L.A. police change their paddy wagon to party wagon Irish groups complained about ethnic slur


Still grappling with life in an increasingly politically correct society, Los Angeles police said they will rename the "Paddy Wagon" program that offers free rides home for St. Patrick's Day tipplers.

This year, tipsy celebrants can pile into the LAPD-sponsored "Party Wagon," renamed because of objections to the word "paddy."

"We received calls from groups in the Irish community who said: 'That's really not a nice word,' " said LAPD Cmdr. Art Lopez.

"I guess evidently it's got a bad connotation in the Irish community. We didn't know that. But we decided to change it."

Because the LAPD made the decision so late, the telephone number to get a free ride March 17 remains: 1-800-80PADDY.

The issue has upset some members of the San Fernando Valley's Irish-American community.

Carmel Hanratty of Van Nuys and Allene Buchanan of Glendale have campaigned for the past three years to lift "Paddy" from the LAPD's lexicon.

"It's very derogative and very demeaning," said Hanratty, an Irish native who came to the United States nearly 30 years ago.

Buchanan and Hanratty said the term is especially objectionable when used in connection with alcohol because it perpetuates the stereotype of the Irish as heavy drinkers.

But other Irish-Americans -- among 4 million in California -- say the name change is an unnecessary concession to political correctness.

"We have no objections to the term 'Paddy Wagon' and do not feel it is derogatory," said Robert E. McGuinness of Sherman Oaks, president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Los Angeles County. "We think it's part of Irish-American history."

Webster's New World Dictionary defines Paddy as "Irishman: a patronizing and formerly derisive term." "Paddy wagon" is defined as slang for patrol wagon.

Pub Date: 3/16/97

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