Mike Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, was very close to his Irish grandfather.Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Mike Pence (R), the Indiana governor at the center of the raging religious exception controversy, is a proud Irish American who cites his Irish grandfather as his inspiration.

Indeed, he angered many conservatives in 2012 when he was a member of the House of Representatives  and declared that he was willing to strike a deal on immigration reform with Democrats.

The reason he gave was his Irish grandfather. When asked about the reason by The New York Times he responded: "April 11, 1923.”

That was when his Irish grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, a Chicago bus driver, came through Ellis Island.

“We were especially close,” said Pence, who stated that he sees his grandfather’s thrift and hard work in today’s immigrant generation.

Pence also met with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) during that immigration bill battle.

Pence spent the better part of a year working in Ireland when he was younger. He tended bar and cut turf in County Clare and almost stayed there.

In 2013 he returned there for a family trip and visited Tubbercurry in County Sligo where his grandfather emigrated from as well as the Blarney Stone.

Despite his Irish Catholic heritage, Pence changed his religion to fundamentalist Christian and has been a strong proponent of traditional church values ever since.

Now he is at the center of a huge controversy about new legislation that opponents claim will allow business owners in Indiana to discriminate against gays.

Pence has denied that is the intent, but major corporations and sporting organizations have threatened to boycott Indiana as a result.

Pence has been spoken of a possible presidential candidate, but the Indiana controversy may well rule that out.