Kevin McCarthy has finally been elected as the new Speaker of the House after the 15th round of voting in Congress and the Republican Congressmember has distant ties to County Cork.
McCarthy, a Republican, cruised to re-election in California's 20th district during the recent 2022 midterms which ultimately saw Republicans take narrow control of the House and Democrats retain narrow control of the Senate.
McCarthy was confirmed as the GOP nominee for Speaker of the House on November 15, but his election as Speaker was far from a formality, even though the Republicans had retaken control of the House.
Usually, the nominee from the largest party is a shoo-in for Speaker, but recent splits within the Republican Party meant that McCarthy was only elected after 15 rounds of voting. He was elected with the votes of fewer than half of the members of the House because five of his own party refused to back him but also refused to back any other contender.
In 2015, McCarthy ran for Speaker of the House upon John Boehner's resignation but dropped out of the race before the vote. Ultimately Paul Ryan, another Irish American, became Speaker.
As Speaker of the House, McCarthy, the great-grandson of a laborer from Co Cork, will be the third most powerful politician in the US after the President and the Vice President.
As Tom Deignan reported back in 2015, McCarthy’s great-grandfather, Jeremiah McCarthy, was born in Cork in 1843, according to a book by Wallace M. Morgan entitled "History of Kern County California with Biographical Sketches."
“In 1862, [McCarthy] came to Boston and for two years he worked at farming,” Morgan writes. However, having “heard many encouraging reports from California he became interested and in 1867 came out west to see the land of gold and sunshine.”
Jeremiah McCarthy’s first marriage was to fellow Irish Catholic immigrant (from Co Sligo) Hattie Walsh, who died an early death. McCarthy then married Co Mayo native Mary Davron in June of 1898.
McCarthy’s labor history would be very familiar to any Irish immigrant of his era.
“In 1870, we find him working on the construction of the railroad at Lathrop. In 1871 he became a foreman on the construction for the Northern Pacific in Washington, where he remained until 1873, then returning to California to become foreman for the Southern Pacific at Borden,” the history book notes.
Ultimately, McCarthy “resigned and retired” from railroading in 1907 to “engage in farming and stock-raising.” He acquired over 600 acres “at Bealville where he has made the necessary improvements for carrying on the raising of hay and cattle, his two brands being the quarter-circle under the figure 3 and a double J with bar underneath.”
Kevin McCarthy has touted his Irish roots on previous St. Patrick's Days.
In 2015, during the Obama administration, then-House Majority Leader McCarthy shared an Irish blessing his father used to recite:
🍀 In honor of St. Patrick's day, wanted to share my father's favorite Irish blessing 🍀 https://t.co/sG7zGbwB7i— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) March 17, 2015
Later, in a 2021 St. Patrick's Day message, McCarthy reflected: “My great-grandfather came to America from Ireland back in the 1800s.
“He came to California and worked on a ranch - Jeremiah McCarthy.
“I believe everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”
My great grandfather came to America from Ireland in the 1800s, and on St. Patrick's Day, I believe everyone is Irish. ☘️ pic.twitter.com/FYDoN1hXr8— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) March 17, 2021
*Originally published in November 2022. Updated in January 2023.