TIME Ireland

Gays Wake Up to Changed Ireland, Let ‘New Normal’ Sink In

The unexpectedly strong willingness of Irish voters to change their constitution is expected to lead to a wave of gay weddings

(DUBLIN)—The gay couples of Ireland woke up Sunday in what felt like a nation reborn — some with dreams of wedding plans dancing in their heads.

Many weren’t rising too early, however, after celebrating the history-making outcome of Ireland’s referendum enshrining gay marriage in the constitution. The festivities began when the final result — 62 percent approval — was announced Saturday night, and ran until sunrise in some corners of Dublin, with tens of thousands of revelers of all sexual identities pouring onto the streets.

The unexpectedly strong willingness of Irish voters to change their conservative 1937 constitution is expected to lead to a wave of gay weddings in Ireland in the fall. The Justice Department confirmed Sunday it plans to publish a marriage bill this week, and with the support of all political parties, it should be passed by parliament and signed into law by June.

For Ireland’s most prominent gay couple, Sen. Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan, this victory is emotionally overwhelming. Since 2003 they have fought for legal recognition of their Canadian marriage. They took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, but suffered only setbacks and delays. Now, their day has come.

“For so long, I’ve been having to dig in my heels and say … Well, we ARE married. I’m a married woman!” said Zappone, a Seattle native who resettled with her Irish spouse in Dublin three decades ago. “Now that it has happened, at a personal level, it’s just going to take a long time to let that acceptance sink in.”

Zappone and Gilligan thrilled a crowd of thousands packed into the results center at Dublin Castle with a playful promise to renew their vows. Zappone dramatically broke off from a live TV interview, stared directly into the camera and asked Gilligan to marry her all over again. Gilligan declared to the rainbow flag-waving revelers: “I said yes to Katherine 12 years ago at our marriage in Canada. And now we are bringing the ‘yes’ back home to Ireland, our country of Ireland! Yes, yes, yes!”

In a more sober mood Sunday, the couple reflected on their long road to social acceptance, the unprecedented joy of the “yes” victory — and the legal work that remains to be done before they can get officially hitched in Ireland later this year.

“It took us hours to get a taxi (Saturday night) because so many people came up to us in tears, wanting to talk to us. They now felt so much freer, and proud,” said Zappone, who became Ireland’s first openly lesbian lawmaker when Prime Minister Enda Kenny appointed her to the Senate in 2011.

“There aren’t that many moments in life where you are surrounded with an exuberance of joy. These are rare moments. … We are now entering a new Ireland,” said Gilligan, a former Loreto nun who left the order in her mid-20s to pursue social justice projects as a lay Catholic. She wasn’t sure about her sexuality until Zappone walked into their first doctoral theology class together at Boston College in 1981.

“The door opened, and this gorgeous woman came in. I didn’t know I was lesbian. I’m a late learner,” Gilligan recalled with a laugh. “I fell in love with Katherine, and I went for it. I simply adored her, and I wanted to be with her forever and ever, and here we are!”

They married in Vancouver and sued Ireland in hopes of winning legal recognition, but in 2006 the High Court ruled that Irish law — while never explicit in defining marriage as solely between a man and woman — universally understood this to be the case. The Supreme Court sidestepped their appeal in 2012.

Months later Gilligan, who is in her late 60s, suffered a brain hemorrhage and was hospitalized. Zappone, yet again, faced bureaucratic presumptions when trying to see her wife, since hospital admissions didn’t recognize her as a spouse or family member. She could have lied and said they had an Irish-recognized civil partnership, a weaker form of marriage-style contract enacted into Irish law in 2010, but Zappone insisted on stating uncomfortable reality: “In those moments, I am married to her, and you have to recognize that,” she recalled.

The medical staff understood and, after Zappone had spent five weeks at Gilligan’s bedside, one of their Chinese doctors wrote them a long note of appreciation, wishing he had what they had.

What they won’t have, for many months to come, is an Irish-recognized marriage.

