I just saw a great film about "The Greatest," another person of Irish descent, titled The Trials of Muhammad Ali.  The documentary doesn't delve into Ali's Irish roots.  It focuses mainly on his conversion to Islam and his resistance to the draft during the Vietnam War.  It's a fascinating story, and the film is very well-made.  You can find upcoming screenings for the film on the website. It's getting theatrical release, which comes as no surprise because the film is so good.

Here's a very entertaining interview -- Cathal O'Shannon's 1972 interview with Ali on RTE. 

Then there's this video about Ali's 2009 visit to Ennis.  It explains Ali's Irish lineage going back to his great-grandfather who was born in Ennis and includes an interview with one of his cousins.  

Views: 2490

Tags: Ali, Muhammad, Sports, boxing

Comment by Gerry Regan on August 22, 2013 at 9:08am

When I was in college, in the early 1970s, Ali my hero, the only individual I was ready to identify as fully committed to his principles, and willing to sacrifice mightily for them.

Comment by John W. Hurley on August 24, 2013 at 9:40am

Ali's Irish ancestor was a white Irish man who freely chose to marry a black American woman. Sadly though, Ali's own racism enabled him to spread the story that his Irish ancestry was the result not of a loving marriage but of a white (Irish) slave master raping one of his black slaves. He was an Irish-American but like so many, he was so uneducated about his own Irishness that his ignorance allowed him to have hatred where their should not have been any.

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on August 24, 2013 at 9:44am

Is that true, John?  I hadn't heard that about Ali making that story up about his ancestry.  If that's accurate, I don't have a whole lot of respect for the man -- not that I was his biggest fan to begin with.

Comment by John W. Hurley on August 24, 2013 at 1:22pm

Here's his comments on RTE about about 27 minutes 30 seconds "How did I get white blood?":


Obviously he was at a time in his life when he was a militant Muslim and I understand his anger at how blacks were being treated but....like many others he assumed that his ancestry was caused by his evil white ancestor (in this case from Ireland) when in fact his Irish ancestor married a freed slave of his own free will and what about 100 years before "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner."

Comment by Ryan O'Rourke on August 24, 2013 at 1:34pm

Thanks, John.  Just watched that part.  Yes, he sounds exceedingly foolish with those comments given the revelation of the true story.  As you've said, I understand his anger with the way some white people were treating some black people.  However, it never helps one's cause to speak in grossly inaccurate or grossly misinformed hyperbole.

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Comment by Nollaig 2016 on September 5, 2013 at 9:17pm

On 5 Sep 1960 he won the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the Summer Olympics in Rome

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Comment by Valerie Lapin Ganley on September 10, 2013 at 3:36pm

John, I've been confused about what appears to be contradictions about Ali's views on his Irish ancestry -- disdain vs. pride. I wonder if his views on Black separatism evolved in much the way that Malcolm X's did.  Another new film, When Ali Came to Ireland, may provide some insights.  According to the film website, "The trip had a huge impact on those Ali met and, some say, on the man himself. The documentary reveals that his trip to Ireland influenced how Ali viewed white people in the aftermath of his conversion to Islam and his declarations that white people were devils."


Comment by John W. Hurley on September 11, 2013 at 6:30pm

Thank you Valerie, I'd like to see that film someday. And I'm sure you're right re Malcolm X and Mecca and Ali and Ireland, softening their attitudes. I've just always thought it was wrong of him to tell that story when he obviously was making a huge assumption and had never actually checked the marriage records (or had them checked) of his own ancestors. And I liked the fact that he seemed to admire Irish people because of their own struggle for freedom.  

Comment by Edward Francis Jr on June 6, 2016 at 7:10pm

Good information John. Unlike Elvis, Ali chose a different route in dealing with the draft. Many saw his actions as cowardice. I missed that party (Viet Nam) but I am 100% sure I could not nor would not do what he did. Millions served and at the time our actions against the Communists was popular unlike the late 60's. Has reviled by many for a long time yet his accomplishments in the ring overcame that. I did no know he had an Irish gramps but other than his bouts was not a huge fan. Saw him in Philadelphia in the mid 80's but passed on asking him for an autograph. RIP Champ.

Comment by brendan woods on June 8, 2016 at 7:40am

Mohammed Ali tributes

don't be fooled for one second ,all these apperantly genuine tributes to the late Mohammed Ali by the worlds most powerful elites are empty of meaning and honesty.

fact is Mohammed threatened everything the masters of the universe stood for ,he gave voice to the downtrodden and courage to the oppressed.


he was an unwelcome irritant at best ,a dangerous foe who required to be squashed at worst .

Ali was hated by the great and the good by refusing to accept the draft to fight an unjustifiable war in Vietnam in the 60s ,he challenged everything upon which power depends mainly control,he refused to be ordered ,managed or told what to do.and for that he paid a heavy price.

Stripped of his right to earn a living as a professional boxer,he was threatened with jail for refuseing to take up arms on the orders of uncle sam. he reckoned they were killing enough vietnamese with out his personal contribution he had no dispute with the people of vietnam

but now he is dead the establishment moves to embrace him

to bask in his reflected glory,to share his great humanity,sense of justice,even sanctity ,they want a piece of that which made Muhammed Ali the greatest

Ali whose great grandfather came from ennis in ireland and married a freed slave in America,now no longer poses a threat to the power brokers in america or through out the world

the very same leaderswho eulogise his wonderful contribution today would have banished him 50 years ago as a dangerous rebel bent on destroying the pillars upon which freedom but their version of freedom had been built.

these same leaders shun and oppress modern day Mohammed Ali s

the kind who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989 ,or the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who has suffered torture and imprisonment for dareing to dream about freedom; or Edward Snowdon who languishes under Putins protection in russia for reevealing details of global surveillance programmes conducted by security agents in the States, or journalist and Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya who was murdered in Moscow in 2006

Mohammed Ali was a prophet in the good old fashioned meaning of the word.

he announced the truth and was prepared to accept the consequences.

but there are many more prophets like Ali unfortunately they have not been so lucky

ger  colleran


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