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A father who packs more punch than Bill Clinton

March 2, 2015
In The News

By Cronan Scanlon, Donegal News

After a hectic couple of months we catch up with US congressman Brendan Boyle whose father Francis from Glencolmcille had a key role in the election campaign:

A RETIRED caretaker from Glencolmcille packs more political punch than former US President, Bill Clinton. That was the ringing endorsement given by Congressman Brendan Boyle last week to his father, Francis (63), who emigrated from the southwest Donegal village in 1970. The Democrat party representative, who turned 38 last Friday, became one of the youngest members of Congress when he recently took his seat in the world’s most powerful parliament. He is said to be the only Congressman to have an Irish parent and the only one who is “not a millionaire.” Mr Boyle revealed to the Donegal News at the weekend that he was “not ruling out” running for president. He was speaking from his Washington office, which is dominated by a photograph of Glen Head, which he took during a visit to Donegal four years ago. “I just got back from a vote on four different amendments and I’m sitting here looking up at a picture of beautiful Donegal. I love every time I get back and, hopefully, we will be in Glen this summer with my wife Jenny and daughter Abby, if my congressional schedule allows,” he said.

His father emigrated from Glen to Philadelphia when he was just 19 years old. He later married his sweetheart, Eileen, whose parents hailed from Sligo, but who sadly passed away in October, 2013. “I think about her all the time and I mentioned her in my speech on election night. It was my first political victory that she was not present for - but I have no doubt she was there in spirit. Like dad, she would have been very proud of me.” The Boyles had two boys, Brendan and Kevin - the latter was returned as a member of the Democratic party in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2012. Having grown up in the working class Olney area of Philly, the Cardinal Dougherty High School graduate was the first one in his family to go to college, earning a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Notre Dame. After working in the private sector, and after 9/11, he decided to return to school, earning a master’s from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He has no doubt he was helped along the way his mother’s many “prayers and rosaries.” Brendan also said his father had a massive influence on him, despite not having gone to college himself. “From the time dad emigrated, up until 2000, he worked in different manual labour jobs in order to support our family,” he explained. “He did jobs like cutting lawns and spent 25 years working in a warehouse before becoming unemployed. Then, he took up employment as a janitor (caretaker) with the local railway company.”


Early last year, Hillary Clinton was forced to decide whether or not to nominate her daughter Chelsea’s mother-in-law, Marjorie Margolies, or Brendan Boyle to represent the Democratic party in the run for Congress. Apart from being Chelsea’s mother- in-law, Margolies played a central role in the success of Bill Clinton’s presidency. And the former president returned the favour by supporting her in her fight with Boyle for the Democrat Party’s nomination to run in the General Election. However, Mr Boyle had an even bigger hitter backing his campaign. In his campaign video, entitled ‘My story and why I’m running for Congress’, he shows his father sweeping a Pennsylvania train station. “That was certainly not a PR stunt, and that has been raised by a number of journalists,” he explained. “At the election convention, my opponent brought in Bill Clinton, but I just told my dad’s story. I said in my speech ‘this (campaign) should be more about the Francis Boyles of this country and not the Bill Clintons’. That really struck a chord with vast swathes of the electorate, even the ones who had no Irish blood. The ad with my father was by far my most popular of the campaign - people still talk about it to this day. He was more important to my campaign than Mr Clinton was to Margolies. “At this time in US history, people from places like Ireland and India are filled with optimism when they see that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll get on well in life. The more people in office who speak about that, the better. Fortunately the voters agreed with me.” Citing President Obama’s January 20, ‘State of the Union’ address as one of his highlights to date, Mr Boyle said his ‘swearing in’ was a really special moment from him and his family. “I met President Obama the night I was elected and met him twice since, the last time was last night when myself and my wife met him at an official function. Hopefully, dad will get to meet him next month.” He described Mr Obama as an “extremely polite” man. “He is also amazingly thin and his grey hair goes to show you the stress of the job. When we first talked, we joked that we were both State Legislators in our careers. He is a very nice, normal guy and that’s very real - it’s not a show.” Growing up, Mr Boyle said his first love was baseball and hoped that, one day, he would turn professional. “But, when I was 11 or 12 years-of age, I quickly realized that I’d be better off sticking to the books. Fortunately, I was very good at school and was very interested in US and Irish history and politics.” Asked if he was a model for the ‘American dream’, Mr Boyle replied that he feels “more lucky” than anything else. “If it wasn’t for the hard work and sacrifice by my parents, I would not be where I am today. I feel more grounded now than anything else.”


The only freshman (newcomer) in Congress assigned to the Foreign Affairs Committee — also appointed to the Government Oversight and Reform Committee - Mr Boyle said he would use his influence to become a new link between Ireland and the US, making it easier for immigrants to be granted American citizenship. “I think it was good that dad emigrated when he did as it (immigration law) is much tougher nowadays. I want to see the adoption of more fairer immigration laws, as the current ones are abysmal. Immigrants from all over the world are at a serious disadvantage. “When Ireland was booming, it was no big issue. But today, more and more intelligent, hardworking Irish men and women are looking to come here but they are locked out and are forced to go to countries like Australia and Canada instead. I want them to be able to come here if they want to. “After everything the Irish have done for America, the least we could do is to give them a pathway to US citizenship.” Asked if he had any ambitions of running for presidency, he said: “The last thing I want after a tough campaign is to run for another office. “As long as I work hard and do a good job, there will be opportunities for me, though I would certainly not rule it out.” During his election campaign, Mr Boyle voiced his support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, and he is also in favour of reforming the federal tax code to reduce the gap between upper and middle class taxes. He would additionally seek to make college more affordable through merit-based scholarship programmes.