The 95th Biennial National Convention of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America gaveled in on the 7th of July and concluded on the evening of Saturday the 10th with celebratory installation dinner of newly-elected officers. This year’s convention featured prominent speakers and visitors from Ireland and the U.S. and featured tremendous breakout sessions including live video teleconference to Belfast via the Internet in a combined Immigration and FFAI report. Attending members of the men and ladies, numbering nearly one thousand in total, were inspired by moving homilies and historic news of a positive report on the Bloody Sunday official report.
Irish Ambassador to America, Michael Collins, came from Washington to address the gathering. He mentioned that the economy in Ireland was growing and that U.S. investment in Ireland was vital. Ambassador Collins spoke of the ongoing efforts to better immigration policies and to bring the undocumented Irish living in America out of the shadows and give them a path to legalization and U.S. citizenship. One direct immigration policy effort on the part of the Irish government is their push for more E3 Visas that are designed to allow for greater entry into both the U.S. and Ireland. He also discussed his government’s efforts to connect with the 40 million Irish Americans and encouraged all Hibernians to come “home” and visit Ireland.
Also addressing the Hibernians was Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuiness. “I thank all the members of the AOH and LAOH down through the years. We share a single object of Irish reunification but by purely peaceful and democratic means. I am pound of the AOH, the LAOH and the bulk of Irish America.”
He addressed the recent apology from the British Prime Minister that acknowledged those who died on ‘Bloody Sunday’ were murdered by the British Army. However, McGuiness said he recognizes and sympathizes with the loss endured by Unionists and others, in other communities, due to the actions of Irish Republicans. “We have all suffered grievous loss and no one was exempt over that period. Commenting on the progress that has been made he said, “Through all this progress we are constantly aware of the fact that we have been accompanied by the AOH, the LAOH and our friends in Irish America, and the United States political establishment from Bill Clinton to George Bush to Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.”
The business of the convention included a number of resolutions passed and the elections of officers. The AOH reaffirmed through a resolution to again proceed with an active Notre Dame fund. Immigration has always been an important issue to the AOH. As a result, a resolution was passed that appoints an Immigration Chair at all levels of the Order, State and County Boards and on the Division level. A dues increase of four dollars was approved by the body – the first national dues increase in over 25 years.
Attending the convention from the Board of Erin were President Jimbo Crossin and Trustees Gerry Harkin and Charles (We Charlie) McLaughlin. To encourage “brother” relationships with Ireland’s Board of Erin, the Convention resolved to encourage the growth of the Order in Ireland. As a result, a resolution was presented that expresses the belief that the AOH in Ireland would greatly benefit by the support, love and assistance of their brothers in America. The resolution passed that encourages “brother’ relationships with corresponding jurisdictions with Ireland’s AOH Board of Erin.
The AOH historically has had more Divisions in the east, which has allowed for the election of Directors from that area. Because the South, Midwest and West are desirous of equal representation, the Convention resolved to appoint a committee to investigate the issue of under-representation in those aforementioned regions. It was resolved to appoint a committee to investigate the issue and present a solution at the next national convention. The measure passed.
Another resolution was referred to the Anti-Defamation Committee for further action. It petitioned the National Board to ask for the removal of Real Time with Bill Maher from HBO’s programming due to his consistent, insulting, anti-Catholic banter.
On Saturday evening the prestigious John F. Kennedy Memorial Award was presented to Siobhan Dennehy for her work on Immigration. The medal is a joint AOH-LAOH award given to “a Roman Catholic of Irish birth or descent outstanding in their field of endeavor.
Upon learning of the award Dennehy said she was “absolutely overwhelmed and amazed”. I had only heard of the award before and the magnitude of it; I could ever imagine to be nominated.” Dennehy is a nationally-recognized leader on all issues related to Irish immigration. “There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the U.S.,” she said.
The work of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, as well as all the Immigration Centers in the US continue to serve that cause on a daily basis. My pleasure in receiving the JFK Award is heightened by the fact that many centers are now such valued resource for the immigrant community. She and her husband Dan are the parents of daughters Cara and Ashling.
“Emigration to America represents a new opportunity, and our people by and large, make good lives for themselves here. For many, emigration is never an easy option; but it can be their only option. We know that emigration presents some people with very particular difficulties; they can, for instance, find themselves adrift and marginalized. The people who offer front-line assistance and advice services to the vulnerable Irish provide, therefore, a critically important support structure.”
Six National Director positions were up for grabs. Elected were Danny O’Connell, Girard, OH; Robert J. Mott, Myrtle Beach, SC; Keith Carney, Washington, DC; Jere Cole, Rockaway Township, NJ; Mike O’Connor, Helena, MT and Christopher Norris, Williamsport, PA.
Unopposed for officer positions were National President Seamus Boyle, Philadelphia, PA; Vice President Brendan Moore, Blue Point, NY; Secretary Thomas D. McNabb, Auburn, NY and Treasurer James McKay, New Orleans, LA;
The 2012 convention will find the AOH and Ladies AOH convening at the Turning Stone Resort located just north of Syracuse, New York (www.turningstone.com). It was also agreed that the 2014 convention will be held in St. Louis, Missouri.