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"Saints Preserve Us!"
—Nearly every Irish cop ever written.
"And to his left is your typical drunken, oafish police chief with his hat on crooked, most likely named Barney O’Blarney or Patrick O’Hallorahanfitzmichael or something like that."

In every police precinct, you'll have several stereotypical types of cops. The most common of these will always be the O'Hara, the cop with the whimsical Irish accent who usually stands in the sidelines, offering recycled stereotypical quips about St. Patrick and the shores of Oireland.

Truth in Television, as in New York, Boston and Chicago Irishmen were disproportionately represented in the police -- massively. (This is the reason they called it the "Paddy Wagon", and why "shamus" (Séamas) became slang for detective.) Around 1900, five-sixths of the NYPD was Irish. A large wave of Irish immigrants in the 19th century coincided with the time when major cities started establishing "professional" police forces, and police work was one of the few jobs open to Irish immigrants at the time. In Real Life, police forces offer many opportunities for recent immigrants, and they sign up, partly to protect their own people. Because early police work closely resembled thuggery, it was not a prestigious position, and because poorly paid police were vulnerable to corruption, the police were widely despised. It did not take long for the urban police and The Irish Mob to become partners.

Mostly a Discredited Trope these days. Of course, Irish-American cops still show up frequently (noticeably in The Departed in which nearly all the cop characters are Boston Irish--and all of the criminals are part of The Irish Mob), but the just-off-the-boat accent and whimsy are long gone -- except somewhat in Historical Fiction.

Compare Irish Priest, the other stereotypically Irish profession in American fiction.

Examples of Officer O'Hara include:


Anime

  • The first American dub of Rurouni Kenshin had the cops sporting Irish accents; fortunately this tested so poorly that it went back for redubbing before the commercial release.
  • Patlabor fell into this trope more or less by accident (there is no evidence they did the research), by giving their (half) Japanese-American New York Cop the very Irish (and noted) name of Clancy, Kanuka Clancy. It helped a lot of fans with the Fridge Logic of why someone from Hawaii would join the NYPD.

Comic Books

  • Comics where Mickey Mouse is a detective (often Mickey's on-again, off-again freelance job) have a beefy uniformed police chief named O'Hara as Mickey's boss. He originally appeared with an accent, though in the 1960s it was dropped. In a few later cartoons (notably on House of Mouse), O'Hara did appear with an accent. And it's back, too, in most new comics produced since the 1990s. It must be noted that with or without the accent, Mickey's O'Hara is a competent, long-suffering cop whose real problem isn't his own weakness -- it's that his chief of detectives, Mr. Casey, is an overconfident blunderer (whom Mickey has inadvertently upstaged many times, leading to a friendly rivalry).
  • Chief O'Reilly from the Banana Man comic book and animated series, who was a parody/homage of Chief O'Hara from Batman.
  • Averted in the Starman comics with the O'Dare family of Badass Normal policemen and women.
    • It is only averted because the O'Dare family are actually third generation, though Kate, the only female of the group whom is a cop, acts in a very stereotypical Irish spitfire way.
  • X-Men Noir is set in 1937, and Chief Eric Magnus is an Eastern European immigrant cop who is bitter over being discriminated against by the Irish-American cops who dominate the NYPD; he claims he failed the Sergeant's Exam three times just because he doesn't have a shred of Irish heritage. It's never explicitly spelled out, but it's notable that none of the members of his clandestine "Brotherhood" are Irish, either.

