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Archbishop Martin says Irish-American sentimentalism is incomprehensible: but it’s dangerous too

It hasn’t just been about singing ‘Danny Boy’: in Ulster it’s meant death and destruction

By on Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Archbishop Martin says Irish-American sentimentalism is incomprehensible: but it’s dangerous too

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, visiting Boston, gave a brave interview in that great, and very Catholic, City last week. Brave, because it contained the following response to the question as to whether or not he felt a connection between Ireland and Boston:

“I have no relatives in the United States of America, which is unusual for an Irishman. My father’s eldest brother’s children all emigrated to Canada . . . So I have no feeling for Irish-Americanism. I don’t understand it . . . American sentimentalism for a country they don’t know, it’s not my dish.” I, as it happens have some direct experience of Boston “Irish-Americanism”.

I had gone there for a discussion with the then Archbishop, Cardinal Law, who was in overall supervising control of the Anglican Use semi-jurisdiction, a kind of forerunner of the Ordinariate (I’ve been involved in all this for years).

The Cardinal introduced me to his secretary, then said, mischievously, Dr Oddie is an Englishman. Mrs so and so is Irish, he explained, as she glowered at me, she doesn’t like the English. Why not, I asked, puzzled: well because of the way you persecuted Irish Catholics, she said. Yes, I said, but they cruelly persecuted English Catholics, too, probably worse; I’m an English Catholic”. This was not a part of Catholic history of which she had been previously aware. She just knew that the Irish are supposed to hate the English.

Nor had she ever been to Ireland, about which she clearly knew nothing at all. I was an undergraduate in Dublin (one of the best decisions of my life) over fifty years ago, long before the vast improvement in Anglo-Irish relations that has taken place in recent years. In all my time there, including an extra postgraduate year, despite my evident Englishness I never once encountered anything but friendliness and courtesy.

From Irish Americans, I have through the years encountered a certain amount of discourtesy. “I’m Irish”, was the explanation, the first time I came across this phenomenon. “Really” I replied, genuinely puzzled, I wasn’t being a smartass; “you sound American to me: what part of Ireland do you come from?” He, too, had never been to Ireland. Neither had his father or his grandfather. But they all called themselves simply “Irish”, tout court.

“I don’t understand it”, said Archbishop Martin last week; “American sentimentalism for a country they don’t know, it’s not my dish”. Well, it’s not my dish, either. It can be entirely harmless, of course (though the real Irish do sometimes regard the phenomenon with puzzlement) and it does help the tourist trade. I remember, one St. Patrick’s day, in the entrance hall of a Dublin hotel, watching in astonishment as a group of Irish Americans, all dressed in bright emerald-green suits, stood drinking pints of bright green beer and smoking huge bright green cigars.

I expressed my amazement to the Hall porter, who simply replied, “Ah, sure, they’re enjoying themselves, and it does no harm”. Well, to be fair, it’s part, I suppose, not just of Irish American sentimentalism, but of a general tendency in the American mind to generate Disneyfied versions of other countries; but I’m not sure (certainly in countries which become over-reliant on the tourist trade) that that does no harm. Americans are a great and creative people. When you’re in America, the very many reasons there are to admire, respect and like them a lot quickly become very evident. That’s not always true outside the US (mind you, foreigners don’t always love the Brits who visit them, and neither do I).

Back to Ireland. Irish-American sentimentalism has been responsible for very much worse things than emerald-green suits: until 9/11 (when the penny finally dropped in the US, that you can’t on your own soil allow open and unimpeded support for terrorism abroad, either) it brought death and destruction as well. Only Libya supplied more financial aid and more weapons and logistical support to the Provisional IRA than Irish Americans did. The Provos were responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,800 people. The dead included around 1,100 members of the British security forces, and about 630 civilians. But it was OK to collect money on the streets of Boston and New York for the funding of all this death and destruction as long as you knew the words and music to “Have you ever been across the sea to Ireland?” (answer, in most cases, no) and “Danny Boy”.

Archbishop Martin again: “Irish-Americanism… it’s not my dish”. Your Grace, many others feel the same, including (quite literally) thousands of widows and orphans in the six counties and throughout the rest of the UK, too. “Ah, sure, they do no harm”. Well, even about that small, peaceable, fuddled group of green beer drinkers, I begin to wonder: had none of them, perhaps walking down Fifth Avenue, ever reached into their wallets for a ten dollar bill, as someone approached them, smiling, with a bright green collecting box?

  • The ‘Famine’(!)

    This piece isn ‘t fit to be in print, both you and your Editor should be sacked. You are a grossly insensitive and ill informed man, I’d hesitate to say ‘journalist’.

