A new profile in Newsweek of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts describes him as a “raucous Irish dancer” and says ceili or Irish set dancing is how he unwinds from his hectic schedule at the court.
The profile by Daniel Klaidman states that Roberts was introduced to Irish dancing by his wife, Jane Sullivan, a first generation Irish American from the Bronx, whose mother comes from Cork.
Sullivan is a highly successful lawyer who is “deeply attuned to her Gaelic roots and Catholic faith.”
Her Irish roots led to them renting a timeshare in a cottage in Knocklong, Limerick, near the Cork town of Charleville where her mother hails from. It was on their Irish trips together that Justice Roberts became a fan of Irish dancing. He has taken part in the Willie Clancy school, in Clare, where Irish set dancing is a major feature.
Klaidman writes, “As is often the case with highly disciplined people, Roberts seems to have at least one venue where he allows himself to cut loose: he is, according to friends, a raucous Irish dancer.
“He was introduced to the traditional dances by Jane on trips to Ireland, where the Roberts family has a one-eighth share in a cottage in County Limerick. And while céilí, the form of dancing Roberts does, is highly choreographed, with partners linking arms and lines formed, those who have seen him in action say he moves with great intensity and verve.”
Klaidman quotes a Washington attorney who has seen Roberts dance: “It was incredible...He was really getting into it, stomping his feet. His face was red. He was having a blast.”
Newsweek reports that life with Jane and their two adopted children has made Roberts more laid-back and “brought out a more fun-loving side of his personality.
“The addition of Jane and the kids has shown him that there is a fun and uncontrollable side of life, and it’s allowed him to put himself out there in a more personally vulnerable way,” says a friend.
Jane Sullivan Roberts had explained her own Irish heritage in an interview with this journalist for our sister publication Irish America magazine.
Her husband, John, had accompanied her to the annual Irish Legal 100 event hosted by Irish Voice newspaper and Ambassador Michael Collins at the Irish Embassy.
Speaking to IrishCentral, Sullivan said, “There’s a lot of pride in our Irish background.
“We did Irish dancing, we did Irish music, had parties in my home where my grandfather and I danced together. Everybody had to have a party piece. I typically danced. I had one song, the ‘Gypsy Rover’ and I’m still asked to sing that song,” she says, laughing.
Her mother, Kathleen Theresa O’Carroll, was her role model.
“My mother was very smart. She graduated high school at 16 having skipped two classes, and she graduated with honors. She was the only student in the whole town accepted to university – University of Cork. And she didn’t go because it seemed so unattractive; she said you go to Cork and live with some old biddy, and she wanted no part of that.
She broke my grandfather’s heart in that sense. He forced her to do a typing course, because he said ‘you’re equipped with nothing,’ and that, in fact, is how she made her living at her first employment in New York.”