The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Fighting’ Irish not a racist moniker

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, March 23, 2006

This letter is in response to Paul Richards’ letter to the editor in the March 22 edition of The Observer about Notre Dame’s mascot.

It is my opinion that an individual who writes in against Notre Dame using the moniker “Fighting Irish” misses the significance of our mascot. Further, he leaves out an important aspect of the NCAA’s position regarding mascots that could be perceived as damaging or perpetuating stereotypes about racial, ethnic or cultural groups.

First and foremost, I find Notre Dame’s mascot to be a celebration of the resiliency and strength of the Irish people. As the writer indicated, the Irish have suffered through numerous hardships in their history – occupation by a foreign power, religious discrimination, famine and overt racism here in the United States have all been faced by the Irish people, and yet they persevered to become one of the most influential peoples in history.

I would ask the writer if he feels that Dan Breen or Michael Collins, fighters for Irish independence in the beginning of the twentieth century, would object to the attachment of “Fighting” to Irish. Would Father Corby, C.S.C., who was the chaplain of the famed Irish Brigade during the Civil War and has been immortalized in the famous “Absolution at Gettysburg” statue object? Would the men in the United States army he led into battle and for whom he was a spiritual leader object? Finally, would the thousands of Irish men and women (including my ancestor Patrick Hannon) who struggled against poverty and discrimination in the cities and towns of America to make a better life for their family object? My answer to the above questions is a resounding no. The history of the Irish people is one of a constant fight – a fight against occupation, a fight for equal rights, a fight for respect. It is a fight that the country of Ireland and the Irish people have won, and the majority of the Irish see in Notre Dame an institution that respects and celebrates their vaunted tradition.

To a much lesser extent, it is important to remember that the NCAA, in investigating suspect mascots, takes into consideration the feelings of the affected groups. It is for this reason that Florida State is still allowed to use the “Seminole” as a mascot – the Seminole Tribe of Florida gave its support to the school. The writer of the Letter to the Editor makes it sound as though the overwhelming majority of Irish citizens are up in arms against our school’s mascot. If this is true, someone had better tell President Mary McAleese, quick! Though one wonders why the President of Ireland would support a school with such a racist mascot… Unless of course it is because the mascot is not, in fact, racist.

Kendall HannonseniorKeenan HallMarch 22