At a police conference in 2015 former FBI director James Comey described how most Americans had initially viewed Irish immigrants like his ancestors “as drunks, ruffians and criminals.”
But Comey, from an Irish police family from Yonkers, New York, made clear that despite what the Irish faced in the US after the Famine it was nothing compared to what African Americans suffered.
He discussed the difficult relationship between the police and African-Americans, saying that officers who work in crime-ridden neighborhoods where blacks commit offenses at a high rate develop a cynicism that influences their attitudes about race.
He said the Irish were terribly treated too.“ Law enforcement’s biased view of the Irish lives on in the nickname we still use for the vehicle that transports groups of prisoners; it is, after all, the ‘Paddy wagon,’ ” he said.
But he said that what the Irish had gone through was nothing compared with what blacks had faced.
“That experience should be part of every American’s consciousness, and law enforcement’s role in that experience, including in recent times, must be remembered,” he said. “It is our cultural inheritance.”