    As for why America, Canada, Scotland and other nations are full of Irish 6th/7th generation Irish, the English Crown starved 1 million people to death in 1845 by colluding with landowners to export the bountiful crop and animal produce to England under armed guard past the noses of the dying in order to fuel it’s Industrial Revolution. They called it a ‘famine’ and it was left to English Quakers, not landed Catholics to try and help the destitute. The rest who were able had to travel to the New World in pitiful conditions only to die on the way, or be exploited by mill and mine owners once in the States.

    Forgiveness, yes, but it will not be forgotten by the Diaspora, William, nor should you forget, for you might not committ to paper drivel like the above.

    In closing, every Irishman in a Guinness hat or Leprechaun get up, is a reminder that despite the Britsh Crown’s crimes, we’re still here William, we’ve still got a sense of humour, and we still know how to treat people which is why in the 60′s when Irish men couldn’t get a room in London, you were treated with nothing but courtesy in our own Capital.

    Slainte.

    PS Does the Catholic Herald represent Catholic England/Britain or just the Home Counties? I stopped buying it years ago due to jingoistic, toffee-nosed crap like this!

  • Weary Convert

    May I perhaps add to this posting one other item. The gentleman comments earlier, ” It has long been (12th century onwards) a source of frustration for Englishmen that our Holy Mother Church steadfastly refuses to order the Irish to bend our knee to the likes of you (“you” being Mr Oddie, an Englishman)” It was, of course, in the mid- 12th century that the Pope, Adrian IV, encouraged King Henry II to become Lord of |reland so that presumably it was Holy Mother Church that first required the Irish nation to bend its knee to the King of England. However, since Adrian IV was the only English Pope (so far), it would be interesting to know if Irish popular mythology finds a way to dissociate itself from the English Pontiff who was probably the first to entitle himself, “Vicar of Christ?”

  • W Oddie

    I don ‘t support what you say I support. I am aware that from the black and tans forward and backwards in history, the British in Ireland have had a shameful history, which I fully acknowledge. But that doesn’t justify the provos: what did all those civilians they slaughtered have to do with what you call ” British terrorism in Ireland “? And how does it justify the proven funding of that slaughter by Irish American Money?

    And if you’re going to accuse me of hypocrisy, at least spell it correctly.

  • The Big Fella

    Weary Convert, I wasn’t going to get sidetracked from countering Dr. Oddie’s objectionable article, but you pose an interesting question. The papal bull in question was called Laudabiliter and it has has long been the subject of controversy around its authenticity. What is beyond dispute however is that it was our Catholic Faith that both singled out the Irish for the most brutal treatment by Britain and sustained us through these trials up to the very recent past. Dr. Oddie isn’t about to empathize with us on this, preferring instead to peddle his own prejudice.

  • The Big Fella

    OK, it’s Holy Thursday, and we need to draw this to a close. Forgive my spelling mistake, but English is only our second language after all. At last you have acknowledged Britain’s shameful history in Ireland. Pity you didn’t do this in your article, but let’s work with it now. I never said it justified anything. I just point out that Britain has a time-honoured tradition of slaughtering civilians in Ireland. So maybe next time you throw a stone, don’t do so in a glasshouse. May I close by wishing you a peaceful and happy Easter.

  • Weary Convert

    Thank you – although there may be some debate over Laudabiliter, the effect was pretty obvious. Meantime, perhaps you might comment on my other post regarding Michael Collins?

  • W Oddie

    I agree; it is as you say Holy Thursday, which means that the confessional approaches. I have (as I suspect have you) succumbed to my naturally contumacious instincts, and I have offended against your natural love for your country, which for heaven’s sake, I share. We really do have more in common than you may suspect. I’m not a hypocrite; so you got under my skin when you said i disliked the Irish. Ever since I had to leave Dublin (pre EU, so I couldn’t have worked there or voted there and therefore had to come home) I for years felt exiled myself.

    As for all that crap about English being your second language: everyone knows the irish have a better command of the English language than most English do (and in my experience are considerably more literate).

    God Bless you, Big Fella; and may you have a Holy and Happy Triduuum and Eastertide.

  • http://lxoa.wordpress.com Shane

    Please do not think Archbishop Martin represents anyone other than himself. Most Catholics here in Ireland LOATHE him and that goes for most of his priests too. He has spent almost all his entire career in Rome and was imposed on the Irish church by Rome. Cardinal Connell had his imperfection but he was much better than this dimwit.

    He is a media whore. As Pat Kenny, RTE Radio presenter noted, his Grace deliberately determined his speech to the KOSC to be high profile and to be heard by the media.

