Freedom For All Ireland Report – Chairman’s Report for the National Convention 2020

A chairde,

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster recently boasted she would never see a referendum on Irish unity in her lifetime, much less a united Ireland. A British Appeals Court ruled it was solely  up to Britain, if, when, or what to consider, before allowing any Irish unity vote. The British are designing new measures to bury the truth about the legacy murders of nationalists and to deny Republicans conflict injury pensions.

The British are clearly signaling their intent to hold onto the six counties permanently and to deny justice in order to cement that hold. Ireland needs America to play a vital role to get justice and national freedom for all Ireland. AOH leadership and initiatives are crucial to getting America to fulfill that vital role.

Under the leadership of our Worthy National President and National officers, the FFAI National Committee, including Brendan Moore, Gerry McHale, Malachy McAllister, Jim McLaughlin, Sean O’Dowd, Bob Bolbach and myself were assigned to implement the following Constitutional and Presidential Directives.

Article X-Section 15

FFAI Chairman is the major information resource relative to promoting support for a 32 county Ireland. As such, he is tasked with using all opportunities and means to provide members with background on developing issues and concerns. 

His responsibility includes providing varied means for communicating the AOH membership’s position on critical issues related to the above.

The chairman shall also organize and facilitate the annual FFAI Christmas appeal.

Presidential Directives

Support and inform the membership on all Congressional, state, and local government legislative action  relating to the abolition of the Partition of Ireland, or to injustices arising from the denial of freedom for all Ireland, including where feasible  initiating  and supporting resolutions or other legislative actions.

Prepare and submit articles reflecting AOH POSITIONS on issues relevant to freedom for all Ireland or injustices arising from the denial of freedom for all Ireland for publication in Irish-American, or Irish outlets.

Following these directives since our last National Convention, FFAI initiatives included:         

1-The AOH conducted national speaking tours on the Ballymurphy Massacre with Carmel Quinn, on the denial of legacy justice with Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, and on British complicity in collusion with Professor Mark McGovern.

2-In Congress the AOH arranged for speakers to brief the House Foreign Affairs Committee and obtained a series of Congressional Letters on Legacy issues which put British officials on notice they were under American Congressional scrutiny. We have lobbied in Washington and district offices to build a growing Congressional network that can be counted upon.  

3-In state legislatures, New York among others, held formal ceremonies celebrating  the centenaries of Ireland’s Declaration of Independence and 1918 vote for freedom (and were scheduled to commemorate the 1920 heroes of the Black and Tan War).

4-FFAI worked together with our National Immigration Committee and National Treasurer, to help FFAI Committee member Malachy McAllister in his quarter century fight against unjust deportation, as well as backing Irish political deportees and other immigration issues which are directly interconnected with the Irish conflict and denial of freedom for all Ireland. 

5-A 37 member AOH-LAOH delegation in February 2019, led by our National President and LAOH National President, attended the Ballymurphy Inquest, visited  Belfast, Derry, and Tyrone and represented AOH concerns to Irish government officials.

6- The AOH-LAOH had a record setting Christmas Appeal, approving grants for Relatives for Justice, Pat Finucane Centre, Holy Cross Ardoyne, EALU center for Tyrone Republican ex-political prisoners, New Lodge Commemoration Committee, Conway Mill Trust,  Cairde Strabane, St. Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, Duchas Oiriall-South Armagh, Bridges beyond Boxing, Belfast, Down Patriot Graves, Green Cross, Belfast National Graves, Omagh Basketball, Omagh Choir, and first time recipients Ballymurphy Families Committee, Museum of Free Derry, Tyrone National Graves and the Witness Project.

7-The monthly FFAI Bulletin is now part of the monthly email blast carried on the National and state AOH web sites. These bulletins provide monthly updates on a few key events in the north with short analysis. Our bulletins are now requested by other Irish organizations and individuals. Through these materials the AOH is influencing the agenda for these organizations.

8-Most recently, under a proposal by National Vice-President Danny O’Connell, the AOH initiated a series of video interviews with leading advocates of justice and freedom for all Ireland, beginning with Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, Joe Austin and Brendan McFarlane of Belfast National Graves, and John Kelly and Adrian Kerr of the Bloody Sunday Trust and Museum of Free Derry. These interviews  explain and promote the work done by our Christmas Appeal grant recipients, and provide updates on important issues. These interviews also let our members hear firsthand how much AOH FFAI political work, financial contributions and publicity mean.  