Article 41 of the family section of Ireland’s constitution now reads, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

But Zappone and her parliamentary colleagues must pass a same-sex marriage bill. Unlike in many other countries, the change faces no significant parliamentary opposition. Potentially thorny issues such as divorce — narrowly legalized in a 1995 referendum — and adoption shouldn’t pose roadblocks. Parliament recently passed another bill permitting couples and single people to adopt regardless of gender, reflecting the reality that more than a third of Irish children are being raised out of wedlock.

“Technically and legally we’ll probably have to wait until towards the end of the year,” Zappone said. “Then we’ll head towards the big day.”

By then, several commentators have noted, a new generation of Irish people should already be accepting the sight of a gay couple holding hands in the street, or exchanging their vows and kissing in front of their families.

“We’ve made it clear to the world that there is a new normal — that ‘ordinary’ is a big, capacious word that embraces and rejoices in the natural diversity of humanity. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people are now a fully acknowledged part of the wonderful ordinariness of Irish life,” wrote Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole.

“LGBT people are us: our sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. We were given the chance to say that. We were asked to replace tolerance with the equality of citizenship,” O’Toole wrote. “And we took it in both arms and hugged it close.”

TIME Ireland

This Woman Proposed to Her Girlfriend Just Moments After Ireland’s Gay Marriage Vote

It's the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote

One Irish couple wasted no time after the country became the first in the world to legalize gay marriage through popular vote.

Billie, 41, proposed to her girlfriend of six years, Kate Stoica, 26, in Limerick, Western Ireland on Saturday, just minutes after the referendum was passed, Mashable reported. Watch the video of the proposal below:

Read next: 20 Other Countries Where Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal Nationwide

[Mashable]

TIME Ireland

Dublin Celebrates Through Tears as Same-Sex Marriage Vote Makes History

“This is the first time I’ve felt like an equal citizen"

Ireland made global history on Saturday by becoming the first country in the world to approve same-sex marriage through popular vote—sending thousands of people out into the streets of Dublin to celebrate as a sea of emotion engulfed the city.

Bearing rainbow flags and smiling through tears, gay and straight Dubliners joined together to hail the news that an overwhelming 62.1 percent of voters had said “yes” to gay marriage, in a referendum that many in Ireland called a “test of equality” and the “test of a true republic.”

Robert Stevenson, 62, who is from Dublin but now lives in the U.K., spoke through a convulsion of tears as he recalled how he was “suicidal” as a teenager and lost several friends to suicide because they were “filled with self-loathing” because of their sexuality.

“This is the first time I’ve felt like an equal citizen; I just can’t talk,” Stevenson said.

The vote was all the more striking because Ireland is a predominantly Catholic country. Many citizens have rejected the church’s influence in recent years, following a spate of revelations about child sexual abuse as well as the church’s history of cold treatment of gay people and women who got pregnant out of wedlock. Some saw the “yes” vote as a dismantling of Catholic rule in the country.

“It was the Catholic Church that rejected me, I didn’t reject it,” Stevenson said. “My mother is still part of it but I can’t be.”

He added that he would never forget “living in fear” in the ’60s and ’70s.

“I remember in this country people being beaten to death for being gay back then,” he said, “and I think of people being beaten to death in other countries now. After this moment, I have the privilege of being an equal citizen in my own country…and that is just wonderful.”

For several months, the Irish have been debating whether to bestow full equality on all citizens regardless of sexual orientation by changing the constitution to allow couples of the same sex marry. The overwhelming sentiment and emphatic vote in favor—over 70 pecent in some Dublin constituencies—reflects how Ireland has come a very long way from the country it once was.

In the middle of the cheers and impromptu renditions of the Irish national anthem on Saturday, 28-year-old Edward Smith, fought back tears.

“It’s about equality—it’s not just about the LGBT community; this is a huge leap forward for a tiny country in becoming a secular state,” he said.

“I always wanted to get married, and thought I’d have to go away,” he continued. “I never thought this would happen for me. The church in this country had no right to interfere in this referendum and people realized this; their campaign was ludicrous and hypocritical.

