Politically Incorrect
Irish Argentines in the Early Peronist Period


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Juan Perón and Edelmiro Farrell in 1944
(Archivo General de la Nación)

In this position, Farrell was among the group of officers that supported Col. Juan D. Perón's raise to Argentine presidency. Farrell's identification with Perón among the working classes could be gauged on 17 October 1945, when a jubilant crowd of 300,000 descamisados began singing "Farrell y Perón / un solo corazón". [9] Furthermore, before Perón's famous speech on that opportunity, Farrell addressed the labourers "with the deep emotion that the president of this nation feels before a working crowd like this one. Once again, here is the man who thanks to his dedication and determination has managed to win everybody's heart, Col. Perón." (La Nación, 18 October 1946). During the elections of 24 February 1946, Edelmiro Farrell ironed out any difficulties Perón could encounter to reach the first office. A series of government decrees were approved by Farrell (allegedly under Perón's influence), by which there were increases in general salaries, paid holidays to most labourers, redundancy pays, as well as the creation of a mandatory Christmas bonus. On 4 June 1946 Juan D. Perón was sworn president by Edelmiro Farrell.

Juan Isaac Cooke (1895-1957) is another Irish Argentine who supported and actively worked with the Peronist rule in the early period. A distinguished Radical leader in Buenos Aires province, during the World War II Juan Cooke advocated the support to the Allies. Within the goal to involving Radical politicians in the June Revolution, Edelmiro Farrell appointed Juan Cooke as minister of foreign affairs. Consequently, Cooke was banished from the Radical Party. In 1945, Juan Cooke, Eduardo O'Donnell and other Radical leaders founded the Unión Cívica Radical "Junta Renovadora". [10] This was one of the three groups supporting Juan Perón's candidature in 1946 elections. For this reason the opposition derogatorily labelled Junta Renovadora as "The Collaborationists" (in association with the Nazi supporters in Europe). Juan Isaac Cooke was elected MP to the national parliament and later ambassador to Brazil.

John William Cooke (1919-1968)
(Archivo General de la Nación)

Better known than Juan Isaac Cooke is his son, John William Cooke (1919-1968). After graduating at the school of law, John W. Cooke began his political career at twenty-five. Together with his father, he was elected MP for UCR Junta Renovadora. In spite of John W. Cooke's inexperience he was appointed to chair the parliamentary committee of constitutional affairs. In addition to this, John Cooke was the secretary of the Peronist group of MPs and later, member of Partido Unico's executive committee. [11] In his speeches and writings Cooke maintained a nationalist and anti-imperialist stance. He did not accept Perón's offer in 1955 to chair the technical affairs secretariat, and was appointed instead to audit the Peronist Party in the city of Buenos Aires. When the Peronist administration was challenged by rumours of a coup d'état, John Cooke boldly suggested to create armed militias so as to involve the people in the regime's defence. After the coup of 1955 that toppled Perón's government (the so-called Revolución Libertadora), J.W. Cooke was appointed Perón's only proxy and he would "entitle compañero John William Cooke, who is now jailed for his loyalty to our cause and our movement, to represent myself in any circumstance or political activity. His decision will be my decision, and his word will be my word. I acknowledge Mr. Cooke as the only person with powers to chair the Peronist people in and outside of Argentina. His decisions will bear the same value as my own decisions. In case I die I hereby delegate my powers on Mr. Cooke." Once Perón was exiled in Madrid, John William Cooke was the most important leader of Resistencia Peronista, the movement created to resist the military rule. Cooke's ideology strongly influenced the leftist groups within Peronism, as well as another militant with Irish origins, Rodolfo Walsh (1927-1977), who in the 1970s would be a high rank officer of Montoneros, the Peronist armed guerrilla.

Guillermo P. Kelly (1922-2005)
(La Nación, 1 July 2005)

Other Irish-Argentine Peronists include Alberto Rocamora O'Gorman (1912-2004), a great nephew of ill-fated Camila O'Gorman. [12] Rocamora O'Gorman developed a long career in politics and as university professor. In 1946 he was elected to MP to the national parliament, and in 1952 had a legal power of attorney from the Eva Perón Foundation. Two years later he was appointed to the chairmanship of the Lower House. Later in 1974, during Isabel Perón's term, Rocamora O'Gorman was responsible for the home office. Up to his death in 2004 he chaired "Club 45", a group of Peronist leaders of the early period. Among the Peronist supporters of the nationalist group members, Guillermo Patricio Kelly (1922-2005) [13] was an important player up to recent times. Kelly joined the pro-Nazi Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista (ALN) "after 17 October 1945, when I was a businessman ... and I heard in the street the people singing Patria sí, colonia no [14]." In 1953 Kelly overthrew ALN's head Ramón Queraltó. After the revolution of 1955, Kelly was jailed, but fled from the prison in Río Gallegos together with other fellow-inmates, including John William Cooke and Héctor J. Cámpora (who would be president in 1973-1974). Arturo Saenz Kelly was appointed administrator of Buenos Aires province by the military government of 1943-1946, and was a candidate to MP for the Labour Party in 1946.

