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Blue dog in a green tie

That his district, Pennsylvania's 8th, is comprised mostly of up market Bucks County, not exactly a magnet for the most recently arrived poor huddled masses, only diminishes further any degree of surprise that should be felt by those who regularly or routinely follow the machinations of Congress on the hardy annual that is comprehensive immigration reform.

Then again, Rep. Murphy - he's one of four representatives bearing the name in the House - is presumably very aware of immigration in the grander scheme of American life given his name and the heritage that it speaks to.

Apart from that, his website photo has him in a green tie so it's no surprise at all that Irish reform backers are red in the face over this fresh-faced member of his party's azure faction.

Murphy, an Iraq veteran, pulled off a surprise win in the 2006 election defeating incumbent GOP congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick took a break from politics two years ago because he was battling colon cancer but he is now mounting a comeback attempt in which the issue of jobs, or lack of them, is certain to be a pivotal issue.

Murphy, then, is playing a defensive game here. He's also going to be talking jobs as the clock ticks down to November but he isn't leaving his flank open to an attack on the grounds - whether they are true or not - that immigration reform will mean jobs taken from Americans.

Taking a step back from the broader district battle, Murphy might have a few fences to mend with pro-reform Democrats, not least Irish American ones.

Murphy is a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and former AOH National President Jack Meehan lost little time in posting his view on the Hibernian bulletin board that Murphy had "done a disservice to his Irish heritage, his Irish Catholic constituents, and his brother and sister Hibernians" by signing onto the Chaffetz/Kratovil No Amnesty measure, HR 1026.

At the same time, Meehan also took issue with language unleashed by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform which suggested that Murphy was a member of an "anti immigrant lynch mob."

Continued Meehan: "Congressman Murphy should be reminded by our National Board of our policy regarding immigration reform but I feel even more strongly that the ILIR and any other group with whom we work on the immigration issue should be told in no uncertain terms that we will not tolerate open nastiness toward our members who may have made what we consider to be an error in judgment.

"I am very much aware of the support that Congressman Murphy has provided in other areas, specifically in Veterans Affairs, and I salute him for those efforts. But, that does not excuse him for aligning himself with anti-immigrant factions and legislation in Congress.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians has worked very diligently on behalf of undocumented Irish residents of this great country and it is very difficult to defend our position when one of our own members signs on as a supporter anti immigrant legislation."

Meehan concluded that a letter from the AOH National Board "explaining our solid commitment to the passage of immigration reform legislation that would be beneficial to the undocumented Irish in the U.S. would certainly be in order."

Well, as they say, watch this space!

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REGRETS, I HAVE A FEW

Yeah, well, considering the result there's little surprise that there is some reflecting going on in the Kennedy family with regard to whether or not former congressman, Joe Kennedy, should have had a go for the Senate seat left vacant after Teddy's passing.

Kennedy, 57, told reporters last week that his decision not to run "wasn't the greatest decision I ever made in my life."

Scott Brown beat back the challenge of Martha Coakley who, to say the least, did not impress the Kennedys with her campaign style and, most critically, her work rate.

So the speculation has already started as to whether there will be a Kennedy family member in the race next time around. Brown has just two years before he faces voters again, so his term is more like that of a House member than a senator.

Joe Kennedy might be tempted, but then again, he seems content with running Citizens Energy Corp. And then there is Teddy Jr., who has hinted that he might enter politics down the line a bit when his kids are a little more grown up.

Then there are the kids themselves, the next generation. We shall see.


DROMM NAMED

Back down I-95 in New York City, politics proceeds with the naming of freshman City Council member Daniel Dromm as chair of the council's immigration committee. Dromm will doubtless have much to say and a lot to do in a city where immigrants, both legal and otherwise, make up a major portion of the total population.

Dromm, who is well attuned to Irish concerns and issues, attended the recent celebration of the 25th anniversary of the MacBride Principles campaign hosted by the Echo at City Hall.


