While the current health crisis has held back many of our Freedom for all Ireland initiatives, it did not stop British injustice. The British used the lockdown as their opportunity to renege on the Stormont House Agreement, Brexit agreement, victim’s pensions and legacy justice. Meanwhile groups doing vital FFAI work, with AOH support, were closed down or limited. They are counting on the AOH, more than ever, to give them the publicity, political support and financial help they badly need.
AOH FFAI must adapt and find new means to influence American and Irish politicians, contribute to justice groups in Ireland, impacting British policies, and setting the agenda for Irish American groups.
Health restrictions may block us from organizing speaking tours, but our national and state leaders have found new technologies to bring events like the transatlantic launch of PLASTIC JUSTICE to Hibernians across New York. After the election we will know who our elected representatives are and can target members of the administration or key Congressional committees for support on Irish issues.We have to find new approaches to continue our contributions in support of the Christmas Appeal grants.
WEBINAR SPEAKING EVENTS
I expected to be speaking about plans for a new tour which could provide a speaker for some of our best Christmas Appeal events (like the Fr. Murphy Awards in Albany), follow-up on FFAI political issues post-election and help motivate more areas to support our FFAI political and fundraising initiatives.
Obviously we cannot not have a speaking tour at this time, planned fundraising events had to be cancelled. However we are now bringing speakers to you by webinar broadcasts.
Nearly 1500 Hibernians, led by National Presidents Danny O’Connell and Karen Keane, viewed the webinar broadcast launch of PLASTIC JUSTICE, a report by Relatives for Justice, which documents how British state forces used plastic bullets to kill 17 Irish people with impunity. The event made public newly uncovered British secret documents, written just before and after one of the killings, which will now be used by legal representatives of the Downes’ family in their court battle for an inquest.
Three victims’ relatives spoke. It was deeply moving even for those who were aware of the circumstances of these murders. One of the most important aspects of this event was that groups like RfJ invited the AOH to co-host the launch, because of our successes in bringing legacy justice issues to Congress. The launch has also been covered for three weeks by the IRISH ECHO and VOICE.
Last month, in a history making first, Hibernians across the state got to see speakers representing 17 Freedom for all Ireland grant recipients talk about their projects and hear why AOH-LAOH Christmas Appeal donations are so crucial. The event is now posted on our AOH site. In the past only the FFAI Chair and those few Hibernians able to get to Ireland saw these presentations. It was inspiring to hear these leading representatives. Hibernians can take pride in these Christmas Appeal grants.
At the same time what they said was deeply concerning. Many of the recipients spoke of our grants being a lifeline for them because of the impact of covid. For example, John Kelly the leader of the Bloody Sunday campaign, said the Museum of Free Derry relies on paid admissions by visitors, which were wiped out. Brian Cawley of Tyrone National Graves said the funds they use to care for the patriot graves and memorials in East Tyrone, comes from an annual fundraiser at Easter, which was cancelled. A number of other groups and centers were closed for months. The message seems clear. Our donations this year were crucial, but because the covid crisis continues, they desperately need us to come through for them next year.
FFAI POLITICAL INITIATIVES
Last year 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.
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. We are unfortunately losing key members like Eliot Engel and Peter King. We will soon have an opportunity to identify and approach key members in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate and administration elected from New York.
New York State AOH and LAOH packed the Assembly and Senate galleries, after calling their elected officials to support resolutions about Ireland’s 1918 vote for freedom and 1919 Declaration of Independence.
Last year working with State President Tom Lambert, State PEC Chair Liam McNabb Chair and former State FFAI Chair Ciaran Geraghty we were scheduled to return to Albany on April 21st, for state ceremonies remembering Terence MacSwiney, Kevin Barry and other Irish patriots who gave their lives during the Black and Tan War of 1920.
These ceremonies bring an awareness of our history to those who never heard of events like the Irish Declaration of Independence or understand their historical importance. They show our elected officials that they have to pay attention to Irish issues and the AOH. Thirdly at a time when the British and Unionists want to honor the six county state and partition, these ceremonies are a subtle reminder, they created the Orange State against a national vote for freedom, and Declaration of Independence and through a war using the Black and Tans to terrorize Ireland.
