Mike Pence's own grandfather came through Ellis Island in 1923. We take a look at Pence's strong Irish roots and how they have influenced him.
Pence, born in Columbus, Indiana, one of six children, spent many of his childhood summers in Ireland. He told our sister publication the Irish Voice during a 2009 interview that he remembers cutting turf and saving hay with his family in Co Clare and Co Sligo.
In his political life, Pence's own Irish roots have been at the back of his reasoning in meeting with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform in 2009, when few Republican politicians would do so. At the time, he told the New York Times, the reason he gave was simply "April 11, 1923".
This was the date his grandfather, Richard Michael Cawley, a Chicago bus driver, came through Ellis Island in New York after arriving from Co Sligo.
“We were especially close,” said Pence, who added that he sees his grandfather’s thrift and hard work in today’s immigrant generation.
On April 11, 1923 an Irish immigrant named Richard Michael Cawley stepped onto Ellis Island and began our family’s story in America. Because he had the courage and faith in America that is displayed in all of you, that’s how Michael Richard Pence became Vice President of the US. pic.twitter.com/bIcCwAZJRB— Vice President Mike Pence Archived (@VP45) July 4, 2019
At the 2017 American Ireland Fund National Gala, Vice President Pence remarked: "My grandpa had grown up in a little town called Tobercurry, in County Sligo.
"When I was a young man, I had a chance to visit that house before they tore it down. It was just a two-room house where his eight brothers and sisters grew up.
"And I literally walked up the hill that — when Karen and I and the kids visited Ireland just a few years ago, we walked up that hill, as well.
"The legend in our family was my great-grandmother had stood outside that little house and looked over at the Ox Mountains and looked off to the west, and told him that he needed to go because she said, there’s a future there for you."
Elsewhere, Pence has said that his idol is fellow Irish American, US President John F. Kennedy. In 2010, Pence said in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview: "It may be that I grew up in a big Irish Catholic family like he did. Maybe it was that my grandparents were so proud of the first Irish Catholic president."
He said he even still has a box of JFK memorabilia.
In a strange coincidence, Pence has family in Doonbeg, Co Clare, the small town where former President Donald Trump's Irish golf resort is located. He traveled there in 2013 and showed up in Morrisey's Pub in Doonbeg to visit relatives.
Later, in 2019, Pence visited Ireland in an official capacity as Vice President of the US.
Thank you for a great visit! To all the good people of Ireland, may the road rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, may the rains fall soft upon your fields, & until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand. pic.twitter.com/Af5PpiLdLf— Vice President Mike Pence Archived (@VP45) September 3, 2019
Before taking up his position at the White House, Pence served as Indiana's Governor, taking office in 2013. He had previously served in the House of Representatives for 12 years and served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2011.
Before Pence began his political career, he worked as an attorney and as a conservative radio DJ hosting “The Mike Pence Show” in the early 1990s.
*Originally published in 2020. Updated in 2022.