Freedom For All Ireland Report – February 2020

FFAI ISSUES UPDATE

A chairde:

A-Stormont returns but bad faith on British financial pledges charged – Two days before the deadline threatening a new election, agreement was reached to restore the Stormont Assembly, after a three year absence. DUP head Arlene Foster returned as the north’s first minister, while Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill was named deputy first minister. The agreement to restore the assembly was welcomed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and accompanied by British promises of extra funding to meet the north’s economic crisis in areas like health and education. However almost immediately new Finance Minister Conor Murphy charged that the British had “stepped back from its financial commitments” and the actual financial package was “an act of bad faith”, far less than the parties had been led to believe keeping the north in an “austerity trap.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson termed it a “momentous day…after three years without devolved government, an executive can now get on with the job of delivering much needed reforms to the health service, education and justice”.”Taoiseach  Leo Varadkar commended the six county political parties “for their decision to put the people they represent first and make measured compromises to reach a deal”. In a surprising move the DUP backing Sinn Fein member Alex Maskey as speaker instead of the SDLP member in line for the position. Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill will now have to show if they can share power and deliver on the commitments in the new Stormont. The five largest parties in the north, the DUP, Sinn Fein Alliance, SDLP and UUP also got ministerial posts. With the exception of the role of justice minister, posts are picked using the D’Hondt system, according to numbers in the assembly. The Justice Ministry is different because the DUP will not allow members from the nationalist SDLP or Sinn Fein to hold this post. The key stumbling blocks were the petition of concern, which had been wielded as a veto by the DUP, and an Irish language act. The new deal requires use of the petition, be “reduced and returned to its intended purpose” and would “only be used in the most exceptional circumstances and as a last resort, having used every other mechanism”. The deal pledges legislation for both an Irish language commissioner and an Ulster-Scots commissioner. Irish language group Conradh na Gaeilge said it was a “historic advancement” but added it “falls very much short” of promises for an Irish Language act.

B-No honors for Black and Tans as planned ceremony backfires – A planned commemoration honoring the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police forces was “deferred” by the Irish justice minister after boycotts and popular outrage. The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) were formed in the early 19th century to help keep Ireland under British rule. The prefix Royal was added to the name of Irish Constabulary because of their efforts to put down the Fenians, including many Irish Americans and American Hibernians who fought during America’s Civil War. The DMP identified the leaders of 1916 to be shot. During the Irish War of Independence (1919-21), the British government bolstered RIC ranks by recruiting thousands of ex- British soldiers, mainly from England. The RIC special reserve were nicknamed the Black and Tans because of their distinctive uniforms, while a group of former British officers were known as the Auxiliaries. They were described in ballads as “England’s foul horde”  using terror tactics against the Irish, targeting civilians and burning homes  and farms including Balbriggan and sections of Cork. Speaking about his decision to defer the event, Justice Minister Flanagan said: “There were those in the RIC who committed atrocities. The horrific record of the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries is well known. But there others officers who behaved with dignity and honour.” Dublin City councillors voted to boycott the Dublin Castle event with a motion that was passed by 38 votes to 10.The Wolfe Tone’s song “Come Out Ye Black and Tans” shot to the top of the play list. Newscasts and editorials reminded the public of the history of the force would be not just remembered but honored by a any such commemoration. The deferred commemoration is considered a  factor in the loss of popularity in opinion for Fine Gael in the upcoming Irish election.

C-Brexit comes but real problems only beginning – Hundreds of anti-Brexit campaigners held demonstrations along the Irish border as Britain left the European Union on January 31st. Protesters gathered at six locations along the border in counties Louth, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Donegal. Stormont Finance Minister, Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein, said: “This part of Ireland did not consent to Brexit, we voted significantly to remain within the EU and we are being taken out of the EU without consent. There is now an 11 month transition period where Britain remains in the EU’s customs union and single market and continues to obey EU rules but is no longer part of the political institutions. There are no longer any British MEPs in the European Parliament. Now Britain must negotiate a trade deal with the European Union that includes Ireland. Britain wants access for its goods and services to the EU but wants out the customs union and single market and an end the overall jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. All 27 member states and the European Parliament have to be in agreement on a trade deal. Formal talks might only begin in March and Johnson has said there will be no extensions to the transition period. If there is no trade deal  by the end of the year, then the Britain faces the prospect of tariffs on exports.