“After all, the church was responsible for so much that went wrong here; priests in this country were allowed to rape children, the Catholic Church sold babies belonging to unmarried mothers. I think the revelations about the church helped the ‘Yes’ side.”

Smith’s partner, 24-year-old Muiris O’Connell from rural Limerick, was also deeply moved by the vote.

“I hated myself all through my teens,” O’Connell said. “I’m from the middle of the country where being gay was almost unheard of and I never felt comfortable being myself. This referendum brought back so many memories; I always tried to neglect the truth and when I did think about myself, I always said, ‘I’m never going to have a normal life.’

“Today just proves that I can,” O’Connell continued. “Today is the definition of what a republic is; it’s Irish men and Irish women right around the country saying, ‘we love you.'”

Many in the Dublin crowd on Saturday were straight supporters of the law change who were thrilled by the vote.

“I raised generation who made this happen; I’m so proud of them” said 64 year old Breda Griffin from Dublin, who was with her husband and their 25-year-old daughter. “For over 20 years I’ve always fought for equality and rights for people outside the fold—whether they were gay, unmarried mothers or illegitimate children—anyone that wasn’t seen as normal

“But it’s this generation that has delivered and I couldn’t be prouder; I just couldn’t be happier.”

As the vote tallies came in and a “yes” vote became a foregone conclusion, 24-year-old Conor Galvin was at work at his computer, “trying not to cry,” he said.

“It was incredible; I have three siblings and one of my sisters is also gay. My Mum tagged us all in her Facebook status, saying “now I get to wear four hats.”

“There are just no words,” he said.

TIME Ireland

Chris O’Dowd Had No Doubt Ireland Would Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

He said a "yes" vote is a sign Ireland "is escaping the clutches of the Catholic Church, finally"

Before Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday, TIME asked the Irish actor Chris O’Dowd how he thought the country would vote in the historic referendum. “I think it’ll pass pretty easily, which is great,” he replied.

He also said that if same-sex marriage was approved, then “it’s a sign that Ireland is progressing with the rest of the world and is escaping the clutches of the Catholic Church, finally.”

Read the rest of the interview in the May 18, 2015 issue of TIME.

TIME Ireland

20 Other Countries Where Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal Nationwide

In light of Ireland voting to legalize same-sex marriage, here is a list of other countries where same-sex couples can marry

Ireland just became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by a national vote—rather than through legislation or the courts.

Here is a list of 20 other countries where same-sex marriage is legal nationwide and the year it was approved (Mexico and the United States are not included, since they only allow same-sex marriage in certain jurisdictions):

The Netherlands (2000)

Belgium (2003)

Canada (2005)

Spain (2005)

South Africa (2006)

Norway (2009)

Sweden (2009)

Argentina (2010)

Iceland (2010)

Portugal (2010)

Denmark (2012)

Brazil (2013)

England and Wales (2013)

France (2013)

New Zealand (2013)

Uruguay (2013)

Luxembourg (2014)

Scotland (2014)

Finland: (signed 2015, effective 2017)

TIME Ireland

Ireland Votes to Legalize Gay Marriage in Historic Referendum

"It's a very proud day to be Irish"

(DUBLIN)—Irish voters backed legalizing gay marriage by a landslide, according to electoral figures announced Saturday—a stunning result that illustrates the rapid social change taking place in this traditionally Catholic nation.

Figures from Friday’s referendum announced at Dublin Castle showed that 62.1 percent of Irish voters said “yes.” Outside, watching the results announcement live in the castle’s cobblestoned courtyard, thousands of gay rights activists cheered, hugged and cried.

The unexpectedly strong percentage of approval surprised both sides. Analysts and campaigners credited the “yes” side with adeptly using social media to mobilize first-time young voters and for a series of searing personal stories from Irish gay people to convince voters to back equal marriage rights.

Ireland is the first country to approve gay marriage in a popular national vote. Nineteen other countries have legalized the practice.

“We’re the first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in our constitution and do so by popular mandate. That makes us a beacon, a light to the rest of the world, of liberty and equality. So it’s a very proud day to be Irish,” said Leo Varadkar, a Cabinet minister who came out as gay at the start of a government-led effort to amend Ireland’s conservative Catholic constitution.