PLUMMETING PAD

It's been a tough few weeks for Iris and Peter Robinson so the news that the value of their second home in Florida has taken a nosedive is having to take its place in line with all the other negative headlines.

According to reports, the Robinsons paid $590,000 back in 2008 for the pad in Orlando. It is now worth in the region of $400,000 and could fetch less as the property market continues to stagnate

The house is a four-bedroom, four-bathroom affair that was built just before the Robinsons purchased it. Property taxes are about $10,000 a year. There's no reports as to whether or not the place is being rented out.


AUSSIE SHUTTERS

The U.S. has not been the number one long distance preference of late for young Irish leaving native shores. That spot has been shared by Canada and Australia.

But the latter is becoming fussier of late with something of a clampdown on people who try to turn the one year "backpacker" work and holiday visa into a two year antipodean walkabout. About a dozen Irish have been shown the door in recent weeks as a result of being caught submitting fraudulent information in an effort to get the second year.

To get a second year long visa, backpackers must work for three months in agricultural or regional work during their first visa year. Typically, this would involve fruit picking, or working on a building site in a rural area.

A trick used by some backpackers involves paying up to five hundred Aussie dollars for the business details of a farmer who previously hired backpackers. The visa applicant then claims that he or she had worked on that farm too, this in the knowledge that only one in 10 applications for a second visa are closely scrutinized.

In the year to June 30 2008, 4,425 Irish citizens obtained second year visas. Back in the day, of course, visas were not required. All you had to do was raise a voice or a hand and it was transportation for life.


TOMMY IN THE CROSSHAIRS

Good heavens but poor Tommy Smyth hardly gets a minute to bask in his success before some cranky newspaper type is having a go over his passionate and unique style of soccer commentary.

Not for the first time last week the British daily, The Guardian, was having a go at our Tommy who is well known to ESPN viewers as well as WNBC viewers who tune into each year's New York St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The Guardian blitzkrieg, under the headline "ESPN desperately seeks fans of blarney and the Bundesliga," was as much a go at ESPN as it was Tommy but it nevertheless reserved some of its ammo for the Knockbridge, County Louth man. "The American channel waited for a Premier League-free weekend to foist Tommy Smyth on a UK audience. Bad move," opined the Guardian hack.

"Meanwhile," said hack wrote, "on ESPN's absolutely free weekend, the highlight was the Milan derby, which was being billed somewhat disingenuously as Mourinho v Beckham. In what sense this was a head-to-head was never adequately explained. There was also some Scottish football and a match from Argentina early this morning. Maybe the free weekend was just an opportunity for British viewers to acquaint themselves with the cult of Tommy Smyth."

Cult? Not even Tommy would claim such power over people but here the Guardian tormentor continues: "Physically, Smyth is part Stevo from Sky's Super League coverage, part Peter Glaze, the late children's TV performer. On his entrances and exits Smyth, who always wears a suit at least one size too small, gives a little vaudeville salute, just in case you were in danger of taking him seriously.

"He did play a little football in Scotland 50 years ago, but these days he is something of a stage Irishman, with the blarney level turned right up, talking about 'the auld onion bag' and so on. He provides the kind of coverage that might appeal to an American audience that sees soccer as a rather comical pastime, taking Mexicans' minds off the terrible food and stopping Europeans declaring war on each other."

Comical? Hopefully the USA team has the last laugh when they come up against England in the World Cup Finals in South Africa. And just as hopefully, Tommy will be on hand with the commentary as the ball hits the back of England's onion bag. And that's no blarney.


HANNINGAN AT THE AIHS

The Echo's Dave Hannigan, indeed our resident polymath, will be reading from his new book "De Valera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence" at the American Irish Historical Society at 991 Fifth Avenue at 6.30 p.m. next Monday, February 8. To reserve seats for this event, email aihs@aihs.org or call the Society at (212)288-2263. This event is free for AIHS Members. Admission fee for non-Members is $15. Well worth it, IF is happy to attest.