Historian Van Gosse penned an article questioning why so many conservative “loudmouth” TV hosts like Sean Hannity are Irish and controversially concludes they are barely Irish at all.
Writing in Newsweek Gosse mentions that years ago he noticed that, “the right-wing chorus pontificating from screens in bars and shops was filled by men with names like Hannity, O’Reilly, and Buchanan.”
He continues by asking why: “Why has the ascent of a bunch of people who in an earlier period might have been called Micks [a contentious word for Catholics] drawn no notice at all?”
Gosse, who says his own great-great-grandfather immigrated from Ireland to the States and lived himself in the Emerald Isle for a time, believes, “Irish-Americans are very different from the Irish-in-Ireland, and often have no sense of themselves as connected to the island and its history.”
The “loudmouths”, he contends, are in fact the ideological descendants of Joe McCarthy, who “untethered Irishness and made it into a certain kind of masculine assertion, free from any institutional power… It established the pattern of a certain kind of 'ethnic' man claiming working-class antecedents (and I stress the claiming rather than actual class status), who portrays himself, and is accepted, as a tribune for all white men in America, a 'hyper-American.'”
“Buchanan, O’Reilly, Hannity, Bannon,” he concludes, “none have any connection to Ireland or organized Irish-American life.” (He misses the fact that Bannon's last wife was from Ireland)
“They’re no more Irish than I am,” he ends with a flourish.
Who exactly is an Irish American has always been a contentious topic – on both sides of the Atlantic. Still more controversial is whether Irish American ethnicity compels an individual to adhere to a set of beliefs.
Last year IrishCentral Founder Niall O’Dowd wrote that Breitbart News founder and then Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon’s views on immigration made him, “a disgrace to his Irish Catholic roots.”
Bill O'Reilly, before he was disgraced, used his Irish heritage a bit. Last year O’Reilly said that he would move to Ireland if ever Bernie Sanders was elected to the Presidency.
“I’m fleeing,” he told the Huffington Post.
“I’m going to Ireland… But I’m not going to pay 90 percent of my income to that guy. I’m sorry. I’m not doing it.”
O’Reilly is unlikely to qualify for citizenship as his last discernible Irish-born ancestor was a great-grandparent (usually the cut off point is a grandparent) but, even after forking out millions of dollars to women who claim he sexually harassed them, he should have an annual income in excess of the $120,000 needed for a retirement visa.
However, Ireland might have become too liberal for them. Though Ireland still has near complete bans abortion – on both sides of the border – the Republic voted for gay marriage, has a gay prime minister and no real right-wing parties. Medicine is basically socialized and grants and payments to unemployed are really quite high.
Last year Sean Hannity told our sister publication, The Irish Voice, that his grandparents immigrated from Cork and Down to the US and that he plans to visit – on an Irish passport as well.
“My sisters have all been to Ireland. I am the only one who hasn’t been, and I am planning to go there. I want to get my Irish citizenship – my mother had dual citizenship – and I’ll do the same,” he told the paper.
He says Irish attitudes in his family were pervasive and that if they could see his closeness to Trump they’d be proud of what they saw.
“Would my parents be stunned about my closeness to Donald Trump? There is no doubt they would be stunned,” he mused.
“What a validation for the risk they took. Imagine my grandfather Cornelius at 18 or 19, getting on a boat and there’s the Statue of Liberty – good luck kid. That was most immigrants from Ireland. I think they would be particularly proud.”
Certainly, the latter two would seem to have no strong connection with modern Ireland, but as Gosse himself asserts there has long been a certain type of Irish American that is strongly Republican. One study even suggested Trump’s victory last year boiled down to his strong performance amongst midwestern Catholics.
So nothing about being a Republican precludes an individual from being Irish American.
As for being a “loudmouth,” is that not a matter of opinion? You could claim the left has Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, equally loud and opinionated.
*Originally published in October 2017.