“People from the LGBT community in Ireland are a minority. But with our parents, our families, or friends and co-workers and colleagues, we’re a majority,” said Varadkar, who watched the votes being tabulated at the County Dublin ballot center.

“For me it wasn’t just a referendum. It was more like a social revolution,” he added.

Michael Barron and Jaime Nanci, a gay couple legally married in South Africa five years ago, celebrated with friends at the Dublin City counting center as the reality sank in that, once Ireland’s parliament passes the complementary legislation, their foreign marriage will be recognized in their homeland.

“Oh.My.God! We’re actually Married now!” Nanci tweeted to his spouse and the world, part of a cavalcade of tweets from Ireland tagged #LandslideOfLove.

Political analysts who have covered Irish referendums for decades agreed that Saturday’s emerging landslide marked a stunning generational shift from the 1980s, when voters still firmly backed Catholic Church teachings and overwhelmingly voted against abortion and divorce.

“We’re in a new country,” said political analyst Sean Donnelly, who called the result “a tidal wave” that has produced pro-gay marriage majorities in even the most traditionally conservative rural corners of Ireland.

“I’m of a different generation,” said the gray-haired Donnelly, who has covered Irish politics since the 1970s. “When I was reared up, the church was all powerful and the word ‘gay’ wasn’t even in use in those days. How things have moved from my childhood to now. It’s been a massive change for a conservative country.”

Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Labour Party leader Joan Burton, said Ireland was becoming “a rainbow nation with a huge amount of diversity.” She said while campaigning door to door, she met older gay people who described how society made them “live in a shadow and apart,” and younger voters who were keen to ensure that Irish homosexuals live “as free citizens in a free republic.”

The “yes” side ran a creative, compelling campaign that harnessed the power of social media to mobilize young voters, tens of thousands of whom voted for the first time Friday. The vote came five years after parliament approved marriage-style civil partnerships for gay couples.

Those seeking a “no” outcome described their defeat as almost inevitable, given that all of Ireland’s political parties and most politicians backed the legalization of homosexual unions.

David Quinn, leader of the Catholic think tank Iona Institute, said he was troubled by the fact that no political party backed the “no” cause.

“We helped to provide a voice to the hundreds of thousands of Irish people who did vote no. The fact that no political party supported them must be a concern from a democratic point of view,” he said.

Fianna Fail party leader Michael Martin, a Cork politician whose opposition party is traditionally closest to the Catholic Church, said he couldn’t in good conscience back the anti-gay marriage side because “it’s simply wrong in the 21st century to oppress people because of their sexuality.”

Some in Martin’s party — the perennial heavyweight in Irish politics but decimated since its ouster from power following Ireland’s 2010 international bailout — did privately oppose the amendment, but only one spoke out in favor of the “no” side.

John Lyons, one of just four openly gay lawmakers in the 166-member parliament, waved the rainbow flag of the Gay Pride movement in the Dublin City counting center and cried a few tears of joy. He paid special credit to the mobilization of younger voters, many of whom traveled home from work or studies abroad to vote.

“Most of the young people I canvassed with have never knocked on a door in their lives,” Lyons said. “This says something about modern Ireland. Let’s never underestimate the electorate or what they think.”

TIME Ireland

What to Know About Ireland’s Historic Referendum on Gay Marriage

Opinion polls suggest Ireland will become the first country to pass a gay-marriage amendment by referendum

Ireland is on the verge of becoming the first country in the world to support gay marriage by a popular vote when it holds a referendum on Friday. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the law now?
Gay couples have been able to be united in a civil ceremony, which is not the same as marriage, since 2011. Homosexuality was only decriminalized in 1993.

What will the people of Ireland vote for on Friday?
Voters will be asked to approve this addition to the Irish constitution: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

A Yes vote will endorse the Marriage Equality Bill 2015, which was passed by Irish lawmakers in March.

