Meehan from the Boston ILIR committee is very
confident that they will be sending over 500 people to the

"At the minute we have about 250 people registered to go
down and then tonight (Tuesday) we have another
registration taking place in four different locations," he

Meehan is hopeful after Tuesday's registration that they
will have over 400 people signed and sealed. "We also have
a banquet on Friday night where we have 680 people
attending so we hope to rally up a few more at that," he

Meehan said that the response in Boston has been wonderful,
and he knows from past rallies that several more will sign
up for the bus at the last minute. "I think the week
leading up to the event will see more and more people
signing up for sure," he said.

To sign up with the Boston office people are advised to
call 617-319-1674.

Celine Kennelly, executive director for the Irish
Immigration Center in San Francisco, told the Irish Voice
on Tuesday that the response has been phenomenal since the
successful ILIR meeting in the city on February 1, in which
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a message endorsing ILIR.

"Since that meeting the phone has literally hopped with
people wanting information on traveling to D.C.," said

The San Francisco chapter of ILIR has over 170 people
signed up to go to the rally, departing to on Tuesday,
March 6 and arriving at 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Most of them
are booked to fly back that night.

"That's incredible dedication for you," Kennelly said.
"People who have booked flights to go are all paying an
average of $300 per person. Some got lucky with a lower
rate and others who had to dig deeper to pay for the
heftier flights up in the $500s, but everybody is paying
for their flights out of their own pockets. It's been

Several Morrison and Donnelly visa holders who can't go to
Washington have given money to pay for others to attend.

"People are really energized, they understand that after
working on this for a year their civic involvement is
extremely important, thus giving them an vital input so
they can make a difference," Kennelly said.

The pastoral center in San Francisco, who has acted as
ticketing agents

for booking flights to Washington to date, urges people to
call them at 415-752-6006 if they are still interested in
going to Washington.

Fincham said the event is also getting attention from
former members of ILIR now back in Ireland.

"I'm also getting about 40 calls a week from people in
Ireland who are wondering when they will be able to come
back into the country. It really is phenomenal," she said.


Hibernians To Lobby Congress For Immigration Reform

February 24, 2007

The recent benefit hosted in its hall in Monroe by the
Ancient Order of Hibernians Division One raised several
thousand dollars. The purpose was to provide a free bus for
people to attend the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform
Rally March 7 in Washington, D.C.

Brendan O'Dowd, vice president of the Monroe AOH, said the
opportunity to lobby members of Congress to pass the
Comprehensive Immigration Bill is meaningful for the Irish
in Orange County as well as others throughout the nation.

The bus will leave the AOH Hall at 4:45 a.m., arriving in
D.C. at 9:45 a.m. Lobbying begins at 10 a.m. on Capitol
Hill. The rally begins at 2 p.m. at the Holiday Inn where
the AOH will be registered and many congressional leaders
from both sides of the aisle will attend.

"We are not looking for an amnesty but rather an earned
path to citizenship for these people who over the past
five, 10 and in some cases 20 years have lived, worked and
made their lives here, just as millions of Irish did before
them," said Jack Meehan, national president of the AOH.

For information, call O'Dowd at 551-0563 or e-mail


John McCain: American Maverick

25 February 2007 By Andrew Lynch

In December 2004, shortly after the re-election of George W
Bush, former rival John McCain visited Trinity College
Dublin to become an honorary patron of the Philosophical
Society. At a question and answer session in the Edmund
Burke Theatre, the senior senator from Arizona was
repeatedly invited to assure the predominantly liberal
audience that he really was one of them. For the best part
of an hour, students urged him to denounce the Bush
administration, US foreign policy in general and the Iraq
war in particular.

Smilingly, McCain rebuffed them all. He was, he assured
them patiently, ''a strong conservative'' who not only
supported the war, but thought that far more American
troops should be sent to Iraq.

Far from alienating his interrogators, however, these
answers only appeared to increase their enthusiasm. McCain
left the stage to wild applause, ringing cheers and
heartfelt exhortations to run for president again in 2008.

It was a remarkable performance that illustrated the man's
most important asset: even people who disagree with his
policies find it hard not to like and admire him. In an era
when American voters are said to be either red or blue and
no colour in between, this frail but pugnacious
sexagenarian straddles the divide like no other politician.
It's a quality that many pundits believe is destined to
take him all the way to the White House.