    Archbishop Martin has been strongly criticized by both fellow bishops and priests over his inappropriate use of the media. Most notably, where he used the Press to urge bishops to resign, without even talking to them first, which put them in an impossible situation – and over criticisms which were not sustained by the Murphy Report and which had no basis. Bishop O’Mahoney in his Letter to the Council of Priests criticized Martin for his uncritical acceptance of the Murphy Report and the “cover-up” narrative, which he knows to be utterly false. O’Mahoney pointed to a police investigation, in 2003, which found no sign of interference with evidence and no attempt to obstruct the course of justice.Bishop O’Mahoney in his letter condemned the way in which Martin did nothing to challenge certain conclusions of the Report, such as the Report’s allowing a ‘learning curve’ for other professions, but not for clergy. He also criticized Martin for doing “nothing to counteract the statement of the Murphy Report, widely circulated in the media that ‘the majority of clergy knew and did nothing’.

    The majority of clergy in Dublin did in fact know nothing. Many priests in Dublin are INCANDESCENT WITH RAGE at Martin’s leadership. Bishop O’Mahony also said: “You were out of the Diocese for 31 years and had no idea how traumatic it was for those of us who had to deal with allegations without protocols or guidelines or experience in the matter of child sex abuse.” These criticisms were also echoed in Bishop Walsh’s Letter to the Dublin Deanaries, where he made clear his active involvement in sorting out this mess.

  • http://lxoa.wordpress.com Shane
  • The Big Fella

    Amen.

  • Michel Roi

    It seems to me that people are being a bit hard on Mr. Oddie. While reading his article I did not pick up any hostility towards the Irish nor any denial of the cruelty of the Brittish during their long occupation. He merely points to a phenoenon often found among English speaking North Americans, and not just those of Irish descent; a love for and fascination with the countries their ancestors came from. It seems perfectly understandable for people in relatively new nations to have such an interest. We’re all curious about our roots. That for SOME people of Irish descent this nostalgia went too far is beyond dispute. I have been to Ireland five times and was recently in New York City with friends who are from Ireland. We went to hear an Irish musical group known for their strong nationalist lyrics. My friends told me that in the past, collections were taken up at the group’s North American concerts for “the struggle back home”.

    The French in Canada are an exception because we were forced to break with our European homeland, and that for two reasons; our defeat by the Brittish in 1759 (the “Quebec Act of 1774 guarenteed our language and religious rights and so we got off rather better than the Irish at England’s hands!), and the French Revolution (people in Quebec were too conservative and religious to support it). We were left a captive nation within an English sea and so developed a strong sense of identity as French North Americans. No ruptures with other European homelands were so dramatic and complete except for the loyalists (who fled to and swelled the population of Ontario) and the Germans.

    So I would say, let the tourists have their green suits, beers and cigars, and relish the land(s) of their forebearers, but let their loyalty always be of a sort that eschews violence and terrorism in any form.

  • Michel Roi

    I was in Ireland for the fifth time just recently and stayed in a small town on the west coast, not far from the “gaeltacht”. People there told me that the majority of adults in the region still attend Mass regularly. Indeed, when I went to the local parish for Mass on Sunday, the church was full (many children and teens were present). The folks I talked with in depth told me that their dissapointment with the hierarchy and disgust with the scandals didn’t dim their faith in Christ or the sacraments. Nor in their own parish priest.

  • Irish.French.Canadian

    Irish-French-Greman-Scottish-Metis-Canadian here.

    Irish Americans have faced persecution, however, once they landed in America, it wasn’t the English they needed to worry about. Irish immigrants and their decendents had to contend with propoganda and businesses refusing to hire Irish workers. One political cartoon shows how the Irish are inferior because they look more like Africans, another showing Irish men brutalizing women and another showing a gorilla, offended by a zookeeper who gave him an Irish name. These are all fairly easy to find on google or bing. But it wasn’t the English making these statements or drawing these cartoons, they were the new immigrant’s fellow Americans.

    As seen with many minorities that are persecuted because of their identity, or threatened with losing their identity, they tend to cling to it more strongly. Also, Irish immigrants, particularly those who left Ireland during the Potato Famine or during the eighteenth century were not leaving their country out of a particular desire to change nationality. They were leaving in order to survive or make a better life for themselves. It is not surprising that they kept a strong Irish identity. They never wanted to be anything else.

    So, when the second generation wants to know why they can’t get good jobs, why they can’t read the King James Bible in schools, and why everyone assumes they are rough and rude, immigrant parents are going to have to explain, ‘It’s because we’re Irish.’ or ‘It’s because we’re Catholic’. Stories and music are also passed on by oral tradition between generations, strengthening the connection to Ireland. Personally, I grew up with Irish stories and songs, along with French and Scottish music. My parents and grandparents would use phrases with me like, ‘that’s where you come from.’ Never mind that I was born in Canada, I grew up with my parents and grandparents telling me I was European, and when I said I was European nobody corrected me.

