Following the great potato famine in Ireland during the 18th century many Irish immigrated to the United States of America, bringing their traditions with them.Work for these immigrants was often very difficult to find. Factories and shops displayed signs reading “NINA” meaning No Irish Need Apply. The only jobs they could get were the civil service jobs that were dirty, dangerous or both — firefighters and police officers — jobs that no one else wanted. Both of these careers were considered undesirable due to low pay, few benefits, and poor working conditions. The Irish gladly accepted these careers because it was a way to become a part of mainstream America, and it was a way to give back to their new country.
The Irish transformed the job of night watchman and fire watch into the organized police and fire departments we see today. Gradually, the Irish started many of the traditions that are still in existence today. The Irish-American police officers and firefighters would march in full uniform at various parades across the United States, including the St. Patrick’s Day parade. They were very proud of their Irish heritage, and equally proud of being a police officer or firefighter. Now being a police officer or firefighter is a badge of honor and respect. Today, both professions continue to march in parades in full dress uniform to show their pride as part of this great country and serve as positive role models to the next generation of all nationalities.
We have come along way from NINA days, so be responsible and enjoy your Green Beer celebrating our heritage.