Irish Names - Pro and Con
In this the season of St. Patrick, the Irish understandably take pride in their success in this country. But they had to fight their way in. There are only two clearly Irish names among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. One of them, Charles Carroll of Maryland, was one of the wealthiest men in the young nation, but there isn't a Sean, Kelly, Ryan, Brian, or Liam in that roster. The large immigration of the mid-1800s enabled the Irish to gain power in the big cities, and they have grown from machine politics to represent the nation with distinction in the highest capacities. Many former Presidents, including Barack Obama, have a least a dash of Irish blood, but today the ethnic group is largely defined by the mostly Catholic famine Irish of the mid-1800s. Foremost are political figures such as JFK and Robert Kennedy, Jimmy Byrnes (FDR's trusted secretary of state,) Ronald Reagan (sort of), Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the colorful Thomas (Tip) O'Neill and half-Irish George Mitchell, the man who largely brokered the treaty which ended the centuries-old Irish Troubles. Oddly, Bill Clinton claims Irish blood but can't prove it. But he and his wife are credited with aiding the Irish peace treaty, and, of course, there is our current president, Joe Biden, who wears his green as proudly as any of them. Our former haunt, Philadelphia, was proud of the Kelly family. John B. Kelly was an Olympic Rowing champion who built a construction company and was long a power in Democratic politics. He is also the father of Princess Grace. They are dozens more families like the Kellys, including a number of congressmen and governors serving today who hold promise of further success.
JFK enjoyed Irish pride.
We suspect we are not alone in checking the backgrounds of these individuals, their parents, schools, etc. to confirm Irish authenticity. And we wonder how many others share our concerns about the flip side of this equation - namely prominent figures with conspicuously Irish names who bring dishonor to the nationality. Anyone who lived through the era can vividly recall Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin. Irish Catholics initially embraced him proudly as a devoted anti-Communist out to save the country from the Soviet menace. That made their disappointment all the greater when he was revealed as a man drunk with power - alcoholism was suspected of his early death -who ruined lives with his reckless accusations. He died in disgrace.
Which brings us to today's contentious political atmosphere. Some Gaelic names stand out, like Joe McCarthy, as being on the wrong side of history. The two most obvious are Fox News broadcaster Sean Hannity and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. Their Irish names could not be more flagrant, nor could their actions that besmirch the Irish reputation. Hannity, who appears to be Irish Catholic on both sides, is among those responsible for the legal problems facing Fox. His statements contributed to the distortions which have caused so many people to believe the big lie about Trump winning the election and their subsequent distrust of government in general. Among Fox's various defenses against lawsuits is the absurd notion that Hannity and other Fox stars are not really journalists, but rather opinion makers - sort of entertainers who should not be taken seriously. This from the cable outlet that from its origins claimed to be "fair and balanced." Hannity has disgraced an Irish name.
Kevin McCarthy's name seems just as Irish, but he is only Irish on one side. Although both his parents hail from traditionally Catholic roots, he is not a Catholic. And he surely does not share the values of the aforementioned Irish leaders, most of whom worked for the common good. He seems to have no principles, except the law of self-interest. His lust for personal power has compromised him to the extent that he is beholden to those who would overthrow Democracy as it has been long practiced in this country.
These two men appear to be so far gone that there seems little hope for redemption. We don't expect them to change, but we do wish they would change their names to some terrible ethnic group more deserving of their shameless conduct.