My grandparents landed on Ellis Island from Ireland, early on at the turn of the 20th century. My father’s side of the family hails from Limerick City and mom’s from West Cork. According to stories told by my father and uncles, all sons of Irish immigrants, their parents emigrated by force of law and almost at the point of a gun by some accounts.

They arrived in 1912, just a few years before the 1916 Easter Rising at the Dublin Post Office and the Irish “Free State” compromise and subsequent independence in 1922 from the 1,000-year old boot of British imperialism. My story is a remarkable one really, one that is beyond the scope of a blog post but it should be noted that they, especially my grandmother, were deeply involved in the apartheid-like struggle in the country where it was illegal to speak your native tongue and wear the color green. As well, it is also instructive to point out that the Celtic race (Scots and Irish) is markedly different from the largely Anglo-Saxon race of their then imperial masters.

My story and the stories of countless other Irish have a similar theme and origin. The Irish story is one of bitter sorrow and sadness, of deep suffering and loss. Our forebears come from brutal oppression, an oppression that is a 1,000 years old and one that occasionally rears its ugly head even now after the 1998 “Good Friday” accord brokered between the Apartheid government controlling the North of Ireland (Belfast, Derry, Antrim, etc) and Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein. The horror stories and untold atrocities perpetrated on the Irish in their native land for centuries rise to the level of genocide, and is something that is never mentioned or discussed. No government, no state or individual has ever been held to account or apologized for the mass murder and death of millions of Irish in their native land; many ignorant people and many who claim Irish heritage tritely refer to “the potato famine” without ever really knowing what happened.

The Irish diaspora are far flung, driven not by choice but by necessity for some or at the point of a gun for others, some in ankle chains on a prison ship headed for Botany Bay, some driven by starvation and hunger and a will to survive and some because of racial or religious oppression, apartheid and persecution in their native land. My story contains elements of many of these.

Set now against this backdrop is the question: why would anyone who claims Irish ancestry and is in the service of the public adopt, assume or promote the same repressive policies their ancestors experienced in their native land, where their very own flesh and blood was the target and object of racism or religious persecution? In other words, why would they now become what their grandparents fled from only 2 generations earlier? Seems like a sensible question, right?

There are many names that come up each day in the news, most notably, the name “Trump”, “Drumpf” really as that was his name before he legally changed it. Fortunately, however, we won’t have to consider that name or the person who is identified by it any further in this piece as he is only remotely Celtic in the sense that his mother was from Scotland, nee MacLeod (the Scots and the Irish share a common Celtic Ancestry).

There are, however, other names that often come up and, in most cases, are affiliated with “Trump”, like Conway, (nee Fitzpatrick), Mulvaney, Pence, Ryan, Bannon, Christie, Flynn (there are 2 Flynns, Michael Flynn, Trumps first National Security Advisor and Sean Flynn, a rabid, right-wing extremest running for California’s 31st Congressional District), McConnell, Kelly, Spicer, etc., the list is quite long with the label “Republican” almost synonymous with “Irish”. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting (or former as its really not clear) White House Chief of Staff, former head of OMB, and now “acting” head of the CFPB, is quoted as saying “Elections have consequences“, as if to say, “it sucks to be you”. Mulvaney, as the head of the CFPB redefines the notion of the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse; then we have Hannity and O’Reilly at Fox News, two of the most partisan, ignorant and obnoxious of the bunch, neither suffering at all with their multi-million dollar annual contracts. Hey, Sean, set against the backdrop of early 20th century Ireland and the conditions your grandparents left behind, what would your Irish grandfather say if heard all the hate and BS that comes out of your mouth and how much you get paid to say it?

Previously, the name Reagan was synonymous with being “Irish” and “American” along with William (Bill) Casey, Reagan’s Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987. Casey and Reagan chased down, and one could even say “hunted”, ‘illegal’ Irish immigrants attempting to escape persecution in the North of Ireland at the behest of then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, exporter of NeoLiberalism to this continent in 1980 and monster who openly supported another genocidal monster, Augusto Pinochet of Chile. Reagan’s hypocrisy of identifying as “Irish” was as breathtaking then as it is now. And then there is the extreme case of Sen. Joseph McCarthy!

One thing common to all of these individuals is that they are all first and foremost “American”; their only claim to “Irishness” is a surname, and a superficial celebration and parade on St. Patrick’s day; they have never suffered, so they have no idea of what it means to be truly “Irish”. They haven’t had that transformative organic experience where an individual grows from one who merely exists to one who can learn and form their own world view, teach others and perhaps lead a nation. That is the essence of what it is to be “Irish”, to know suffering, to live it and learn from it. They know nothing of this as they were born here, born into privilege and thus are empty shells, devoid of any heart, soul, conscience or experience.

This is a partial answer to the opening question and principal thesis of this article, the connection to that from whence they came is gone.