Film

  • Bridesmaids provides an unusual recent example with Officer Rhodes, although to be fair, he's not very Oirish outside of the accent.
  • Sean Connery's character in The Untouchables, who was completely and utterly invented for the movie. In real life, Eliot Ness knew what he was doing from the start, and didn't need a wise mentor to show him the ropes, but apparently that wouldn't be dramatic enough. Also, Sean Connery is not Irish, no matter what the other characters say.
  • Irish cops aplenty in the movie Blown Away, set in present-day Boston. To judge from this movie, it seems that the Boston Police Department recruits solely from those fresh of the potato boat from Ireland.
  • Irish-American James Cagney has a great scene in the 1932 Warner Brothers film Taxi, in which he launches into an extended conversation in Yiddish in the presence of an Irish cop.
  • All the cops in The Boondock Saints are Irish descended (with a touch of an accent) with the exception of Smecker, the only officer/agent from outside Boston.
    • None of the police officers in The Boondock Saints have Irish accents; they just have Boston accents. And they're not all Irish-descended, either: Detective Dollypoposkallius is very much not Irish.
  • Hoodlum provides an example with Captain Foley's character. Crooked type.
  • In Johnny Dangerously, Alan Hale Jr.'s character was one of these.
  • In L.A. Confidential, James Cromwell's police Captain is this complete with the off-the-boat accent.
  • Subverted in Super Troopers; Captain John O'Hagan of the Vermont State Police is probably the most competent and serious member of his department. In fact, he's probably the most competent and serious officer in the whole movie. He also takes a moment to mock the trope by briefly adopting a brogue and saying the following line when one of his men is trying to pull a fast one on him:

 I'll believe ya when me shit turns purple and smells like rainbow sherbet.

  • Officer Mulroney (the ultra-Irish looking John C. Reilly) in Gangs of New York is a former Irish gang member who fought with an axe. He now works for Nativist gang leader Bill "The Butcher" of the Bowery Boys.

 Mulroney: (as he tries to kill Vallon) Ach, do ye remember yer fadda, lad. Ooh, the toimes we had...

    • John C. Reilly is actually half-Irish. His other half is Lithuanian.
  • Barry Fitzgerald plays one of these in the old noir flick, The Naked City. And he is awesome.
  • Played for gags in the 2005 version of The Producers (which is set in 1958, when this trope had already become irrelevant in Real Life). Two NYPD cops with very thick stereotypical Irish brogues come to investigate goings-ons in Max Byalistock's apartment and discover Max and Leo Bloom's "cooked books" from their fraud scheme. Also, Max Byalistock (Nathan Lane) tries to bluff his way past the cops by assuming a ridiculous parody of a brogue in which his voice keeps getting higher and higher.
  • In the 1978 Superman, the first two Metropolis police officers to encounter the Man of Steel are straight examples of this trope.
  • Parodied in The Other Guys during the scene in the Irish bar.
  • Several Irish-American policemen and other civil servants appear in the John Ford film The Last Hurrah, most notably at Knocko Minihan's wake, when the Irish-surnamed officer assures Mayor Frank Skeffington that "The whole precinct is behind you".
  • In The Lego Movie, Good Cop/Bad Cop alternates by which side is facing out through the helmet between a genuinely intimidating enforcer with a brusque growl that overshadows the accent and a chirpy, friendly fellow more traditionally in line with the image.

Literature

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn features a cop named Michael McShane.
  • Paddy in Make Way For Ducklings.
  • Stephen King featured an Irish cop in IT, down to the Batmanesque "Chief O'Hara" accent. One of Richie's funny voices in the same story is also the Irish Cop.
    • Officer Nell shows up in other King stories set in that area, too.
  • There's a scene in The Haunter of the Dark where the protagonist is researching a local desecrated chapel, and is told that all the Catholics in the area know the story behind it. So he asks the nearest police officer, "a great wholesome Irishman."
  • Captain Dudley Smith may seem like this in James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet but is in reality something very different.
  • Roald Dahl wrote a short story in which a wealthy New York couple, having forgotten their keys, attempt to break into their own house - and are promptly shot dead by a gang of Irish cops.
  • The Cabinet of Curiosities features NYPD officer Patrick "Paddy" O'Shaughnessey, who is described as having "probably the most Irish name in New York." The book then goes on to subvert the trope at every turn, making him a boon to the investigation, a guy with a standard New York accent, and a lover of opera.
  • Invoked in Tom Clancy's Patriot Games when Jack Ryan tells the Queen that Irish Americans have a tradition of being the forces of order -- cops, firefighters, and clergy, especially -- and nowadays, the most famous Irish in the world are terrorists, something Jack is certain his father, Officer Ryan, wouldn't have liked at all. "He spent his whole working life taking animals like that off the street and putting them in cages where they belong."
  • Julius Cohan in Tales from Gavagan's Bar.
  • The Betsy series by Carolyn Haywood features a friendly red-headed policeman named Mr. Kilpatrick. At one point he talks about his granny in Ireland.
  • Karrin Murphy of The Dresden Files is a Chicago cop, a member of a large clan of cops and has a very Irish surname.
  • The Past Doctor Adventures novel Illegal Alien, which transposes a number of American hardboiled detective tropes to Britain, plays with it by having a Northern Irish Chief Inspector in the Met, who says things like "Saints preserve us", but also suspects all Irish-Americans of being IRA sympathisers.

