The Quotable Tip O'Neill

On his 100th birthday, we remember his contributions to politics.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tip O’Neill, an icon of Massachusetts politics, would have been 100 Sunday. In Boston, we remember O’Neill, who represented Boston districts in the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years and served as Speaker of the House from 1977 to 1987, as one of the most influential Democratic politicians to come out of Massachusetts.

O’Neill is credited for coining the famous observation that, “all politics is local.” Ultimately, O’Neill knew, voters care about how a politician’s decisions will affect them on a local day-to-day level, and a politician can’t take his constituents for granted.

To commemorate O’Neill’s 100th birthday, we have compiled some other lines from the quotable congressman that you may not be as familiar with:

“It’s easier to run for office than to run the office.”

Discussing the tension between campaigning and governing an office. O’Neill’s only electoral defeat was in his first race, when he ran for a seat on the Cambridge City Council while still a senior at Boston College. His senior class voted him “Class Politician.” After graduating in 1936, he won a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

“You better take advantage of the good cigars. You don’t get much else in that job.”

Talking to Vice President Walter Mondale after he was elected. Although O’Neill’s greatest loyalty was to his constituents, he contributed to national issues, and was one of the earliest politicians to come out in opposition to the Vietnam War, breaking away from his party and the President at the time. Internationally, he worked for peace, including being a major force in the Northern Ireland peace process.

The purpose of the present bill is to provide all Americans with a greater opportunity to visit and appreciate these monuments to our glorious beginnings. The people of the United States have always taken an intense and sincere interest in the preservation of their national heritage.”

Explaining his support for a bill that would build an historical park in Boston. O’Neill also introduced a bill that would preserve historical sites in Boston, such as Faneuil Hall, Bunker Hill, Paul Revere’s house, and the Old North Church.

“I’ve known personally every president since Jack Kennedy and I can honestly say that Ronald Reagan was the worst. But, he’d have made a hell of a king.”

About his relationship with Reagan, who was president for much of the time that O’Neill was Speaker. O’Neill used to say that although they clashed during the day, they were great friends after 6 p.m., prompting Reagan to answer the phone with “Tip, is it after 6 p.m.?”

“A good lesson in keeping your perspective is: Take your job seriously but don’t take yourself seriously.”

Despite his dedication to his liberal Democratic ideology, he is remembered as a gifted politician who worked well with other politicians to accomplish goals. President George H. W. Bush awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 for his dedication to serving the public for 50 years, “while maintaining his humor, humility and touch with the people.”

  • Leonard Roarty


    TIP O




    The Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald and
    British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the two signatories.


    From the famine ,hardships and emigration of Irish People to America in the mid 19th
    century sprang the Irish Diaspora, many
    of whom achieved political eminence in the land of their adoption. Four of these powerful American Irish politicians Tip o Neill (in particular)
    Speaker(Leader) of the American House of Representatives ,Hugh Carey, Governor
    of New York Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Daniel P Moynihan , who became
    known as the four horsemen were central
    to and
    politically influential in bringing
    about the Anglo Irish



    Margaret Thatcher wanted an internal
    British settlement. She rejected in her infamous out. out. Out. Press conference the New Ireland Forum proposals .Thatcher’s rejection was described as offhand,
    patronising, callous, and imperious to the Irish.

    Following this rejection Tip and his colleagues got President Reagan to raise with Thatcher the need for a peaceful solution.Reagan
    did this.Tip also met her and pressurised her to talk to
    theAmerican Congress about Northern Ireland
    . She did,indicating that she would work with the Irish government for a
    peaceful solution

    This was the big breakthrough

    President Reagan and TIP O NEILL

    It was acknowledged by the Taoiseach that without Tip and his colleagues sustained pressure
    and political influence, the prime minister with her well known and expressed antipathy to the Irish would
    not have engaged in serious discussion thus prolonging the conflict possibly
    for years,with consequential killings,destruction ,worsening
    unemployment and economic regression.

    Tip o Neill’s achievement in getting the British to
    negotiate an all Ireland peace settlement for the Irish Nation is in it’s own way on the same plateau as the
    achievements of Michael Davitt and
    Michael Collins



    WILLIE MC CARTER Willie Mc Carter, a Buncrana
    man and 1st chairman of the

    .The day the Anglo Irish agreement was signed President Reagan and Tip o Neill gave jointly, an assurance of financial support to the agreement.This
    resulted in the establishment of the International Fund for Ireland(I . F . I
    .) The core mission of the fund is to tackle the underlying causes of sectarianism and violence and to build reconciliation.

    It was financed by contributions from
    the U.
    S . A.,the European Union,Canada,
    Australia and New Zealand.The total
    resources committed to the Fund amounted
    to £707million/€890 million. This has leveraged other funding of
    almost £1.4 billion/ €1.69billion.It has
    supported over5,800 projects across the island of Ireland.It has helped to
    create directly or indirectly55,000 jobs.

    LEONARD ROARTY 14/08/2014
    initiator of the Annual Tip o Neill Donegal Diaspora Award MAY 2011