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 a state resolution in New York State and in cities and municipalities across the state and nation.
Resolutions can recall the contribution of AOH members under former State President John Egan and National Digest Editor Frank Feighery, among others who were instrumental in getting AOH banners and representatives at demonstrations across New York State in support of the Hunger Strikers every day from March 1st through October 3rd.
The 2019-2020 Christmas Appeal was a record breaking success led by New York. A total of $20,864 came from 37 New York State contributors to the Christmas Appeal. New York more than doubled the next highest state. We are not going to be able to hold some fundraising events which were a key part of the appeal. I am appealing to everyone around the state to try and make special collections so that we do not let these groups down at a time when they need our help the most.
Christmas Appeal grants are awarded to groups working for complete and absolute independence, peace and unity for all Ireland. Groups applying for donations from the FFAI Christmas Appeal must submit applications that include a question on how they promote freedom for all Ireland. The recipients and amounts were 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 over-sees 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 Es-cape 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.
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.
In 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.
NYAOH FFAI Chair
Despite the uncertainty of what Covid or safety restrictions we may be facing this summer, the 2021 NYS AOH/LAOH Convention Committee has been hard at work on this important biennial event.
The convention is scheduled for Wednesday July 7th – Saturday July 10th, 2021. It is to be held at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, 100 East Onondaga Street, Syracuse, New York 13202 (Formerly the Hotel Syracuse).
The convention website, www.nys2021syr.com, is a work in progress; information will be added as it becomes available. The link to reserve rooms is active and you may book now until 6/21/21 at the convention rate of $135 per night.
Let us all pray that the difficulties we have been facing these past months will resolve in a way that allows us to come together, safely, in the unity and fellowship that typifies our Order.
2021 NYS Convention Committee
Brothers: I hope you are all staying safe in these uncertain times! We recently held our first hybrid NYS State Board meeting. It was good to be in the company of our NYS Brothers both in person and virtually! Your State Board Officers worked hard to arrange for the hybrid meeting. I would like to express my thanks to our NYS Secretary Tom O’Donnell and Webmaster Kevin Cummings, for their time and effort in preparation for our meeting. As we continue our journey towards the eventual elimination of the deadly Covid-19 virus, let us keep those affected by this pandemic in our prayers; victims as well as those who are working hard on the front lines in fighting this horrible virus.
Until recently, prior governmental restrictions were being eased. Division and County Presidents were beginning to schedule in-person meetings after having only virtual meetings. So long as social distancing restrictions were being observed, this slow return to “the way it was” was great news! There did not appear to be any issues with these meetings. We will need to monitor the recent spike in Covid-19 cases to determine if we need to take a step back in in-person meetings. Direct contact with our AOH Brothers is the glue that keeps our Order together. It is hoped that we will be able to continue the meetings. Also, please try to regularly check in on your AOH Brothers who are not able to attend meetings either in person or remotely.
As I have previously indicated, recruitment and retention of members MUST continue to be a focus of our efforts in the coming year, despite the current pandemic. Every single Division and County Board throughout the State MUST increase efforts to grow the membership of our Order! I am again asking all District Directors to work with the Divisions and County Boards within their Districts to make this happen. Growth of 5 to 10 percent is possible. Tim recently sent out an email detailing incentives from the National AOH for increasing our membership. Please reach out to me, or to our National Director/State Organizer, Tim McSweeney with any questions. We need growth to insure our future as the preeminent Irish Catholic Organization in our great state and country! Many Divisions are involved with fundraising for food banks and other worthwhile endeavors to help others in this time of need. What a perfect way to attract future Brothers!
Despite the current restrictions, I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.
President NYS Ancient Order of Hibernians
The organizers have the March for Life scheduled in Washington on Friday, January 29, 2021. I ask the members to look into arranging travel to go to Washington DC. None of us can predict what covid-19 restrictions, if any, may be on the busses. By January, we may only be asked to maintain the social distancing rules. Please check with the Bus Captains you used in previous years. Many people will still travel by car/carpool as well. The National Board will be sending an e-Blast with their plans for the March For Life.