    I did grow up with anti-English sentiments, on both the giving and recieving ends. My father, from New Brunswick, grew up in a neighbourhood that was segregated between blue collar workers with mostly Welsh, Scottish and Irish ancestry living in the East End and white collar workers with English ancestry. There was much resentment and bitterness between the groups, most decendents of Irish still bitter about mistreatment by the Enlglish. Also, my mother, a Quebecois, lived through a period when there was a very strong sepratist feeling in Quebec. Her school, which was English, was threatened by sepratist terrorist bombers frequently.

    Honestly, I was only eight during the Belfast Agreement, so I am too young to remember these supposed green collection boxes. I do however, see Asians, Africans, South Americans, and Middle Easterners all decked out like leprochauns to celebrate Canada’s Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. To me, I can see that for them, it’s all in fun. Especially for my generation that did not live through The Troubles, it is honestly all in fun. I can see the danger though. Not so much in supporting terrorists now-a-days, but dispelling those stereotypes set in place during the nineteenth century. Comments about Irish and Irish Americans being drunks, wife beaters, crude and uneducated are still alive. Don’t tell me they aren’t, I hear them a lot. I feel that so long as Canadians and Americans take pride in their Irish heritage, they have a responsibility to educate themselves and try to dispel these negative stereotypes or Irish and Irish Americans. It was actually a little awkward, explaining to a man once that I would not be drinking because it was lent. He was shocked that me, calling myself Irish Catholic was not drinking, and I was shocked that I had to remind him that not all Irish are unscrupulous out of control drunks. It would also help remove the stereotype of these detached Irish-Americans talking about liberating Ireland through terrorism. If they actually picked up a book, looked on the internet, and learned about what they were talking about. I know not all Americans and Canadians with Irish ancestry fit this stereotype, but I’m sure we all know one who does, or at least saw one on TV or on a forum.

    There can be benefits to decendents of Irish feeling sentamental towards Ireland. It helps the tourist trade, adds Irish tradition to the Canadian cultural mosaic and the American melting pot, broadens the study of history. I do agree though that nationalism of any kind can be dangerous, especially when it goes hand in hand with ignorance. Perpetuation of negative stereotypes, blind nationalism and a lack of education are very dangerous things. Honestly, I want to punch the people who tells an off colour joke about The Troubles in the face and show them a list of casualties and kick the person who tells me I shouldn’t be proud of my heritage in the teeth. Unfortunately, that would just be hypocritical of me, so in my passive-agressive Canadian way, I kindly request they stop with lots of pleases and thank yous.

  • Josephsoleary

    For once I like a piece by William Oddie. Before they started torturing and killing Iraqis the American sentimentalists provided funds and ammunition for a civil war in Northern Ireland that left 3500 dead. The IRA were very expert at torture too.

  • Josephsoleary

    And the anger of your correspondent is testimony to the uncritical nature of the Irish-American ideology.

  • Josephsoleary

    Dont’t make an ass of yourself, Big Fella.

  • Josephsoleary

    Big Fella, I’m sure you know as well as I do how little we Irish-born Irish cared for our cousins in the US, Australia, and Argentina before Mary Robinson invented the diaspora.

  • Josephsoleary

    Tosh, the Irish Americans are self-defined. We in Ireland never asked them to go on and on about their Irish roots and to indulge the most-oppressed-nation ever. Well, not quite, it does offer a lucrative market for summer schools and the like.

  • Josephsoleary

    It is well known that the Irish emigrants to America did very little to help their former country. A remarkable contrast with the eagerness of many of them to fund the IRA. I suspect that the impressive sums you quote refer to American companies setting up in Ireland to enjoy the low taxes — and of course withdrawing as soon as India or China becomes more profitable for outsourcing.

    Rebel songs! They have long gone out of date in Ireland, tainted by IRA appropriation. But a yank would not know that.

  • Josephsoleary

    Irish American sentimentalism was indeed connected with funds for IRA terrorism — people sobbing into their beer as they listen to “Kevin Barry” or “Roddy McCorley” were quite liable to donate their drunken dollars to the collectors for the IRA who astutely plied thee pubs.

  • Josephsoleary

    Big Fella, you are a sublime bs artist!

  • Josephsoleary

    Nursing past grievances is an Irish American specialty. If the persecute Puritans had nourished such grievances American would not have flourished.

  • Josephsoleary

    What a wonderful collection of pious cliches.

  • Josephsoleary

    same true of Boston

  • Josephsoleary

    Big Fella, as a priest I agree that provo priessts are despicable and worse, and I note that W. Oddie has praised good priests like Denis Faul. The rest of your post is classical whataboutery, and does not reflect Oddie’s attitudes as voiced above.

  • Josephsoleary

    But the Pope acted at the request of the Irish bishops, who wanted the Normans to stamp out incest etc. among their flock.

