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    Irish-American identity over, says US columnist

    Friday, March 20th, 2009

    Irish-Americans will no longer have a powerful impact on American public life, says an opinion writer for U.S. News and World Report. John Aloysius Farrell makes this assertion in a tribute to New York Times journalist Maureen Dowd, saying she “might be the last Irish-American still shaping American public life”. While acknowledging the influence of writers like Alice McDermott and the great Irish-American politician Ted Kennedy, he says,

    But that long marvelous strain of Erin’s sons and daughters, running back two centuries, who once ruled the City Halls and statehouses, put out fires and caught crooks, fought wars, ruled the newsrooms and lit up the stages and silver screens, has come to its end. The melting pot did its work. Surely, there are some who will turn the Pogues up loud today (You’re the measure of my dreams…) wear green ties and lift a glass of Knappogue Castle. But the Irish Catholic identity of our younger days, as the children or grandchildren of immigrants, taught by the nuns, singing “Galway Bay,” cursing the Brits and revering Robert Emmet, is gone.

    He notes that the late Pat Moynihan had predicted this decline in influence:

    He noted back in 1963 how Irish identity was declining amid prosperity and respectability. (A warning to African-Americans there.) Even as the Irish took the top jobs, the base was eroding. On the day that JFK died, “the President of the United States, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Chairman of the National Committee were all Irish, all Catholic, all Democrats,” Moynihan noted. “It will not come again.”

    And it didn’t. There was a chance, I suppose, before Ireland joined Europe and became the (now clawless) Celtic Tiger, that continuing waves of immigration would refresh Irishness in America. It didn’t happen. The Australians, imagine, have a bigger profile in Hollywood today.

    It’s a perspective that highlights the importance of the strategic review of Irish-US relations that the Taoiseach launched in the US last week.

    See the report:

    The Irish American Reign Fades: Maureen Dowd is the Last of a Dying Breed

    New Irish-American website launches

    Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

    The publisher of New York’s Irish Voice newspaper and Irish-America magazine has launched a new website aimed at the diaspora.

    The New York Times says of the venture, “The new site includes genealogy information, top tourist spots in Ireland, breaking news and breaking fluff. Its target audience is the Irish diaspora, which numbers 36.5 million in the United States, more than eight times the population of Ireland.”

    While the site claims to be the first global Irish website, there is little ground for the assertion. Numerous other other sites such as,, and the now-defunct and have also been aimed at the global Irish community. (I worked on two of these: and

    Publisher Niall O’Dowd has gathered $2.4 million in investments and advertising commitments. Backers of the site include a number of prominent Irish-American business executives.

    O’Dowd has been a prominent spokesperson in Irish-American affairs, and was the organiser of the first US-Ireland Forum held in New York in November 2007. He recently stepped down as chair of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.

    Related pages

    Irish-born in US among oldest, least poor

    Monday, March 9th, 2009

    Irish-born residents of the US are among the oldest immigrant groups, and least likely to be poor, according to a survey released by the US Census Bureau. The study examined demographic profiles of the 38.1 million foreign-born population in the US. In 2000, 269,831 of those were Irish.

    The report found that the oldest foreign born populations tend to be from Europe, with those born in Hungary (64 years) and Italy (63.1 years) having the oldest median ages. Those from Greece, Germany and Ireland have median ages of about 60. The median age for the US population as a whole is 36.7, while the total foreign-born population has a median age of 40.2.

    Immigrants from Ireland have a poverty rate of only 5%; those from Ireland and the Netherlands were the least likely to be poor. In contrast, 51% of Somali residents live in poverty, along with about a quarter of those born in Iraq, the Dominican Republic, Jordan and Mexicio.

    In a separate study, the bureau has found that 12% of all Americans report Irish ancestry, or a total of 36 million in 2007.

    In researching this information, I was surprised to find that the Irish don’t even make it into a list of the top 25 countries of birth for immigrants in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, as evidenced by this graphic on the New York Times website.

    Related web pages:

    36.5 million US residents claimed Irish ancestry in 2007

    Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

    As it does annually, the US Census Bureau has issued its fact sheet in preparation for the observance of Irish-American Heritage Month. Irish-American Heritage Month takes place every March.  In the fact sheet we learn the following statistics:

    • 36.5 million US residents claimed Irish ancestry in 2007; only Germany can claim more descendants in the US.
    • 24% of Massachusetts residents are of Irish ancestry; 12% of the US population is Irish.
    • 32% of Irish-American adults over 25 have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 92% have at least a high school diploma. This compares to 28% and 85% for the national average.
    • US imports from Ireland totalled $26.2 billion from January to October 2008, while $7.4 billion worth of goods went from the US to Ireland.

    See the full press release from the US Census Bureau.
    See last year’s Presidential proclamation of Irish-American Heritage Month.

    Jamaica, US region look to Irish diaspora experience

    Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

    An interesting example of Irish leadership in diaspora thinking took place in New York recently, when Niall Burgess, the Ambassador and Consul General of Ireland to the USA, spoke at the Jamaican consulate on the Irish-American experience. The event was the first in a series of conversations with business and community leaders “aimed at inspiring critical thinking about the development of the Jamaican Diaspora Movement”.

    Ambassador Burgess spoke along with Moet Hennessy Chief Operating Officer Jim Clerkin in the event, titled “From immigrant community to Diaspora movement, the Irish Americans: a case study”.

    The event is one of a series of events hosted by the Jamaican Consul General in collaboration with the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board/NE USA and the Organisation for International Development. The next event in the series will focus on the Indian experience.

    Related sites:

    And on a related note, Ireland’s experience is helping to inform Pittsburgh’s attempts to keep in touch with its own exiles. The rust belt city has faced outward migration in recent years, and possesses an ‘emigrant community’ of loyal former residents.

    See this blog entry by geographer and social theorist Jim Russell at the Pittsburgh Quarterly : it references David McWilliams’s diaspora ideas and the Donegal Diaspora Network.

    Russell has set up an extremely informative website called “Cleveburgh Diaspora” about the Cleveland-Pittsburgh Diaspora. There is much of worth here about topics such as brain drain, attracting returnees, and encouraging investment from area natives living away.

    Visit the Cleveburgh Diaspora website

    Barak Obama’s heritage challenges myths

    Monday, November 24th, 2008

    A Queen’s University Belfast professor uses the election of Barack Obama as the launching pad for a discussion of Irish-American myths in an article in this weekend’s Irish Times.

    Brian Walker points out that formerly held notions of Irish-American identity have been greatly challenged in recent decades, as studies have revealed the extent to which the Irish American community is Protestant. He points out that it had been assumed that the slight majority of Irish-Americans who are Protestant were thought to have been Scots-Irish, but the 1990 US census only showed about 5 million people calling themselves Scots-Irish, or 12% of the Irish-American community.

    While there are several reasons for this, Walker highlights Barack Obama’s Irish ancestor, Fulmouth Kearney, who was a member of the Church of Ireland in Moneygall, Co. Offaly. Walker notes that the presence of Church of Ireland members among the Irish diaspora is too often overlooked.

    Read the entire article on the Irish Times website:

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