For centuries, the Irish lived as a conquered people in their own nation. Britain controlled the politics, economics and religious life of Ireland. Subjugation and strife gave rise to an unmistakable Irish identity: a sense of cohesion and an ability to organize to accomplish goals.
Their organizational ability coupled with the large number of Irish living in U.S. cities, made the Irish a powerful political force. They literally transformed politics in American cities by putting local power in the hands of men of working-class origin. Building on principles of loyalty to the individual and the organization, they built powerful political machines capable of getting the vote. Though some were remembered most for their perceived corruption, these political machines created social services long before they were politically mandated by national political movements.
Irish American political clout led to increased opportunities for Irish Americans. Looking out for their own, the political machines made it possible for the Irish to get jobs, to deal with naturalization issues, even to get food or heating fuel in emergencies. The political machines also rewarded their own through political appointments.
Despite the competition for jobs, many Irish immigrants supported and became leaders of union efforts. New Deal appointments a decade later enabled Irish politicians to gain the national spotlight through judgeships and other federal positions. These appointments served as precursors to the future success of Irish American elected leaders, the most impactful being President John F. Kennedy. In fact, 37 percent (17 of 45) of all the presidents of the United States have had some ancestral or direct tie to Irish heritage.
(Adapted from https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/irish7.html)