Chuck Schumer, Militant Republican

Attendees at a raucous event organized by Irish advocates of immigration reform in Washington DC yesterday were treated to the unusual sight of Senator Charles Schumer leading a chant closely identified with the Irish Republican Army.

“Tiocfaidh Ar La!” Mr. Schumer bellowed several times from the stage at the Washington Court Hotel, his right hand ‘conducting’ the crowd to join in. The Gaelic slogan (pronounced “Chucky Are Law”) translates as “Our Day Will Come”. Often seen adorning gable walls in nationalist areas of Belfast during the darkest days of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, it became so associated with the IRA that it entered popular slang – a “Chuck” or “Chucky” was a person known to support the guerilla group’s armed struggle.

Senator Hillary Clinton, like Mr. Schumer, was greeted with thunderous applause when she arrived to speak at the event, organized by the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. Perhaps wisely, she abjured the more controversial chants. She did, however, gently mock the organizers for presenting her with a ‘Legalize the Irish’ T-Shirt that, as she held it up before her, revealed itself to be several sizes too big. “I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” Mrs. Clinton said to laughter and applause. “But it doesn’t matter because I’m going to be proud to pass it to my husband.”

Rep. Joe Crowley was the other member of the New York congressional delegation to address the meeting. Other speakers declaring their support for comprehensive immigration reform included Senator Edward Kennedy, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and former Congressman Bruce Morrison (D-CT).

IRA chants aside, the senior New York senator — a proud winner of the Briscoe Award for Jewish supporters of the American Irish community — wandered a number of times onto unfamiliar trans-Atlantic cultural terrain. At one point, he mentioned an unnamed “great song” associated with the Glasgow Celtic soccer team. (Which Mr. Schumer pronounced, jarringly, “Glas-gau Kell-tic.”)

After a half-second of perplexed silence, the crowd erupted into a Mexican-style ‘ole, ole, ole’ chorus which was eventually quieted by a slightly uncomfortable Mr. Schumer. He explained that he had intended his words to be taken as a reference to the anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

– Niall Stanage