Historical Happenings for January 2021

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

       The Black and Tans

When Sir Robert Peel introduced the Irish Constabulary in 1822 he never expected the colloquial terms “Bobby” and “Peeler” to derive from his name, nor did he expect that though well intended, it would become the most hated force in modern Irish history.  A Constabulary was set in each province with constables and inspectors under British administration in Dublin Castle.  Separate from the ministry of war, it was only for civilian policing. For most of its history, it was about 75% Irish Catholic, who joined needing employment, and 25% Protestant, though most senior officers were Protestant.  Queen Victoria added the prefix Royal to their name for their service during the Fenian rising of 1867; thus was born the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

Unlike police elsewhere in Britain, the RIC were armed and billeted in barracks.  A few of its Irish members were sympathetic to the nationalist cause after 1916 and even worked with Michael Collins on clandestine activities allowing him to infiltrate the administration with the help of men like Ned Broy, David Neligan, Joseph Kavanagh and James McNamara.  Some also co-operated with the IRA out of fear for their lives and welfare of their families.  A raid on an RIC barracks in Cookstown, County Tyrone, in June 1920, was carried out with the help of sympathetic RIC men.  The barracks in Schull, County Cork, was captured with similar inside aid.  Collins even had RIC spies within the upper echelon at Dublin Castle.  However after the start of the War of Independence in January 1919, the RIC were markedly British and a civilian campaign of intimidation began against them.  They were subjected to threats, attacks and their families were ostracized by the local community.  By June 1920, RIC casualties rose to 55 killed and 74 wounded.  Barracks were attacked and recruitment suffered as RIC morale declined.  Barracks were abandoned and ranks were consolidated as pressure on their families, friends and shopkeepers resulted in resignations and early retirements.  Several also left rather than fight their countrymen over an issue with which they agreed.  However that was soon to change.

In late 1919, the Brits decided to counter the reduction in force by equipping the remaining RIC with military trucks, rockets, bombs and shotguns. Finding a more powerful RIC still insufficient to defeat Collins, PM Lloyd George, for political reasons, still refused to recognize the IRA as a military force.  He insisted that controlling them was a policeman’s task and called for more, better-prepared men in police uniforms.  Thus began the recruitment of jobless returning WW1 veterans.  Hurried into RIC service in January 1920 with a combination of dark green RIC jackets and khaki British Army pants, they were dubbed the Black and Tans. They had been recruited into and were under the control of RIC officers, but their lack of police training soon showed in their heavy-handed tactics.  Still unable to stop Collins’ IRA, a drastic move was made as a new force made up of returning military Officers were recruited in June. These turned out to be mostly battlefield commissions and  a lower class of men than Sandhurst quality officers. They were sent as an Auxiliary unit of the RIC but were, in fact, a counter-insurgency force operating independently under their own officers to open an offensive against the IRA.  They became notorious for their brutality and attacks on civilian instead of military targets.

On Bloody Sunday in Dublin, 21 November 1920, after 14 British intelligence agents were shot, the new RIC, with their Tans and Auxies, claiming that the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was in league with the IRA,  retaliated by firing on an innocent crowd at a GAA football match, killing 14 civilians and wounding 65.  In December, the Brits declared martial law in southern Ireland and the civilian center of Cork city was burnt out by the new RIC in reprisal for an ambush on a military convoy.  Brian Hanley,  historian at National University of Ireland, noted that: the Brits were wrong that the GAA was a front for the IRA. While some of its members were in the IRA and the GAA was for independence, it was divided on the wisdom of armed rebellion.  They even refused to let the IRA use Croke Park for drills. Collins wanted the 21 November Croke Park match called off, fearing a reprisal for the shooting of the British spies that morning, but GAA officials refused since the day’s proceeds were for the families of imprisoned Irish republicans. Hanley said that the GAA massacre was the tipping point in the war.  It was then, in January 1921, 100 years ago, that the RIC, their Black and Tans and  Auxiliary units all became special targets by order of Michael Collins marking the beginning of their end. 

On 1 January the IRA ambushed an RIC patrol in Ballybay, County Monaghan, killing one officer and wounding others, the next day two RIC men were executed in a Belfast hotel.  On 4 January, an RIC Sergeant was fatally wounded in an IRA grenade attack in Armagh.  A Waterford IRA column ambushed an  RIC patrol outside Cappoquin on 5 January and on 7 January, ambushed another at Pickardstown.  On 12 January, the IRA ambushed a British troop train carrying 150 soldiers at Barnesmore Gap, County Donegal and on 20 January the IRA in Clare ambushed an RIC truck at Glenwood, between Sixmilebridge and Broadford in which six RIC were killed, two were wounded but escaped and the IRA took their weapons and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition before burning the truck. On 22 January, three RIC officers were killed near their County Monaghan barracks and an IRA ambush was mounted in County Armagh where two RIC men were killed and others injured.  In Dublin, IRA Third Battalion ambushed a number of RIC trucks at the Merrion Square/Mount Street intersection and a standing fight developed until the Brits withdrew with high casualties and no IRA losses.  By the end of January 1921, the RIC began carrying republican prisoners in their trucks when on patrol to stop grenade attacks on them, with signs saying “Bomb us now“.  This was discontinued when foreign journalists in the city reported it. They later covered the open back of their trucks with a mesh to prevent grenades from entering the vehicles, to which the IRA responded by attaching hooks to the grenades!