D-Wolfe Tones were targets of Miami Showband Massacre – The lead singer of the Wolfe Tones, believes they were the intended target of the loyalist attack that claimed the lives of three members of the Miami Showband. The Miami Showband were targeted after being stopped at a bogus patrol, manned by UDR and UVF members, in the early hours of July 31 1975.Lead singer Fran O’Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty and trumpeter Brian McCoy  were murdered as they returned to Dublin after a concert in Banbridge, Co Down. All three were shot several times, after a bomb was placed under the band’s van to make it seem as though the group had been transporting explosives. Top of ForBottom of FormTwo members of the UVF gang behind the attack, Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, were killed when the bomb exploded prematurely. UDR members Thomas Raymond Crozier and Rodney Shane McDowell, and UVF member James Somerville, were convicted of the murders. Brian Warfield of The Wolfe Tones, said shortly before the Miami Showband attack the band were warned that their lives were at risk. Adding that they had been warned not to travel across the border in the mid-70s following an incident at a GAA club outside of Kilkeel when they had to flee the area by driving across the Mourne Mountains. Mr Warfield said: “I believe the massacre of the Miami was set up for the Wolfe Tones on that night.” “We were playing in a big marquee … I came out and the organizers

said to me ‘you can’t go home the main road’.”I said why is that and he said ‘because there is a blockade waiting for you down there’.”He said, “we’re going to take you over the mountains of Mourne”, which they did”.”The day we got back to Dublin the Special Branch said that the Wolfe Tones were not to go north again, that our lives were in danger.”I believe that the Glenanne Gang were in that front bar …getting ready to pick up the Wolfe Tones on the way home.

CHRISTMAS APPEAL

There is still time to contribute to Freedom for all Ireland and the Christmas Appeal. The Stormont Assembly was restored after three years, but the British government stepped back from its financial pledges putting the north in a new austerity trap. Brexit was pushed through with long term effects on Ireland that will not be fully seen for years. Legacy mechanisms promised at Stormont House in 2014, will finally be moved forward but only after the British and DUP have blocked truth and justice for families of victims murdered by the crown or loyalist agents. The British want to remove  Human Rights Acts protections formally written into the Good Friday Agreement, giving a legalized immunity for British troopers. The DUP wants to undercut investigations of crown forces by the Historical Investigations Unit.

Those still denied freedom in Ireland count on the AOH and LAOH to stand behind them. Those who participated in last February’s AOH-LAOH tour saw and heard firsthand how important our grants are.

We have already received more appeals for help than ever before from justice groups, ex-prisoners, cultural groups, etc.

Don’t let them down!!!

AOH-LAOH FFAI CHRISTMAS APPEAL
PO Box 904
Jefferson Valley,
New York 10535

REGISTER NOW FOR PRESIDENTIAL FORUM

At one time, it was commonplace at Irish events to hear speakers ask why American presidents never spoke about Irish issues like they took up the issues of other countries. That ended in 1992 because of the work done by John Dearie and the pledges given by candidate Bill Clinton, which changed the Irish political landscape so dramatically.

 The 1992 Presidential Forum was historic for Irish America because of pledges given by future President Bill Clinton about a visa for Gerry Adams, a special envoy which became George Mitchell, and the question about Joe Doherty and political asylum which led to deferred action for Irish political deportees like Matt Morrison, Gabriel Megahey and Brian Pearson etc.

 The most important step in any Irish political forum is guaranteeing a big enough crowd so that presidential candidates

feel it necessary to make time to speak about our Irish issues. Former Assemblyman John Dearie has asked the AOH for help. Judge McKay will be one of the panelists.

Please register for the event by emailing IrishForum2020@gmail.com, and include your name and telephone number. The forum will be held at 1 pm on April 26th at Fordham Law School, on West 62nd Street, New York.

