Columnists spar over undocumented Irish in America

An opinion column in The Irish Times by freelance writer Colm Quinn has drawn quite a sharp response by IrishCentral founder and editor Niall O’Dowd.

On the surface, both pieces are about the status of some 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants in the US. But the deeper issue in Quinn’s column is about the state of Irish America.

“When it comes to Ireland’s view of itself in the psyche of the United States, it seems we are still stuck in the 1960s, when “Irish” America reigned supreme,” Quinn writes. “The reality is the US has moved on. Irish America is now mainstream and any expectation of special treatment because of the past is misplaced.”

O’Dowd never directly tackles this larger issue. He disputes that Irish leaders and their political peers in Washington, D.C. are seeking special treatment for the undocumented emigrants. But he spends far more column inches in an ad hominem attack on Quinn.

I generally like O’Dowd’s stuff. He’s better than stooping to such tactics. He might have acknowledged that Quinn mentions one his own beefs: that the U.S. has failed to appoint an ambassador to Ireland for over two years.

Quinn’s contention that, “In 2014, an Irish-American is a lot more American than Irish” is too simplistic. That’s been true for decades and misses the point of whether there’s still a special relationship between residents and leaders of the two nations.

And he doesn’t help his credibility by referring to U.S. “midterm elections in October.” Election Day is Nov. 4.

Take a deep breath lads, then try making another run at these issues in the future.