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HomeMiscellanyOf the orange and the green, on St. Patrick’s ’19

Of the orange and the green, on St. Patrick’s ’19

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Bob Mackin

La fheile Padraig sona duit!

That’s how you say Happy St. Patrick’s Day, the Gaelic way. 

(It’s pronounced “lah-leh PAH-drig SUN-uh gwitch.”)

Consul General Frank Flood (left), Premier John Horgan, Ciaran Cannon and Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada Jim Kelly on March 15, 2019 (BC Gov)

The happiest day of the year takes on special meaning in Victoria in 2019. There is a distinct Celtic flavour again in the Legislature and the orange-clad party in power owes it to the Green Party for the privilege of governing. (In Ireland, the orange and the green have a whole other meaning, as covered by the Irish Rovers at bottom.)

Premier John Joseph Horgan’s father Pat came to Canada from County Cork. Tragically, he passed away when young John was just 18 months old.

B.C.’s 36th premier isn’t known to play hurling, but lacrosse. He is a devoted follower of the Victoria Shamrocks. On March 15, Ireland’s Consul General to Vancouver, Frank Flood, Ambassador to Canada, Jim Kelly, and Minister of State for the Diaspora and International Development, Ciaran Cannon, visited the Legislature. Cannon posed with a wee caman (or hurling stick), but no sliotar (ball) was visible in the photograph.

B.C.’s first premier was Irish. John Foster McCreight, a Trinity College Dublin graduate from Caledon in County Tyrone. He was in B.C.’s first post-Confederation government in August 1871. The Canadian Encyclopedia cites the former judge’s “lack of political experience, seemingly aloof person and outspoken opposition to responsible government and other reformist policies.” Newpaper editor William Smith, better known as Amor de Cosmos, succeeded McCreight in 1872. 

George Anthony Walker from Newry in Northern Ireland had two stints as premier, 1874-1876 and 1878-1882.  

B.C.’s Irish premiers: (clockwise, upper left) McCreight, Walker, Hart and Elliott.

Walker’s time in the top office sandwiched Andrew Charles Elliott (1876-1878), who came from an unspecified area of Ireland. 

John Hart from Mohill, County Leitrim was premier during World War II. The Liberal led a coalition with Conservatives from 1941 to 1947 which kept the CCF, the forerunner of the NDP, out of power. Hart’s legacy was the B.C. Power Commission, the forerunner of BC Hydro.

Horgan’s predecessor as leader of the NDP is health minister Adrian Dix. His late father, Dubliner Ken Dix, was a prominent Kerrisdale insurance salesman. 

Press secretary Sheena McConnell is one of many Irish names in Horgan’s office. 

Christine Kennedy (assistant deputy minister) and Eleanor Mulloy (executive coordinator) are others.

Another former NDP leader, Joy MacPhail, is ICBC’s chair. Derek Corrigan’s grandfather came from Ballinakill in County Laois. The longtime Burnaby mayor was unseated last October by Mike Hurley, the Gaelic football-playing, musical former fire chief who hails from Magherafelt in Derry, Northern Ireland. 

One of the busiest folks in the Legislature these days is Alan Mullen, chief of staff to Speaker Darryl Plecas. Together, they’re rooting out corruption and bringing sunlight to the institution.

Érinn go Brách!

  • Bob Mackin is a descendant of Joseph Patrick Mackin (born St. Patrick’s Day, 1855) and Catherine Byrne of Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. 

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