FFAI MONTHLY BULLETIN

Please read and distribute the monthly FFAI Bulletin. The is now available on AOH national email blasts, or on the New York State and National AOH web sites. We want to give you monthly updates on key events in the north with short analysis and explanation.

Slan,

Martin Galvin
NYAOH FFAI Chair
National AOH FFAI Chair

NB-Because of time constraints this must be sent out before the Irish General Election. Will have a full analysis in the next bulletin!

Major Degree Planned for Albany

The John F. Kennedy, Division 1 Schenectady Major Degree Team will confer The Major Degree of our Order on Saturday, February 29, 2020 at the Albany, AOH Division 5 Hall located at 375 Ontario Street, Albany, NY.  Candidates should report at 12 Noon. Observers should arrive by 12:45 PM. The ceremony will begin promptly at 1:00 PM. Presentable attire is recommended.

Cost:

Degree candidate – $20.00.
Observer – $10.00
Payment may be made at the door.

Cost includes buffet dinner following ceremony.

Please RSVP by February 19, 2020 by contacting Tim Weklar at TimWek@yahoo.com.

View the event flyer here.

McGuinness-McDonald Division Forms in Orange County

On Wednesday, December 4th, the first meeting of the McGuinness-McDonald Division was held at the home of Hugh Connolly in Warwick, Orange County. Over the past year, the prospective division members, led by Brian McCabe,held many unofficial meetings to plan their formation as New York’s newest division. The evening event saw 17 members take the oath of the Order. The swearing-in ceremony was immediately followed by a meeting in which the new members chose their officers to lead them over the coming year. Once the votes were cast for officers, the installation of officers ceremony was performed by national, state, county officers in attendance. In attendance for the evening events and to officiate was Dan Dennehy, National Director for the New York Metro Area and NYAOH District 8 Director, Jim Russell, Kevin Cummings, NYAOH Co-Webmaster and Past State Organizer, and Orange County Board Officers, Ed Burke, County President and Jack Graham, County Treasurer. Representing Rockland County was Cy Hughes who assisted with the ceremonies.

Speaking about the Order’s newest members, National Director Dan Dennehy said to the Orange County Brothers in attendance and who each represented Orange County’s three other divisions, ” They will be a great addition to your county because they have taken great consideration in planning their start. Speaking directly to the county officers Dennehy stated: “You, as county officers should act as mentors to these,the new division officers of the McGuinness-McDonald Division.”  President Ed Burke presented the new division with funding to purchase officer medallions and a gavel to conduct their meetings.  President Burke invited the new members to participate in upcoming county activities and events and to visit the AOH Halls –homes to Division 1 in Monroe and Division 2 in Cornwall.

The newly installed officers of the McGuinness-McDonald Division  are:

  • Brian McCabe, President
  • Peter Riley, Vice President
  • Michael Connolly, Recording Secretary
  • James McLaughlin, Financial Secretary
  • Matthew Segota, Treasurer
  • Brian Currid, Chairman of the Standing Committee
  • Kevin Murphy, Marshal
  • John Kelly, Sentinel
  • Hugh Connolly, Historian
  • Thomas Connolly, Webmaster

The division was named after Martin McGuinness who was an Irish republican politician who, as a member of Sinn Féin, was the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from May 2007 to January 2017. And Detective Steven D. McDonald who was a New York City Police Department patrolman who was shot and paralyzed on July 12, 1986. The shooting left him quadriplegic. McDonald forgave his attackers and traveled the county to lecture on the importance of forgiveness. Both men greatly admired in the Irish American community.

2019 NYS Hibernian Biennial Convention

Save the date!

The 2019 Biennial Hibernian Convention will be held Wednesday, July 10, 2019 through Saturday, July 13, 2019. The location is the Hilton Albany (formerly the Crowne Plaza) on State and Chapel Streets in Downtown Albany. Keep up to date on all the convention news by visiting the 2019 Biennial Convention website.

Hilton Albany
40 Lodge Street
Albany, NY 12207
Phone: 
(518) 462-6611

Room rate: $149.00/night plus taxes; Available July 7 – 16, 2019. Free Wi-Fi access in common areas.

Self-Parking: ​Discounted to $7.00/day.

