Skip to content

BIR History


By Peter F. Stevens, special to the BIR, August 1, 2014

“They” might have wondered whether five male judges sitting on the United States Supreme Court of 2014 are wearing black robes or cassocks. “They” were the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s-1850s America, the driving force of a Nativist movement that loathed not only the Irish and other immigrants, but also, and especially, all things Roman Catholic. They feared that if too many Catholics flooded “Anglo America,” the pope would soon be calling the shots in the United States on political, religious, cultural, and social matters. Perhaps historical irony doesn’t fit the question neatly, but a historical playback does offer food for thought: How would the anti-Catholic Nativists of yesteryear grapple with the fact that some 160 years after their heyday high court justices who are both conservative and Roman Catholic are laying down the law of the land – literally so? Read more

OF GREED AND GREENS: Two recent deals have Irish eyes here and there scowling and smiling

By Anonymous, July 2, 2014

The deal is completely legal. Medical-device titan Medtronic will soon complete a $42.9 billion deal to gobble up Massachusetts-based outfit Covidien. The swollen pact benefits Ireland’s economy, pays off big for two companies’ executives and stockholders, and will purportedly allow Medtronic to pump some $10 billion into research and development in the US. The deal, however, contains one aspect that raises questions about the continuing offshore tactics of American companies finding ways to set up shop overseas to wriggle out of paying taxes here in the States. Read more


By Peter Stevens, special to the BIR, February 27, 2014

Once, the Boston Irish knew what it was to be “wetbacks.” Of course, the epithets that hateful, narrow-minded Nativists and “Know Nothings” of the 1840s and 1850s employed to deride Irish immigrants were “Paddies, Bridgets, and Papists,” but in the lexicon of prejudice, those terms were, and are, interchangeable because of one ironclad trait – spiteful and willing ignorance.
In a recent edition of the Dallas Morning News, Tea Party US Senate wannabe Chris Mapp asserted that “ranchers should be allowed to shoot on sight anyone illegally crossing the border onto their land” and referred to such “anyones” as “wetbacks” while calling President Obama “a socialist son of a bitch.” Mapp added that use of the slur “wetback” is as “normal as breathing air in South Texas.” Once, that same brand of hate was as “normal as breathing air” in Massachusetts. That same fear and loathing of the “outsider,” the “newcomer,” plagued the Irish and fueled the St. Patrick’s Day Murders of 1845. Read more


By Anonymous, March 1, 2013

Peter F. Stevens
BIR Staff

On March 17, Boston will be awash in St. Patrick’s Day revelry. All nonsense such as green beer, green plastic derbies, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” badges, and faces reflecting various stages of inebriation and emblazoned with painted shamrocks or the Irish tricolor aside, the Saint’s High, Holy Holiday can be celebrated with unabashed abandon. It is worth remembering, however, that what we take for granted in 2013 was not ever so. For the Boston Irish, honoring – let alone celebrating – St. Patrick’s Day proved a long struggle. Read more

For many famine Irish, Deer Island proved their only glimpse of America

By BIR News Room, March 1, 2013

by Peter F. Stevens
BIR Staff

In 1847, a crisis unfolded nearly daily along Boston’s docks. Leaking, lurching vessels aptly dubbed “coffin ships” unloaded hordes of ragged Irish passengers who had fled the Great Famine, An Gorta Mor. Some 25,000 arrived in “Black ‘47,” and with thousands wracked by “ship fever,” likely a form of typhus, Boston officials so feared a citywide epidemic that they ordered a medical receiving room erected on Long Wharf. As overwhelmed physicians dispatched the gravely ill to hospitals, the city of Boston frantically made emergency preparations to set up Deer Island as “the place of quarantine for the Port of Boston.” Read more

The man from Cork brought the Babe to Boston

By Ed Forry, February 7, 2013

“What’s Broken Can Be Fixed,” the full-page Red Sox ad blares. To launch that Fenway fix, the team’s brass has turned to an old friend with a Hibernian surname. Tito’s erstwhile pitching coach, John Farrell, pried loose from his managerial stint in Toronto, is hardly the first Sox manager with Irish roots. Read more

The story of the Irish Brigade and the Lost Drum

By Anonymous, November 30, 2012

By John Rattigan
Special to the BIR
Read more

Old Abe and Old Boston: A troubled relationship

By BIR News Room, November 30, 2012

By Peter F. Stevens
BIR Staff

In Boston’s Irish North End during the Civil War,
President Lincoln was not a popular figure for all

In the new film Lincoln, Daniel Day Lewis brings that towering figure into stunning life on every level. Throughout the maelstrom of the Civil War, the Boston Irish had a tenuous relationship when it came to President Abraham Lincoln. Read more

From his prison cell, Bobby Sands made the world take notice

By BIR News Room, October 4, 2012

by Stephen M. Pingel
Special to the BIR

Following is the eighth in a series of articles on individuals who had a substantial impact on civic life in Ireland in the 20th century.

Bobby Sands

Beginning in the late 1960s, many of the most dramatic events in Ireland over the following two decades or so took place in the North, most of them tied to The Troubles. Read more

Holocaust Survivor Has Wrenching story to tell his fellow Irish citizens

By Ed Forry, March 1, 2011

By Martin McGovern
Special to the BIR
The Emmy-award winning Irish filmmaker Gerry Gregg is the man who produced the first major documentary about the Holocaust made in Ireland. His 2009 production, Till the Tenth Generation, tells the story of Tomi Reichental, now an Irish citizen, who lost 35 members of his family to Adolf Hitler’s madness. Read more