‘No Irish Need Apply’: The Origins and Persistence of a Prejudice

Donald MacRaild

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The growth of digitized archives of books and newspapers has opened up new kinds of research based upon far larger bodies of evidence than was previously possible by manual searches. A pioneering study of this type is Richard Jensen’s much-debated article discussing the application of a term, ‘No Irish need apply’ (NINA), which was regarded as commonplace of anti-Irish behaviour in nineteenth-century America and Britain. Jensen searched some of the earliest available digital resources for instances of the term NINA being used in the United States. Finding very few cases, he concluded that, though the term occupied a curiously hardy place in the collective psychology of Irish Americans, NINA was a ‘myth of victimiza- tion’ which Irish-Americans used to galvanize their community against Nativist antipathy. Jensen accepted the presence of NINA in early nine- teenth-century England, where it was, he argued, a ‘cliché’ for British anti-Irish hostility. However, the scope of his research could not extend to the British context because of a lack of comparable digitized sources. Taking Jensen as a starting point, this article draws upon evidence from over fifty digitized newspapers to examine the British realities of NINA, and early Irish reactions to it. It shows how the Irish themselves were the first to politicize NINA, using it, from as early as the 1840s, as an epithet for any perceived British injustice to Ireland or the Irish. By bringing together these British roots and the American myths, and in mediating them through Irish perceptions of NINA, the article helps us explain why NINA has endured so long in the memory.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)269-299
    JournalLabour History Review
    Volume78
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013

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