To get an idea of how McCain wants to be perceived, you
only have to look at the titles of his books: Character is
Destiny, Why Courage Matters, American Maverick. He
presents himself as somehow more authentic than other
presidential candidates, an independent reformer who's
prepared to take on the reactionaries in his own party.

Last week, he launched his campaign by calling Donald
Rumsfeld ''one of the worst defence secretaries in
history'' and lamented the ''excessive influence'' wielded
over Bush by vice-president Dick Cheney.

McCain's traumatic personal history gives him the
credibility to argue that life is about more than just
grabbing what you can for yourself - it's also about

He says he intends to use the presidency as a 'bully-
pulpit', just as his great hero, Theodore Roosevelt, did a
century ago. He doesn't just offer voters a better society,
he invites them to pitch in and create one.

The race for the White House has begun, with McCain far
ahead of all Republican rivals except Rudolph Giuliani, who
may well have too much personal baggage to sustain a
campaign that will last the best part of two years. In
hypothetical match-ups with Democrats, he runs neck and
neck with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In other words, McCain has as good a chance as anyone of
being the next president of the United States. When asked
why he should be elected, he replies: ''I believe my life
has prepared me with the experience and knowledge and
vision to lead this country in very difficult times."

The reality, however, is that, like George W Bush before
him, nothing about his early years suggested that he was
destined for greatness.

Fighting is in McCain's blood. His grandfather served as a
four-star admiral during the Second World War and was
present at the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri
in 1945. His father continued the military tradition by
becoming the overall commander of US troops in the Pacific
during the Vietnam War.

McCain was born in a naval hospital in the Panama Canal
Zone and educated in a military academy. Despite his
heritage, however, he was a poor student and only managed
to finish 894th out of a class of 899. His yearbook entry
noted that he was ''a sturdy conversationalist and party

During his early years, McCain admits, he was a terrible
disappointment to his family. He developed a reputation for
boozing, brawling and serial dating, including a stripper
nicknamed the 'Flame of Florida'.

As a naval aviator, he regularly courted danger, surviving
two crashes and a flight deck fire that claimed the lives
of 134 men.

The defining episode in McCain's life began in October
1967, when his plane was shot down during a bombing raid
over Hanoi. Even Americans with only a passing interest in
politics know what happened next.

McCain landed in a lake, broke both arms and one leg, and
was beaten to the brink of death by an angry Vietnamese
mob. Among other injuries, he was bayoneted in the groin
and had his shoulder smashed apart by a rifle. He was then
taken to the infamous Hoa Lo prison (the 'Hanoi Hilton' of
movie fame), where his fractures were set without

When his captors discovered who his father was, they
offered to release him as a publicity coup. Incredibly,
McCain refused to leave, on the grounds that the military's
code of honour demanded that prisoners be returned in the
order in which they were captured. Even after the guards
broke his ribs and knocked his teeth out, he continued to
tell them where to go in words of one syllable.

And so he endured another four and a half years, where he
was beaten, interrogated and subjected to various forms of
torture. Most of his time was spent alone in a dark box,
able to communicate with other Americans only by tapping a
code on the walls.

By the time he was released in 1973, McCain was a changed
man. Although he was greeted as a hero and lauded by the
then president Richard Nixon, he was curiously ashamed of
the whole experience and admits that he regularly
contemplated suicide. He struggled to recover from his
injuries and, to this day, cannot raise his hands above his

His first wife, Carol, had not seen him for six years, and
had herself been traumatised by a terrible car accident.

McCain embarked on a series of affairs, the last one with
Cindy Hensley, the daughter of an Arizona beer baron
(originally a Hennessy of Irish stock). They were married a
year later, one month after he divorced Carol.

McCain's wealthy and well-connected new father-in-law
offered a gateway into Arizona's business and political
elite. At first he toyed with a career working in PR, but
soon the political world opened up in the form of a vacant
congressional seat.

McCain won it and became a congressman in 1982, quickly
earning the nickname 'the White Tornado' (another effect of
his ordeal in Vietnam was that his hair greyed

In 1986, he won the Senate seat left vacant by the iconic
conservative Barry Goldwater and entered the more
prestigious world of America's upper house. It is also the
traditional waiting room for a presidential bid.

