'Being Irish, I’m political. It’s an eventful time to live in America'

Still in love with the US after all the years and all those presidents, but an Irishman at heart

John Cotter and son

John Cotter and son

 

I may be somewhat unusual in that I was 42 years old in 1994 when I emigrated to America. Despite my age, I had every confidence that life would work out for me here.

I had a foretaste back in 1972 when, as a student at UCD, I came here on a J1 visa to work for the summer in Boston. That’s when my love affair with the US began and it has only grown stronger over the years.

Had I been able to get a “green card” when I graduated in 1974 I would have been over here on the next plane. That was not possible then and so my life took many twists and turns before I finally realised my dream and came to live here.

It was a bit of a culture shock at first. The locals can be a bit gruff, but once you get past that they are wonderful neighbours and friends. At least that has been my experience over the past 24 years I have lived here.

I arrived during the huge economic growth of the Clinton years and the dot.com era brought it to unprecedented heights. Everyone seemed flush with money and very optimistic about this being the norm for a prosperous future.

Being Irish I was not content living in rented accommodation and began saving as soon as I could to buy my own place. I had the good fortune to meet a wonderful woman in my first year here. We have been married for 21 years and have a 17- year-old son.

I’ve followed US politics since I first came here in 1972. It did not take me long to get up to speed when I moved here

We started off by buying a two-family home. We lived on the ground floor and rented out upstairs. By the time we moved to our current home in 2001, we were earning a nice rental income, making a tidy profit after mortgage, taxes and expenses. Melrose, where we’ve lived for 17 years, was voted the best place to live in America some years ago. It’s certainly proving to be such for us.

Being Irish, I’m political. I’ve followed US politics since I first came here in 1972. It did not take me long to get up to speed when I moved here. It’s been a pretty eventful time. The prosperity of the Clinton years was followed by the disaster, both politically and economically, of the Bush presidency. The rising costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions, the housing bubble that burst, the massive unemployment and the mortgage crisis that resulted in four million people losing their homes paved the way for the abominable state of politics here to day, including the election of the current occupier of the White House. A less fit president could hardly be imagined.

I visit Ireland at least once a year, talk weekly with family and friends and read The Irish Times online every day. This is very important to me because though I have no intention of living anyplace else besides the US my Irishness is part of who I am and my family and friends are vital to me and my wife and son. I’m delighted to say that all of my family have visited; some of them multiple times. Many of my friends have also visited and there’s a real sense of belonging to us on both sides of the Atlantic.

The US is a wonderful country. Despite the dire state of our politics and the consequent lack of co-operation between the main parties, the unbecoming attitude and vulgar carrying-on of our president, there is still a great sense of optimism here. There is still a great sense that one can succeed.

There is also a gathering optimism that we’ll see some significant change in congress this November after the mid-term elections. It may well be that Trump will go the way of Nixon. At the very least, after November with hopefully a Democratic control of congress, we can seriously consider impeachment proceedings if Trump hasn’t flamed out by then.

There is still tremendous goodwill here towards Ireland. Many people I’ve met have visited Ireland

There is still tremendous goodwill here towards Ireland. Many people I’ve met have visited Ireland; some multiple times. I have yet to hear any serious criticism of their experience while there. Indeed quite the opposite. Visitors have loved their time in Ireland and the gracious way they’ve been treated.

Now they are very impressed with the food, the roads, places to stay and the many places of interest to visit. In my time here I’ve met a bunch of people with no ancestral connection who perhaps because of Irish friends or colleagues they’ve have made have chosen to visit. It is indeed heart warming to listen to them describe the things they loved about Ireland. Number one is always the warmth and conviviality of our people.

My wife, who’s American, and son love visiting Dublin and Wexford too where we have some friends. Because of our visits to Ireland and our family’s visits here, there’s an easy familiarity and a wonderful bond that’s developed over the years. Though most of our visits originate and end in Dublin, Clontarf to be specific, we’ve travelled to Belfast, West Cork and Galway over the years. On our visit in February we enjoyed tours of UCD and DCU, where our son will undoubtedly spend a semester or two in the next few years.

I am proud to say that both my wife and son are dual American and Irish citizens. It is heartwarming for me to see how much they enjoy our family there and how my family has taken them into their hearts. Our family will, I’m sure, continue the long American/Irish association of generations past and will always feel that Ireland is indeed our home away from home.

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