  • Weary Convert

    Mr Oddie, now that your Easter Love-in is over, perhaps you can ask your “Big Fella” friend to comment on the latest Irish Catholic (?) terrorist club to declare its determination to kill and maim. In case you have missed it during the agape, see for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13196461. But of course, as the BBC is notoriously anti-Catholic, perhaps the “Real IRA” or whatever they call themselves, is actually quite different to the picture painted by the BBC and only interested in distributing booklets and soft toys to Catholics who have dared to join the PSNI. If so, maybe the “Big Fella” can put the BBC right on this.

  • Anonymous

    And yet… Mass attendance in Ireland has collapsed. The numbers don’t lie.

  • Mwidunn2

    I’m Irish-American. Some Irish-Americans think a lot about the conflict in Northern Ireland. Honestly and frankly, I don’t . . . probably, since Irish is my ancestry, rather, than my own immediate and personla history.

    The English invaded Ireland centuries before the Protestant Reformation, when both Irish and English were Catholics. So, yes, Oddie is right to imply that there’s more to the conflict in Northern Ireland than religion. In fine, one more powerful nation invaded another one and has yet refused to grant the latter the full autonomy of its borders.

    Oddie’s piece above recalls the attempts of other national powers — the Japanese come to mind — to re-write history and fact (e.g., World War II or the aboriginal status of Ainu). Does he want to compare body counts? Well, the Irish have centuries of oppression under the English when compared to the IRA’s reign of massacres and thuggery. Both were/are evil acts.

    Surprisingly, though, the IRA has kind of ‘fessed up to their villainry. The British will not.

  • Ratbag

    Try telling the Irish group The Wolfe Tones (both groups that are still tustling over that name) that rebel songs have gone out of date in Ireland… and their legions of fans all over the world and in countries where they tour which have no beef with Britain.

    For your information, Josepholeary, the £5BILLION was sent back to Ireland by Irish emigrants out of their own meagre wages. This money kept their families at home from the wolf at the door. The sweat of their own brow. FACT.

    You didn’t know that???? Now, why doesn’t THAT surprise me?

    As one Irish comedian put it: What’s the definition of Irish Alzheimers? They forget everything… but a grudge!

  • mydogoreo

    Mr. Oddie, you got a bit bogged down in stereotypes but your assessment of Americans calling themselves Irish without having ever set foot in Ireland is spot on. The old country can look rosy for the 3rd generation. My family, however, shook the dirt from their feet when they left and never went back.
    Recently viewing a History Channel episode on Irish immigration, I heard the narrator quote an immigration official when he saw the hordes of Irish getting off the boat. He said they looked oppressed to the point where it was hard to tell if they were even human.

  • Mary O’Farrell

    Born in London of Irish parents, I now live in Chicago. This is a very “Irish” city – they even make the river green for St Patrick’s day. I have lost count of the number of people who describe themselves as ’100% Irish’ but don’t really seem to know why. They can be quite off with me for being English and cannot understand why I would not describe myself as Irish – obviously the concept of ‘plastic Paddy’ hasn’t hit these shores yet!
    One March 17 I was saddened when no mention was made of St Patrick at Mass in the Holy Name Cathedral. My Irish friend (from Galway) and I sang an impromptu verse of Hail Glorious St Patrick as it emptied, in his honour.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Born into a family whose members had in Ireland as well as in England. I consider myself Irish-American, though. I’m a Catholic, and I’ve heard stories about how our qualfied schoolteacher great-grandfather wasn’t permitted to teach in 19th century Boston, Massachusetts because he was a”Roman” and an “Irishman.” Being “Irish American” has nothing to do with having been to Ireland: “Irish-American” here in the U.S conveys the outlines of an entire family history. It means your ancestors survived the crossing, probably fleeing the Potato Famine, and came to these shores to work for dirt wages building railroads, digging coal, or scrubbing floors. It means their sons and daughters or perhaps their sons and daughters managed to finish at least some secondary education and obtain somewhat more decent work at better wages, perhaps in factories or in the lower civil service. It means your parents and /or grandparents supported the Labor Union movement, voted for the U.S. Democratic party, and most likely that the parish priest in Chicago or Boston or New York who baptized them had been arrested for supporting a labor union demonstration. It meant that your parents or grandparents had contributed a portion of their hard-earned wages to build the beautiful Catholic church in town, and that the stained-glass windows in that church were inscribed with dedications to “the memory of my parents John Joseph Foley and Mary McGillicuddy” or “in memory of Fr. Brendan Quinlan, O.P.” And reading them, we children would whisper to our parents, “whose names are those?” and after Mass, our mothers would lead us up and down the aisles to admire the gorgeous gem-like windows, and would tell us about the saint whose life each depicted, and pronounce the names of the dear departed in whose memories they were installed. “Foley, that’s an Irish name, and McGillicuddy, and Quinlan, too.” “Mama, how do you know which names are Irish names, and which are Italian or French?” we would ask. Mama would pause to think for a moment, “oh, there are a great many famous Irish names. As you grow up, you get to know which families originally came from Ireland, and what their names were.” Later, you learn how important it is that your and your brothers and sisters do well in school and go to university, because Grandpa or Great-Uncle wanted to go, but couldn’t, and it had something to do with his having been Irish.