As McCain himself jokes: ''If you're a United States
senator, unless you're under investigation or in detox,
you're automatically considered a candidate for president."

When he finally got around to running in 2000, he began as
just one of several minnows against the establishment
candidate George W Bush. Gradually, however, McCain's
unorthodox campaigning propelled him to the front of the

He travelled on a bus called the Straight Talk Express,
where he delighted reporters by freely chatting to them
about anything they wanted. When he visited towns, he
usually gave a ten-minute talk and then announced he would
stay until he answered every question that anyone had.

McCain won a stunning victory in the New Hampshire primary
and appeared to have real momentum behind him.

In South Carolina, however, he became the victim of a dirty
tricks campaign masterminded by Bush's political
strategist, Karl Rove. Rumours were spread that he was
mentally unstable or had fathered an illegitimate black
child (one of his daughters was adopted from a Mother
Teresa-run orphanage in Bangladesh).

McCain lost the nomination and retreated to the Senate, but
made it very clear that his presidential ambitions were
very much alive. Despite their differences, he campaigned
for Bush's re-election in 2004 and firmly refused all
invitations to switch parties and become John Kerry's
running mate.

As Bush's second term descends into scandal, McCain has
skilfully used issues such as Abu Ghraib and Hurricane
Katrina to boost his own popularity.

Within the US entertainment industry, he is widely regarded
as the Republican who it's okay to like. He has hosted
Saturday Night Live and makes regular appearances on the
Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a news-based comedy programme
that specialises in conservative-bashing humour.

He made a brief appearance in the TV drama 24, describing
himself as ''a Jack Bauer kind of guy - like me, he's
always getting captured''.

On other occasions, his loose tongue has got him into
trouble. He has often used the racial slur ''gook'' to
describe the Vietnamese, once admitting that ''I'll hate
those bastards for as long as I live''.

On another occasion, he offended families affected by
mental health when he quipped: ''The nice thing about
Alzheimer's is you get to hide your own Easter eggs."

McCain faces two main barriers to the presidency: one
ideological, the other personal. Despite his best efforts,
many conservatives within the Republican party simply don't
trust him, unable to forget that he voted against Bush's
tax cuts and championed campaign finance reform.

His other problem is more fundamental. McCain will be 72 on
inauguration day in 2009, which would make him the oldest
president ever elected for the first time (Ronald Reagan
was 73 when re-elected in 1984). Although he remains an
extraordinarily dynamic figure for his age, a scar on the
left side of his face serves as a reminder that he might
have died from skin cancer five years ago, had a melanoma
not been spotted in time.

Like Reagan before him, McCain has attempted to disarm the
issue with humour by admitting: ''I'm as old as dirt and
have more scars than Frankenstein."

Privately, however, he must know that any stumble on the
campaign trail will be used by his opponents to suggest
that he is physically not up to the job. Already, he has
been upset by footage from this year's State of the Union
address. It appeared to show him asleep, though he
protested that he was merely looking down at the text of
the president's speech.

What sort of president would McCain be? His bipartisan
image disguises the fact that he is by far the most hawkish
of the major candidates. He says that Bush's ''surge'' of
troops into Iraq doesn't go nearly far enough, and has
spoken openly about the possibility of bombing Iran and
North Korea.

Critics claim that he has appeared listless in recent
interviews and that the free-wheeling jokiness of his 2000
campaign has gone.

McCain admits he sometimes finds campaigning boring, saying
recently: ''I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor's fifth husband, who
said on their wedding night: 'I know what to do, I just
don't know how to make it interesting.'" For now, the only
certainty is that the Straight Talk Express is back on the
road. Only time will tell whether or not its ultimate
destination is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


Two Emergency Workers Killed

A police officer and a firefighter attending a road
collision today were themselves killed when they were
struck by a car.

By:Press Association

The families of the married men were left devastated and
the rural Co Limerick community they served plunged into

Garda Brian Kelleher (46) and firefighter Michael Liston
(47) died when a car ploughed into the scene of an accident
they were responding to on the coast road between Askeaton
and Foynes.

They were called to single vehicle crash, in which no-one
was seriously injured, on the main Limerick to Listowel N69
route at around 4.30am this morning.

