Irish on the Inside

Irish on the Inside:In Search of the Soul of Irish America

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Tom Hayden explores the losses wrought by Irish American conformism

Tom Hayden first realized he was ‘Irish on the inside’ when he heard civil rights marchers in Northern Ireland singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ in 1969. Though his great-grandparents had been forced to emigrate to the US in the 1850s, Hayden’s parents erased his Irish heritage in the quest for respectability. In this passionate book he explores the losses wrought by such conformism. Assimilation, he argues, has led to high rates of schizophrenia, depression, alcoholism and domestic violence within the Irish community.
Today’s Irish-Americans, Hayden contends, need to re-inhabit their history, to recognize that assimilation need not entail submission. By recognizing their links to others now experiencing the prejudice once directed at their ancestors, they can develop a sense of themselves that is both specific and inclusive: ‘The survival of a distinct Irish soul is proof enough that Anglo culture will never fully satisfy our needs. We have a unique role in reshaping American society to empathize with the world’s poor, for their story is the genuine story of the Irish.’


  • Every Irish American (and everyone in Ireland, too) should read Tom Hayden’s brilliant and passionate book ... startlingly refreshing.

    Kerby Miller
  • Tom Hayden’s Irish on the Inside is the stuff of great awakenings—not merely for Irish-Americans but for the descendants of every immigrant who ever embraced the revolutionary ideals of justice and solidarity that are both Irish and American.

    John NicholsCapital Times
  • Reveals Tom Hayden as a dreamer and a rebel. Could any Irish person ask for a greater honour?

    Martin O Muilleoir