AN HONORED REPUBLICAN IRISH HERITAGE
IRISH REPUBLICANS AND THE END OF SLAVERY
Famine and war forged a lasting link between the Irish people and the Republican Party. While the Irish emigration began with the discovery of the Americas, the Great Famine from 1845-1849 forced the greatest Irish emigration in Ireland’s history. Starvation caused hundreds of thousands of poor Irishmen to escape their homeland. But they were poor and penniless, so they settled in the cities where they disembarked from their ships.
Among those immigrants was Michael O’Regan, the great-great grandfather of Ronald Reagan. The O’Regans, as they were called in Ireland, were prominent citizens in Ballyporeen, County Tipperary. President Reagan’s heritage was confirmed when Michael O’Reagan’s name was found among 160,000 Irishmen who in 1841 had signed a “thank you” scroll for the departing Chief Secretary to Ireland, Lord Morpeth. In 1851 Michael O’Reagan fled to London but the struggle was almost as hard as Ireland as the multitude of other refugees from the famine filled the city. In 1857 he looked across the ocean and saw a land of opportunity. He booked passage on a ship to Canada, but it was the open opportunities in the United States where he saw his future.
When the Irish landed in New England they felt at home. The United Kingdom had outlawed slavery 20 years before the Irish Famine, so it was natural for these people to align with the anti-slavery factions in the Whig Party of the new country. The Irish became serious about the slavery issue such that by 1858, when the Republicans replaced the Whig Party in New England, the Irish were all Republican.
The Irish became the factory workers in New England, especially in Massachusetts because of the major port of Boston. With the start of the Civil War they were the dominant laborers in the Springfield Armory, in Springfield, Massachusetts, manufacturing armaments for the Union Army. The Irish workers fulfilled a significant role in the defeat of Southern Democrats and to the end of slavery in the United States.
President Reagan knew his Irish ancestry, but in 1980, with the discovery of his great-great grandfather’s signature on the Morpeth Scroll, he discovered just how significant that ancestry was. In 1984, after years of longing, the President finally found that he could incorporate a trip to Ireland in his European visit.
While always important to him, President Reagan’s Irish heritage became much more real in 1980 with the discovery of his great-great grandfather’s signature on the Morpeth Scroll. His family in Ireland were real to him. In 1984, after years of longing, the President finally found that he could incorporate a trip to Ireland in a European visit.
6/3/1984 President Reagan receiving a beer during a Visit to O’Farrell’s Pub in Ballyporeen IrelandO’Farrell’s Pub in Ballyporeen. John and Mary O’Farrell were fans of President Reagan and in the honor of his Irish roots, they named part of the their Pub “The Ronald Reagan.” President Reagan made a point of visiting the Pub while in Ireland.eam was planning the trip to the Emerald Isle they discovered a perfect old Irish pub in Ballyporeen.eam was planning the trip to the Emerald Isle they discovered a perfect old Irish pub in Ballyporeen.
As his advance team was planning the trip to the Emerald Isle they discovered a perfect old Irish pub in his home of Ballyporeen.
The owners of the pub, John and Mary O’Farrell, were huge fans of President Reagan; so much so that in his honor they had named part of the their pub “The Ronald Reagan.”
While in Ireland, President Reagan made visiting the Pub one of his top priorities. He wanted to meet with real Irishmen so that they could “raised a pint” together. As one of the men of the community, he shared with them Irish memories and fanciful stories, and no one thought of him as the most important man in the word.
President Reagan’s visit to the O’Farrells so impressed them that after he left they renamed the entire Pub after him.
In June 2004, Frederick J. Ryan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Reagan Foundation, discovered that the historic Pub had been boarded up. The O’Farrells had closed the bar and intended to sell the fixtures, piece by piece. Ryan immediately purchased the entire Pub, fixtures and all, and shipped it to the Reagan Library in Southern California. They unloaded bars, and chairs, and artifacts from Guinness advertisements to beer taps.
Today, if you visit the Reagan Library, you can see a little piece of the Emerald Isle, “The Ronald Reagan” room.
So this Saint Patrick’s Day celebrate our Republican Irish heritage and lift a pint to the Gipper and all good Irishmen.