It soon became obvious that Collins’ IRA could not be defeated and the attacks on civilians in retaliation for attacks on the RIC had done little more than increase civilian support for the Republicans fighting for the independence of their country.  The end was near as a treaty in less than a year’s time would disband the RIC during a debate over whether they were just an armed police unit or a paramilitary force.  Either way, Peel’s Constabulary formed in 1822 was no more by 1922.  But some don’t know their history.

Unbelievably, in January 2020, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked the Irish people to pay homage by attending special commemorations to honor the Royal Irish Constabulary!  The request not only sparked major controversy, it resulted in the Wolfe Tones 1972 recording of Come Out Ye Black and Tans returning to the number one spot on the Irish charts.  Thankfully the people remembered their history and the commemoration was cancelled.  While it is worth remembering that the RIC had a few resignations after the heavy-handed crushing of the 1916 Rising, with some leaving the force as independence agitation increased and some even working as double agents on behalf of the IRA, there was also the fact that the overwhelming majority of the RIC were British tools of repression.  They had tumbled thousands of homes, evicting men women and children into starvation and exile during the Great Hunger; they helped defeat the Fenian brotherhood and the 1916 patriots and supported the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries during their murderous campaigns during the War of Independence.  Their  disbandment, shortly after a truce in July 1921 sent more than 6,000 officers and men back to England where they belonged and the only commemorations that should ever be held are prayers for those who died at their hands.

Suffolk County AOH Division 9 Donates Toys for Children in Need

Pictured are Pete Patterson (left) and Billy MacDowall with some of the donations.

As in past Christmas seasons, Father Murphy of Boolavogue, Division 9 of Suffolk County, NY helped to bring joy to local families. Brother Pete Patterson organized the collection of over $2,500 in toys and gift cards. These donations were distributed through a program at Hunter Business School that provides Christmas time assistance to families of students in need. Billy MacDowall of Hunter said the Division had, once again, provided the largest single donation received.

Story and photo submitted by Tom McKenna, Editor, Empire State Hibernian

Orange County Division 2 Delivers Holiday Cheer

Throughout the weekend of Friday, December 19 through Monday, December 21, 2020 scores of deserving civilian and military families in several Eastern Orange County communities received complete Christmas dinners thanks to the generous efforts of the members of the Father Donald J. Whelan, Division 2 in Cornwall, NY

Special thanks are in order to Brother John Encke and his daughter, Elizabeth Encke (2020 NYAOH Scholarship Recipient) who coordinated donations of turkeys and other food items from Stop & Shop and to Division President Bill Kirnan who organized the weekend deliveries and the complex logistics of deliveries that were as much as 25 miles apart. Members, families and friends turned out in force on Friday night to begin packing the full dinners so that the members could fan out on Saturday morning making their deliveries. 

This year the division began what they hope to be a lasting relationship in helping the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal located in the St. Mary of the Assumption Friary with their mission of caring for the poorest of poor in and around the City of Newburgh and in particular those hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. In making the deliveries on Monday morning, Division Vice President Mike Shannon and Recording Secretary Kevin Cummings made sure to include a hearty Christmas dinner for the Friars and Brothers in residence at the Friary in thanks for all their devotion to the less fortunate in the community. This year’s combined effort was dedicated to the memory of Brother John Greehy who generously gave of his time and monetary support in so many years past. His presence was evident in the words of one of the grateful families who stated “I knew John wouldn’t forget us.  He is just making his deliveries from heaven now!”

Suffolk Juniors Raise $2000 for Various Children’s Charities

A total of $2000 were raised during through the fundraising efforts conducted by the Juniors who are happy to report they were able to donate $1000 to Ronald McDonald House and an additional $1000 to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. [updated with additional photos December 21]

On Sunday, November 29, 2020  the Suffolk County St. Patrick’s Division 2 AOH Juniors in Babylon, under the direction of Vice President Dennis Harty held their 1st annual Christmas Market.  The market kicked-off at 1PM and by 3:30PM, virtually all items (wreaths, poinsettias, Div 2 Christmas ornaments, etc.) were sold out.  All proceeds will go to charities, as the Boys live the “Christian Charity” part of our motto.  President Jim Killian stated “I couldn’t be more proud of what the Boys and Dennis accomplished today.”

 

Thanks to all the Brothers that attended and made a purchase, it was very much appreciated!  What a wonderful way to kick-off the first day of Advent! The Junior Boys are just 1 of 3 Junior Divisions in New York State, something we are extremely proud of as we carry on our tradition and heritage!

