By Sean O’Loughlin, Esq.

     This week marks the centennial anniversary of Ireland’s Easter Rising when rebel forces led by Patrick Pearse and John Connolly attempted to seize strategic parts of Dublin in an attempt to rid Ireland of British rule. Although the rising was quashed by the British, the uprising is symbolic among the Irish as the beginning of events leading to a free Irish state. In America, just across the giant pond known as the Atlantic Ocean, almost 35 million Americans are of Irish ancestry. They came here to escape famine and poverty. They were greeted with unwelcoming signs and banners in businesses saying “Irish Need Not Apply.” Yet today, the Irish Americans occupy positions of authority and leadership in all walks of American society. The Irish contribution to America will never be forgotten and the Irish Americans will never forget their Irish heritage.

      My grandfather, Thomas O’Loughlin, came from Ireland in the early 1920’s. He was an un-ordained Jesuit Seminarian, sent to America to teach the American priests the Latin language. He ultimately became a teacher at Erasmus Hall high school in Brooklyn. He was a member of Erasmus Hall’s Classical Department and he taught the classics. Like many Irish, he was a gifted writer who also wrote plays. When asked about his education, he was known to tell people that he went to barber’s college. 

     My grandfather’s first cousin John Joseph Foote made national headlines as a war hero during World War II. John Joseph Foote was commander of the submarine the Threadfin. During World War II while on patrol in the pacific, the Threadfin spotted the Japanese battleship the Yamato. After reporting their find, the Yamato was subsequently transformed into scrap metal and Commander Foote, age 31, returned home to Brooklyn as a war hero.  

     My grandmother, Virginia O’Loughlin, who was born in America of Irish heritage, was an English teacher at Lafayette high school in Brooklyn. Her most famous student was a left handed baseball pitcher who the Brooklyn Dodgers, not only recruited, but they optioned future hall of fame manager Tommy Lasorda to make room for Brooklyn’s most famous athlete Sandy Koufax. Sandy was not Irish but my grandmother was always proud of all of her students.

      Ireland was a place described to me by my father as nothing less than magical. About seven years ago, I went to Ireland for the first time. I wish my father was still alive, so that I can tell him that his description of Ireland was perfect. The hospitality and friendliness of the Irish is unmatched. Everywhere I went, I was always greeted with smiles. People from all walks of life in Ireland would take the time from their day to talk to me. When I returned to America, I applied and received dual citizenship with Ireland right away. Since then, I have returned to Ireland several times and I am always told by the Irish that the American’s know their history. Thank God Ireland is a free country and thank you to all the brave men and women who resisted and fought oppression during the foreign occupation of Ireland.

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