by Ed Forry
I was in the room on election night on June 25, and I cheered along with hundreds of others as Ed Markey took the stage for the first time as our state’s new US Senator. Born and raised in working-class Malden and a graduate of Malden Catholic, Boston College, and BC Law School, he was the first recipient of a Boston Irish Honors in 2010, when this newspaper celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Ed Markey has deep family roots in Waterville, County Kerry, and is descended from two lines of Irish immigrants who came to America for a better life. His maternal grandparents – Patrick Courtney, a coal carrier, and Brigid Sullivan, a maid – emigrated to the United States in 1902, and settled in Malden. Today, Markey still makes his home just nine doors away from their home, the place where his mother grew up.
His great grandfather, Thomas Markey, came to America in 1858, and was a union soldier in the Civil War who later worked in a Lawrence factory. Ed Markey’s dad was a Hood milkman, and Markey himself had a summer job driving an ice cream truck to help pay his college tuition.
In a 2010 interview with the BIR, Markey said his ancestors’ sacrifice informs his public service.
“The Greatest Generation were really the people who left Ireland – who left behind their mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and never got to see them again,” he said. “You should never compare anything to what they did. To a certain extent we all are fulfilling their obligation.
“I try to keep faith with the countless Irish immigrants who came to the United States, who worked hard to improve their lives and harness the gift of educational opportunity to give each succeeding generation a better life,” he continued. “That tradition animates my legislative efforts to advance fairness, justice, and opportunity for all Americans.”
In Congress, Markey has become the go-to authority on telecommunications and energy issues, and has stayed informed on issues in the Emerald Isle ever since his eye-opening first visit there in 1996.
In the BIR profile, the new senator told of Ireland’s recent merger of the electrical grids on the island, With Irish energy chief Eamon Ryan he spearheaded an effort, dubbed the “Irish American Climate Project,” to highlight “the potentially severe impact that climate change will have on fishing and farming and tourism and loss of flora and fauna on the island of Ireland” and “prevent the Irish landscape from being changed, changed utterly in ways that would pain hearts of the Irish people and the Irish Diaspora.” He added that “we agreed we were going to set up a summit in Dublin on energy, environment, and telecom industries.”
T;e nature of the recent special election, coming in the midst of a growing fatigue among the voters, did not give the electorate the chance to see the real Ed Markey. Considered a “policy wonk” among his colleagues, he has never faced a significant challenge for reelection over his 37 years in Congress; the abrupt campaign
to replace John Kerry was really the first time Ed Markey had to put aside his policy work and go full bore on the campaign trail.
But those who saw him at the 2010 Boston Irish Honors luncheon know him as smart, funny, and self-effacing.
Not long ago, our state was fortunate to have the political clout of electeds like Tip O’Neill, Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry. It is just that sort of political leadership that the election of Ed Markey will continue in the Senate. His accomplishments over his career give evidence that he brings to the Senate just the right combination of legislative skills and political intelligence that will serve the state very well.