It is fact universally acknowledged that the New York City Fire Department is a strongly Irish institution. Look up the Fire Department dead on 9/11, and over half are Irish names.

There are still neighborhoods in New York where the Irish kids grow up dreaming of joining the Fire or Police Departments. It is a noble tradition, lasting back to the first time the Irish flooded to these shores.

Now comes a federal judge, Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who ruled last week that the city has intentionally discriminated against black and minority applicants in Fire Department tests.

Garaufis said the high minority fail rate on the test was not a “one-time mistake or the product of benign neglect. It was a part of a pattern, practice and policy of intentional discrimination against black applicants that has deep historical antecedents and uniquely disabling effects.”

“Black and other minority firefighters have been severely underrepresented,” he said, calling it a “persistent stain on the Fire Department’s record.”

The judge found that the department continued to use an exam that consistently discriminated against minorities.

I seriously doubt if the men at the top of the New York Fire Department design tests to keep people out. It sounds like political correctness run amok to me.

Garaufis had previously ruled that the Fire Department used a test in 1999 and 2002 that had a discriminatory effect on black applicants.

But Newsday reported the following about the 1999 test:

"In the 1999 test, about 90 percent of white applicants had a passing score, but only 61.2 percent of black and 77 percent of Hispanic test-takers passed, according to the complaint."

That’s apparently a "1.0 standard deviation difference between whites and blacks, which is typical for most kinds of cognitive tests. It’s what we see nationally on the LSAT," according to one expert.

That is certainly not grounds for accusation of racial bias, is it? Is this political correctness run amok again?

It may seem so. After all, the NYFD has the greatest reputation in the world, and who cares what color the firefighter is who comes to save your life?

What you want to know is that he or she is able to do the lifesaving job, not the color of their skin.

That is what admission standards should be about -- competency, not race.