Francisco Morrogh Bernard, a rural landowner in Entre Ríos was one of the influential conservative leaders who in 1946 supported the Peronist crusade. The conservatives feared less the Peronist menace than a Radical victory. They were convinced that Juan D. Perón's charismatic leadership would maintain the labouring class under control. In Córdoba, the Peronist leader Horacio Rivas O'Neill maintained that "more than a political materialisation of popular determination, Perón is the people itself. Therefore, within the collective mysticism Perón means the totality of ideological beliefs and patriotic promptings" (Córdoba, 10 March 1951). In La Plata there were three Irish Argentines in the Peronist forces, Luis F. Reilly, appointed to the party's committee in 1947, Aníbal O'Grady, who chaired Partido Único's finance committee, and Guillermo Murphy, member of the sectional executive committee in 1951. Finally, the historian and journalist Luis Alberto Murray (1923-2002), great-grand son of a farmer from Co. Longford, was a Peronist intellectual of the early period. Together with Fermín Chávez, José María Castiñeira de Dios, José María Rosa and Osvaldo Guglielmino, Murray was a member of the Peronist intelligentsia or "front firing line" of theorists. During the early period he contributed to Crítica newspaper and to Democracia (partial to Evita Perón). Murray's texts were characterised by the use of a subtle and intelligent irony. He prided on his Irish ancestry and claimed that his wits and unusually harsh character came from his ancestors.

Two of Perón's ministers of agriculture bore Irish family names, Carlos Alberto Emery (b. 1904), minister from August 1947 to June 1952, and Carlos Alberto Hogan [15] from 1953 to 1955. The agronomist Carlos A. Emery was a member of the Society of Holando-Argentino (Holstein) Breeders, and in the 1930s worked for the dairy company La Vascongada. Emery devised the agricultural production in the lands owned by the Argentine army, and was an enthusiastic promoter of the country's ecological map. Carlos A. Hogan, a notary public, encouraged the role of technicians, the protection of agriculture and natural resources, and the promotion of research and technical co-operation (Mundo Agrario, February 1953). Furthermore, Hogan worked on the establishment of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), which would open in 1956 after the fall of Perón.

Norma Egan (first row, second from left)
and MPs for Buenos Aires in 1953.
(Egan personal collection)

Irish, Peronist Women

The role of women in Argentine politics was signalled by the new participation of professionals and labourers in the first decades of the twentieth century. The most important background was Dr. Cecilia Grierson Duffy (1859-1934), first Argentine physician among women and one of the first members of the Socialist Party. Cecilia Grierson Duffy was a well-known suffragist and a pioneer of women's rights, who advocated of civil and political reform to challenge gender discrimination in politics and education. Other woman who engaged in political activities was Toby Anderson, who in July 1946 represented Córdoba province to the first Meeting of Radical Women and was one of the keynote speakers.

In Argentina, the massive involvement of women in politics was characterised by the lack of experience and solid social barriers. Two organisations of the early Peronist period created by Juan D. Perón's wife Evita – the Eva Perón Foundation and the Peronist Women's Party – represented a productive context for the participation of Irish Argentine and thousands of other women.

One of them, the nurse Amanda Allen held significant responsibilities in the welfare administration led by Evita. The Eva Perón Foundation was established on 8 July 1948. On a relatively short time, a significant administrative structure was created throughout the whole country, reaching the most remote places. Amanda Allen was in the qualified staff of physicians, social workers, and teachers working for the Foundation. The Foundation's social goals supported as well the political aim of bringing Perón closer to the labouring people. The para-governmental structure legally considered a private organisation – was integrated into the official power network only on an informal manner, and was not limited by institutional or political restrictions. Therefore, it was entirely under Perón's control.


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[9] Farrell and Perón, only one heart.

[10] Among these Radical leaders was Jazmín Hortensio Quijano, who would latter be appointed Vice-President by Juan D. Perón.

[11] Partido Único de la Revolución Nacional was the former name of the Peronist Party, which was a coalition among the Labour Party, the Independent Party and UCR Junta Renovadora.

[12] Camila O'Gorman (1828-1848), executed on 18 August 1848 after eloping with her lover, the Catholic priest Uladislao Gutiérrez.

[13] Guillermo Patricio Kelly was the son of Guillermo Kelly (d. 1935), a physician, grandson of Enrique Kelly (1857-1926), and grand-grandson of Irish-born Daniel Kelly (1830-1908) and Luisa White. Daniel Kelly, landowner and real state agent in Las Flores, contributed to the Standard newspaper with the penname "Dick".

[14] Yes to our country, not to a colony.

[15] Coghlan 1987: 484.

Copyright © The Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

Online published: 1 November 2005
Edited: 07 May 2009
Barry, Carolina, 'Politically Incorrect: Irish Argentines in the Early Peronist Period' in Irish Migration Studies in Latin America, 2005 [www.irlandeses.org], accessed.


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2005

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