Hospitality space is very limited. Please consider combining with other candidates from your area.

Orange County AOH Holds Memorial Day Services

Members of Joseph Duelk Jr Division 1 Orange County Monroe New York and Fr. Emmanuel Hourihan AOH Division 4 attended sunrise services at five cemeteries and two moments in Goshen NY. A prayer was said followed by the playing of pipes, then a 21 gun salute. Taps were played and all in attendance presented arms for our fallen heroes.

After visiting the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Orange County, NY, members paid their respect at the grave of 1st Lt. Louis E. Allen. The Junior Division of AOH Joseph Duelk, Jr., Division 1, was named in memory of 1st Lt. Allen, who was killed on June 8, 2005, at Forward Operating Base Danger in Tikrit, Iraq.

Article and photos provided by Tom McDonald, Division 4 Orange County

Honorary Day For Tom McNabb

Please join State President Vic Vogel at the Auburn AOH as he honors the late Thomas D McNabb, Past National President and long time National Secretary for all his contributions to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Music provided by The Flyin’ Column.

When:
Friday, May 24, 2019 at 6 PM – 10 PM

Where:
Auburn AOH
79 Van Anden Street
Auburn, New York 13021

Please visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/384288492226530/ for the latest information.

Freedom For All Ireland Report – May 2019

by Martin Galvin
NYAOH FFAI Chair

A chairde:

FFAI ISSUES UPDATE

A- Six month deportation reprieve for Malachy McAllister-Less than 48 hours before his scheduled deportation, Senators and Congressmen supporting Malachy McAllister  were told that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan would grant a six month stay. Belfast born Hibernian and key member of the AOH National FFAI Committee, Malachy McAllister was scheduled to be deported on April 30th, after 23 years, in America. He was ordered deported because he had been jailed as a Republican political prisoner for his alleged role in an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The reprieve, achieved after intense campaigning led by National President Jim McKay and Treasurer Sean Pender, will end in six months without legalization before the deadline. Malachy McAllister had fled to America after a British agent led loyalist attack on his home. He became, as Senator Chuck Schumer described, “a valued member of the Irish American community who has done nothing but productive things since seeking asylum following an assassination attempt on him and his family.”

Because he arrived in America after the original list of Irish political deportee cases, he was omitted from the cases settled by Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno in 1997.Ironically the immigration judge who denied McAllister’s claim for asylum in 2000,was current President Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry. She implored the Attorney General to use his discretion to allow the McAllister family to stay in America. McAllister has had his deportation stayed multiple times in response to  Senate and Congressional bills. Senator Lindsay Graham as head of the Judiciary Committee  made a request for Malachy to be granted a six month stay but DHS refused. This refusal was followed by Congressional and Senate campaigning for Malachy, helped by the Irish government and Cardinal Dolan. Senators Schumer and Menendez, along  with Congressmen Engel, Pascrell, King, Smith and Neal were in the forefront of a bipartisan effort. McAllister had to submit an airplane ticket to Ireland to DHS on April 15th and was making final preparations for his family when Senators and Congressmen were notified that McAleenan would give the six month stay. This is a temporary reprieve not a permanent solution. AOH Immigration and FFAI are working with other Irish American groups get a permanent legal status for Malachy. A possibility, suggested by AOH Immigration Chair Dan Dennehy would be a “TRIG Exemption,” exempting the actions for which Malachy was imprisoned from barring him from staying in America. His acts were part of a conflict that ended more than 21 years ago. Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds (TRIG) can be exempted for the Irish conflict by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security in consultation with the Attorney General. 

