Tampa, Fl Mayor Bob Buckhorn, an Irish American, has been criticized for granting a license to a new pub with a name that the leader of a local Irish heritage organization is calling "denigrating" to the Irish.
James J. Harkins IV, president of the Hillsborough County division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, recently sent a letter to the mayor over the Paddywagon Irish Pub located at the corner of Cass and Tampa streets.
“Your Honour, I fail to understand why your administration granted a license to The Paddy Wagon since this uniquely American perjorative term was instigated by the Know Nothings in the 19th century to denigrate Irish-Catholics," begins the letter, according to TampaBay.com.
“Regrettably, such terminology has been carried forward along with denigrations of African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, etc.,” the 77-year-old Harkins added in the June 10 letter and said he would forward the mayor’s response to his state and national boards.
Harkins is not only a community activist but an historian, lecturer, and author. His blog, The Irish Mastryoshka, covers the history of medieval Irish monks.
Mayor Buckhorn says that while he wouldn't have chosen "Paddywagon" himself, he is not offended by the name.
“I say that as somebody of Irish descent who is married to a woman of Irish descent,” he said. “I think at some point political correctness can be taken too far. If that had been my establishment, I would have chosen another name, but it’s not my restaurant and it’s not my job to pick the names.”
City planning and development director Thomas Snelling responded to Harkins' letter on July 5.
“We appreciate your sensitivity to what you feel is a derogatory slur to the Irish American people,” he wrote. “Please be aware, however, that the naming rights of businesses are not within the city’s regulatory purview, and we have no authorization to request a name change.
“Since this is a franchised business,” he added, “you may want to contact their headquarters and ask them to consider your position.”
Harkins said he noticed the pub, which is owned by Jeff Barnes, while driving and did not know it was a franchised business. He has not made a complaint to the company. The pub’s corporate parent, Linksters Management Group of Sarasota, made no response to TampaBay.com’s questions.