A political fight over who should host South Boston’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day breakfast has pitched the area’s Irish American establishment against the district’s new Haitian-American state senator, Linda Dorcena-Forry. The fight involves tradition, ethnicity and racial politics.
The Boston Globe reports that the Irish-American politicians are in an uproar that an outsider – who happens to be a black woman -- is poised to take on one of their most treasured traditions. The racial aspect of the turf war is unspoken, but still clearly a factor in the controversy.
The breakfast, essentially “a political roast,” is traditionally hosted by the senator representing the First Suffolk district. For generations, the “Southie Seat,” representing parts of Dorchester, Mattapan and Hyde Park, has been held by Irish-American men – most recently, Jack Hart. This year, Sen. Jack Hart resigned to take a job in the private sector, leaving the seat vacant and the event without a host. City Councillor Bill Linehan stepped in to pour the tea, so to speak.
But in May of this year, Dorcena-Forry defeated South Boston’s state representative Nick Collins in the Democratic primary to win the senate seat. And among her office’s customary – though unofficial -- duties is hosting the popular Irish event, which is broadcast on local television each year.
Linehan has made it clear that he intends to host the March 2014 event.
“It’s never been stated anywhere that it has to be the state senator,” he told the Globe. “It’s a cultural thing . . . There have been people who have hosted it who were not the state senator.”
However, when it comes to culture – specifically, Irish culture -- Dorcena-Forry has a fairly strong connection. She is married to Bill Forry, the publisher of the Boston Irish Reporter and the Dorechester Reporter. She and her Irish-American husband have raised their family in South Boston.
“I have four bi-racial children -- Irish-American and black,” she told the Globe.
“I’ve been to Ireland four times. We celebrate the culture in my house. My two oldest sons were baptized in St. Augustine’s chapel in South Boston. I’m not just a random black woman who has this seat.”
Linehan, meanwhile, insists that he is the rightful host of the breakfast, and won’t give up the position without a fight.
“Just because [Dorcena-Forry] feels she should be the host doesn’t mean that will happen without negotiation,” he said. “She’s not just going to proclaim that she’s the host without having a discussion with me.”
For her part, Dorcena-Forry is unfazed by Linehan’s bluster.
“To change the rules now because you’re not happy with the outcome is not cool,” she said.