BNew Stormont Talks follow tragic Derry death-British Prime Minister Theresa May and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadker made a joint statement setting up new talks to restart the Stormont Assembly, dormant since January 9,2017. The announcement came after both heads of government attended the funeral of respected young journalist Lyra McKee, along with many Irish party leaders. Ms. McKee had been tragically killed in Derry by members of the New IRA ,who had fired at the PSNI constabulary during rioting. Her death inspired an outpouring of grief and anger and an emotional appeal at her funeral by Fr. Martin Magill. Stormont collapsed after the late Martin McGuinness resigned over the refusal of First Minister Arlene Foster to stand aside during an inquiry into the Renewable Heat Initiative scandal. Last year an apparent DUP-Sinn Fein agreement collapsed on Valentine’s Day 2018,when the DUP reneged on a compromise proposal allowing an Irish language Act along lines of similar measures in Scotland and Wales. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney held a follow-up press conference with British Secretary Karen Bradley. Some of the difficulties with talks immediately surfaced. DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr. demanded that Dublin should “butt-out” if they want to see talks succeed while members of the Ulster Unionist Party complained that “Dublin seem to be getting more information than we are.”      

C-May gets Halloween extension to avoid “no deal” Brexit- The European Union granted Britain’s plea for more time before  its exit from the European Union. Brexit, set for March 29th was given a new deadline of October 31st. The postponement allows Britain six additional months to avoid a “no deal” Brexit, without any trade or customs agreements. May was forced to ask the EU for a more time after Westminster voted down her 599 page Withdrawal Agreement with the EU. The EU is not expected to redo this agreement, reached only after lengthy negotiations. She requested a longer postponement but the EU granted 6 months.  May is now in talks with the opposition Labour Party to get votes for her Withdrawal Agreement. “Brexiting” after May 22nd will require  Britain to elect candidates to the European Parliament. Britain could also cancel Brexit by revoking their Article 50 withdrawal notice. May faces continued calls to step down. Brexit threatens economic disaster for Ireland. The Withdrawal Agreement, included a “backstop” to avoid a disastrous hard border across Ireland. Brexiteers within Prime Minister Theresa May’s Tory Party, joined with the DUP, to oppose the “backstop” or safety net that would have only begun if a full trade agreement was not reached by the end of 2020.

D-Threat to bring Britain to a standstill over trooper charges- With as many as 200 former British Army troopers and Royal Ulster Constabulary members now under investigation for Troubles’ murders, former troopers are now threatening to bring Britain and the north to a standstill unless Westminster gives them an amnesty. The threats were made at a rally outside Belfast City Hall, called in support of the single British paratrooper charged for the Bloody Sunday murders. The rally was attended two DUP MPs Jeffrey Donaldson and Gavin Robinson. Donaldson called investigations of British troopers a “witch hunt”. Meanwhile Tory back-benchers are now preparing a bill for an amnesty in the form of a statute of limitations to include Troubles killings in the north along with killings in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time the mother of a Derry child shot dead by the RUC with a plastic bullet in 1981, has been told that the file on her 15 year old son will be sealed until 2059. Helen Whitters appealed to British Secretary Bradley to open her son Paul Whitters’ file now saying that “I will not be alive and no one who actually knew Paul will be alive” in 2059. Also the Ballymurphy Massacre Inquest heard testimony from a trooper who had married a woman from Ballymurphy and was in the area on leave. He said British troopers made up “ghost gunmen” to justify opening fire. He had been threatened by a British Army Captain, called a traitor and assaulted at his home by members of the Parachute Regiment to silence him. The inquest continues.

MARK THOMPSON-MARK McGOVERN BOOK LAUNCH TOUR

Mark Thompson and Professor Mark McGovern are launching a new book COLLUSION- COUNTERINSURGENCY in NORTHERN IRELAND in May   and are planning to do an American launch from June 1st to June 10th. This groundbreaking book will put the lie to the claim that Britain forces were responsible for only about only 10% of the north’s killings and expose how they armed, directed, paid and protected their loyalist agents to carry out hundreds of  killings then denied any blame.  They have asked AOH help to plan and organize this tour.

I have a personal interest in the book because my close friend Liam Ryan, who lived near me in the Bronx and was murdered at the Battery Bar in Ardboe, (a site visited during the FFAI tour) is one of the cases of collusion included in the book.

I am asking for your ideas and help to set up the most effective schedule for them including book launch venues-political support-colleges-embassy receptions etc along with events where we can bring in people and help defer expenses. 

FFAI TOUR-CHRISTMAS APPEAL RECIPIENTS

The following groups received donations from your contributions to the Christmas Appeal. These groups and amounts were based on written applications and recommendations from the National FFAI Committee with final determination 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.