    Being Irish-American is a sense of community, a sense of a shared history, and, to a certain extent, a shared set of expectations.

    It’s an Irish American thing. You wouldn’t understand.

  • http://towertales.tumblr.com/ Londonistar

    Thank you. Wonderful article full of important truths. I was horrified to discover one my sisters Irish American friends in America where she now lives had given money to Noraid over many years. Abhorrently prevalent. I have no affinity with American catholics whatsoever as a result – which is so sad.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    To characterize Irish-American Catholics in general as sympathizers with, or supporters of, terrorism – any terrorism – is slanderous and completely unfounded. It is a false and hateful stereotype in a class with other false and hateful stereotypes such as: “all Irish persons are uncouth drunkards,” or “all English persons are greedy, racist imperialists at heart.”

    What outrageous things to say!

    To commit acts of terrorism is a sin and to aid or support terrorism is a sin, and U.S. Catholics, for the most part, understand this, and do not participate, knowingly at least, in such acts. U.S. Catholics also oppose abortion, but only a tiny percentage go off the rails and commit the sin of shooting abortion doctors. Yet the Church’s enemies in the U.S. love to point out the Catholic backgrounds of the handful of criminals who have been so unfortunate as to sin in this way, painting *all* U.S. Catholics who oppose abortion-on-demand, as vicious and dangerous criminals.

    As a U.S. Catholic, I deplore all sins committed by my fellow countrymen and coreligionists, but I recognize that the sin of aiding and abetting terrorism is by no means widespread.

    To state “I have no affinity with American catholics whatsoever” – even with the vast majority who have nothing to do with aiding or abetting terrorsim – is to place oneself outside community with the Universal Church. May God have mercy on you for judging the innocent with the guilty.

  • David Homoney

    Spot on except calling Boston Catholic. Not in most parishes other than in name only. I don’t get the our tenancy as Americans to tack on some other national title i.e. Irish-American. I am an American, and proud to be such. I’m not German-American, Italian-American, or any other such hyphenated. It is sad that we are losing our culture so much to multiculturalism that we have to hyphenate ourselves.

  • Gaegey

    Both my husband and I are a great part Irish in our family heritages. You are right I (we) are certainly American, with goodly injections of German, Scots-Irish, English, French, and a lonely Chreokee, making up a truly Heinz variety. Our ancestors were “Famine Irish”, driven to these shores by natural disaster, compounded by government incompetence. Most Irish immigrants have some such history. America has taken a massive load of Irish immigration, and with it, cultural influences. I HAVE been to Ireland, more than once, and can say there is a sense of cultural affinity that is not experienced elsewhere, even in England. The resultant sentimentality can be pretty dopey, and as the bishop points out, harmless. Yet, he has ventured where angels fear in pointing out the residual radicalism of some “Irish-Americans” who seem to think the Irish Civil War is still going on, and carry their radical world view into the American political engagement. I hope American politics is up to it, but I fear the ancient urge to mix up politics with God has the ability to dilute Christian faith with heresy. Thank you Bishop Martin.

