The Tribe: Caitríona Perry on the political influence of Irish America

Book review: Catríona Perry writes on Irish-US relations in a crisp, accessible style

Éamon de Valera  addressing a meeting in Los Angeles on his US tour as president of Dáil Eireann. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty

Éamon de Valera addressing a meeting in Los Angeles on his US tour as president of Dáil Eireann. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty

I recently attended the Washington launch of Douglas Hyde’s My American Journey (UCD Press 2019), an account of his travels across America for seven months in 1905/06 when he was President of the Gaelic League. At that time, in the wake of decades of post-Famine immigration, Irish America was probably at its peak in size and influence. Hyde attracted impressive crowds in the 55 US cities he visited and dined at the White House with US president Theodore Roosevelt, with whom he discussed Irish and Norse mythology. Hyde was one of many Irish public figures of that era who crossed the Atlantic in search of support from the Irish in America who were only too eager to aid Irish causes. Their passion for Irish freedom helped prepare the ground for the 1916 Rising.

Turn the clock forward a century and Caitríona Perry’s The Tribe represents a timely effort to gauge the current political influence of Irish America. She deserves credit for eliciting the co-operation of so many leading figures including president Bill Clinton. I was among those she interviewed for this book. There are many insights to be found here and Perry, who knows the subject well from the years she spent as RTÉ’s Washington correspondent, tells her story at pace, and in a crisp, accessible style.

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