  1. Relatives for Justice-supports the relatives of those killed or injured in the conflict-fights for legacy justice-provides counseling and support services with offices in Belfast and Dungannon-involved with campaigns like Ballymurphy inquest-, headed by Mark Thompson, and Carmel Quinn is one of the trustees.
  2. Pat Finucane Centre-Human Rights Advocacy group-based in Derry named after slain civil rights lawyer Pat Finucane – headed by Paul O’Connor, and connected to campaigns like Bloody Sunday.
  3. Holy Cross Ardoyne-headed by Fr. Gary Donegan, is actually the Houben Centre dedicated to peace with justice in the sectarian flashpoint of Ardoyne.
  4. EALU-(means Escape in Irish)is a center for Republican ex-political prisoners located in Dungannon, East Tyrone, we visited their offices and they provide an array of services including job training ,counseling for ex-prisoners and families, legacy issues, education classes in Irish culture, language and history.
  5. Greater New Lodge Commemoration Committee-maintains a memorial garden and commemorations for IRA Volunteers and Republicans who were killed by the British in the New Lodge area of Belfast.
  6. Conway Mill Trust-located in Pittsburgh funds 8 community based organizations in the north including one in the Garvaghy Road, four in Belfast and three in Derry.
  7. Tyrone AOH– foster Irish history ,culture, language and issues  in an area of Tyrone where all things Irish were suppressed-they hold a special memorial for a local Hibernian killed in 1916,campaign against the environmental destruction of the Mass Rock and Sperrins area and also assist on legacy issues and other issues.
  8. Cairde Strabane-serves Republican ex-political prisoners in West Tyrone which provides job training, education, counseling, and a historical museum.
  9. St. Patrick Centre-cross community charity and exhibition, and cultural centre about St. Patrick in Downpatrick.
  10. Duchas Oiriall-South Armagh organization promoting and studying the unique culture and history of South Armagh.
  11. Bridges beyond Boxing-cross-community boxing club based in Belfast.
  12. Down Patriot Graves-maintains graves,organizes commemorations and promotes history of Irish patriots in South Down.
  13. Green Cross-provides money and help to the families who lost loved ones during the conflict.
  14. Belfast National Graves-to commemorate and maintain the graves of those who gave their lives for Irish freedom.
  15. Omagh Basketball-cross-community basketball team in Omagh.
  16. Omagh Choir-cross-community choir.

These donations were presented during the tour which meant that a number of AOH and LAOH members handed out checks and showed that these contributions represent funds raised by a national organization. The reception we received is a credit to each member of the AOH-LAOH who works on FFAI or contributed to the Christmas Appeal. Your work matters and is deeply appreciated!  

FFAI MONTHLY BULLETIN

 Please check for the monthly FFAI Bulletin on the New York State and National AOH web sites. We want to give you monthly updates on key events in the north with short analysis and explanation.

Slan,
Martin Galvin
MGALVINESQ@AOL.COM

Historical Happenings for May 2019

THE MASS ROCK (Carraig an Aifrinn)

by Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

The celebration of the Mass at a “Mass Rock” in Ireland

Rocks and stones have always been special to the Irish. The Stone of Fal, reportedly brought to Ireland by the Tuatha de Dannan, was said to have the power to roar – but only when a man fit to rule Ireland stood upon it.  The Rock of Doone, similarly only roared out under one fit to be a Chieftain of the O’Donnells of Donegal. Although these great rocks ceased to roar when Christ was born, their tales stir a sense of pride for they relate to traditions and great heroes whose courage we can admire, but few can imitate!   However, the most courageous stories in Irish history relate to another rock and the courage and fidelity of the ordinary people who made them so special.

These are the Mass Rocks – large flat-topped boulders found in the woods, hills and glens throughout the Emerald Isle, left over from the receding glaciers that covered Ireland during the Ice Age; or as one old woman told me, they were put there long, long ago in hidden places by God Himself for the people to use when the Mass was forbidden because He knew what was coming!

