Governor Hugh Carey, who saved New York state from financial disaster and played a prominent role in Irish American politics, has died at age 92.
He was governor from 1975 to 1982 during the infamous ‘Ford to New York Drop Dead’ crisis era when he turned around a dreadful financial crisis in the state.
Carey,a Brooklyn native, and grandson of Irish emigrants was the last surviving member of the ‘“Four Horsemen”, comprised of himself. then House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Senators Edward Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan who spoke out frequently on Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles.
The group was formed by the Irish government at the time to halt support for Irish republicans from America, but they were widely criticized for being too close to the British government position at the time and for tarring all Irish Americans with a radical brush.
In later years, Carey changed and along with Kennedy and Moynihan, supported a visa for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to come to America which was a major factor in the subsequent IRA ceasefire.
He also tangled with Noraid head Michael Flannery who was selected to lead the St.Patrick’s Day Parade in New York in 1983. In an infamous stand off on ABC television’s ‘Nightline’ program, Carey and Flannery argued over Northern Ireland policy. Irish diplomats were instructed to stand down from the reviewing stand when Flannery passed.
In later years Carey accompanied President Clinton on his visits to Ireland and became a familiar figure to a new generation of Irish Americans, as he blasted out his beloved ’New York, New York’ lyrics during late night events.
Carey was one of the great colorful characters in New York life, who had 14 children, remarried a Greek heiress who had been married three times previously. He had presidential ambitions at one point but they never came to fruition. He suffered enormous personal tragedy with three of his sons predeceasing him , two in a car accident when they were young men, the other of cancer, which also claimed his first wife.