Inside NYC’s oldest Irish tavern on St. Patrick’s Day

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Irish eyes are smiling, but it seems they are not often pointed toward the history books.

On a sunny St. Patrick’s Day morning at McSorley’s Old Ale House, the oldest Irish bar in New York City, patrons were mixed in their knowledge of a major event in Irish history, the 1916 Easter Rising, which marked the start of the revolutionary violence that culminated six years later in Irish independence.

First-time McSorley’s visitors Jennifer Brandt and Sonia Chopra – they live just down the street and decided to drop by – were much more well-versed on the history of St. Patrick’s Day than the founding of the Irish Republic.

“It started in the United States in 1737,” said Brandt of the March 17 annual celebration of Irishness,

“You mean the Potato Famine?” said Chopra when asked about the Easter Rising. That said, you can hardly fault the pair – Brandt is of German ancestry while Chopra’s background is Indian.

But no, April 24, 1916, the Monday after Easter when Irish republicans mounted an armed insurrection to end British rule. The rebellion lasted six days before the overmatched Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood surrendered to the larger, heavily armed British Army, but it sparked a movement that led eventually to Irish independence in 1922. Ireland launched a year of celebration and commemoration for this year’s centennial.

In fact, McSorley’s, situated in Manhattan’s East Village, played its part in the effort for Irish independence.

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