Live Action TV

  • The 1960's Batman show probably has one of the more famous O Haras, named O'Hara.
    • O'Hara also appeared in the comics, first mentioned slightly after the show's debut, but not actually appearing on-panel until well into the 1970s. He has appeared sporadically in later years, though usually not as part of the main Batman continuity.
    • One episode had five cops named O'Hara, O'Malley, Douglas, O'Reilly, and Goldstein.
  • A short-lived 1980s cop show called Ohara played with this trope -- "Ohara" (without an apostrophe) is a Japanese name, and the title character, Police Chief Ohara, was played by Pat Morita.
  • Pretty much every time a policeman appeared on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Tom Servo would say "A'right, show's over folks. Nothin' ta see, here," in a fake Irish accent. Is it worth pointing out Servo was voiced by Kevin Murphy?
    • Directly addressed in a skit at the end of the Indestructible Man episode. After Joel swears to stop making jokes about policemen and their alleged love for doughnuts, Kevin Murphy and Mike Nelson appear as policemen and begin complaining about other stereotypes about the police, including this one.

 Kevin: "Yeah, and we're not all Irish, either!"

Mike: "Well, Kevin here is Irish, but me, I'm Danish".

Frank: HA HA HA-- [laugh dies down awkwardly as he realizes Mike wasn't making a pun]

  • Averted in Psych. There is an Officer O'Hara, but that's her name. Her partner, Lassiter, is Irish, but he doesn't act like this and isn't native to Ireland.
    • That's Detective O'Hara.
    • It doesn't help that Lassiter's actor once played an evil leprechaun in a Disney film.
  • Detectives Greevey and Logan from season 1 of Law and Order are both Irish-American, as is ADA Stone (and later Jack McCoy). Inevitably, there's an episode involving The Troubles.
  • Notably averted on The Wire, which acknowledges the Irish influence on the Baltimore PD - the main character McNulty is Irish and a drunk, but a highly competent detective, and there is a tradition when a cop dies of holding a rowdy wake to The Pogues' "Body of an American" - but doesn't have any comedy accents.
    • In particular, while some Black officers will make jocular remarks about the changing nature of the racial makeup in the Baltimore PD, the influence of an Irish background doesn't seem to go past a family name and possibly being Catholic. Prosecutor Rhonda Perlman even remarks to a hungover Mc Nulty that being a drunk Irish-man he's useless, (read: momentarily impotent) but then again he's not really Irish.
  • Single Handed is an Irish show about an Irish Garda in Western Ireland.
  • The Tear Jerker finale of the documentary 9/11 showed a picture of each of the fire and policemen who died in the Twin Towers. The musical accompaniment was "Danny Boy," which fit because an enormous amount of them were Irish.
  • Don't forget the 1971-72 David Janssen series O'Hara, U.S. Treasury.
  • There was at least one Murder, She Wrote episode with a police Lieutenant with the typical Oirish accent with all the stock phrases. And another set in Oireland with the local cops that way.
  • The Reagan family in Blue Bloods is of Irish descent (the new mayor even calls Frank a "white Irish cop" in the Season 2 premiere), but the trope is averted quite handily.

