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The nation’s largest Irish-American organization is asking, “What about us?” after Mayor Bill de Blasio officially recognized “Italian Heritage/Indigenous People’s Day” in replacement of Columbus Day as a school holiday.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, in a letter sent Wednesday to de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter, requested that March 17 — St. Patrick’s Day — be designated as a school holiday celebrating Irish heritage.
“Generations of Irish American men and women have built New York City, literally and figuratively,” the letter states, “Yet despite this, there is no formal recognition of the contributions of Irish Americans by the DOE as is now quite rightfully given to other Heritage groups.”
The organization, founded in the Big Apple in 1836, wants March 17 to be recognized as “Irish Heritage Day” on the NYC schools calendar — in order to “recognize the accomplishment of those of Irish Heritage in parity with the heritages that the DOE currently rightly recognizes and honors.”
The request came a day after the Department of Education abruptly scrapped Columbus Day from the school calendar, first changing the October holiday to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” and later adding “Italian Heritage Day.”
The Irish cultural group applauded the controversial move, as well as the DOE’s recognition of the Lunar New Year and its addition of June 20 as a holiday celebrating Juneteenth — the day in 1865 that black slaves in Texas were informed of their freedom — in the 2021-2022 school year calendar.
“As people proud of our own Irish heritage, we commend the DOE honoring the heritages of these fellow New Yorkers,” the letter states. “At the same time, we have to ask why there is no equal recognition by the DOE of Irish Heritage?”
The organization also noted that the DOE’s past failure to observe St. Patrick’s Day at times denied Irish-American teachers “the opportunity to celebrate their heritage “
“Should we not be concerned that at the moment, Irish Americans are currently left out when it comes to the DOE recognizing their Heritage?,” it asked.
In a statement, DOE Press Secretary Danielle Filson said that, “We recognize and appreciate all of our Irish American teachers, staff, students and families.”
“We close schools on holidays in accordance with State law, and the current school calendar has exactly 180 in session school days in order to meet the State mandate.”
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks
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