  • Peggy Laws

    Thank you, Big Fella and Bill Logan!
     I am familiar with Irish-American involvement in the Peace Process because I watched very carefully as it unfolded. Irish-American politicians, particulary, Sens. Ted Kennedy, Daniel Moynahan, Gov. Hugh Carey, and Cong. Peter King pursuaded  Pres. Clinton (Scotch-Irish) to pursuade Tony Blair and the various NI parties (including the IRA and Sinn Fein) to agree to the Good Friday Agreement, and afterwards kept very close tabs on its success. In addition, the Irish-Amercan Caucus has insisted that any American companies located in Northern Ireland abide by the MacBride Principles. Pres. Ronald Reagan (another Irish-American) had tried to help through his personal relationship with Margaret Thatcher, but was less successful. Anyone interested can find a list of Irish-American Peacemakers on the Internet, particulary in Irish America Magazine. 
    I also remember Mrs. Thatcher’s state visit to this country in the 1980′s, during which she appeared on American television and furiously denounced Irish-Americans for their involvement in terrorist activities.
    As an Irish-American, I was infuriated at her temerity and complete lack of knowledge of her audience.
    How dare she come to our country and speak to us like that!
    Although accurate information is, by its very nature, sketchy, my understanding is that the funding of IRA activity in the 1970s ’80s, and ’90s, was mainly confined to very small Irish enclaves in New York and Boston, and in those areas to legal (and often illegal) immigrant families of Northern Irish Repuplicans, actually only a very insignificant number of Irish-Americans.. 
    According to the most recent US Census data, 36,278,332  Americans identify themselves as Irish-Americans. Another 3.5 million identify themselves as “Sotch-Irish.” Members of the first group are usually of Irish Catholic Famine and Post-Famine ancestry; the second, are of early 18th century, Ulster Protestant ancestry. Together, we account for more people the population of the UK. Way too many people to be stereotyped, akin to denoucing all Brits as soccer houligans!
    Irish Americans are not, on the whole, snivelling, maudlin simpletons, throwing money away on foolish causes. We are the second largest ethnic group in this country, the second wealthiest, the most politically powerful, and among the best educated, many of us hold university degrees: I have two master’s degrees; my husband has a doctorate. Twenty-four of our country’s forty-four presidents (including Barack Obama) have been Irish Americans.
    We are also Ireland’s guardian angels. In 1916, when the leaders of the Rising were being summarily executed, my grandparents and others raised holy Hell, demanding that the United States refuse to enter World War I on Britain’s side until the executions stopped. We insisted that De Valera was an American citizen and could not be executed. Thoughout the twentieth century, my family sent money and clothing to our many relatives in County Kerry.
    Many of us can also claim Irish citzenship, since under Irish laws,any one born in Ireland (three of my grandparents), a child of anyone born in Ireland( my father and mother), and with proper documentation, the grandchild of anyone born in Ireland (my generation) qualifies. 
    By the way Bill, we may be cousins. My mother’s family were Logans from Galway.

  • Josephsoleary

     I am happy to think that the phenomenon denounced by Abp Martin, Mrs Thatcher, and Oddie is a very minoritarian one, and that the true face of Irish America emerged in the peace process. The IRA and Sinn Fein were masters of media manipulation, managing to impose their stereotypes very widely.

  • Anonymous

    When has Archbishop Martin had time for sentimentality anywhere?  He’s a lawyer who’s worked with the IMF, etc.  Perhaps he hasn’t blotted his copybook as a religious, but his reading of the Irish Americans is superficial and soulless.

    The IRA did get into Irish neighbourhoods and usurp the fundraisers that were used for charities back home, culture, arts and socialising.  That does not mean that all or even a majority of Irish Americans supported them.  Most that I know couldn’t stand them.  However, neither did they condone the Irish Government’s appalling neglect, and denial of their rights as citizens to vote.  Emigration was a way of geryymandering the vote – if you were “in” with Fianna Fail you got a steady job, say civil service, gardai or education.  It was also a means of getting rid of the trouble makers – people who might inquire about Magdalene Laundries or complain about sexual assault by the clergy/educators/coaches/doctors, anyone in fact in the employ of the State.

    Irish Americans have and continue to have a tough time in the USA.  They held their own, kept their heads high and asked for nothing that they did not earn.  They were systematically disenfranchised and displaced from New York, for example, by Governor Lerman on the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt – because they were Catholic. African Americans, originally educated by Irish SMA missionaries in the segregated Southern states were actively courted by Protestant churches and pitted against the Irish.  In the late seventies all Irish employees at G level of the UN were “downsized” and replaced by Third Worlders and their cousins.  In NYC, Affirmative Action led to college places going to unqualified Blacks and Hispanics, mostly Blacks, at the expense of qualified Irish – the easiest to push around and displace.  As they graduated, “college degrees” became the norm for the most basic employment – working your way up as the Irish did was no longer an option and the new grads became the managers.  Before the Irish were fired they were forced to train their displacers, who, despite the hand=held college degrees were less capable, articulate and literate than they.

    The history of anti-Irish activity in New York, for example, is written, but uncelebrated and largely unpublished.  Unlike the Italians, Germans, Poles, etc., there was no welcome home for the Irish – only a “how long are you staying>? in other words, don’t think about spending time in the home you’ve supported, sustained and provided for the past ten years.

    Contrary to many of the comments here and Mr. oddie’s contentions, the Irish Americans are better informed of their history than the Irish at home and have clung proudly and sometimes bitterly to a heritage they cherish despite their disenfranchisement from that heritage.

    Me, I’m “half wit, half Brit.”  Not exactly welcomed home to Ireland, treated handsomely in Britain, identify more strongly with England, but highly protective toward Ireland despite what amounts to considerable abuse.  After all, I do speak with an educated British accent, slightly warmed by America.

    Let’s have some depth here, and my prayer that the Archbishop will find his heart.  Good taste in cookies, however.

  • Anonymous

    Sinn Fein wasn’t following Christ, but Marx and consorting with islam.

  • Anonymous

    But no right to vote without residency….