About 15 minutes later, as they were trying to clear the
road, a car coming from the Foynes direction hit the pair.

Sergeant Vincent McCoy, of nearby Askeaton Garda Station,
said the exact circumstances of the incident were yet to be
established in a major investigation.

He said officers were in shock at the sudden loss of their
colleague, a father of three young children, originally
from Mallow, Co Cork.

"We can`t take it in at the moment. He will be a sore loss
to us, but more so to his young family," he said.

Garda Kelleher, who was stationed at Croom, was a popular
and well-liked member of the force, said Supt McCoy.

"He was very dedicated and extremely hard working," he

"We are all in extreme shock, to say the least.

"We get called out to these scenes every day and you almost
become immune to it, but when it`s one of your colleagues,
the members are extremely shocked by it."

An 18-year-old male motorist was arrested at the scene on
suspicion of drink driving.

He was later released without charge from Henry Street
Garda Station in Limerick City. A full investigation file
is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Tanaiste and Justice Minister Michael McDowell contacted
the Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy to offer his and the
government`s condolences to the bereaved family of the
Garda officer.

"This tragic event, the loss of life of two emergency
workers, is a stark reminder of the risks which people who
work for An Garda Siochana and other emergency services
take day in, day out, in seeking to promote public safety
and to protect life," he said.

Supt McCoy said there was a rise in the number of emergency
service workers being injured or killed during their work.

"It`s becoming more and more of a problem," he said.

The road was closed for a time between Askeaton and Foynes
while the scene of the collision was sealed off for
technical examination.

Gardai at Askeaton appealed for witnesses to the incident
to get in touch.


O'Toole Leads Irish Hopes At Oscars Later Tonight

[Published: Sunday 25, February 2007 - 07:08]

Irish veteran star Peter O'Toole will receive the 8th Oscar
nomination of his career tonight for Best actor.

The 74-year-old is in the running for his performance in

Forrest Whittaker is favourite to take the prize however,
after his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The
Last King of Scotland".

c Belfast Telegraph


Mick Moloney & Friends Return For 13th Year

(MIDDLESEX COUNTY) -- Middlesex County Cultural and
Heritage Commission and the Folklife Program for New Jersey
welcome the return of musician and vocalist Mick Moloney
for the 13th year, at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 7, 2007, at
the Princeton Alliance Center, located at the crossroads of
Scudders Mill Road and Schalks Crossing in Plainsboro. He
will be joined by Robbie O'Connell, vocals and guitar; Dana
Lyn, fiddle; Tim Collins, concertina; and Niall O'Leary,
step dancing, for a truly lively and spirited evening of
soul-rousing music, droll stories and spirited dance.

As a young man in Ireland, Mick Moloney was exposed to the
Irish folk music traditions that were played by legendary
master musicians. He learned to play the traditional
instruments and music from the Irish countryside - music
that was passed down from generation to generation. Today
he performs the folk music and songs from the 18th and 19th
centuries that deal with themes such as the great famine,
emigration to America, the American Civil War, and the
development of Irish and Irish-American music in America.

This free program is funded in part by Middlesex County
Cultural and Heritage Commission, Middlesex County Board of
Chosen Freeholders, New Jersey State Council on the
Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National
Endowment for the Arts, and is presented in association
with the Plainsboro Recreation Department & Arts Commission

Combining the careers of arts presenter and advocate,
folklorist, and professional musician, Mick Moloney is an
accomplished singer as well as an excellent mandolin and
tenor banjo player who possesses a vast storehouse of songs
and instrumental pieces from the Irish and Irish-American
tradition. Mick Moloney is the author of Far From the
Shamrock Shore: The Story of Irish American History Through
Song, released by Crown Publications with an accompanying
CD. He holds a Ph.D. in folklore and folklife from the
University of Pennsylvania. He has taught ethnomusicology,
folklore and Irish studies courses at the University of
Pennsylvania, Georgetown, and Villanova Universities, and
currently teaches at New York University in the Irish
Studies program.