What do opinion polls suggest the result will be?
A survey of opinion polls by the Irish broadcaster RTE found that all polls suggested a victory for Yes, with predictions ranging from 53% to 69% in favor of the change. However the polls also suggested that the number of people moving from a Yes to a No position was increasing.

As pollsters appeared to get the recent U.K. election so wrong, no one is sure what the result could be.

But isn’t Ireland a socially conservative Catholic country that is beholden to the Catholic Church?
Attitudes have changed immensely in the past 30 years. The authority of the Catholic Church has been undermined by a litany of scandals from the abuse of children by priests to abusive regimes at church-run institutions such as schools and homes. The church wants to see a No vote, but an institution that protected abusive priests for decades no longer has the moral force it once had.

What does the Irish government think?
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and former Irish President Mary McAleese have called for a Yes vote. The current President Michael Higgins as head of state is not expected to offer an opinion on political matters.

Does this vote affect Northern Ireland as well as the Republic of Ireland?
This vote only affects the Republic of Ireland. Gay marriage is legal in the U.K., except in Northern Ireland.

Who is against the gay-marriage amendment?
The Catholic Church is opposed to the amendment, and letters from bishops were read to congregations all over Ireland on Sunday. The church is supported by some conservative politicians and some polls suggest popular opposition to the amendment could be as high as 30%.

What do Irish celebrities think?
Very few people who are well known outside of Ireland have said they will vote No. The actor Colin Farrell has said he supports a Yes vote, as has actor Chris O’Dowd.

Singers Hozier and Glen Hansard, who wrote and starred in the film and Broadway musical Once, are also in the Yes camp.

But one of the most important supporters of a Yes campaign is Daniel O’Donnell, Ireland’s leading country and western singer, who is very popular in rural areas and among church-going women.

But what does Bono think?
Speaking in Vancouver, before the start of U2’s tour, he said he supported a Yes vote although he will not be voting:

“You can’t own it. Marriage is now an idea that transcends religion. It is owned by the people. They can decide. It is not a religious institution. As far as I know, Jesus wasn’t a married man and neither are most priests talking about it. It is not a religious idea.”

Correction: This article was amended on May 21 to show that Mary McAleese is the former Irish President and that gay marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland.

TIME Ireland

Prince Charles Shakes the Hand of Irish Republican Leader Gerry Adams

Prince Of Wales And The Duchess Of Cornwall's Irish Trip Day One
WPA Pool—Getty Images GALWAY, IRELAND - MAY 19: Prince Charles, Prince Of Wales shakes hands with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at the National University of Ireland on May 19, 2015 in Galway, Ireland. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall arrived in Ireland today for their four day visit to the Republic and Northern Ireland, the visit has been described by the British Embassy as another important step in promoting peace and reconciliation. (Photo by Adam Gerrard - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

It is the first time Gerry Adams, the head of Sinn Fein and purported IRA leader, had met a member of the British royal family

Prince Charles has shaken the hand of Gerry Adams, the Irish politician who many believe was a senior member of the Irish Republican Army when it blew up Charles’ uncle, Earl Mountbatten, in 1979.

The handshake took place on Tuesday at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Adams was among a number of politicians to meet Charles at the beginning of the heir to the British throne’s four-day visit to Ireland.

Adams, the leader of the Irish Republican Sinn Fein party, had never met a member of the British royal family before. He and his colleague Martin McGuinness, who met the Queen in 2012, later had a 15-minute private meeting with Prince Charles.

Mountbatten was killed when a bomb was planted in his yacht as it was moored at Mullaghmore in County Sligo, where Charles will visit on Wednesday.

From 1968-1998, Northern Ireland was mired in a civil war that saw the British authorities and the Catholic and Protestant communities all in conflict. The IRA and Sinn Fein were seen as representatives of the Catholic community.

Adams has denied being a member of the IRA but ex-members have said that he played a senior role in the organization even as he fronted its political wing, Sinn Fein.

After Prince Charles and Adams met, reporters asked the Sinn Fein leader if he apologized for the killing of Mountbatten. Adams brushed off the question, noting that three other people, including a 14-year-old grandson of Mountbatten and a 15-year-old Northern Irish boy, were killed at the same time. “One couldn’t help but be regretful about the loss, particularly when there are children involved,” Adams said.

