- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

BOSTON — In this land of Kennedys, O’Neills, Fitzgeralds and Flynns, where shamrocks grace the jerseys of the basketball team, the Italians are taking over.

With the ascendancy of Salvatore DiMasi to the speakership of the Massachusetts House last week, Italian-Americans hold the two top positions in the state legislature for the first time in its 224-year-old history.

“Finally,” said Sheryl Iftikhar, whose maiden name is Spataro and who works at a convenience store in Mr. DiMasi’s North End neighborhood, a largely Italian-American enclave.

Mr. DiMasi, who took over from Irishman Thomas Finneran, joins Senate President Robert Travaglini, a fellow Boston Democrat who became leader of that chamber last year, as well as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and State Auditor Joe DeNucci in the heights of the state’s power structure.

On Sept. 29, the three men stood side by side as Mr. DiMasi made his official debut as the new speaker at the city’s historic Old North Church.

“I doubt that earlier residents of Massachusetts … could imagine all the repercussions of hanging two lanterns in the steeple of the Old North Church,” said Vicar Steve Ayres, referring to Paul Revere’s ride. “Nor could they imagine that the two beacons of light now keeping the flame of liberty alive in the North End for the state of Massachusetts would be named DiMasi and Travaglini.”

With 23 percent of the state’s residents claiming Irish ancestry, ties to the Emerald Isle have been seen as a huge political advantage in Massachusetts — so much so that a minor uproar occurred last year when a genealogist hired by the Boston Globe revealed that Sen. John Kerry is not Irish. Mr. Kerry, whose grandfather was born to Austrian-Jewish parents, says he never claimed Irish ancestry.

But the Irish-American grip on power has weakened.

“We’ve got Menino, we’ve got Travaglini, we’ve got DiMasi. What more could we want?” said Boston barber Johnny “Shoes” Cammarata. “It’s a good, good feeling. The Irish had their day. Now it’s our time.”

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