For more information contact Pro Life Chair, Jack O’Brien.
All Irish Martyrs AOH Division 20 will be hosting an Irish Language Mass celebrated by Fr. Andrew O’Connor, Pastor of St. Mary’s in Manhattan at Notre Dame Parish, 45 Mayfair Rd, New Hyde Park, NY 11040 on Saturday, Nov. 7th at 1:00 pm. After Mass the repast will take place at the Knight of Columbus Hall in Mineola, 86 Jericho Turnpike, Mineola, NY 11501.
Due to the continuing Public Health Emergency the State Board Meeting will be held both in person with a maximum attendance of 50 and virtually.
NYS Officers will have preference for in person attendance. All in person attendees will be required to wear masks and social distance. They will also be subject to temperature screening and health questionnaire.
The Dinner honoring the NYS AOH and LAOH Presidents is postponed until Spring 2021.
The Semi-Annual New York State Board Meeting mandated by Article II, Section 3 of the A.O.H. N.Y.S. By-Laws will convene as follows:
Date: Saturday, October 31, 2020
Time: 10:00 AM
Place: Shamrock House and Virtual
Route 145 East Durham, NY
The agenda of the meeting will be as follows: Officers Reports, Committee Reports, Special Committee Reports, Old Business, New Business, and Good of the Order.
Officers should email a copy of their report (either in the body of the email or a Word or PDF attachment) to AOH NYS Secretary Thomas M. O’Donnell no later than October 25, 2020. Reports will be electronically distributed, it is not necessary to print any copies.
You will receive information on connecting to the meeting once arrangements are finalized.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, National Freedom for All Ireland (FFAI) Chairman Martin Galvin has announced that the Hibernians will be hosting a virtual release of the “Plastic Justice Report” prepared by Relatives for Justice, Belfast. The report will be broadcast on YouTube on Saturday, October 24 at 4 pm Local time in Ireland, 11 am Eastern U.S. Per FFAI Chairman Galvin:
“Plastic Justice“ is a special report on how British state forces used plastic bullets to kill 17 innocent Irish people with impunity, will get a transatlantic launch on Saturday, October 24. In Belfast, joining Relatives for Justice Director Mark Thompson will be relatives of the victims: Frances Meehan,(sister of Michael Donnelly) and Mark Kelly (brother of Carol Ann Kelly). America’s oldest and largest Irish organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, will co-host the launch on a virtual webinar broadcast, with Hibernians across the United States joining live, led by National Presidents Danny O’Connell and Karen Keane. The transatlantic launch will begin at 4 pm in Ireland / 11 am Eastern United States.
View Live at:
Saturday October 24, 2020
4PM Ireland Time – 11AM EDT (New York)
“Plastic Justice” is a key chapter in the story of British repression. This groundbreaking report will highlight Britain’s political and legal strategies to deny truth and real justice to victims’ families, such as treating victims as criminals or rioters to justify murders and intimidate witnesses. Crucial documents and files continue to be systematically withheld. Inquests or legacy investigations that could shed light on these murders are arbitrarily denied. Not one British trooper or Royal Ulster Constabulary member has ever found guilty for any of these 17 killings, even where victims were children. Both Frances Meehan and Mark Kelly will speak about their personal experiences, fighting for justice.
The report and speakers are also expected to highlight how deadly plastic bullets were used to intimidate public demonstrations of political support on issues like the Blanket Protest and Hunger Strikes of 1980 and 1981 or Internment Day protests.
The AOH and LAOH feel privileged to be invited to be a part of this launch. Britain’s broken promises on issues like legacy justice and Brexit have sparked a growing call by Irish America that the United States must be actively engaged if we are to see Britain move on legacy issues, including ‘Plastic Justice.’ There is an increasing demand to hear speakers from Ireland on these issues. Health restrictions may block us from bringing speakers to America, but new technologies mean this transatlantic launch will be joined by Hibernians and Irish Americans across the United States.
