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Fighting Irish’ moniker testament to character, not slur

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Paul L. Richards letter on March 22 has gotten our Irish up, so to speak, by suggesting that the “Fighting Irish” nickname is offensive. As proud Irish-American Catholics and proud sons of Our Lady, we believe that the term “Fighting Irish” has become an indication of Notre Dame’s pride in and respect for her heritage, rather than a mere epithet.

We agree with Richards that the nickname “Fighting Irish” originally arose as a slur directed against Irish-Americans in general and the largely Irish-American student body of the University of Notre Dame in particular. We do not deny that the term has its roots in anti-Catholic and anti-Irish prejudice of the worst kind. However, we contend that the term “Fighting Irish” has taken on a drastically different meaning in the decades since it was coined.

Since it became the official Notre Dame nickname in 1927 (at the behest of then-University President Rev. Matthew Walsh, C.S.C., an Irish-American), the term “Fighting Irish” has come to be associated with a legendary spirit of tenacity and persistence towards unprecedented athletic excellence. The victories of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, especially in football, have long been a point of pride for working-class Irish-Americans. Like our athletic teams, Irish-Americans as an ethnicity have worked hard and forged success for themselves, often in the face of long odds and bigoted abuse. The legendary subway alumni – including our own grandfathers – were drawn to Notre Dame because, under the banner of the “Fighting Irish,” it exemplified the ability of the underdog to succeed through determination and commitment to excellence.

We believe that the “Fighting Irish” nickname is a vital part of Notre Dame’s heritage. Rather than perpetuating a stereotype or slurring an ethnicity, the nickname represents the Notre Dame character of triumph against all odds. We are proud to be known as the Fighting Irish, and hope it ever remains as an emblem of Notre Dame’s fighting spirit.

Brendan J. HanehanMichael P. VarleyjuniorsKeenan Hall March 22