The career of Barney McGinniskin, a cop with an almost comically Irish sounding name, was celebrated in the famously Irish district of Southie in Boston on Monday.
McGinniskin's life and career were extolled in time for Saint Patrick’s Day - even though the man himself has been dead for 143 years.
McGinniskin's distinction was that he was Irish cop, and the first Irish cop at that, not just in Southie or Boston, but the whole nation.
In 1851, when McGinniskin enrolled in the Boston police force America consisted of 31 states. But standing at well over 6 feet, the Galway man was a natural for the job.
McGinniskin made his home in strongly Irish tenements of the North End, where the local Police Department had decided employing an Irishman to patrol streets where the Irish made up a third of the population was a good idea.
But McGinniskin eventually lost his job when nativist Know Nothing candidates won control of the Massachusetts Legislature and governor’s office and quickly fired him for being what he was: an Irish Catholic.
Now Sean McCarthy, a Boston cop and the president of the Emerald Society plans to place a memorial on McGinniskin's grave in Saint Augustine’s Cemetery in Southie.
The sting of discrimination can endure for years and even centuries, but by publicly acknowledging the struggle, a memorial may now also put it to rest.
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