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History validates University’s nickname

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 5, 2006

As a member who comes from Irish ancestry, I feel compelled to stand up to those who are claiming that the nickname Fighting Irish is offensive – I do not find it offensive one bit. The Notre Dame Athletic Website has written the history of the Fighting Irish nickname. The Web site states that although there are may stories of how the nickname came about, most seem to center around the Notre Dame football team in the early 20th century and how the team was comprised mostly of Irish Catholics. The nickname was drawn from opposing fans who referred to the Notre Dame football team as the Fighting Irish. Before that, the team was known as the terriers, with an Irish terrier named Clashmore Mike as the mascot. Then University president Rev. Matthew Walsh, an Irish-Catholic priest, officially adopted “Fighting Irish” as the Notre Dame nickname in 1927 mainly because the sports team that Notre Dame was known for, its football team, had earned a reputation as Irish-Catholic college students who could play football very well.

If either of the previous two writers had bothered to do any research in regards to the “Fighting Irish” nickname, they would have found that it had nothing to do with the University seeking out to badmouth or harm Ireland or Irish People or any conspiracy on the part of the United States to profit from supposed symbols of the country of Ireland. The nickname came from how hard our football teams played, not out of any “violent” Irish history. If Sinéad Howley wants to believe that the University chose the nickname out of spite to Irish history, then I ask the question: If you find it so “offensive,” then why are you here? There are hundreds of students worldwide who see the nickname Fighting Irish for what it actually is – tradition. If Sinéad Howley has a problem with leprechauns, then why does the University allow us to play schools like Canisius, who also sports a mascot that is a mythological creature? The next thing I am hoping for is for guys with beards to start writing into The Observer complaining that the leprechaun unfairly represents their beards.

Finally I had a problem with Howley stating that the United States is essentially using the country of Ireland and that the United States has great control over the tourism industry and economy of Ireland. Ms. Howley, did you know that Ireland has been reported to have the second highest per capita income of any country in the European Union next to Luxembourg, the fourth highest in the world? Did you also know that during the Celtic Tiger period of economic success in Ireland that Ireland’s historic trend of emigration was stopped and Ireland even started to become a destination for many immigrants? Did you also know that many worldwide countries began to build their businesses in Ireland because of its economic success? Finally, did you know that unemployment in Ireland fell from 18 percent in the late 1980s to 4.9 percent by the end of the Celtic Tiger period? If Ireland is so dependent on American money, then how do you account for the increase in jobs, the economy and the livelihood of the Republic of Ireland? Ireland’s economy is one of the best in Europe, I hardly doubt that one of the best economies in Europe is solely dependent on American money.

This argument, while intellectually stimulating and interesting enough to stir up conversation, is pointless if the people complaining about it do not fully understand the meaning. Fighting Irish is tradition, it is who Notre Dame is. Nobody before the 1900s ever heard of Notre Dame but our football opponents put us on the map by referring to us as a bunch of “Fighting Irish.” It has nothing to do with Ireland’s nation as a whole nor does it have to do with Irish history. It has to do with the fact that the football team was primarily composed of Irish-Catholics from the Chicago area. If you find it offensive, then that is fine, you have that right, but do not argue that it is offensive without understanding its meaning. I do not find it offensive, I understand that it is tradition, and I urge all students of Notre Dame to say loudly and proudly with me, “Go Irish!”

Patrick RigneyjuniorSiegfried HallMarch 27