A Grand, Green Lie – When it comes to the Emerald Isle, President Donald Trump was the one – surprise, surprise – peddling “fake news,” which are the words Ireland’s Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, used to characterize recent comments from the White House. In a recent comment to reporters, Trump said, “I hear that Ireland is going to be reducing their corporate rates down to 8 percent from 12.” He was talking about his determination to lower US corporate tax rates.
For starters, Ireland’s rate is 12.5 percent According to Henry McDonald, of The Guardian, “Trump angered Irish officials with his comments at a White House briefing, in which he alleged that Ireland was going to cut the tax on corporations such as Apple, Google and Facebook to 8 percent.”
While taking questions in the Dail (the Irish Parliament), Varadkar minced no words about the president’s mis-statement: “I can confirm that President Trump’s claim that we are proposing to reduce our corporation profit tax to 8 percent is indeed fake news. There is no such plan to do so.”
Ireland’s low corporate tax rate has engendered criticism from fellow EU members and from US politicians for Ireland’s luring of giant American companies to set up shop in Ireland. Trump is on solid ground in pointing out that companies are getting around US taxes by operating in large part overseas. Of course, he neglects to mention that these companies were never paying anywhere close to the American tax rate as it was.
That said, Trump and any relationship with the truth and simple facts parted ways long, long before he won the 2016 election. Perhaps the president has faced a tough lie or two on his Doonbeg links, but the Taoiseach wasted little time in calling him out for his – well, let’s call it “fake news.”
Talking Turkey – As Thanksgiving nears, it’s fitting to remember the Boston Irishman who put his own stamp on the holiday. One might think that Thanksgiving traditions do not reflect anything Irish. One would be wrong in that assumption.
In 1889, at ceremonies in Plymouth dedicating the National Monument to the Forefathers, the famous broad-shouldered, mustachioed poet who rose to deliver the main speech was not someone bearing the name Bradford, Alden, Winslow, or Carver. Nor was he a celebrated Yankee author such as Oliver Wendell Holmes. The man who delivered the ode to the original Pilgrims was an Irishman, a Boston Irishman. John Boyle O’Reilly had been a Fenian rebel and a British Army cavalryman condemned to death by a British military court for treason. Only his daring escape from a prison in Western Australia had brought him to the same shore where he now prepared to honor a vivid national memory: the arrival of the Pilgrims in Plymouth in 1620.
O’Reilly, the nationally acclaimed editor of the Boston Pilot, was an essayist and novelist who had carved out a notable literary career in Boston. Not everyone was pleased with the selection of O’Reilly to write a poem honoring the “Pilgrim Fathers.” Locally, letters to editors and people of “polite society” objected that a “foreign-born poet would write and deliver the words “for such an important occasion.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. John Davis Long, the president of the Pilgrim Society, admonished the dismayed dissenters nationwide with his rejoinder that John Boyle O’Reilly was in many ways “a genuine New England Pilgrim, born not on the mainland, but on a small island out at sea.” The fact that the small island was Ireland distressed Americans who contended that only a “real American” – someone born on American soil – should deliver the tribute to the Pilgrim settlers.
The dedication of the Monument garnered nationwide coverage by the press, and O’Reilly was under some pressure to deliver a poem worthy of both his talent and of the occasion to a throng of dignitaries and citizens from all over the nation.
After several testimonials to the Pilgrims and to the monument were delivered, Mr. O’Reilly stepped forward. In a reception that proved yet again how far the Irish-born writer had climbed in the collective opinion of his fellow immigrants and native-born Americans alike, a newspaperman recorded that “the introduction of John Boyle O’Reilly elicited much enthusiasm.”
“Mr. O’Reilly was the poet of the day,” The New York Times reported. The Irishman cleared his throat and began to read aloud his 260-line ode, “The Pilgrim Fathers.” The crowd was riveted.
“Here, on this rock, and on this sterile soil, began the kingdom not of kings, but men…,” he intoned. Emerging from his stanzas were verbal shots at “privilege and Crown,” redolent of a former Fenian who had been denied freedom in his own land, only to find it in that of the Pilgrim fathers.
John Boyle O’Reilly recognized that in Boston and New England, the Irish were still clawing for their own foothold in America. His words in Plymouth brimmed with the hope that, for the Irish, “all the idols” of the crown and Anglo-American privilege would fall.
This Thanksgiving, as families with Irish bloodlines gather to celebrate the holiday, they would do well to recall that Fenian and poet John Boyle O’Reilly claimed a place for the Irish in the Pilgrims’ home town.