Oklahoma Legislature forms Irish Caucus, names co-chairs

OKLAHOMA CITY – This week, legislators announced the formation of a bipartisan, bicameral American Irish State Legislators Caucus in Oklahoma.  Caucus co-chairs will be Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, Rep. Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa, and Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa. The purpose of the new caucus will be to recognize the role international relationships have had not only on the history of the United States but on Oklahoma while increasing awareness and a sense of pride of these significant events.

“As an Irish descendant, I’m honored to have been asked to help launch this special caucus in Oklahoma and am excited for the possibilities it brings,” Hicks said. “Many are not aware of the deep ties Oklahoma has with our sister nation, Ireland, but this caucus will help highlight that history as well as the 100th anniversary of the Irish Senate, and ongoing international democratic relations.”   

Having lived in Ireland for a short period of time, Boren got a unique glimpse into her ancestry and the Irish government.     

“My family lived in Ireland the summer of 2012, where my husband practiced medicine. During our stay, we learned about our family history, but more importantly, about our common desire to nurture democracy to resolve political conflict,” Boren said. “Ireland’s resilience through many generations preserved her way of life and restored peace, teaching us all important lessons for human prosperity. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Irish Senate is a tribute to Ireland’s sacrifice and commitment to preserving peace and democracy everywhere.”   

Also of Irish descent, O’Donnell’s great, great, great grandfather, Daniel, came to America during the Potato Famine with his brother, landing in Mobile, Alabama, before coming to Oklahoma around 1900 to work in the coal mines near Wilburton. He said the caucus will allow members to share about their families’ heritage, learn more about the nation’s history and celebrate the great Irish spirit.  

“The O’Donnell name originates from the Donegal region of Ireland in the northwestern part of the country and has been prominent in Ireland for centuries. Fleeing from the atrocity of the Great Hunger, my ancestors ended up in Oklahoma Territory, and today I have relatives all over the southeast and south-central parts of the state,” O’Donnell said in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK.com and other news organizations. “I’m hoping that the formation of the Irish-American State Legislators Caucus will help bring awareness of the sincerity, hardworking, and fun-loving nature of the Irish people.”

The caucus will be open to all legislative members, regardless of Irish descent or not.

The great-grandson of an emigrant from County Mayo on his paternal side and hailing from County Cork back to the days of the Potato Famine on his mother’s side, Waldron said he was so pleased to share Oklahoma’s rich Irish history and celebrate the land of his ancestors.

“On our honeymoon, I got to visit the cottage where my great grandfather, Edward Martin Waldron, was born in the village of Screeg near Ballyhaunis. I’ve always valued my Irish American heritage and believe our nation’s greatness stems from all of our incredible immigrant families,” Waldron said. “While an ocean separates us, love and a shared history keep us together. This caucus will help us highlight and preserve even more of that beautiful history, while also highlighting the many contributions made in Oklahoma by Irish descendants like my family.” 

The nationwide initiative to get all 50 states to create an American Irish State Legislators Caucus was launched by Irish Senate President Mark Daly in honor of its 100-year anniversary.

“As the Chair of the Senate of Ireland, I welcome the establishment of the American Irish State Legislators Caucus in Oklahoma, which includes those who have Irish heritage and those who are simply friends of Ireland,” Daly said. “Ireland is forever grateful for the support of the United States in our peace process on this island. Next year, we mark the 25th anniversary of that historic Good Friday Agreement, made possible only with the bipartisan support of legislators across the U.S. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you all, and wish you a happy Saint Patrick’s Day.”