Irish-American Heritage Month Spotlight: Michael J. Larkin

Name and occupation:  

Michael J. Larkin, Author & Founder

Local Partnership Joint Market Solutions LLC

What do you love most about being of Irish heritage?

There are many things I love about being Irish.  Some of the most important are the strong sense of family, and community which is brought together and strengthened by the extended family still living in the “Old Country.”   Cousins, who offer us, not only remember, but create, the wonderful culture, music, sports and entertainment which is rather diverse unique departure from what the average American is exposed to on a daily basis.  We may all speak the same language, English.  But it is the words we use for different things that make the Irish American experience, sometimes funny and always interesting.

Can you tell us any interesting Irish history facts?

Ironically, the year was 1965.  President John F. Kennedy sign an immigration law that would adversely affect immigrants from Western European Countries particularly from Ireland in the mid to late 1980’s during a period of Irish economic hardship.

Hundreds of thousands stayed beyond their allotted time past their Immigration Visa expiration dates.  Many who stayed would even have their income calculated by accounting firms and send a check to pay their taxes only to have these tax totals sent back to their sender because they were undocumented.

In 1982, Jim Larkin, an active member of the Irish American Home in Glastonbury, CT and whose father was a founding member of “The Irish Club” was asked by former Trinity College basketball coach, Dan Doyal to see if he’d be interested in organizing the community of neighbors to “put up” a group of Irish kids who were to attend a basketball camp for two weeks in the summer.  The kids would be in the states for a total of 6 weeks.  Jim did just that during his off hours from the West Hartford Fire Department where he served as a Lieutenant.   He found families from all over the neighborhood, many who had kids who would be exposed to people from their country of origin.  To make a long story short, life-long friendships were created.  At the end of the summer, there was one of the girls who stood out and Una Geoghan was offered a basketball scholarship to Marist College in upstate New York.  None of the boys were offered scholarships but then again there were not many seven foot Irishmen.  Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Ireland.  Traveling back and forth to Ireland for the Holiday Seasons was expensive.  So, Una became the daughter Jim and Jean Larkin never had and the sister myself and my three younger brothers .  The next year, Dad sought out to see if there might be another girl that might be offered the opportunity of a basketball scholarship.  The next fall, Jennifer Grey was our second sister to be offered a Marist College Basketball Scholarship.  There were ten girls in all that were offered scholarship.

Upon the end of Una’s college career, Jim became aware that Una might need to go back to Ireland based on no choice of her own because of the out dated immigration law.  It made no sense to Jim.  “Why does it make sense for a kid from Ireland be offered an American College Scholarship for free, and then not be given the opportunity to contribute to society?  These kids are to be sent home to go on welfare for who knows how long.”

What could a Lieutenant in the West Hartford Fire Department do about it?  Jim began asking questions to learn of similar stories from Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and more out West from Montana and California.  Together with a number of friends from “The  Irish Club” and new friends from New York City, he founded the Irish Immigration Reform Movement (IIRM).

Jim ran into many types of resistance, surprisingly from “friends” from “The Irish Club.”  I can remember overhearing PJ Tierney, long time bartender telling Jim, “What are ya makin’ all this fuss here about the immigration issue.  Why don’t ya stop spinning your wheels?”  Red in the face, Jim was furious, threw down his money on the bar and stormed out. 

As a student at Marist College following my “Irish sisters,” I became Chairman of the IIRM Chapter in Poughkeepsie, NY.  We were able to educate the staff and students of the College and surrounding community the IIRM organization’s goals.

Meanwhile, relationships were being made with staff members of Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.  Mr. Edward Mann was a great friend to what the IIRM was attempting to accomplish.  The most influential political contact was with Representative Bruce Morrison from New Haven Connecticut.  The IIRM organized grass roots lobbying campaigns on Capitol Hill where the organization was presented with a Bill authored by Representative Morrison.  The stars must have been aligned and timing was perfect of passing this important legislation into a law that would affect hundreds of thousands of residence living undocumented.  But there was one problem.  Representative Morrison was at the time running for Governor of the State of Connecticut.

A promise was told to Representative Morrison directly from Jim Larkin.  “Bruce, we at the IIRM support your running for the Governorship, however, if you allow your bill, which is so close to becoming law, die, we will protest your convention with the thousands of members of the IIRM right outside the Civic Center.”  It was not intended as a threat.  Jim would have done it if the Morrison Campaign had not released a press release stating the Representative Morrison would be returning to Washington, DC immediately following the convention.

Jim was at the convention with some of the other members of the IIRM.  After the convention, Representative Morrison was approached by the press, but asked to be excused for a moment and marched right up to Jim and nervously asked, “What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to support you, but now it’s time for you to go back to Washington and finish what you started sir.”

Representative Morrison did return to Washington, DC and the bill known as the Morrison Visa was signed into law.  The cost, Representative Morrison, after spending millions on his campaign, lost the election.

To his credit, Jim Larkin’s next mission was to hold fund-raising campaigns in Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and more to help Mr. Morrison recover from his campaign loss.

Later, at “The Irish Club,” Jim again was overheard saying to PJ, “The next time you tell me to stop spinning my wheels…you’d better check the tread.”

We lost Jim Larkin of March 15, 1998 and buried him on St. Patrick’s Day.

Who or what inspires you most? 

Before his passing, James Joseph Larkin shared with me that there were no regrets he had in his life.  “If you are confident that your hard work can help people and you can see those results, and know in your heart that what you are doing is the right thing, don’t let anything, including yourself stop you.”

I took the firefighter test just out of college.  I passed the written exam but was never asked to proceed to the physical or oral exam.  Two reasons were Dad’s strong Union Leadership and that at the time the town was going to hire their first woman firefighter no matter what.  Upon, moving to Alexandria, VA I again took the firefighter test.  I was offered the opportunity to take the physical exam where my time of getting out of the dark room is still tied for the record. 

Just goes to show, I’m the type of person who will find myself running out of a burning building, as opposed to running into one. 

Life has steered me into a mission of education of helping businesses benefit from becoming profitable online.  Like I say, “Let a Doctor be a Doctor and let a Lawyer be a Lawyer.”

 I can change the oil in my car, but it is a lot more messy and time consuming to do it myself rather than bring the car to the local oil changing shop.  Meaning, I can teach many of the tips and tricks to become profitable, but by offering to do it ourselves on behalf of our clients, they do not waist time, energy and money on activities that do not work.  This is where I loathe  many of the online consulting companies.  They’ll consult you, and take your money but offer no way of doing the work they are consulting people.  Sneaky, and it’s a bloody rip off.  It’s one reason why our U.S. economy is hurting.

Something about you that would surprise us:

After living in the Washington, DC area since 1992, I finally can hear what all my friends meant when all of them would say, “Wow, Mike is your Mom just off the boat?  She has such a thick Irish accent.” 

My reply was always, “What are you talking about, I don’t hear it.”

Nowadays when we talk, I can hear the accent, a little.


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