From assassinations, to car accidents, to the end of McCarthyism, these are the top ten Irish American news stories of all time.
1. John F. Kennedy, the great grandson of Irish immigrants, is elected US President
On November 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy defeated the incumbent Vice President, Republican Richard M. Nixon, in a very close race to become the first Irish-Catholic President of the USA. At only 43 years old, the great grandson of Irish immigrants was the youngest man ever to be elected President.
During his time in office he returned to Ireland, visiting his ancestral home in County Wexford. The son of two Irish families, JFK had roots in Ireland through the Fitzgerald family who emigrated from Bruff in Co. Limerick during the famine, and the Kennedy family who left Dunganstown in Wexford around the same time.
2. JFK is assassinated
JFK's time in office was to be short lived, however, as three years later his life was cut short by a sniper while he traveled by motorcade through, Dallas, Texas.
On November 22, 1963, the 35th President of United States was traveling with his wife Jacqueline when Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building killing the much-loved President.
3. Assassination attempt made on President Reagan
An assassination attempt was also made on 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan in Washington D.C. on March 30, 1981, just 69 days after he took office.
The great grandson of Irish Catholic immigrants from County Tipperary, Reagan was shot in the chest by John Hinckly Jr but survived the attack.
Working from an obsession with the actress Jodie Foster and emulating scenes from the movie "Taxi Driver," Hinckly hoped to capture Foster's attention by carrying out this high profile assassination.
4. Reagan tells Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall
Reagan delievered one of his most memorable lines on June 12, 1987 when he called for the Soviet leader to tear down the Berlin Wall, the barrier that divided West Berlin from East, separating families and friends since 1961.A decades-old symbol of the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Russia, the wall eventually came down in 1989.
5. Bill Clinton gives US visa to Gerry Adams - a turning point in the Northern Ireland peace process
As leader of the (Irish) republican political party Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams had been refused access to the US on the grounds of his presumed links with the IRA. Some in the US considered him a terror threat and a risk to national security.
In a momentous decision in January 1994, however, President Bill Clinton finally awarded Adams permission to travel to the US for 48 hours to attend a peace conference in New York with thanks to an IRA ceasefire.
The granting of the visa marked a turning point for Sinn Féin and for the peace process in Northern Ireland.
6. Eugene McCarthy challenges President Johnson in New Hampshire primary forcing the President to end his re-election campaign.
Although Eugene McCarthy unsuccessfully ran for president a total of five times, he played a special role to the 1968 election.
McCarthy's unexpected success in the New Hampshire primary and his anticipated strong showing in the upcoming Wisconsin primary resulted in the withdrawal of the incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson from the campaign. McCarthy's success in New Hampshire would also result in luring Robert F. Kennedy into the race.
McCarthy's father was of Irish descent.
The Minnesota Senator built his campaign around his opposition to the Vietnam War. On March 12, 1968, took 42 percent of the primary vote in New Hampshire to Johnson's 49 percent.
7. End of McCarthyism - Joseph McCarthy is finally denounced for Communist witch hunt
June 9, 1954, is said to be the day that Senator Joseph McCarthy finally met his match in the form of Joseph Welch, special counsel for the U.S. Army.
During a hearing on whether communism had infiltrated the U.S. armed forces, Welch launched into a verbal assault of McCarthy, the son of Bridget Tierny from County Tipperary and Timothy McCarthy, whose father was also Irish. The hearing marked the end of the Senator's power during the anti-communist hysteria of the Red Scare in America.
As McCarthy accused a young associate in Welch's firm of being a long-time member of an organization that was a “legal arm of the Communist Party,” Welch retorted by saying, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness,” before striking a final blow with the question “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” to burst of applause from the crowd.
As the hearings came to a close, McCarthy was exposed as a bully, condemned by the U.S. Senate for contempt by his colleagues in December 1954. He died from alcoholism two and a half years later while still in office.
8. Robert Kennedy is assassinated
On June 6, 1968, less than five years after the death of his brother John, Robert F. Kennedy was shot while campaigning for president. RFK put himself forward as a candidate after Eugene McCarthy's strong performance in the New Hampshire primary. Bobby Kennedy had won primaries in South Dakota and California before he was assassinated in Los Angeles.
Devoted to the civil rights cause, Bobby Kennedy was much loved among minority communities.
A 24-year-old Palestinian/Jordanian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan was convicted of his murder. Sirhan believed that Kennedy was “instrumental” in the oppression of Palestinians following his time as a strong supporter and advocate for Israel while Senator.
9. A girl in Ted Kennedy’s car drowns at Chappaquiddick
On July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy was involved in a single-car accident in which a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.
Kennedy admitted to driving the car off a one-lane bridge and swimming free of the car, leaving Kopechne at the scene for nine hours before reporting the incident. It is believed the young women was alive for some time before she drowned.
Kennedy was charged with leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury and was sentenced to a two-month suspended jail sentence. The accident was to have a much greater effect on his political career, however, and the controversy arising from claims he was intoxicated while driving, plus questions regarding his relationship with Kopechne, are believed to have effected his decision not to run for President in 1972 and 1976.
10. General McAuliffe’s “nuts” comment about the Battle of the Bulge
McAuliffe's famous response when the Germans, who had his men surrounded in and around Bastogne in Belgium, sought his surrender: "Nuts!"McAuliffe was commander of the troops defending Bastogne during World War II's Battle of the Bulge. When the message was relayed back to the Germans, they allegedly had some difficulties in translating it in the affirmative or in the negative.
The quote has been well documented in many movies, as can be seen, below.