From Irish emigrants during Ireland’s Great Famine to the Republican party’s candidate for the Vice President of the United States, Mitt Romney’s new running mate Paul Ryan’s Irish roots run deep, as his brother Tobin recently explained.
Speaking to the La Crosse Tribune, accompanied by his daughter, Mac, and sister-in-law, Dana, Tobin Ryan, the Vice Presidential candidate’s elder brother spoke about the Irish American family’s history.
Curious about their family tree, the Ryan family from Janesville, Wisconsin, organized a kind of family reunion to find out just how many Ryans there were in the area.
Tobin said, “We decided to get together in Jefferson Park to see how many of us there were.
"We ended up with something like 65 of us. In a four square block area, I think we have 45."
This is hardly surprising in Janesville, a town of 65,000 people, which is dominated by Ryans, Fitzgeralds, and Cullens, known as the “Irish mafia”.
Happily Tobin and the Ryans have been able to discover their own roots dating back to the Famine. The actual year was 1851.
He continued, “It goes back five generations to the potato famine.”
"James Ryan came over and settled in Rock County."
The elder Ryan brother went on to explain that their family most likely hail from County Tipperary, but there is a possibility they hail from Kilkenny.
What they are certain of is that James Ryan arrived to the United States in 1851, just six years after the Great Famine in Ireland began, in search of the American dream.
It certainly seems that the Ryan clan achieved James’ goal.
By the mid 1880s they had established what is now a national construction company called Ryan Inc. Back then it functioned as an excavation company.
James’ son Patrick had three sons, including Stan. Stan’s son Paul was the Vice Presidential candidate’s father, Patrick.
However Patrick, like his son Paul, was not involved in the family business. Instead, they both entered into the legal profession.
Tobin explained, “My grandfather, Stan, was appointed by President Calvin Coolidge as a federal prosecutor for Wisconsin in the 1920s. Our father was an attorney."
After the Ryan family’s recent examination of the Ryans of Janesville’s family tree, Tobin believes most of the Ryans in the area are related.
He said, “Concrete (Bill) Ryan, his son Terry Ryan of the Minnesota Twins and all the rest are somehow related.”
Like the rest of the Ryans, the Vice Presidential candidate has stayed close to home in his predominantly Irish American town of Janesville. Ryan now lives just down the block from where he grew up in their impressive six-bedroom, eight-bathroom home.
Ryan was honored by the American Ireland Fund last March and according to the Irish Times he told how the Ryans settled in Wisconsin in the mid-19th century because it looked like Ireland, without realising how bitterly cold the winters would be.
The newspaper reported that he “told an off-colour joke, complete with a poor imitation of an Irish accent, about a dying Irishman who asks his friend Paddy to pour his treasured bottle of 50-year-old whiskey over his grave. “D’ya mind if I pass it through my kidneys first?” Paddy answers. Men in dinner suits and jewelled ladies in evening gowns groaned,” columnist Lara Marlowe wrote.
With just 83 days left to the US Presidential election, 41-year-old Paul Ryan is now pitted against fellow Irish American Democrat Joe Biden and will make his first public debate appearance against his opponent on 11th October in a public debate. However, the campaign has already kicked off with Biden calling Ryan’s policies “irresponsible”, according to the Associated Press.
Biden asked, “What's gutsy about giving millionaires and billionaires tax breaks? What's gutsy about gutting Medicaid and Medicare?"
As Niall O’Dowd recently pointed out, although these two politicians have similar ancestry, have suffered similar tragedies and have both achieved the American dream, it’s clear that they are fundamentally different in their values.
As the two Irish Americans step up to the mat it will be interesting to see where the “Irish American Vote” lands.