Jersey City's council to begin new term without Irish presence
Marks the end of an era for the city's Irish population
For the first time since 1961, the Jersey City City Council will begin a new term on Monday without a single Irish man or woman on the nine-member council, marking the end of an era.
The new makeup of the membership illustrates the shifting demographics of the city, according to NJ.com.
"It shows a true sense of our diversified our city is,” said Bill Gaughan, an Irishman whose five-year term as the Ward D representative ended this year.
Bob Leach, the city's resident Irish historian, said the Irish were a political force going back to the city’s first Irish mayor, Mark M. Fagan, who held office from 1902 to 1907 and again from 1913 to 1917.
He added that former Mayor Frank Hague, who ran the city for 30 years starting in 1917, was known for favoring the Irish.
“Frank Hague’s idea of a mixed ticket was four Irish Catholics and one Irish Protestant,” said Leach.
A litany of Irish mayors followed, as well as countless Irish council members.
The Irish have always been a large part of the population in Jersey City. According to the U.S. Census, 25 percent of the city, about 7,000 residents, was Irish-born in 1860.
That number swelled to almost 15,000 residents of Irish ancestry a hundred years later. The Irish population has dropped, with theU.S. Census putting the number at 13,500 in 2010.
Gerry McCann, a former council member who was also elected mayor in 1981 and 1989 before being removed from office, said the demographics of voters aren’t really changing.
“The people they’re electing are changing,” he said.
The newly elected council includes at-large councilman Rolando Lavarro, the body’s first president of Filipino descent; its first Korean, Michael Yun, who represents Ward D; and its first West Indies-born member, Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal, of Ward B, who is from Guyana.
Leach says not to dismiss the Irish just yet.
“Even with our dwindling powers, the Irish pols still are very skillful people,” he said. “We’ll be back!”
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