From the very beginning, The United States has had a strong connection with Ireland, especially on the East Coast.
Boston, New York and many other cities along this coastline were places where Irish immigrants settled over many generations.
These Irish people have long been proud of their roots and have since kept their connection with the Emerald Isle.
According to the governments of the United States and Ireland, relations have long been based on common ancestral ties and shared values.
Besides regular dialogue on political and economic issues, the U.S. and Irish governments have official exchanges in areas such as medical research and education.
Irish people have benefitted American society, but likewise, America has been a great friend of Ireland through history. This article highlights five strong connections between Ireland and America.
1. A third of Americans have Irish Blood
Irish immigration to the USA has played a large role in the culture of the United States. About 33.3 million Americans—10.5% of the total population—reported Irish ancestry in the 2013 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Irish Americans have made many contributions to American culture and sport. Halloween is thought to have evolved from the ancient Celtic/Gaelic festival of Samhain, which was introduced in the American colonies by Irish settlers.
2. Ireland’s first president was from New York
Éamon de Valera, a prominent figure in the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence, was himself born in New York City in 1882. His American citizenship spared him from execution for his role in the Easter Rising.
De Valera went on to be named President of Dáil Éireann, and in May 1919 he visited the United States in this role. The mission had three objectives: to ask for official recognition of the Irish Republic, to float a loan to finance the work of the Government (and by extension, the Irish Republican Army), and to secure the support of the American people for the republic.
His visit lasted from June 1919 to December 1920 and had mixed success. One negative outcome was the splitting of the Irish-American organisations into pro- and anti-de Valera factions.
De Valera managed to raise $5,500,000 from American supporters, an amount that far exceeded the hopes of the Dáil.
Of this, $500,000 was devoted to the American presidential campaign in 1920 which helped him gain wider public support there.
In 1921 it was said that $1,466,000 had already been spent, and it is unclear when the net balance arrived in Ireland.
Recognition was not forthcoming in the international sphere. He also had difficulties with various Irish-American leaders, such as John Devoy and Judge Daniel F. Cohalan, who resented the dominant position he established, preferring to retain their control over Irish affairs in the United States.
3. America Helped End The Troubles
The Troubles caused a strain in the Special Relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.
In February 1994, British Prime Minister John Major refused to answer US President Bill Clinton’s telephone calls for days over his decision to grant Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams a visa to visit the United States. Adams was listed as a terrorist by London.
The US State Department, the CIA, the US Justice Department and the FBI all opposed the move on the grounds that it made the United States look ‘soft on terrorism’ and ‘could do irreparable damage to the special relationship’.
Under pressure from Congress, the president hoped the visit would encourage the IRA to renounce violence.
While Adams offered nothing new, and violence escalated within weeks, the president later claimed vindication after the IRA ceasefire of August 1994.
To the disappointment of the prime minister, Clinton lifted the ban on official contacts and received Adams at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day 1995, despite the fact the paramilitaries had not agreed to disarm.
The US also involved itself as an intermediary during the Northern Ireland peace process, including, in 1995, US Senator George Mitchell being appointed to lead an international body to provide an independent assessment of the decommissioning issue, and President Clinton speaking in favour of the “peace process” to a huge rally at Belfast’s City Hall where he called IRA Fighters “yesterday’s men”.
Mitchell announced the reaching of the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998 stating, “I am pleased to announce that the two governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland have reached agreement,” and it emerged later that President Clinton had made a number of telephone calls to party leaders to encourage them to reach this agreement.
4. The Celtic Tiger
U.S. foreign direct investment in Ireland has been particularly important to the growth and modernisation of Irish industry since 1980, providing new technology, export capabilities, and employment opportunities.
During the 1990s, Ireland experienced a period of rapid economic growth referred to as the Celtic Tiger.
While Ireland’s historical economic ties to the UK had often been the subject of criticism, Peader Kirby argued that the new ties to the US economy were met with a “satisfied silence”.
Nevertheless, voices on the political left have decried the “closer to Boston than Berlin” philosophy of the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrat government.
Growing wealth was blamed for rising crime levels among youths, particularly alcohol-related violence resulting from increased spending power.
However, it was also accompanied by rapidly increased life expectancy and very high quality of life ratings; the country ranked first in The Economist’s 2005 quality of life index.
5. The USA is Ireland’s largest export partner
The United States is Ireland’s largest export partner and second-largest import partner (after the United Kingdom), accounting for 23.2% of exports and 14.1% of imports in 2010.
It is also Ireland’s largest trading partner outside of the European Union. In 2010, trade between Ireland and the United States was worth around $36.25 billion.
U.S. exports to Ireland were valued at $7.85 billion while Irish exports to the U.S. were worth some $28.4 billion, with Ireland having a trade surplus of $20.5 billion over the U.S.
The range of U.S. products imported to Ireland includes electrical components, computers and peripherals, pharmaceuticals, electrical equipment, and livestock feed.
Exports to the United States include alcoholic beverages, chemicals and related products, electronic data processing equipment, electrical machinery, textiles and clothing, and glassware.
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