There’s no doubt that we O’Neills have had a great impact on the world having been part of some historic occasions down through the centuries – here’s a look at some of the famous (and infamous!) people of the O’Neill name who have graced the world their presence:
Francis O’Neill (August 28, 1848–January 26, 1936) was an Irish-born American police officer and collector of Irish traditional music.
Eugene Gladstone O’Neill (October 16, 1888 – November 27, 1953) was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature. His poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into American drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg. His plays were among the first to include speeches in American vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society, where they struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair. O’Neill wrote only one well-known comedy (Ah, Wilderness!). Nearly all of his other plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism.
Thomas Phillip “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. (December 9, 1912 – January 5, 1994) was an American politician and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. O’Neill was an outspoken liberal Democrat and influential member of the House of Representatives, serving for 34 years and representing two congressional districts in Massachusetts. He served as Speaker of the House from 1977 until his retirement in 1987, making him the second longest-serving Speaker in U.S. history after Sam Rayburn.
One of O’Neill’s greatest accomplishments as Speaker involved Northern Ireland. O’Neill worked with fellow Irish-American politicians: New York Governor Hugh Carey, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan to craft a peace accord between the warring factions. Beginning with the “Saint Patrick’s Day declaration” in 1977, denouncing violence in Northern Ireland and culminating with the Irish aid package upon the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, the “Four Horsemen” as they were called, convinced both Carter and Reagan to press the British government on the subject. O’Neill also created the Friends of Ireland organization with Kennedy and Moynihan in 1981 to promote peace in Northern Ireland.
At his passing, President Bill Clinton said: “Tip O’Neill was the nation’s most prominent, powerful and loyal champion of working people… He loved politics and government because he saw that politics and government could make a difference in people’s lives. And he loved people most of all.”