I was present during one of the killings covered by this report, that of John Downes on August 12, 1984, and have personally witnessed the continuing cover-up or “plastic justice” meted out to the Downes family; I know this launch will be a moving and important event.
FFAI Chairman Martin Galvin
On October 6, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new guidelines restricting attendance at religious services and closing all schools in nine ZIP code areas in Brooklyn and Queens following a recent spike of COVID-19 cases in those areas. The guidelines designate zip codes with a three percent or more increase of COVID-19 cases as red zones and would restrict attendance at religious services in these red zones to just 10 people. Governor Cuomo has threatened to close religious institutions down if they do not adhere to the new guidelines.
The Most Reverend Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn has called on Governor Cuomo to ease the restrictions in the red zones and permit churches to operate at 25% capacity without a cap of 10 people since the Catholic Churches in Brooklyn and Queens have not had any COVID-19 outbreaks or significant cases since reopening on July 5, 2020. The Diocese has strictly adhered to COVID-19 protocols which have been working. Parishes have incurred tremendous expense implementing these safety protocols and to restrict churches that have the capacity to hold a thousand people for Mass to 10 people is disrespectful to Catholics and to the clergy who have adhered to all of the guidelines of New York State.
In solidarity with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the New York State Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians believe that the draconian measures instituted by Governor Cuomo are not narrowly tailored to address the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the health and safety of the public. We respectfully call on Governor Cuomo to ease the restrictions and permit churches to operate at 25% capacity without a 10 person cap and to allow Catholic Schools who have not had an outbreak of COVID-19 cases to reopen with on-site learning.
Please contact Governor Cuomo and your local state Assemblymen and Senators calling on them to ease the restrictions of Catholic Churches and Catholic Schools.
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
In Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity,
Ancient Order of Hibernians – New York State Chairman Catholic Action
by Mike McCormack, NY AOH Historian
One hundred years ago, November 21, 1920 was a day of such violence in Dublin that it was ever after referred to as Bloody Sunday (Irish: Domhnach na Fola). It occurred during the Irish War of Independence as 31 people were killed or fatally wounded on that one day – 14 British military, 14 Irish civilians, and 3 Irish prisoners.
The day began with an operation organized by Michael Collins, to “put out the eyes of the British empire” as GPO soldier Sam O’Reilly once told this writer. By late 1920, British Intelligence in Dublin had established an extensive network of spies and informers around the city. Michael Collins, as head of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and IRA Chief of Intelligence, was running his country’s war for independence and had been hampered to a large degree by those agents. They operated with impunity, believing that the Irish were unorganized and easily infiltrated. Collins was determined to show them otherwise by destroying their intelligence network in a coordinated manner.
Collins established his own undercover operation with patriots like Ned Broy, a detective in the Dublin Metropolitan Police, who smuggled him in to spend the night in the Records Room of Great Brunswick Street Police Barracks, and Elizabeth Mernin, first cousin of his IRA Publicity Director, Pearse Beasley who was a typist in Dublin Castle’s adjutant’s office. She shared critical information about the Castle’s intelligence officers and identified their Dublin residences. In addition to other operatives, Collins also had formed a clandestine ‘Squad’ of IRA men, known as The Twelve Apostles. They were tasked with eliminating informers and British operatives whenever they were identified. Then on 20 November, the Squad and select members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade, were assembled as a team to be briefed on a specific group of targets. Thirty-five undercover intelligence agents had been identified as living at different locations in Dublin and the instructions were to eliminate all of them the next morning at precisely 9AM. Early on the morning of 21 November, some of the team attended Mass and quietly went about their assigned tasks. One was Seán Lemass, who would later serve as Taoiseach from 1959 to 1966. On the morning of 21 November however, he helped in the assassination of British Captain G. Baggallay.
