Their slogan wasn't "Irish need not apply." It was worse. I speak of a battle I witnessed in Old Town, Alexandria, Va., a decade ago -- a battle that involved a popular Irish pub, Pat Troy's Ireland's Own, and a condo association.
A new landlord purchased the building in which Troy's pub had resided for 19 years. The landlord wanted to turn the pub space into office space. He asked Troy to vacate. Troy, an Irish immigrant known for his many charitable causes, bought a building two blocks away. He planned to relocate his pub there -- right next to the condo association.
That's when all hell broke loose.
The condo people did not want an Irish pub to be near them. They launched a political assault that made the Chicago politicians look like Quakers. First, came their "NOLUV" slogan. It stood for "noise, overcrowding, litter, urinating and vomiting."
Then, came accusations about the behavior of the pub's patrons -- that they'd drink too many pints of Guinness and sing "The Unicorn Song" into the wee hours.
Next, came their angry letter to city officials. It complained that "Troy's pub isn't just a bar, it's an IRISH bar ... and it will affect our property values ..."
My great great-grandfather came to America from Ireland in the late 1800's. He surely suffered similar indiscretions. That they're still occurring is no surprise to me.
But the Irish can take it.
We, of Irish descent, can take the drinking jokes: Why did God invent whiskey? To keep the Irish from taking over the Earth. What's a seven-course Irish meal? A potato and a six-pack. What's the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake? One less drunk.
We don't mind the one about the tragedy at the Guinness factory. McAlister fell into a vat of Guinness and he drowned. Cleary, McAlister's best friend, went to tell McAlister's wife. When she opened her front door, Cleary was crying.
"There was a tragedy at the factory?" she said.
"Yes, missus. Your husband fell into a vat of Guinness and drowned."
"Tell me, Cleary," she said crying. "Did he, at least, die quickly?
"Not exactly, missus," said Cleary. "He got out of the vat three times to use the bathroom."
We don't mind the one about the Irishman who finds a tea kettle in the woods. When he rubs it, a genie pops out and grants him three wishes. The Irishman wishes for a bottle of whiskey; it appears in his hands. When he drinks it, the bottle automatically refills. He drinks it again, and it refills.
"What's that?" says the Irishman.
"That's the bottle of infinity," says the genie. "Every time you empty it, it will be replenished. What are you last two wishes?"
"Give me two more bottles!"
No, the Irish don't mind such jokes. The Irish learned to laugh at themselves long ago.
And when a group of boorish condo people succeeded in thwarting the move of Troy's pub to the building he had purchased -- Alexandria's city council voted to block his move -- Troy didn't cry of unfairness or bigotry or hate speech.
He did what Americans used to do: he relocated to another building, where he is still serving many delicious pints.
In an America in which everyone is so easily offended and ready to sue, we all could have a little more Irish spirit -- and certainly more Irish humor.
Which reminds me of this one: What is Irish and sits on the porch all night long?
Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Visit Tom on the web at www.TomPurcell.com, or e-mail him at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.