He has recorded and produced over forty albums, and has
actively participated in the great revival of Irish music
in the United States. He has hosted three nationally
syndicated series of folk music shows on American Public
Television; was a consultant, performer, and interviewee on
Bringing It All Back Home; a participant, consultant and
music arranger in the 1994 PBS documentary film Out of
Ireland; and a performer on the 1998 PBS special The Irish
in America: Long Journey Home. In 1999 he was awarded the
National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the
Arts - the highest official honor a traditional artist can
receive in the United States.

Mick Moloney: Traditional Irish Music, Song & Dance, is
offered free of charge; however, registration is required.
If you would like to attend this Folklife program, please
contact the Commission, 732.745.4489. Persons with hearing
disabilities may call 732.745.3888 (TTY users only), or
711, the New Jersey Relay System. The Princeton Alliance
Center is an accessible site. An Assistive Listening System
will be in use during the program. An American Sign
Language interpreter is available with a two-week advance

The Folklife Program for New Jersey was instituted in 1990
to broaden the appreciation and availability of folk arts,
folklore and folklife within Middlesex County; identify and
preserve folk traditions expressed by the people of Central
New Jersey; provide a forum for the presentation of New
Jersey and regional folk artists, recognized by their
community for their excellence; and encourage public
involvement in the folk arts through educational
programming and cross-cultural exchange.


How the Irish claimed their place in the New World.

By Jonathan Yardley
Sunday, February 25, 2007; Page BW15

Looking For Jimmy: A Search For Irish America

(Associated Press)
By Peter Quinn
Overlook. 283 pp. $26.95

This exceptionally thoughtful and interesting inquiry into
Irish America, Peter Quinn writes, "is tentative,
subjective and personal." Though it reaches certain broad
judgments and conclusions about the Irish American
experience, and though it draws heavily on the work of
others who have written about that endlessly interesting
subject, its primary source is Quinn and his family:

"The views and values it reflects were formed in the Bronx-
based religious schools I attended from kindergarten
through graduate school. A full account of the Irish in
America would include the Protestant Scot-Irish and the
many Catholics who settled outside cities. As worthy as
their subjects are, they are not part of my tale. The Irish
America of my search is the one into which I was born -- a
cohesive urban Catholic community constructed from a
peasantry fragmented, transplanted, transformed and defined
by the Great Famine and its consequences."

The city and the famine: These are the central themes of
Quinn's study. Carefully argued and handsomely written --
though marred by infrequent and inexplicable grammatical
lapses -- Looking for Jimmy is more a meditation than a
history, and thus does not displace William V. Shannon's
invaluable The American Irish: A Political and Social
Portrait (1964), which remains a standard reference. But
lapses notwithstanding, Quinn is a better writer than
Shannon, and he digs deeper.

Quinn is a novelist and speechwriter -- for two governors
of New York, Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, and for big
cheeses at Time Warner -- who "was born in 1947, in
Greenport, on the northeast end of Long Island, exactly a
century after my first Paddy ancestor set foot in America."
His father and namesake had just been defeated for
reelection as Democratic congressman from the Bronx, and
the family was vacationing when Peter and his twin brother
were born. The family got back to the city as soon as
possible, and Quinn has lived there for most of the ensuing
six decades. He is an urbanite to the core, and a proud
Irish American one.

"If there is any central theme in the story of the Irish in
America," he writes, "it is . . . how they stayed Irish:
how an immigrant group already under punishing cultural and
economic pressures, reeling in the wake of the worst
catastrophe in western Europe in the nineteenth century,
and plunged into the fastest industrializing society in the
world, regrouped as quickly as it did; built its own far-
flung network of charitable and educational institutions;
preserved its own identity; and had a profound influence on
the future of both the country it left and the one it came

Today the Irish are so thoroughly assimilated into the
larger American society that it is difficult for anyone to
remember how harshly and unforgivingly they were greeted as
they arrived in the great wave that began in the mid-1840s
and lasted for a decade, but white America equated them
with blacks and stereotyped them accordingly as "childlike
buffoons, lazy, superstitious, given to doubletalk,
inflated rhetoric, and comic misuse of proper English."

