Master of the House
By Susan O'Grady Fox, Contributor
October / November 2000
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1953 to 1987. His 10-year tenure as Speaker of the House was the longest consecutive run in U.S. history. Here he recalls growing up in Boston with his widower father.
Growing up as a youngster, you were instilled with three things. The first was the “No Irish Need Apply” signs and what those signs were doing to the Irish. The second was the way your forefathers came over here – off famine ships – and you thanked God they were able to work to provide for their families. I thought of my poor great-grandmother for instance, seeing her three boys, including my grandfather, leave, thinking she would never see them again.
The third thing was a United Ireland, which was a key issue. A local congressman from this area lost his seat when he missed a vote on it. It was just as much part of your faith as anything else.
Regrettably, there was a period in the country, and the Irish and Italians took part in it, when people sought to forget their roots and the sentiment was “Just be an American.” Now that’s all gone again, and it’s a good thing. Where you come from and who you owe it to is vital. – October 1986 ♦
This excerpt is taken from an interview with Susan O’Grady Fox in 1986. Thomas P. O’Neill retired from Congress later that same year. He died in 1994.