Adams said that all three at the private meeting expressed regret for what happened in Northern Ireland after 1968, the start of the period known as “The Troubles,” but no one asked for any apologies.

Before the meeting, Adams pointed out that Prince Charles was Commander-in-Chief of the U.K.’s Parachute Regiment, which has been blamed for killing Irish nationalists, most notably on Bloody Sunday in 1972 in Derry in Northern Ireland. He also noted that Prince Charles had also suffered at the hands of republicans, referring to the killing of Mountbatten.

After the meeting, Prince Charles said in a speech there was a unique magic about Ireland. “Having first had the great joy of coming to Ireland 20 years ago now, for the first time in 1995, then again in 2002, each time I have been so overwhelmed and so deeply touched by the extraordinary kindness, the welcome, the enthusiasm and indeed the fun of being in Ireland,” he said.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Most British and Irish People Will Be Overweight or Obese By 2030

A woman stands outside a sandwich shop in Manchester, England, October 10, 2006
Paul Ellis—AFP/Getty Images A woman stands outside a sandwich shop in Manchester, England, October 10, 2006

An obesity epidemic of 'enormous proportions' will also affect the rest of Europe

Ireland, a country that was synonymous with starvation and famine in the 19th century, could become the most overweight country in Europe by 2030, with 89% of Irish men, and 85% of Irish women projected to be overweight by then. That’s according to a press statement made at the European Congress on Obesity in Prague on Wednesday.

The statement added that by 2030, 64% percent of women in the U.K., and nearly three-quarters of the male population, will be overweight, AFP reports.

The data stems from an examination of 37 countries in a forecast exercise, using 2010 data from the WHO and U.K. Health Forum. Being overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) exceeding 25, and obesity as having a BMI of 30 or more.

With obesity’s growth skyrocketing more than twofold since 1980, almost 40% of the worldwide adult population — nearly two billion people — can now be classified as overweight, WHO data says. Of those two billion, more than 500 million are clinically obese.

Obesity costs the world nearly 3% of the global GDP, or $2 trillion in health and labor-related expenditures and losses, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

[AFP]

TIME Crime

The Year They Cancelled St. Patrick’s Day

Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade
Tim Boyle—Getty Images The St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago on Mar. 11, 2000

It happened in Chicago in 1890. The reason was murder

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Today Saint Patrick’s Day is a broadly inclusive festival associated with fun, frivolity and, in Chicago, turning the river green. Chicago’s first Saint Patrick’s Day parade took place in 1843 when the city was a mere six years old and the population about 8,000. By 1890, Chicago’s population had swollen to over one million and 17 percent of the city (or almost 180,000 people) were either Irish-born or had one parent born in Ireland.

In this period, Saint Patrick’s Day was an exclusively Irish (or Irish-American) affair, celebrated with a parade, dinners and balls, but for some there was a purpose to it that went beyond mere celebration. In the 1880s, radical Irish Americans flocked to join Clan na Gael —a secret revolutionary society devoted to using force to secure Ireland’s freedom from Britain. Winning Irish independence by force was a costly enterprise and so, while time was spent plotting and planning, writing manifestos, stockpiling dynamite, and penning newspaper columns, fundraising was also a key priority for the Clan. The chief fundraising activities were picnics, balls, and fairs, and Saint Patrick’s Day was just one of the several days promoted by the United Irish Societies of Chicago (UISC), an umbrella group representing many Irish and Irish American organizations, but run by the Clan. In addition to Saint Patrick’s Day, committed Irish republicans also celebrated Robert Emmet’s birthday (March 4); the Feast of the Assumption and the anniversary of Hugh O’Neill’s victory at the Battle of the Yellow Ford in 1598 (August 15); and the anniversary of the execution of the Manchester Martyrs in 1867 (November 23).

