NY Times Uses Tragedy To Defame Irish Students

On June 16th, 2015 the New York Times printed an article about a tragedy in Berkeley California where 6 Irish students died and others injured in a balcony collapse. The students were in the US on J-1 visas that allow foreign students to come to the US for a summer and work to learn all of the great things about our country. The wording on the NYT article painted the Irish students as drunkards that have a history of irresponsible behavior and property damage. This wording appears to suggest that their behavior could have somehow contributed to the tragedy that, according to preliminary investigations, appears to be cause by a structural problem in the building.

The original NYT article can be [Read Online – Click For Article]

This article stirred up a storm of backlash from many Irish people and many Irish and Irish-American groups, including the NJAOH. This sharp and immediate reaction prompted the NYT to publish an official explanation and apology on the following day.

The NYT Apology can be read [Read Online – Click For Article]

The NJAOH response references the Washington Post’s coverage which accurately focuses on the facts of the incident including apparent structural problems with the building. The WP also covered the reaction and has a good article to describe the backlash which can be [Read Online – Click For Article]

The NJAOH response is included below:

An Irish Tragedy: The Washington Post gets it right while the NY Times Harms

The article could have been about the opportunity many J-1 visa students enjoy. The article could have been about greater oversight of building codes and safety. The article could have spoken of the unimaginable grief experienced by the parents, thousands of miles away, as their child lay dead or injured from the balcony collapse in Berkeley, California this week. But the NY Times chose to disparage the proud people of Irish heritage by linking the tragedy to drunkenness and hard partying. The Washington Post correctly and succinctly described the negative stereotypes supported in the Times article. I won’t repeat them.

While many have complained the world has gotten too politically correct, and maybe that is true in some instances, there is no good reason to suggest these students’ behavior contributed to their death and injury-NONE! Just this year at one of our daughter’s college in Pennsylvania, a few young men were standing on their balcony- which gave way injuring several. It was 9 a.m. in the morning and all they were doing was getting some morning air. The Times didn’t report that incident; instead they chose to break the hearts of those who are already in incredible sorrow. Brothers, we must not allow such negativity to continue about our heritage without challenge. We, the proud members of the New Jersey Ancient Order of Hibernians, condemn the negativity the Times sought to perpetuate and offer our deepest condolences to the families of the students harmed in this avoidable incident.

NJAOH walks with you during this difficult time and offers this prayer:

May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.
When times are hard may hardness
Never turn your heart to stone,
May you always remember
when the shadows fall—
You do not walk alone.

It is our sincere hope that the New York Times learns from this horrific mistake and does not allow this to occur again.

Sean Hughes
NJAOH President

Leo P McGuire
NJAOH Co-Chairman Anti Defamation

George Moore
NJAOH Co-Chairman Anti-Defamation