Many of these individuals attended primary and secondary Catholic educational institutions and many of these institutions, at least up to and just after the Second Vatican Council, were Jesuit institutions or staffed with Jesuits or Jesuit-trained educators and administrators. The Jesuit tradition is one of dedication and Spartan-like devotion to discipline and they are known as the Church’s Marines.

You’ll find the Jesuits far flung, from the Philippines (my eldest uncle on my father’s side was one such Jesuit missionary to the Philippines), to Asia, to many parts of Latin America, India, Eastern Europe, and the United States(!) or wherever it is deemed necessary to “spread the gospel”-it is important to note here that the United States is included as one of those locations!

These were the educators who taught and trained older members of this group or their parents including great Irish liberals like Rep. Tip O’Neill, Sen. Pat Moynihan and the Kennedys (Jack, Bobby, Ted and Joe, a selfless individual who sadly lost his life before his time), all of whom are now deceased. The Catholic Education this older generation received, with the exception of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, formed them well, allowing them to apply the full social teaching of the church in their public life. A true christian will always be a social liberal and this was clearly evident in the lives of this older generation of Irish Americans, a group that helped shape this nation. So what happened to their children, those described above, the next generation, the ones who claim Irish heritage and are now in public office?

In addition to forgetting their roots, they have aligned themselves with certain aspects of the church’s strict moral doctrine while ignoring the totality of the church’s teaching, specifically the exhortation to embrace and care for the poor; this myopia has, on the one hand, provided cover for their regressive moral posture while allowing for their hypocritical fiscal conservatism.

Hey John Kelly, would your paternal Irish forebears approve of putting migrant children in cages?

In conclusion and to summarize:

  • the connection to that from whence they came is gone
  • a true christian will always be a social liberal
  • they have aligned themselves with certain aspects of the church’s strict moral doctrine while ignoring the totality of the church’s teaching, specifically the exhortation to embrace and care for the poor
  • their myopia has, on the one hand, provided cover for their regressive moral posture while allowing for their hypocritical fiscal conservatism

This conclusion speaks broadly to many of these individuals’ lack of any substantive qualities that could identify them as being of Irish origin but doesn’t take into account any latent racism or neo-fascist tendencies, such as exhibited by the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Stephen Bannon or John Kelly. For some, such as Joseph McCarthy or perhaps Stephen Bannon, the ultra-right leaning posture of some recent popes, such as Pius XII, and their fierce anti-communist political views, could play a substantial role in the thinking of these individuals. In fact, the Church’s 1949 Decree Against Communism, approved by Pius XII, declared that adherence by any Catholic to any Communist organization or any Catholic who publicly professes ascent to any Communist doctrine would be punished with excommunication and deemed “an apostate from the Christian faith“.

This opposition by the Catholic Church in the persona of some recent popes (John Paul II, Benedict XVI, John Paul I, Pius XII) and their public facing pronouncements, ‘teachings’ and ‘dogmas’, bulls, decrees or exhortations to any left-leaning social doctrine (Socialism or Communism) can be traced back to the mid 19th century and would have a deep impact on anyone who took their Catholic faith seriously and, since Ireland is still a predominantly “Catholic” country, we have this peculiar unbalanced tendency by some Irish to hold the views that they do either here in this country or in Ireland. This provides some insight, perhaps, into why some atheists have more of a real affinity for the poor and oppressed: there’s no religious baggage attached to their authentic human charity. It’s probably not a coincidence that Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s reign of terror and his Neo-Nazi, fascist influence was at its high point during the reign of Pius XII, another rabid anti-communist who never publicly condemned Hitler for his atrocities and war crimes. McCarthy was the son of an Irish-born mother and a 2nd-gen Irish-American father.

Shame on you, if your name is Reagan, Kelly, Bannon, McCarthy, McConnell, Pence, Ryan, etc,…etc, and you’ve forgotten your roots and have embraced the imperial aspirations of the rich and powerful in this country, shame on you in forsaking your heritage! It is understandable if you’re in Washington, DC, surrounded by the corrupting influence of Power, Influence and money; as such, if you have a trace of that blood left in you from your forebears, I encourage you to meditate on the following lyrics from

“The Fields of Athenry”

By a lonely prison wall,
I heard a young girl calling
Michael they have taken you away,
For you stole Trevelyn’s corn
So the young might see the morn,
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay

Low lie, The Fields Of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly
Our love was on the wing
We had dreams and songs to sing,
Its so lonely round the Fields of Athenry

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary, when you’re free
Against the famine and the crown,
I rebelled, they brought me down
Now its lonely round the Fields of Athenry

By a lonely harbour wall
She watched the last star falling
As the prison ship sailed out against the sky
Sure she’ll live in hope and pray
For her love in Botney Bay
Its so lonely round the Fields Of Athenry

In reply to MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid when asked this very question about Irish America today and their lack of any qualities that are even remotely “Irish”, Irish Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says quite simply “They’ve Lost Their Irish Heart” (@ 4:20 in the video)

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