During the 1880s, Saint Patrick’s Day was marked with enthusiasm by the Irish and thousands attended functions in halls across the city. The halls were decked out with green ribbon and concerts of Irish traditional music and rebel songs took place. Republican songs such as “The wind that shakes the barley” and “The rising of the moon” were particular favorites. Most popular of all was T. D. Sullivan’s “God Save Ireland,” written in 1867 and inspired by the last words of the Manchester Martyrs as they were led from the dock after being sentenced to death.

It was set to the tune of the American Civil War song “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp!” and by the early 1870s it was regularly referred to as the Irish national anthem. At the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in 1888, Clan member and medical doctor Patrick Cronin led the crowd in a rendition of the song so loud “that the rafters shook and the [building] seemed in serious danger of collapsing . . . and the street-car horses on Madison Street shied as they passed a block away.”

For Irish nationalists in Chicago the warmer weather associated with the August 15 celebrations meant that an annual picnic was organized. From 1876 this picnic was held at Ogden’s Grove, near the junction of North and Halsted, far from the working-class centers of south Chicago but within walking distance for many living on the north side of the city. If eating, drinking, dancing, and speeches full of fire and brimstone could defeat Britain then Irish chances of success were high. As “Mr Dooley,” the comic, fictional creation of Finley Peter Dunne, wryly observed: “There’s wan thing about th’ Irish iv this town…they give picnics that does bate all. Be hivins if Ireland cud be freed be a picnic, it ‘d not on’y be free to-day, but an impre [empire].” Thousands attended the picnics, designed in large part as a social gathering for families. Entertainment was laid on for adults and children. There was Irish dancing, alongside the “usual paraphernalia” of merry-go-rounds, fat men’s races, thin men’s races, three-legged races, girls’ sack races, long jumps and high jumps, the wheel of fortune, putting the shot and throwing the hammer, lung testers, and “try your weights.” Stalls sold food and drink and in the evening, following the inevitable political speechmaking, bands played a range of Irish and American dance tunes and the celebrations often culminated with a firework display.

The following decade, things were rather different. In Chicago, Saint Patrick’s Day 1890 came and went without any parade. No Patrick Cronin sang “God Save Ireland,” no rafters shook, no horses shied. Why were the Irish so silent that year? In a word: murder. In May 1889, Dr. Cronin had been summoned from his surgery on an emergency. A man had been injured at Patrick O’Sullivan’s icehouse in Lake View and Dr. Cronin was called to help. However, the call for aid turned out to be a ruse. Cronin was lured to an isolated cottage where he was brutally murdered and his naked and beaten body stuffed into a sewer where it was discovered several weeks later.

The police investigation, and subsequent murder trial, captivated the press and public both in Chicago and beyond. It soon became apparent that Cronin’s murder was the result of an internal dispute within Clan na Gael and fingers were quick to point at Alexander Sullivan, the leader of the Clan. Sullivan was never charged with Cronin’s murder but the press coverage surrounding the case forced Clan na Gael and its activities into the limelight. After such public exposure, the society’s ability to act as an effective fundraiser for Irish republicanism was greatly diminished. Many Irish in Chicago had joined Clan na Gael not because they had any overriding interest in Irish nationalism, but as a way of securing a good job; they were primarily interested in what the Clan could do for them, not for what they could do for Ireland. Cronin’s murder forced them to make a political decision and large numbers walked away from involvement in any form of Irish nationalism.

Chicago’s Irish and Irish American population was divided by the Cronin murder—a split that lasted into the early years of the twentieth century —and, despite the conclusion of the murder trial in December 1889 (several of Sullivan’s supporters were convicted), there was no appetite for any celebration of all things Irish on March 17, 1890. In 1891 the Saint Patrick’s Day parade was revived but it was a subdued affair, and it was many years before Saint Patrick’s Day was celebrated with the exuberance we see today.

Gillian O’Brien is a senior lecturer in History at Liverpool John Moores University and the author of “Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago” (Chicago, 2015). Follow her on Twitter @gillianmobrien or her personal blog: gillianmobrien@wordpress.com.

Read next: Nine Irish Photographers You Need to Follow

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