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Michael Collin addressing an election meeting. Photo by: National Library of Ireland.

Michael Collins, JFK and the Famine – Where the Irish American mindset is at

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Michael Collin addressing an election meeting. Photo by: National Library of Ireland.

There are three topics that fire the imagination, that really engage Irish Americans – Michael CollinsPresident John F. Kennedy and the Irish Famine. If you want to create a website with maximum impact, mentioning all three subjects will guarantee good traffic.

That is our finding here at Irish Central, where any mention of any of the three sparks a huge interest among our two million monthly readers.

It is actually an interesting phenomenon and creates a mental image of where Irish Americans are at. There is a deep and instinctive connection to the events and individuals in the past that shaped their lives.

They are actually encoding their history in terms of, arguably, the three single most important events of the Irish American experience.

First, the Irish Famine or Great Hunger which struck with life changing force like a meteorite crashing. It changed Ireland and America forever.

Before there were eight million or so living in dirt-poor conditions in Ireland.  Afterwards two million had died and another million fled to America.

The memory remains strong in the U.S., no question about it. The Famine was the foundation stone of the Irish exodus and the rebirth of the tribe in America and elsewhere across the globe.

They brought with them a radical history of dispossession and hatred of what the British had done. They longed for a hero to lead them to victory.

That leads to Michael Collins, who embodies the lost Irish dream of military victory over the British.

Dashing and handsome, he was the darling boy who would avenge the Famine by defeating the British and winning independence.

He failed of course, and like so many in Irish history he is a tragic figure, but Collins has endured far more than Parnell, O’Connell, Pearse and, his hated adversary, de Valera.

His very youth, just 32 when he died, is astonishing, and the photographs and videos of him are incredibly evocative.

Irish Americans see Collins as the lost leader, the person who embodied the Irish spirit and the triumph of the underdog, which is how they see their own progression in America.

Lastly, there is the late President John F. Kennedy, the great hope of the Irish of that era, the first Catholic, great grandson of Famine peasants.

He too embodied the dream, the end of the savagery of the Know Nothings and the anti-Irish era.

Then he was snatched away at the height of his powers like Collins, but lives on in the collective subconscious of the Irish.

Handsome JFK, gunned down like Collins at the height of his power, reflects the lost leader reality for Irish America once again.

What the fascination with all three shows is that despite the modern trappings, the soul of Irish America is intact, focused on its history and its sad lessons that heroes fail and famines kill. But there is pride too, that so much has been achieved.

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