Irish-Americans are one of the largest ethnic groups in the USA. Americans who have full or partial ancestry from Ireland, especially those who identify with that ancestry, and their cultural characteristics number about 33.3 million, or 10.5% of the total population. Compare that with 6.5 million on the island of Ireland. That makes the USA the largest Irish country on the planet.
Among some of our favorite Americans who are at least of part-Irish descent: Joe Jonas, Anne Hathaway, Beyoncé, Lindsay Lohan, Joe Biden, Rooney Mara, Alec Baldwin, Rosie O’Donnell, Molly Shannon, George Clooney, Kathy Griffin and Patrick Dempsey. Oh, and Barack Hussein Obama II.
I grew up in Spokane where there are certainly people of Irish heritage, it is after all, still America, but the afternoon of graduation from high school, I left for Boston. I only lived in Boston for a single school year. I was so shocked at what a holiday event St. Patrick’s Day was in that city. When I was a kid, it simply meant wearing green or getting pinched. In Boston I was to learn:
In Ireland, until rather recently, wearing a shamrock, or any green, was considered an insignia of the rebellion, and you could be hanged for high treason. The British so feared the ethnic identity of the Irish that they would murder citizens under their rule for wearing the ethnic color. They didn’t teach that at my grade school.
How lovely that Ireland was the first nation on our pretty spinning blue orb to have Marriage Equality by popular referendum, and the 21st country to offer full rights to citizens married to the same sex (and the 10th country that is predominately Catholic). The measure passed by a large margin. Nice. It seems that it should be tough to exclude gay people of Irish descent from St. Patrick’s Day Parades in the USA, huh?
Today, there will be an anti-Trump Immigrant Solidarity event in NYC organized by Aodhan O’Riordain, an Irish senator who made headlines last year when he called our newly elected POTUS a “fascist” during a speech in Irish Parliament. The event, called an “Irish Stand”, will denounce the Trump family, the administration’s immigration policies and its many Irish-American members, including Veep Mike “Conversion Therapy” Pence and splotchy chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. Apparently, Melania isn’t Irish, but has had a little Irish in her.
Meanwhile, back in Boston, that most Irish of American cities, at an emergency meeting last week, the Allied War Veterans Council, which organizes the 116-year-old celebration of Boston Irish heritage, reconsidered and accepted the application of the LGBTQ veterans. Initially, the council rejected the application, due to a claim that its “Code of Conduct prohibits the advertisement or display of one’s sexual orientation, and that the rainbow flag on its banners and logo was in violation of this rule.
That decision incited intense backlash from the public, including high-profile politicians, including Boston mayor Martin J. Walsh, who vowed to boycott the event, and Republican Governor Charlie Baker Jr., who criticized the parade for being discriminatory. Sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch and Sam Adams, considered pulling out. Walsh:
“I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form. We are one Boston, which means we are a fully inclusive city.”
Meanwhile, back in The Old Sod, some of our favorite Irish LGBTQ citizens include:
Graham Norton, the five-time BAFTA TV Award winning host of the comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show.
The great writer, Colm Tóibín who gave us the beautiful novel Brooklyn (2009), who wrote:
“As a gay Irish man, and an Irish writer, living in New York, I believe the St. Patrick’s Day Parade as it is now constituted is a way of excluding me from celebrating my Irish heritage, and is a way of undermining the progress made both in Ireland and in the United States towards treating all people with dignity.”
Cutie-pie, award-winning actor Andrew Scott, so scary as Jim Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock, so sexy and sweet in the terrific gay-themed film Pride (2014), and BBC Two’s drama The Hour, where Scott plays a secretly gay failed actor. He’s not failed, but he is openly gay.
Emma Donoghue, the Dublin-born novelist and screenwriter of Room (2015). Donoghue is another Irish writer who gets credit for coming out long before it was cool, and, far from making the usual protests about her not being a “gay writer”, made it a central component of her work.
Roger Casement was a gay man who in 1911 was knighted by King George V. An Irish Protestant who served as a British diplomat during the early part of the 20th century, he won international acclaim after exposing the illegal practice of slavery in Africa and South America. Despite his Protestant roots, he became an ardent supporter of the Irish independence movement. After the outbreak of WW I, he traveled to the USA and to secure aid for an Irish uprising against the British.
On April 21, 1916, just a few days before the outbreak of the Easter Rising in Dublin, he was picked up by British authorities. By the end of the month, the Easter Rising had been suppressed and most of its leaders executed. Casement was tried separately because of his illustrious past, but he still was found guilty of treason and he was hanged in London.
Brendan Behan was one of my favorite playwrights. He is regarded as one of the greatest Irish writers and poets of all time. He was also an Irish republican (which is different than the GOP), a boozer, a homo and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. He wrote:
“Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.”
Oscar Wilde, of course, a martyr, the greatest Irish LGBTQ of all time, and was one of the most intelligent men to have ever lived. Celebrate St, Patrick’s Day today by quaffing that Guinness, balancing it on the head of someone little and green, and picking up one of Wilde’s books.
“There is no sin except stupidity.”
Rory O’Neill is a seven-foot drag queen who goes by the name Panti Bliss. She is known as The Queen Of Ireland and is one of the country’s foremost Gay Rights activists. She was absolutely essential to the ‘Yes’ campaign leading up to Ireland’s 2015 Marriage Equality referendum. It’s really her holiday.