Out of the agents on Collins’s hit list, only 14 were killed and 5 were seriously wounded since some were not at home at the time. However, a number of agents and informers were seen later in the day lining up at the ferries back to England. The action caused shock waves throughout the Empire and crippled British intelligence in Ireland. The precision of the operation also caused consternation in the British administration who were now forced to re-evaluate their opponent. Collins justified the killings saying, ‘My one intention was the destruction of the undesirables who continued to make miserable the lives of ordinary decent citizens. I have proof enough to assure myself of the atrocities which this gang of spies and informers have committed. If I had a second motive it was no more than a feeling such as I would have for a dangerous reptile. By their destruction the very air is made sweeter. For myself, my conscience is clear. There is no crime in detecting in wartime the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.’
Afterward, Collins advised the GAA to cancel the afternoon Dublin vs Tipperary football match at Croke Park fearing retaliation. It was denied since profits of the day were for families of imprisoned Republicans. About 5,000 spectators attended the game which began at 3:15 PM. Outside the park, unseen by the crowd, convoys containing a mixed force of military, Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Auxiliaries and Black and Tans and police drove in from the northwest and the south. The Auxiliaries and Black & Tans were ex-military from WWI sent to help the RIC defeat the Irish. They had orders to guard the exits and search every man as he left. However, as soon as they reached the stadium at 3:25 PM, they began shooting. Some claimed they were fired on first, but that was proven untrue. Actually, those in the convoy’s lead cars jumped out and chased the ticket sellers down the passage into the Park firing at them. Meanwhile, a gate opened and a Lorry of troops rode onto the field as scenes of wild confusion erupted. Spectators made a rush for the far end of the Park as shots were randomly fired into them for a full minute and a half. Auxiliary Commander, Major Mills, later admitted that his men were ‘excited and out of hand.’ RIC outside the park opened fire at spectators climbing over the wall to escape. At the other end of the park, soldiers were startled to see panicked people fleeing the grounds and opened fire with their armored car machine gun to halt them. By the time Major Mills got his men under control, 12 people had been shot dead, 60 were wounded and 2 had been trampled to death in the stampede. Tipperary player, Michael Hogan, was killed on the field as was a man who bent over him to whisper an Act of Contrition. Today’s Hogan Stand in Croke Park is named for him.
At first, Castle authorities issued a press release which claimed that a number of gunmen from the morning attack were in Croke Park and Crown forces went to arrest them. However, they were fired on by armed pickets to warn the wanted men, causing a stampede. Strongly denied by the thousands in attendance who refuted that bogus claim, when the stands were searched for arms or spent shells, none were found. British Brigadier Frank Crozier, in command that day, resigned in protest over the official condoning of the unjustified actions of the troops after one of his officers told him that, ‘Black and Tans fired into the crowd without any provocation whatsoever.’ Two military courts of inquiry were held. One found that ‘the fire of the RIC was carried out without orders and exceeded the demands of the situation’; the other found that ‘the firing on the crowd was carried out without orders, was indiscriminate and unjustifiable.’ These findings were suppressed by the British Government for 80 years and only came to light in 2000 revealing that a total of 228 rounds of ammunition were fired by the RIC and auxiliaries and that the army machine-gun at the St James’s Avenue exit fired a total of 50 rounds.
Further, the first victims were two boys watching the game without paying. William Robinson, 11, was shot as he sat in a tree that gave him a view over the wall and Jerry O’Leary, 10, was shot as he sat on a wall at the southwest end of the field. They were shot before the Tans and Auxiliaries ever entered the park, suggesting that whatever their orders had been that day, the RIC had other ideas. It was an act of mass murder by trigger-happy Black and Tans and Auxiliaries bent on avenging the morning’s losses. Later that day, two Republican officers, Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, together with Conor Clune (a nephew of the Archbishop of Perth, Australia), who were being held in Dublin Castle, were tortured and shot by the Brits who said they were killed trying to escape! McKee and Clancy later had Irish Army military barracks in Dublin named for them.
Overall Bloody Sunday was a victory for Collins whose operation severely damaged British intelligence, while the British reprisals increased support for Republican forces at home and abroad. Bloody Sunday was one of the most significant events to take place during the Irish War of Independence and it happened just 100 years ago.