Category: Archive

The Irish still have much to offer Boston

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“Boston has been waiting for a long time, because the Irish have had it,” he continued. “The reigns of James Michael Curley, John F. Collins and Raymond L. Flynn are long over.”
These were the insensitive comments made by this prominent congressman who is also vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee.
When I read the story in the Boston Globe, I thought since I was the last Irish American mayor mentioned in the news article, I would receive many calls from the media asking for my comment about the controversial statement.
Not only did I not receive one single call from the press, I didn’t even hear a single politician speak out about the congressman’s statement.
I immediately thought how my Irish political predecessors would respond. I’m sure Mayor Curley would recall the painful period of time in Brahmin Boston history and the discrimination that Irish immigrants faced when they arrived in the city.
Curley often fought with Yankee bankers as he tried to build “public showers” to help poor Irish immigrants fight off disease and infection.
Curley lived in an era of “No Irish Need Apply” signs which were prominently displayed in many Boston store windows. Boston newspapers often published help wanted job opportunities, but included a brief notice at the bottom to the same effect.
Mayor Collins probably would have heard the same stories that I did about the anti-Irish Catholic sentiment in Boston during the Know Nothing era.
As a young boy, I often heard stories from our older Irish neighbors and grandfathers about how the Irish had to work hard for everything to make a good life for their family.
“Nobody gave the Irish anything,” was a comment often heard. Our neighbors and friends even talked about forming an Ancient Order of Hibernians-like organization to fight anti-Irish Catholic bias in America at the time.
Some might respond to this with “forget about it, move on, let the past be the past”
Oh, really? I remember when I was running for mayor of Boston in 1983, it was often said by those in power that the city would never see an Irish mayor come from South Boston. “They are too parochial,” would be the comment.
Other comments were even less complimentary about my Irish Catholic neighborhood.
I appreciate the congressman’s apology for what he acknowledged was an insensitive remark.
My concern is not about him. It is about us. We haven’t elected an Irish Catholic governor of Massachusetts since 1978. I was the last Irish Catholic elected Mayor of Boston and that was almost twenty years ago. The current mayor is Italian and he has held the position for 16 years.
Two important points stick out as far as I’m concerned. No ethnic or racial group is entitled to any public office or to any one block of votes. The candidate should earn it. It should not be handed to anyone on a silver platter.
However, we all know that this is not always the case. Blacks vote for blacks. Italians vote for Italians and most groups, the Irish included, practice this ethnic politics as well.
So why do some people single out the Irish for voting for their own?
We must remember the enormous contribution by the Irish in the building our great nation. The Irish are simply people of all professions and occupations.
Our country, and our city of Boston, were never better governed than when Irish Americans were in charge.

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