  • Anonymous

    The collectors for SF/IRA were organised bullies from N Ireland who took over the Irish American networks  in NY and ruined it for the rest of us.  My late husband was with Judge Comerford when he wrote a check for Bernadette Devlin, and tore it up when she gave her keys to the city of NY to the Black Panthers.  (they were watching it on tv)  There was a strong division between the native born Irish in NY, largely political lefties such as Paul O’Dwyer and Mary Robinson, who succeeded not because they were Irish but because they were Marxist.  Mary Robinson’s campaign manager sings the Internationale.  The Irish Americans – and indeed, regular Irish emigrants to /US/NY felt increasingly disenfranchised and abandoned as the far left took over, mocking their faith, traditions and mores.

  • Anonymous

    By the way, Oddie, how do you know that the bulk of that money was not supplied by the same banksters who backed the Bolsheviks, Mao, etc.?  

    At least you distinguish btwn the provos and the Official IRA who were invested pre provo in keeping Ireland out of the EU/SSR.And suddenly the Provos show up,  co-founded and largely run by a man with the same name as an English psychiatrist engaged in MK Ultra/Marathon mind control experiments – only this mysterious Englishman translates it to Gaelic – creating murder and mayhem everywhere while England and ireland are towed inside the all new, all extended iron curtain.And then there’s the little CIA fellow in NY moonlighting on behalf of a construction firm, benefiting from contracts to rebuild Belfast.I suppose all of this is under one of Tony Bliar’s hundred year gag orders…Either you’re phishing, Mr. Oddie, or too glib and judgmental for words.

  • Anonymous

    They’re not Catholic, they’re Communist, communist, communist, communist… got it yet?

  • Marcusmaher70

    Great point, I was born in Liverpool and I did an MA at Trinity in Dublin in History and i live there, I hold Irish ancestry and passport and represent Ireland in triathlon, not because of some anti English predilection and yet the amount of Americans whom I meet who claim some ridiculous upmanship of Oirishness is quite absurd.

    The diaspora, especially after the ‘An Gorta Mor’ scattered the displaced Irish to the four corners, the absurd Paddy Whackery that the US still fosters of anti English sentiment is in fact leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I remember one occasion when I happened to be in a bar in New York, some faux Irish bar…sorry, some guy suddenly became very hostile towards me because of my Liverpool accent (now after many years Irish) and begannto abuse me of being a Brit in an so called genuine Irish bar, he claimed his name was OToole ( a tool alright) and that gave him some quasi membership to some Irish Fenian brotherhood, I sat there and thought should I say nothing or give this fella the biggest humiliatiing lesson of his life, sorry but I did, I proceeded to speak Gaelic, abused him in Gaelic beatha feaog and began to piece by piece dismantle this guy with a series of questions beginning of when the Irish Free State was formed,this tools answer, around the time the IRA started fighting against the Brits, guess what, 1972…Jesus. The fella quickly left the bar and none of these so called faux Amwricans piped up after that. It wasn’t the fact I felt angry about this experience but the fact Americans confirm some mythical and frankly cartoon version of what they Irishness is, or what they read in newspapers and see on TV, when confronted by people like me it makes me think, well I can laugh at the Americans misplaced very of Ireland, but when it comes with open hostility towards English people then it is then I have a problem, unfortunately I’ve found the same story in Boston, Philly and even when I’m with Irish lads watching the Pool Americans still see anti English, it is just sad.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hq8_EkupU5A Bellator

    Regarding the whole Irish thing more generally (regardless of the crude Yankee caricature), to be honest I’m conflicted. My gut tells me to sympathise with Irish Catholics, but I have no time for the Freemasonic (and later Marxist) Republicanism that they have attached their “national ideology” to. The effeminate victimhood “800 years!” romanticism is pathetic; they weren’t the only ones to be conquered by the Normans and you don’t see this kind of whimpy cry-baby nonsense in English Recusant culture. I’m with them against 1690, I can fellow travel with them as far as Daniel O’Connell, David Patrick Moran, Fr Denis Fahey, Eoin O’Duffy and the right-wing of the separatist nationalist movement, but as soon as it gets into Bernadette Devlin crypto-Bolshevik terrority, then my sympathy is 100% with the British Army.

  • Hennessydj

    The usual anti American slant that is both ignorant and belies a sad simplistic agenda. 

  • sim

     It might be worth noting that it was not Tony Blair and the British Govt that needed persuading to the peace process (or the Irish Govt), but the parties in Northern Ireland itself.  And that has always been the problem for the last 100 years – getting the people in Northern Ireland itself to agree about what they want.    The reason why Ireland was not given home rule (i.e near-independence) before WW1 (the legislation for it was passed by the UK Parliament in 1912) was because the Northern Irish loyalists threatened a civil war if they were made part of the Irish Free state (in fact, they WERE part of the Irish Free state for 24 hours until they opted out and voted to rejoin the UK). 

  • sim

    It sounds to me like bt has the balance between sentiment and perspective exactly right.  Others don’t.