Unintended Consequences: The Story of Irish Immigration to the U.S. and How America’s Door was Closed to the Irish


Ray O’Hanlon

March 2021

First ever history of Irish emigration to the US and how radical changes to US immigration policy by JFK created the current community of ‘undocumented’ Irish.

By award-winning Irish American journalist, author, broadcaster and Irish Echo editor, Ray O’Hanlon.


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Unintended Consequences reveals how America’s door closed on legal Irish immigration in the 1960s, and how America’s Irish mounted a counterattack when nation-changing political forces were sweeping the United States during the era of civil rights, political assassinations, and the Vietnam War.

This book looks at the full historical background to Irish migration across the Atlantic, how it helped shape the young republic, and how the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 brought a near total halt to this westward flow. Nevertheless, the Irish would not be denied and continued to make the journey, no longer into the light of a full and legal American life, but rather into the shadows of an undocumented existence. Successive organisations championed the undocumented Irish, and the fight continues to this day, but this is a new America, where, in recent years, there has been growing hostility to immigrants of every nationality.

Ray O’Hanlon has spent over three decades reporting on battles over comprehensive US immigration reform, and Unintended Consequences is the story of the Irish past, its present, and most uncertain future in the land of the free, home of the brave.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ray O’Hanlon is the editor of the New York City-published Irish Echo newspaper. A native of Dublin, O’Hanlon has reported from four continents in a newspaper career spanning forty-one years. In addition to his work as a reporter and editor, O’Hanlon has been a frequent contributor to US, Irish and British media outlets reporting on Ireland, Irish American affairs, and Anglo-Irish relations. His book, The New Irish Americans (1998) was the recipient of a Washington Irving Book Award, and The South Lawn Plot, his first fiction work, was published in 2011.




  1. Searching for a Savior
  2. Mustering for Battle
  3. 1965: The Year of the New Divide
  4. The Fading Drumbeat
  5. Teddy
  6. The Fighting Irish in Retreat
  7. The Irish Fight Back
  8. Revulsion, Rejection, Retreat
  9. Restless, Ever Restless
  10. Annie Moore and the Power of Sentiment
  11. Cold Prose Loudly Proclaimed
  12. A New Divide
  13. Read All About It!
  14. Saved Amid Depression
  15. Cometh the Hour
  16. The Hour Cometh
  17. Back to Boston
  18. On Wings and Prayers
  19. A Favorite Son Rises
  20. A Favorite Son Falls
  21. The Torch is Passed
  22. Paddy Goes Marching Away
  23. Aliens Ahoy!
  24. All Aboard!
  25. Finally!
  26. An Explanation of the Problem
  27. Attention Ladies and Gentlemen
  28. The Road to Washington
  29. To the Hill
  30. The Swinging Door
  31. A Stunned Loudness
  32. Peaks and Fallows
  33. A Measure of Success
  34. Troubles Behind, Troubles Ahead
  35. The Boys from Massachusetts
  36. To the Banner Born
  37. Numbers Up, Numbers Down
  38. Like Summer Leaves
  39. Christmas Postponed
  40. One Big Bust
  41. The Morrison Express
  42. The Train Arrives
  43. McCain on McLean
  44. No Going Back
  45. Legalize the Irish!
  46. McCain’s Embrace
  47. Yes We Can, Well Maybe
  48. A Last Full Measure
  49. An Anniversary Falls
  50. A State O’ Chassis
  51. ‘Afterwords

Additional information

Weight 0.9 kg



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