At any rate, it did come in the 17th century when England tried to usurp Ireland into its empire.  It was decided that the Irish had to become English and denounce their Gaelic culture, customs and traditions. When the Irish fought the theft of their heritage, Penal Laws were imposed to punish any who practiced Irish ways. One of those laws banned the Catholic religion and Bishops were outlawed under penalty of a year in a penal colony. If they returned after release, they would be hanged, drawn and quartered! The law also imposed penalties on priests, but many courageously remained, administering in secret.  The clerics who faced such persecution were heroes indeed, yet equally courageous were the people, whose passion for their faith led them to protect the outlawed clergy. That support made it possible for the priests to exist and administer to the faithful who even risked fine and dungeon just to hear the holy sacrifice of the Mass.  It was then that those natural rocks that God had left for them became altars for the forbidden Mass to be safely celebrated away from watchful eyes.

In sun or rain, sleet or snow, the faithful would trudge into the woods, climb up a hill or gather in a hollow wherever a large flat rock could be found! Exposed to the elements, they knelt as the priest offered the sacrifice of the Mass on that hidden rock.  Priest hunters, who received a bounty for any cleric they captured, were always a danger as was the British military, so sentries were posted to keep watch for any who might seek to arrest the faithful kneeling in prayer – and especially the priest!   Since those who attended the celebration were at risk of imprisonment, the locations of the Mass Rocks were a closely guarded secret.  Many took secret trails known as Mass Paths to worship at their secret stone.  In a glen near Drogheda during one harsh winter, it is recorded that the people even walked barefoot in an icy stream down into the glen so that there would be no footprints left in the snow to betray the location of their Mass Rock.

These are the people whose courage is inspirational. Certainly, the priests and Bishops were heroes for theirs was a difficult role. But it was the people – the mothers, fathers and children who refused to turn away from their faith no matter the cost – who are the unsung heroes. All they had to do was embrace the Church of England and they could have had employment, their children educated, and their bellies full. Some did; some took the soup, but they were very few.

Today the need for secrecy is gone, yet on special occasions the descendants of those courageous faithful of yesterday, will gather around one of the hidden Mass Rocks to hear a commemorative Mass and remember the sacrifices made to preserve the faith for the succeeding generations.  As for the Mass Rocks themselves, they are evocative symbols, reverently preserved as relics of a heroic past and a courageous people who would not surrender their faith, regardless of the persecution they faced if caught.  In 2008, the Kingston, NY AOH Division had a large stone delivered to the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural Center in East Durham as a replica of an Irish Mass Rock. It was placed in care of the local AOH Division who promptly adopted the name: the Mass Rock Division.  It was dedicated in 2009 as a reminder of the incredible courage and devotion of our ancestors who kept the faith alive during the Penal times.  Then, on 5 May 2019, members of the New York State AOH gathered at the Mass Rock replica in East Durham on the 10th anniversary of its dedication to remember our faithful ancestors and the gift of faith that they had left to us.

Dutchess County Division 1 hosts Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

Dutchess Division 1 officers and members greet Ryan Mahoney, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University.

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Dutchess County’s Msgr. Sheahan Division 1 hosted Mr. Ryan Mahoney, Executive Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum which is located on the grounds of Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT.  Brother Mahoney gave a presentation on the history and mission of the museum, and also updated the audience as to the current state of affairs regarding the museum’s funding and future.  Brother Mahoney made himself available to answer questions following the insightful presentation.

Dutchess Division 1 is hoping to organize a trip to the museum, for area AOH members, friends and families, complete with a guided tour and lecture/Q&A in the Fall of 2019. For information on the trip contact Division President CJ Tomaskovic at: dutchessaoh@gmail.com.

For information on the museum itself, visit their website at:  https://www.ighm.org.

Staten Island Hibernians Gather For Annual Memorial Mass

AOH New York State District 5 Director Marty Crimmins doing the first reading at the Memorial Mass in Staten Island

On Sunday, April 7, 2019, Staten Island’s AOH St. Columcille Division 4 and LAOH St. Brigid Division 4, joined by their family and friends, held their annual memorial Mass for deceased Brother and Sister Hibernians at the Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne on the grounds of the historic Mount Loretto. Over 75 Brother and Sister Hibernians attended the Mass, celebrated by Rev. Father Steve Ryan, SDB, assisted by Brother Anthony Carratozzollo, Eucharistic Minister. The Mass was organized these past three years thanks to the dedicated efforts of Brother Thomas Gray, Sr., St. Columcille Division 4’s immediate Past President and the Richmond County Board Vice President.