NATIONAL SPEAKING TOURS  

Nothing is as inspirational as hearing firsthand from those still denied freedom in Ireland. Because of the work and interest of AOH members across the country the AOH was able to send speakers to Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Connecticut and Virginia along with New York, Philadelphia, Albany, New Jersey, and Washington DC. 

 AOH national tours made news in Irish and Irish American They gave AOH members opportunities to show leadership and build the organization locally. Other Irish organizations supported our events and  joined issues and priorities set by the AOH. These tours also gave a morale boost to victims groups in Ireland, as speakers returned and reported that America and the AOH was behind them.

These speaking tour events give a major boost to our Christmas Appeal

Proposals:

1-We are hoping to make a firm proposal for a new speaking tour in November which could provide a speaker for some of our Christmas Appeal events, follow-up on FFAI political issues post-election and motivate more areas to support our FFAI political and fundraising initiatives.

2-In the interim we will be working on the initiative of our National VP Danny O’Connell to bring updates or interviews to you via computer. We understand this is not as effective as bringing speakers here for you to meet, ask your own questions and share your concerns personally. 

3-FFAI has submitted a resolutions in anticipation of the 40th anniversary year of the 1981 Hunger Strike, to promote  national and local commemorative events about the legacy of the Hunger Strike martyrs and a resolution on British moves to cut off the truth on legacy killings. FFAI will recommend speakers relating to these issue.

CONGRESSIONAL INITIATIVES  

At the request of AOH FFAI, the House Foreign Affairs Committee hosted a special briefing by Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice and Professor Mark McGovern, only 9 days after Boris Johnson announced plans to stop prosecutions of British troopers during the 1969-98 conflict. Congressman Eliot Engel scheduled the briefing, attended by Congressmen, many Congressional aides, two observers  from the Irish Embassy and an observer from the British Northern Ireland Office. Mark Thompson  and Professor McGovern urged Congress, to take a lead along with Irish America and the Irish government in opposing a trooper amnesty which would be a political disaster and violation of the Good Friday agreement.

Among Congressmen present were Eliot Engel, Brian Higgins, Brendan Boyle, Tim Burchett, Bill Keating, Thomas Suozzi and Dan Kildee. Other Congressmen sent key aides, led by Billy Tranghese representing Congressman Richard Neal. The Irish government was represented by Deputy Head of Mission Emer Rocke and Political Counsellor Brian Cahalane.

The British pay close attention to American Congressional scrutiny. FFAI was able to organize this hearing and also a series of Congressional letters to the British Ambassador.

FFAI speakers from Ireland also help in AOH efforts to build up a network of Congressmen, who are aware of key FFAI issues and the importance of Irish issues to voters in their district. Brothers living in Congressional districts across the country, are a key part of this effort.

Proposals:

1-FFAI is calling upon AOH members across the country to contact your local Senators and Congressmen, and advise them that issues like legacy justice are important to Irish voters in their district. Try to establish contacts in local offices that we can contact about speakers from Ireland or Congressional letters etc   

STATES-CITIES HONOR HUNGER STRIKE MARTYRS LEGACY

 The AOH has been successful in getting some states, cities and municipalities to hold formal ceremonies commemorating the centenaries of Ireland’s Declaration of Independence and 1918 vote for freedom . After building credibility through ceremonies honoring the events of a century ago, next year we can try a more recent event. Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike, the  death of Bobby Sands MP and nine others. The Hunger Strike and what it represented should be the theme of resolutions in states, cities and municipalities across the state and nation. 

We can again show state and local officials that the AOH wants Irish issues and history treated with the same attention that other ethnic groups get for their issues and history.

Next year is also the centenary of the six county state. It is important to remember that the British are celebrating an area carved out of Ireland against the democratic wishes of the Irish people expressed in the all-Ireland vote of 1918 and Declaration of Independence. The Hunger Strike also highlights that the six county  Orange State treated Irish patriots as criminals and tortured them as part of a British propaganda strategy..

Proposals:

1-The National FFAI Resolution submitted to the Convention about the legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike, will be modified and circulated across the country with AOH members nationally encouraged to seek state and municipal resolutions and ceremonies across the nation.

