Granddaughter of Cork emigrant becomes first openly lesbian governor in US

Massachusetts’ new governor has Rebel roots, as her paternal grandparents, Jeremiah and Margaret (Riordan) Healey, emigrated to the US from Kilgarvan in Kerry and Macroom in Cork.
Granddaughter of Cork emigrant becomes first openly lesbian governor in US

Massachusetts Attorney General and Democratic candidate for Gov. Maura Healey, center, greets people during a campaign stop, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, in Boston's East Boston neighborhood. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The granddaughter of a Cork emigrant has made US history this week, as she has been elected as the first female governor of Massachusetts, and the first openly lesbian woman to become a state governor.

Democrat Maura Healey won the race for governor in Massachusetts on Tuesday, comfortably defeating Trump-endorsed Republican Geoff Diehl with more than 60% of the vote.

Massachusetts’ new governor has Rebel roots, as her paternal grandparents, Jeremiah and Margaret (Riordan) Healey, emigrated to the US from Kilgarvan in Kerry and Macroom in Cork.

Her great-grandmother, Katherine Tracy was also an Irish native from Ballinasloe in Galway, who immigrated to America as a teenager and lived to the age of 96.

She has said that the principles of her Irish ancestors taught her a lot about taking care of family and those who need an advocate, and she has a personal connection to immigration reform.

“I am the granddaughter of immigrants, this is a country of immigrants, it is part of what makes us great as a country, and as a democracy. I will do everything that I can to advocate for and support immigration reform,” she said in an interview with Irish Central.

Healey is a strong advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and during her legal career led the first successful challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages in the US.

She was also America’s first out lesbian to be elected state Attorney General when she was appointed to the role in Massachusetts in 2014.

Re-elected as Attorney General in 2018, Maura Healey is known as the ‘People’s Lawyer’, having taken on some of the most powerful US institutions – such as banks and lenders after the 2008 financial crisis, oil and gas company Exxon Mobil for lying about climate change, and Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family for their role in fuelling the opioid epidemic.

Addressing her supporters at a victory rally in Boston on Tuesday evening, governor-elect Healey dedicated her win to "every little girl and every young LGBTQ person out there."

"I hope tonight shows you that you can be whatever, whoever you want to be, and nothing … and no one can ever get in your way except your own imagination, and that's not going to happen,” she said.

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