"They all have the gift of gab and are devious as hell." So Mr. Hickey quotes the rueful (and perhaps unintended) compliment of Mark Hanna to the Irish as natural politicians. For the gift of gab there is a long and honored tradition going back to the pre-Christian Celts. The deviousness was merely putting the gift to use to confuse and befuddle the English oppressors and their nativist cousins in North America. As for being politicians…ah, sure, what can I tell you? There's no denying, and there are still a few of us around.
Irish Catholic Americans, for example, are twice as likely to work for the government than the national average; and that hasn't stopped them from becoming the richest (in terms of annual income) gentile group in America. If anyone says we made our money through political deviousness, I would invite them to step out in the alley where Father Callahan and Mr. Hickey will be waiting to discuss the matter with them.
Of course, we didn't exactly lose money on politics either.
'Tis a sad thing to report but the Irish show some signs of respectability these days. They belong to country clubs; some of them, may the Lord have mercy on them, even vote Republican (though they still go to church, showing that you can leave the party and not the church, bad luck to them). They are amused by their quaint, indolent cousins in .....
the old country and act like the Irish were always a presentably upper middle-class crowd in this country.
For such folks this book will be a rude shock. Our ancestors lived in worse conditions than any of the minorities today--and had at lease as bad things said about them as we say about the minorities. Indeed, nothing has been said about the new immigrants to our cities that wasn't said about our great grandparents. We were, it seemed, a no-account, shiftless lot who would never amount to anything.
Well, we showed them, and somehow we managed to stay Irish just the same--even if we forgot what being Irish means and forgot too the brave young men and women who with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a love of freedom, a firm faith and a bright hope came to our shores.
For many of them the only reward was poverty; for not a few was added sudden death.
But we stand on their shoulders. Their courage made our affluence possible.
And don't you ever forget it.
Andrew M. Greeley