MALACHY McALLISTER AND DEPORTEES

Malachy McAllister and other Irish political deportee cases involve FFAI and Immigration issue. I have worked on these cases jointly with Immigration Chair Dan Dennehy and National Treasurer Sean Pender.

We are all disappointed at the injustice done Malachy McAllister. He of course is a personal friend and a key member of the National FFAI Committee. We should not overlook all that Malachy accomplished.

Few individuals could have inspired the support needed to keep Malachy in America so long. Senators Menendez, Schumer, Congressmen King, Engel, Smith, Neal and Pascrell among others personally intervened. Cardinal Dolan called the President. Many law enforcement and military officials appealed for him. The Irish Embassy backed him. The AOH and other Irish organizations campaigned for him. Malachy became a leading AOH member fighting for others.

Malachy has multiple grounds which should have entitled him to  legal permanent residence under American law. He was a political prisoner decades ago, in a war now long over. He and his children were targeted for assassination. The Good Friday and Weston Park agreements were said to hold promises for ex-prisoners which were never kept. 

Malachy McAllister became a political pawn, in Britain’s game of criminalization. The British want to brand Republicans as criminals. In the north they manipulate definitions of victim to disqualify injured Republican ex-prisoners from conflict pensions. Here Britain wants an American rubberstamp on criminalization through deportations and visa denial. 

We will continue to fight for him and also fight to insure that DHS/ICE does not try to victimize others at Britain’s behest.

February 2021 Fact-Finding Tour 

In 2019, Hibernians completed a highly publicized nine day fact-finding mission led by President Jim McKay and LAOH President Carol Sheyer and including leading Hibernians from 13 states. This fact-finding tour had a tremendous impact on everyone who attended. It was also a major morale boost to groups in Ireland who count on AOH support.

Next year we have hoping conditions will allow us to sponsor a similar tour. Following our Resolution about the 1981 Hunger Strike legacy, FFAI makes the following proposal.  

Proposal

1-In February of 2021,we are proposing a tour that would include meeting the families of all of the Hunger Strikers as well as discuss the continuing legacy and political meaning of the 1981 Hunger Strike today.

CHRISTMAS APPEAL

The 2019-2020 Christmas Appeal was a record breaking success with almost $100,000 awarded to a total of nineteen  groups.

Grants were awarded based on written applications, and recommendations from the National FFAI Committee. Final determinations were made by our National officers.

Every designated donation to approved groups was honored and groups named for designated donations got additional monies because we wanted contributions to reflect your feelings.

New applications were approved for the Ballymurphy Families Committee, Bloody Sunday Trust (which oversees the Museum of Free Derry), Tyrone National Graves, and the Witness Project headed by Sean Murray.

Repeat recipients included -Relatives for Justice, Pat Finucane Centre, Holy Cross Ardoyne, EALU-(means Escape in Irish)is a center for Republican ex-political prisoners, New Lodge Commemoration Committee, Conway Mill Trust, Tyrone AOH, Cairde Strabane, St. Patrick Centre, Downpatrick, Duchas Oiriall-South Armagh, Bridges beyond Boxing, Belfast, Down Patriot Graves, Green Cross, Belfast National Graves, Omagh Basketball and Omagh Choir. 

Donations can be sent to our PO Box:

AOH-FFAI
PO BOX 904
JEFFERSON VALLEY, NY 10535

Obviously we are concerned about the impact the health crisis may have on the 2020-21 Christmas Appeal. All states should be   involved in supporting the Christmas Appeal.

Proposal

1-FFAI is proposing that every state President, personally or through an appointee, support the Christmas Appeal within their state. States and county boards are encouraged to combine donations to earn the award given for $1,000 donors.    

FFAI MONTHLY BULLETINS

In response to requests for information we established a monthly FFAI Bulletin. All issues are now part of the monthly email blast. They are now carried on the National AOH site and the New York State web site. The aim is to give you monthly updates on a few key events in the north with short analysis and explanations.

SPECIAL THANKS

Special acknowledgement and thanks to our National officers, to the members of the FFAI National Committee, Brendan Moore, Gerry McHale, Malachy McAllister, Jim McLaughlin, and Sean O’Dowd, Bob Bolbach and to every AOH member across the country who works for Freedom for all Ireland!

Slan
Martin Galvin
June 10, 2020