First, I would like to report that we have made some positive progress in the defense of our Heritage. As you recall, the National Board supported the commendable action of Brother Kevin Westly in taking Walmart to task for selling merchandise depicting denigrating and insulting stereotypes of Irish Americans during our Heritage Month and in the exploitation of our great St. Patrick’s Day Holiday. We have been successful in having them remove the beer pitcher toting “St. Pats Pub Leprechaun” costume from their website. We have also had several conversations with the Walmart executive committee; they tell us that they now understand the pernicious bigotry from which the images on their St. Patrick’s Day merchandise derives from and they promise greater sensitivity when they select their merchandise for next years St. Patrick’s Day. We have left a standing invitation to Walmart to engage in further discussion so as to avoid future incidents to the mutual benefit of all. To get a commitment from our nation’s largest retailer not to sell defaming merchandise is tangible progress; we will continue to monitor the situation and while we hope further action will not be needed be ready to act if these commitments are not honored.
Brothers, before leaving St. Patrick’s Day just another interesting fact that has recently come to my attention. The Washington Times reported that St. Patrick’s Day rates a lowly 11th among America’s beer drinking Holidays, Father’s Day is first, followed by the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Cinco de Mayo. Now the question I ask is why then do we see the day we publicly recognize our heritage and the contributions of generations of Irish and Irish American men and women constantly portrayed as synonymous with beer? Isn’t it interesting (though by no means wishing similar defamation on our fellow Americans of Hispanic heritage) that when we go to prolific defamers such as Spencer’s that we do not see any merchandise promoting the “fun” (as defamers like to mis-characterize the denigrating images they promote as “St. Paddy’s Day [sic]” merchandise) of the fourth largest beer drinking day in America? Perhaps there is more behind the scurrilous images being sold as St. Patrick’s Day merchandise than just “fun”? Certainly there seems a double standard.
Finally Brothers, I wish you a happy and restive summer and if you are traveling safe journeys. Summer is also the time of many Irish Festivals and Feisana. If your Division is running one, please ensure your vendors are not selling defaming merchandise; we do not want to be accused of “do as I say and not as I do”. If not in there already, consider adding a codicil to your vendor agreement banning such merchandise. If a vendor is selling defaming items, ask them to remove them; if they refuse, ask them to leave. Our heritage and principles are worth defending.