Music

  • Also regarding The Pogues is their hit Christmas song "Fairytale of New York", whose chorus goes "The boys in the NYPD choir were singing "Galway Bay" // And the bells were ringin' out for Christmas Day."
  • Billy Joel's Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) namechecks a certain 'Sergeant O'Leary'.

Radio

  • Officer O'Ryan fit the trope to a T in Adventures in Odyssey, in fact he was the town's only cop until the introduction of Captain Quinn.
  • Invoked in The Jack Benny Program whenever they did a mystery sketch: Jack played "that master super-sleuth, Captain O'Benny", and other characters playing his assistants got O's added to their names too: O'Harris, O'Day, O'Wilson... Although when Dennis Day tried to ham up the role with an Irish accent, Jack told him to "cut out the dialect".

Theatre

  • In the Screen to Stage Adaptation remake of The Producers three stereotypical Irish cops arrest Max and Leo: O'Rourke, O'Riley and O'Houllihan, the last of these played by a black man. ("I've heard of black Irish, but this is ridiculous!")
  • There's an Officer O'Hara in the play Arsenic and Old Lace. As well as the basically competent Officer Brophy. And a few other, non-Irish cops.
  • In West Side Story, the Jets repeatedly mock Officer Krupke with a sarcastic "Top o' the day, Officer Krupke!" even though Krupke and his partner (who are presumably not Irish-American, considering his Mitteleurope surname) display none of the trope characteristics.
  • Lieutenant Brannigan from Guys and Dolls.

Video Games

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Downplayed in Five Nights at Freddy's: The Musical, but when the briefly-glimpsed Officer Stransky says the Chief'll have his and his partner's badges for forgetting to lock their suspect in the car again, he speaks with an Irish accent.

Western Animation

  • Parodied in Family Guy, where the Irish Cop is actually a guy who's just good at impressions.
  • Bugs Bunny cartoons:
    • "Bugs and Thugs." First Bugs imitates the voice of an Irish Cop, then a real Irish Cop shows up and repeats Bugs' words exactly.
    • "Bowery Bugs." Steve Brodie approaches a police officer and says "I'm flippin' me lid! Everybody's turnin' into rabbits!" The officer reveals himself to be Bugs in disguise, who says (in a thick Irish accent) "What's all this about rabbits, Doc?"
  • Powerpuff Girls
  • There's one that pops up in The Simpsons from time to time. He's usually portrayed as a nice and jolly NYPD cop, but he's seen on Springfield from time to time.
    • In the "The Simpsons are going to Ireland!" episode, an Irish judge comments that Ireland has gotten nicer since they sent all their incompetent half-wits to America..."Where you, for some reason, made them police officers." Cue Chief Wiggum entering and accidentally macing and tasering himself.
  • Freakazoid had "Officer Dan", an older cop with an Irish accent frequently seen with his younger partner Muhammad-Abdul.
  • In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon from the late 80s and early 90s, there was an episode with an Irish cop who persisted in believing the turtles were leprechauns.
  • The Justice League episode 'Legends' features the team (sans Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, though WW wasn't there for the mission they were originally on) getting transported to a dimension that's one giant silver age pastiche. Naturally there are exactly two cops in town, both red-haired Irish types with broad accents.
    • Since the trope is well-represented in the Silver Age comics, it's possible these are shout-outs to specific Silver Age O'Haras rather than O'Haras in the generic sense.
  • Sergeant Yates in South Park.
    • Actually a subversion, since Yates is a relatively realistic, hard-bitten "modern" city cop who just happens to be of Irish descent. His wife, Maggie, however, has the stereotypical immigrant accent.
  • The New Adventures of Superman episode "The Cage of Glass". When Brainiac shrinks Metropolis, one of the city police officers is this stereotype.
  • The police officer guarding the entrance to the zoo in Lady and the Tramp fits the mold, down to the Hair-Trigger Temper.
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