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New York’s new Governor Kathy Hochul has strong Irish roots


Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul

Kathy Hochul

New York’s new Governor Kathy Hochul is set to make history as the first ever female Governor of New York and the third Irish American to hold the post following the resignation today of Andrew Cuomo following a string of sexual misconduct allegations.

Ms Hochul, (62), born Kathleen Courtney from Buffalo, New York, near the Canadian border, is the grand-daughter of Irish immigrants on her father’s side from the same village in Co Kerry who met in Chicago in 1919 when they fled poverty at the turn of the last century.

The married mother-of-two will assume Cuomo’s role in two weeks’ time as per her role as the deputy head of the State, the Lieutenant Governor, who automatically succeeds the Governor in the event of his death, impeachment or resignation. Cuomo’s term ends in December 2022.

Cuomo's announcement of his resignation comes a week after an independent investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James found he sexually harassed multiple women from 2013 through 2020.

In a post on Facebook today Ms Hochul said: “I agree with Governor Cuomo's decision to step down. It is the right thing to do and in the best interest of New Yorkers. As someone who has served at all levels of government and is next in the line of succession, I am prepared to lead as New York State’s 57th Governor.”

Ms Kochul, a law graduate and former Congresswoman, was Cuomo’s running mate in the 2014 election and has been lieutenant governor ever since he won his second term. In her role, which was largely ceremonial, she spearheaded a campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

When the investigation found Cuomo had sexually harassed women, she responded: "Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any workplace, and certainly not in public service.

“The Attorney General’s investigation has documented repulsive and unlawful behavior by the Governor towards multiple women. I believe these brave women and admire their courage coming forward. No one is above the law. Under the New York Constitution, the Assembly will now determine the next steps.”

Ms Kochul, the second oldest of six children, has always been vocal of her pride in her Irish roots. 

In a recent interview with the Irish Echo newspaper, she spoke of how her large Irish Catholic family helped establish Buffalo as a haven for Irish immigrants. 

“My grandparents helped start the first Buffalo Irish Center. They used to host guests and play Gaelic football. My dad and grandfather played on the team. They were so good, my father used to play on the national team here. He really took advantage of the experiences and had a chance to really talk about our Irish heritage a lot.

“That was a really formative part of who I am – that pride and that heritage. But also knowing it’s a responsibility for a lot of people left behind. Those of us whose families came to America were given a very special gift and opportunity. “

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She said her Irish heritage and fighting for the underdog inspired her political career.

“My grandparents were very involved in social causes, my parents were involved in social causes. I think that Irish heritage and understanding what it’s like when you are the underdog. A lot of Irish felt that, I think that’s partly why I look out for the underdog myself. “

During her tenure as Lieutenant Governor she was involved in events in New York City to commemorate the centenary of the Easter Rising.

She said she is also a keen advocate for trans-Atlantic trade between the US and Ireland.

“We try to keep our trade relations strong. That’s what I try to do when I’m having meetings with the Council General. We talk about opportunities for Irish businesses to do work here and for New York businesses to have opportunities in Ireland.”

She also posted a St Patrick’s Day greeting in 2019 on Twitter in which she praised her Irish roots.

"My grandparents immigrated from Ireland - the lessons they passed on to me inspired my life in public service. I have always been proud of my Irish heritage and history."

In another St Patrick’s Day post on social media last March she said:

"Like millions of immigrants before and after them, [my grandparents] suffered hardship but ultimately they lived the American dream. Looking back, I realised they had a profound impact on my decision to enter public service. I will say like all good Irishmen and Irishwomen, I love a good fight. Especially if it's for the people of my beloved state.

"We have poetry in our hearts, but we are scrappy. We know how to survive adversity... and we love the underdog. Because the Irish have been underestimated throughout our history."

She will not only be the first woman to hold the most powerful political job in the State, she is will also be the third Irish American to hold the post after the late Hugh Carey, the 51st New York Governor between 1975 and 1982, and Al Smith, who served four terms from 1918 to 1928.

Mr Carey, along with senators Edward Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and US House Speaker Tip O’Neill, were known as the “Four Horsemen” who were active in peacemaking in Northern Ireland during The Troubles.

This article was amended on 11/08/2021  

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