Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish leprechaun
Sir,– I am writing to express my outrage at Dave Hannigan’s recent article “Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish leprechaun needs its ass kicked” (Sports Opinion, July 9th).
He decries my university’s mascot and nickname as offensive, much in the same way that one would regard the name of the Washington Redskins. He is fundamentally wrong, and what I find offensive is his condescending and dismissive attitude.
I am both a proud Irishman (I was born and raised in Dublin) and a proud Notre Dame student.
During my time at the university, I have never once had an issue with the leprechaun, nor have my fellow Irish students at Notre Dame, for several reasons. Chief among these reasons is that one of the leprechaun mascots is a student from Derry.
That’s right, he is Irish through and through. He is not some bigot or emblem of deep-seated American anti-Irish bias.
He is my friend and dorm-mate. He does not just “brandish a shillelagh”, as your columnist arrogantly proclaimed. He takes great pride in what he does and trains and works hard to pull off the athletic and acrobatic feats necessary to be a successful mascot.
Our Derry leprechaun is a source of school pride and ought to be one for our nation too. To represent a globally renowned university on the world stage is no easy task. The leprechaun is merely a bit of lighthearted fun around which students and alumni can all rally on game days – especially when he has a thick Derry accent.
With regards to the nickname “The Fighting Irish,” its origins are unclear. There are several theories as to where the name came from: some say it has its roots in former university president Rev William Corby serving with the “Fighting Irish” Brigade of the Union Army in the civil war, or it could originate from an incident in the 1920s when a group of Notre Dame students drove the Ku Klux Klan from nearby South Bend. Either way, the moniker was adopted in tribute to acts of bravery and defiance on the part of the Irish, not as a racial slur.
Notre Dame has the largest Irish language department outside Ireland, staffed by Irish professors. We have a vibrant and growing Irish Club and a large community of students from Ireland on campus. Notre Dame invests millions in Ireland and sends countless students here for terms abroad.
Notre Dame is not a bastion of anti-Irish bias or bigotry. I would appreciate it if Dave Hannigan and those who share his viewpoint took some time to understand Notre Dame before launching an ill-informed and irrational crusade against it. – Yours, etc,