For African Americans and the Irish alike, "the stereotype
became so ingrained in popular attitudes and perceptions
that it passed from being regarded as a theatrical parody
to a predeterminant of group behavior." Blacks were called
Sambo, while Irish were stereotyped as Paddy. Gradually,
though, Paddy evolved into what Quinn calls Jimmy, a blend
of New York's flamboyant Mayor Jimmy Walker and Jimmy
Cagney, "the actor-hoofer with the looks of a prize-fighter
lucky enough never to have had his face smashed in." Jimmy
"expressed the style of the urban Irish in its definitive
form. These Jimmies had the blend of musicality and menace,
of nattiness and charm, of verbal agility and ironic
sensibility, of what today is known as 'street smarts,'
that the Irish, as New York's first immigrant outsiders,
had developed."

They achieved this after overcoming circumstances so dire
as to defy description or comprehension. On the subject of
the famine, Quinn again is descriptive rather than
definitive -- the latter distinction belongs to Cecil
Woodham-Smith's The Great Hunger: The Story of the Potato
Famine of the 1840s (1962) -- but he fully evokes the
terrible pain and horror it inflicted on millions of
people, and he shows how those who fled Ireland for America
"began the process of recovering from the shattering
experience of the Famine, of unbending from the defensive
crouch it had forced them into, of building a new identity
in America that preserved their deep sense of being Irish
as it prepared them to compete in a country in which the
hostility they faced was interwoven with possibilities for
advancement that had never existed before."

White Anglo-Saxons who regarded themselves as "native
Americans" gave the newcomers a frosty welcome. In Boston,
employers famously posted signs that read: "No Irish Need
Apply." Irish women, who outnumbered men, "worked in
factories and mills. Irish maids became a fixture of
bourgeois American life. Domestic service became so
associated with the Irish that maids often were referred to
generically as 'Kathleens' or 'Bridgets,' " just as black
railroad porters were universally, and equally
patronizingly, called "George."

Politics proved to be the key to Irish assimilation, though
certainly not in a way of which the Brahmins approved. In
New York, Tammany Hall emerged as the great engine of Irish
advancement. Viewed with disgust by Anglos of most classes,
but especially by reformers and aristos, Tammany did indeed
wallow in corruption, but, more important, it "was about
practical things: about jobs, bread, influence; about the
neighborhood kid who needed a lawyer; about the fees paid a
subcontractor; and about the hundred cases of champagne and
two hundred kegs of beer waiting in the basement of the
Hall for those who endured five hours of July Fourth
speechifying." Tammany was practical, unromantic and
effective; Quinn correctly concludes that "for all its
excesses, for all its thievery and knavery, Tammany
afforded the poor what the rich and well-off had denied
them throughout history: respect."

The other institution that gave aid, comfort and support to
the Irish was the Catholic Church. Quinn, who was raised a
Catholic, went through a brief period of collegiate
apostasy and then returned to the fold, laments what has
happened to the church and the priesthood after "the
prolonged season of ugly revelations of sexual misconduct"
but does not let that cloud his memory of the church in
which he was reared: "The environment was sexually
puritanical, ritually demanding, and often stultifying. It
was also intensely comforting and secure, liturgically
rich, a culture of moral absolutes, theological
certainties, and religious devotions in which the answers
to all life's questions were readily at hand." Quinn offers
a surprisingly revisionist view of Cardinal Spellman, whose
early and faithful support for civil rights he emphasizes
more strongly than the cardinal's fondness for political
meddling and his rigid approach to some moral issues.

In America, the Irish elevated the church "from an
ingredient in Irish life to its center, the bulwark of a
culture that had lost its language and almost disintegrated
beneath the catastrophe of the Famine." The Irish
"translated their numbers into control of the Democratic
party in the major cities and turned municipal patronage
into an immediate and pragmatic method for softening the
ravages of boom-and-bust capitalism." They were "prime
participants in the often intertwined professions of
politics, entertainment, sports (along with its less
reputable sister, gambling), as well as a major part of the
local criminal underworld (which was not infrequently an
ally of the local political machine)."

Like African Americans, Irish Americans have made
contributions of incalculable dimensions to American
society and culture. They changed and enriched the
language, gave us our greatest playwright (Eugene O'Neill),
some of our finest writers (Flannery O'Connor, F. Scott
Fitzgerald, Alice McDermott, William Kennedy) and our
greatest movie director, John Ford, one of the "master
interpreters of the [American] dream." Now they have given
us, in this fine book, a way to help us understand them,
and thus ourselves. ?

Jonathan Yardley's e-mail address is

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