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The Palmetto State is home to more than half a million people of Irish heritage, and one South Carolina Bar member now works to build relationships with Ireland and the state’s Irish community. Of only 11 Honorary Consuls of Ireland in the United States, Brian Duffy is one of the lucky few.
Duffy — a civil trial lawyer and shareholder at Duffy & Young, LLC in Charleston — was recently appointed as Ireland’s Honorary Consul for the newly established Honorary Consulate of Ireland in South Carolina.
“For South Carolinians of Irish heritage, [the establishment of the Honorary Consulate] is monumental,” Duffy says. “The Honorary Consulate is a formal recognition of Ireland’s ties with the state which Irish communities throughout South Carolina have developed and celebrated for generations. For the growing number of Irish citizens in South Carolina, I hope the new Honorary Consulate will be just as important. I am able to assist Irish citizens with consular services and with promoting economic development in the area as well as cultural ties.”
Duffy recognizes the importance of connecting with his Irish heritage. His ancestors, who came to the United States at various points throughout the 19th century, originated in Donegal, Tipperary and Galway counties across Ireland. His specific heritage comes from the Duffy, Cantwell, O’Brien, and Hynes families.
“I am keenly aware of how essential the Irish community has been for generations of my family,” Duffy says. “As our opportunities grow in an increasingly interconnected world, it is easy to lose sight of the social and economic support that ethnic communities and organizations have provided to those within them.”
He is involved in a number of community organizations which preserve and celebrate the contributions made by the Irish community in South Carolina, such as the South Carolina Irish Historical Society and the Hibernian Society. The former was founded in 1979 by his father, retired U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy, and friends.
Through those organizations —and a summer waiting tables at Tommy Condon’s Irish Pub in downtown Charleston —Duffy has developed and maintained relationships with Irish friends who visit Charleston from time to time and who have welcomed him in Ireland.
His responsibilities as Honorary Consul are “refreshing” — and there are even professional parallels. Problem solving and issue resolution are not new to Duffy as an experienced lawyer, so his recent appointment only builds upon his experience in court.
He is proud to accept his new role and share the experience with his children: Ella (14), Collin (12), and Farrah (11).
“The Honorary Consul position provides an easy and interesting way for me to pass along the importance of our cultural heritage to them,” says Duffy. “My wife, Medéa, enjoys hearing the endearing accents on the other end of the Zoom connection which remind her of our friends in Ireland.”
Duffy served as president of the Charleston County Bar Association for the 2016-17 term after years as an officer or member of the Executive Committee. Through that role he founded The Charleston Forum, now its own nonprofit organization addressing issues of race and inequity. Duffy is past president of South Carolina Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and the James L. Petigru American Inn of Court, retaining active membership in both organizations. He is also a permanent member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference, participates in various other civic projects and previously served as an adjunct professor at the Charleston School of Law.
The Honorary Consulate of Ireland in Charleston, established in December 2020, was formed in recognition that South Carolina is home to over 600,000 people of Irish heritage — one of the highest proportions of Irish and Scots Irish people in the Southeast.
“Brian’s appointment will enhance our capacity to deliver the best possible consular services to the Irish community in the state,” said Ciara O’Floinn — Consul General of Ireland in Atlanta with responsibility for the Southeast region — at the opening of the Honorary Consulate in Charleston. “It will also provide a platform to bring our relations with South Carolina — a region with significant historical and contemporary ties to Ireland — to a new level and to strengthen our business, tourism and cultural links.”