Irish-American museum proposed in Congress

Support for Bill from major parties with sponsorship from Republicans, Democrats

Future uncertainty should not be allowed to get in the way of positive engagement with the US-Ireland Alliance and Ireland

Future uncertainty should not be allowed to get in the way of positive engagement with the US-Ireland Alliance and Ireland

 

A proposal to establish a museum of Irish-American history in Washington has been brought forward in the US Congress.

Bradley Byrne, an Irish-American member of Congress from Alabama brought a Bill to the House of Representatives calling for a commission to be established to study the potential creation of a National Museum of Irish American History.

The Bill, which was introduced just before the end of the last session by the Republican congressman, has been co-sponsored by a dozen Irish-Americans on Capitol Hill from both political parties, including Massachusetts congressman Richard Neal, Republican Pete King from New York, Philadelphia Democrat Brendan Boyle and Michigan congressman Dan Kildee.

One proposal being considered is that the museum would be part of the Smithsonian institution – the national network of museums based in Washington DC which includes world-class museums such as the Air and Space Museum and the Museum of African American History and Culture.

The Bill proposes that a 23-member commission is established to develop a “plan of action” for the “establishment and maintenance” of a museum.

The Commission would also develop a fundraising plan.

Fundraising plan

Members of the commission would have to show a commitment to the research or promotion of “Irish-American life, art, history, political or economic status, or culture” as well as prior experience in the area of museums. Seven members would be appointed by the US president and the others by Congress.

The Commission would also develop a fundraising plan to seek contributions from the public. The Bill allows for $2.1 million (€1.9 million) in funding for the committee’s first fiscal year and $1.1 million for its second.

The Bill has been sent in the first instance to two House committees – the committee on natural resources and committee on House administration.

Members of the Irish-American community warmly welcomed the development though added that this was just a first step and cautioned that the development of a museum would likely be a long process.

“We’re very much in favour of an institution that would highlight the history of Irish-America and honour the huge contribution the Irish made to this country over the centuries,” said Judge James McKay III, the head of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, one of the largest Irish-American organisations in the country.

More than 35 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, making it one of the biggest ethnic groups in the United States. Among the Irish-Americans in the current US administration are vice president Mike Pence and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.