Mount Loretto was the site of the orphanage established by Rev. Father John Christopher Drumgoole. Father Drumgoole, born in Granard, County Longford on August 15, 1816, was ordained a priest in 1869, and established the orphanage Mission of the Immaculate Conception at Mount Loretto by purchasing three farms on Staten Island in 1882. The orphanage was a model institution and ensured that its children received both an education and safe and sanitary housing for its thousands of orphaned children. As well as providing for their spiritual guidance and teaching them a trade, the orphanage had the largest dairy farm in lower New York State, producing thousands of gallons of fresh milk daily for their children, as well as making their own butter and cream.

Sister Margaret F. Walsh-Delbagno, LAOH Richmond County Board President, doing the second reading.

The AOH and LAOH think it fitting that we have our annual memorial Mass on this sacred ground established by a loyal son of Ireland who served his Church and his community with great devotion, until his death on March 28, 1888 from contracting pneumonia from the Blizzard of 1888 while out ministering to the faithful.

Brother Martin Crimmins, AOH District 5 Director and Past President of St. Columcille Division 4, served as the first reader of the Scriptures during the Mass, and Sister Margaret F. Walsh-Delbagno, LAOH Richmond County Board President and Past President of St. Brigid Division 4, read the second reading of the Scriptures. 

Father Steve Ryan, SDB, gave a very warm and inspiring homily, talking about the life of Rev. Father John Drumgoole and his life of dedication, sacrifice and devotion to the poor orphans of New York, and the service rendered by the nuns and priests over the many years that the orphanage was in existence. Father Ryan also stressed the importance of prayer, confession, repentance and Holy Eucharist in our lives, and to focus on Christ in our daily living, and not on the materialism of this life.

Father Steve Ryan, SDB and a longtime member of St. Columcille Division 4, was the celebrant of the Mass.

Brother Kevin F. Mannion, Vice President of St. Columcille Division 4, provided the musical selection for the Mass. The entrance hymn was “On Eagle’s Wings,” the offertory hymn was “Here I Am, Lord,”, the Communion hymn was “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate,” the Communion reflection hymn was the hymn “Lady of Knock.”

Following Holy Communion, the names of all deceased Sister and Brother Hibernians who have passed on to their eternal rest, since the establishment of these Divisions on Staten Island in 1970, were read aloud, accompanied by the tolling of a bell for each departed Brother or Sister Hibernian. The family of Brother Philip McCusker, a charter member and first officer of the St. Columcille Division 4, also attended the Mass. The charters of both AOH St. Columcille Division 4 and LAOH St. Brigid Division 4 were displayed beside the altar and draped in mourning bunting, and were flanked by the Irish Tricolor and the American Stars and Stripes, as well as by two Irish pikes.

“The Soldier’s Song” and the “Star-Spangled Banner” were sung at the conclusion of the Mass, and the recessional hymn was “May the Road Rise to Meet You.”

Brother and Sister Hibernians enjoying breakfast with their families and friends.

After the Mass, all of the Brother and Sister Hibernians and their loved ones adjourned to Mount Loretto sports complex, where they enjoyed a delicious communion breakfast provided by renown Chef Eddie Canlon (As winner on TV’s “Chopped”). We were honored to have in attendance Brother Jack King, the Grand Marshal of the 2019 55th Annual Staten Island Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, as well as an AOH National Life Member, Brother Timothy O’Sullivan of St. Oliver Plunkett Division 16, Freehold, NJ, join us for the Mass and breakfast. Brother O’Sullivan is the proud father of Brother Neil O’Sullivan of Staten Island’s John F. Kennedy Division 1, and the father-in-law of Sister Cathy O’Sullivan of St. Brigid Division No. 4.

Story and photos by Brother Denis P. McGowan