Irish need not apply in America anymore - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Irish need not apply in America anymore

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Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Email him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:56 pm | Updated: 8:48 pm, Fri Mar 18, 2011.

Well, this takes the Irish cake. The Irish “need not apply” in America all over again. Ireland, you see, is not doing so well.

Prior to the global economic meltdown, its service industry soared as global companies took advantage of its well-educated, English-speaking citizens.

Emboldened by its good fortune, the Irish government, and many of its citizens, carried on like Americans. They overborrowed and overspent.

A housing bubble formed and burst spectacularly.

Now Ireland’s unemployment rate is 13.5 percent. The high-paying service jobs have disappeared.

And lots of well-educated Irish folks are fleeing their motherland yet again.

But they’re not heading to America this time.

During the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, hundreds of thousands of Irish immigrants settled here. They took jobs in mills and coal mines and along rails and waterways.

Follow America’s waterways and rails and you’ll find many places where the Irish settled.

My great-great-grandfather came over in the 1840s and settled in Pittsburgh. I don’t know if he worked in the mills, but he probably did, and his son, my great-grandfather, was a foreman in one. His son, my grandfather, became a banker.

Today, one in four Americans can trace their heritage to Ireland’s rolling green hills. The Irish influence has benefited America.

Bob Callahan, writing in Salon, says the melodies of the Irish fiddle were blended with the rhythms of African music to give birth to today’s popular music.

Irish vaudevillians, masters of knockabout physical comedy, influenced early Hollywood filmmaking and gave birth to the comic strip.

But it’s the mischievousness of Irish wit that has most influenced American culture.

Callahan says the “hard-boiled, darkly humorous, racetrack bitten” language of the Irish had a tremendous influence on American language, particularly the words of “brilliant, wisecracking Irish-Americans.”

Which reminds me of the one about the Irish brewery worker who drowns in a vat of Guinness. His best friend visits the deceased man’s wife to share the sad news.

“Tell me, did he at least go quickly?” she asks him, crying.

“Not exactly, missus,” says the man’s best friend. “Your husband got out of the vat three times to use the bathroom.”

In my family, being Irish means laughing easily, never taking yourself too seriously, being cautious of getting stuck in the narrowness of your own point of view.

Boy, America sure could use a fresh infusion of the Irish spirit -- but no luck of the Irish this time.

It’s difficult for the new wave of Irish immigrants to get U.S. work visas now. We don’t have many jobs anyway.

That’s why the Irish are flocking to Canada!

According to irishCentral.com, “attaining a one-year visa for Canada is much less complicated and more cost effective in comparison to the U.S.”

Unlike America, our friends to the north got their financial house in order and weathered the economic meltdown wonderfully. Canada’s economy is going great guns.

They are letting in twice as many skilled Irish immigrants as they did five years ago.

Ah, well, the least we Americans can do is have some Irish grace about our dire financial situation.

Which reminds me of the time Paddy the fisherman died.

His wife called the newspaper to place his obituary. The newsman said the cost was $1 a word.

“I only have $2,” said Mrs. Paddy. “Just print ‘Paddy died.’”

The newsman, feeling sorry for her, gave her three extra words at no charge.

“A kind man you are,” she said. “Print me husband’s obituary this way: ‘Paddy died. Boat for sale.’”

• Tom Purcell, a freelance writer is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Email Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.

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