Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the United States House of Representative, was caught on camera the referring to the people of Kilkenny and Tipperary as “pig thieves or horse thieves”. The Republican’s comments were aired live on C-Span as he spoke with Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan about tracing his Irish family roots.
The Wisconsin Republican greeted Tim Ryan saying “Hey, it’s the pig stealer side of the family…Do you ever get that: What side of the family are you on? Pig thieves or horse thieves, no?... Are you guys from Tipperary or Kilkenny, do you know?”
Although the Ohio politician looked a bit bemused and said he’d had some trouble tracing his families roots back to a specific county the Speaker persisted. He said “Here’s a question for you guys, which side of the family are you on, the pig thieves or the horse thieves?”
One of Tim Ryan’s team replied to the Speaker saying “Uh, horse thieves.”
He responded “That’s the smart answer.”
Paul Ryan is proud his Irish roots and often refers to his family’s journey. In fact in his office hangs a Kilkenny GAA jersey and a hurling stick, which were presented to him by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform.
The Speaker’s great-great-grandmother grew up in Graiguenamanagh, County Kilkenny, and in 2015 Ryan visited his ancestral home. He met with his relatives, the O’Sheas, and found the old abbey where their ancestors were married.
Here he discusses his family’s story:
They have found out enough about their family history to be sure that James Ryan arrived in the United States in 1851, just six years after the Great Hunger in Ireland began. Ryan’s own family came to the United States in search of the American dream.
By the mid-1880s the Ryan’s had established what is now a national construction company called Ryan Inc. Back then it functioned as an excavation company. James’ son Patrick had three sons, including Stan. Stan’s son Paul was the new speaker's father, Patrick. Patrick, like his son Paul, was not involved in the family business. Instead, they both entered the legal profession.
Ryan was honored by the American Ireland Fund in 2012.
Tim Ryan the Ohio Democrat has been fourteen years in the House, where he has gained a reputation as a Congressman who gets things done. Of Irish and Italian extraction Ryan went to bat for Hillary Clinton last June in Ohio cheering “The Irish will put her over the top!” He is a dedicated meditation and mindfulness expert and has written books on the topic, is a very fast riser in Congress.
Last St. Patrick’s Day Ryan issued the Irish American proclamation in the House. He said “Nearly 44 million Americans celebrate Irish origins, and with good cause…From the earliest stages of our nation's history, Irish-Americans have toiled to contribute to many aspects of American life, including industry, agriculture, science, education and the arts. I'm pleased that my House colleagues voted to honor Irish-Americans and their contributions to our nation's heritage."