Tip O'Neill

Image of Tip O'Neill waving goodbye to Ireland
Tip's Farewell to Ireland

Thomas Phillip "Tip" O'Neill, Jr. born December 9, 1912 was an American politician and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. O'Neill was an outspoken liberal Democrat and influential member of the House of Representatives, serving for 34 years and representing first the 11th and then the 8th Congressional Districts of Massachusetts. Prior to his election to the U.S, House of Representative, he served as the first Democratic Speaker of the Massachusetts State Legislature.  Mr. O'Neill  served as Speaker of the U.S. House from 1977 until his retirement in 1987, making Mr. O’Neill the longest continuous serving Speaker in the history of the United State House of Representatives and the second longest-serving Speaker in U.S. history after Sam Rayburn.

As Speaker of the American House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill was the third most powerful politician in America, after the President and Vice President. Over a long political life, Tip achieved great improvements in the lives of his fellow Irish Americans as well as of the least privileged in America. 

In 1977, he denounced violence in Northern Ireland and used his influential position as Speaker to play a pivotal role in bringing about peace in Ireland. During the final stages of the discussions he told British officials he could deliver financial support to underpin the Agreement. On the day the Agreement was signed, President Reagan and Tip, in a joint announcement, gave an assurance of financial support. This resulted in the establishment of the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) which since 1985 has paid out millions of pounds/euro to projects in Northern Ireland and the 6 border counties in the Republic.

In 1991 President Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian award, which is presented for especial meritorious contributions to the national interests of America and World peace. It was well merited by Tip O’Neill

Tip O’Neill’s maternal grandmother Eunice (Unity) Fullerton was born outside Buncrana, Co Donegal   His childhood home in Irish North Cambridge were embued with Irish culture and tradition.  Surrounded by Irish immigrants and first generation Irish Americans, he became the personification of a proud Irish American.  His first trip to Ireland in 1956 was to assist in the unveiling of the U.S. Congress' statue of John Barry commemorating the Father of the American Navy.  His many other trips to Ireland included his trip in 1985 when he was named Distinguished Freeman of Cork Award.   His Irish roots and his Catholic religion were the cornerstones of his dedication and service to his fellow man. 

President Bill Clinton is quoted as saying: "Tip O'Neill was the nation's most prominent, powerful and loyal champion of working people... He loved politics and government because he saw that politics and government could make a difference in people's lives. And he loved people most of all."

Tip O'Neill passed away on  January 5, 1994.


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