In a news conference held by Rockland Legislator Patrick Moroney, Rockland legislators form both sides of the aisle and branches of Rockland government joined together to denounce the targeting of the Heritage of Irish Americans by local and national merchandisers in Rockland.
As reported in the Rockland County Times:
The apparel, which are sold at locations such as Spencer Gifts in the Palisades Center and Walmart in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day, are argued to unfairly characterize the Irish as drunkards. In spite of longstanding condemnation, the stores have continued to sell the merchandise for several years.
Legislator Patrick Moroney, who is sponsoring a resolution condemning the sale of the shirts, hats and other items, explained that though great strides had been made since days when the Irish were considered second-class citizens, prejudice was still visible in the merchandise.
“We haven’t come far enough,” Moroney said.
Moroney also announced he would be pursuing the creation of a committee to examine the legality of the sales. Messages on apparel which communicate a particular ideological viewpoint are normally considered Constitutionally-protected speech, though it is unclear whether the shirts would fit that standard.
Though the matter is primarily an issue to be addressed by the legislature, Day explained that combating stereotypes was a job for every member of county government. He went on to compare the messages on the clothing to offensive jokes about blacks on Martin Luther King Day or about Puerto Ricans during the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
“It’s important the government be united on this one issue,” Day stated. “Somehow, the Irish are fair game.”
The event drew a strong turnout from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish-American community organization and advocacy group. Hibernians National President Brendan Moore explained the controversy could be interpreted as a lesson that all communities are prone to stereotypes.
“It is so, so important to us to reflect on what’s going on around us for nothing more than profit in stores,” Moore said.