 

 

Submitted by:
Jim Killen | President
AOH St. Patrick’s Division 2
Babylon, NY 11702

Historical Happenings for December 2020

A DECEMBER TO REMEMBER

by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

The Burning of Cork City in December 11-12, 1920

According to the Supercentenarian Data table of the Irish Central Statistics Office on 29 November 2020, five woman in Ireland have passed their 110th birthday.  They are among the 456 Irish Centenarians and as little girls of 10 years a century ago, they experienced one of Ireland’s most tragic months – December 1920.

It was a time when the Irish people, inspired by the deeds of 1916, were involved in a War of Independence which  was about to enter its third year.  The new Army of the Irish Republic, made up of members of former Volunteers, Citizen Army, Hibernian Rifles and others was led by Michael Collins’ Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).  They had been concentrating their efforts on British military targets like Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks and ambushing British patrols.  The Brits found it difficult to defeat them for Collins fought a guerrilla campaign of hit and run tactics supported by the Irish people.  In March, 1920, the British government introduced the Black and Tans to beef up the RIC with little effect.  Then in July, they introduced the Auxiliaries, a counter-insurgency group of former military officers to act as a paramilitary force and launch reprisals against the civilian population to scare them away from their support of the IRB.  

The Black and Tans were reportedly under the control of the RIC, but the Auxies, as they were known, operated  independently and soon gained a reputation for brutality.  After the summer of 1920, the Tans and Auxies began responding to IRA attacks on military targets by carrying out arbitrary reprisals against civilian targets. This usually involved the burning of homes and farms with gunfire and grenades and the looting of businesses, all accompanied by beatings and killings.   Many villages also suffered mass reprisals, like the Sack of Balbriggan on 20 September.  After an ambush of a military convoy in Rineen, County Clare on 22 September, in which six RIC men were killed,  the surrounding villages of Milltown Malbay, Lahinch and Ennistymon were put to the torch and five civilians were killed.   Also burned were the villages of Kilkee (26 September), Trim (27 September), Tubbercurry (30 September) and Granard (31 October).  In early November, they besieged Tralee in reprisal for the IRA killing of two local RIC men, closing all the businesses in the town, letting no food in for a week and shooting dead three local civilians.  On 14 November, they even abducted and murdered a Catholic priest, Father Michael Griffin, in Galway.  From that time on, the level of brutality was far above the norm.  Then came a deadly December and the most barbarous act of revenge ever perpetrated against an innocent civilian population.

On 10 December 1920, the British government and administration in Ireland put the official stamp of approval on the reprisals by proclaiming Martial Law in counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary and imposing a 10pm curfew..  The next day, 20 Auxies were dispatched by Auxie Captain Charles Schulze in two lorries from Cork’s Victoria Barracks to carry out a series of raids.  The lorries were ambushed near Dillon’s Cross by 6 IRA men trying to prevent those raids and 12 Auxies were wounded; one critically.  At 9:30 pm that evening, more lorries of Auxies and British soldiers were sent to Dillon’s Cross where they broke into houses, herded the occupants onto the street and burned their homes to the ground.  Those who tried to intervene were fired on and some were badly beaten.  After seven buildings were set alight, one was found to be owned by Protestants and the Auxies quickly doused the fire.  Then the arsonists turned their anger on Cork City.

At curfew, witnesses reported seeing them arrive on St. Patrick’s Street, the city’s main thoroughfare.  Some were Auxies, some were British Army while others wore no uniforms at all as they smashed shop windows and set buildings alight.  A group of Auxies were seen throwing a bomb into the ground floor of the Munster Arcade, which housed both shops and flats.  It exploded under the residential quarters while people were still inside.  Those who escaped were detained by the Auxies.  The city’s fire brigade came at once.  On finding Grant’s department store ablaze, they tried to save it.  Fire brigade Superintendent, Alfred Hutson, met Cork Examiner reporter, Alan Ellis, and told him “all the fires were being deliberately started by incendiary bombs” and in several cases he had seen: “soldiers pouring cans of petrol into buildings and setting them alight.”  Firemen later testified that British forces hindered their attempts to tackle the blazes by intimidating them, cutting their hoses and/or driving lorries over the hoses.  The firemen were shot at and at least two were wounded.  Shortly after 3 am, Ellis found a unit of the fire brigade pinned down by gunfire from Brits who had broken into the City Hall building and  the firemen watched as uniformed men carried cans of petrol into the building from nearby Union Quay barracks.

At about 4 am a large explosion was heard and City Hall and the neighboring Carnegie Library went up in flames, resulting in the loss of a treasure in historic documents and public records.  When more firefighters arrived, British forces fired on them and refused them access to water.  The final act of arson took place at about 6am when a group of policemen looted and burned Murphy Brothers’ clothing shop on Washington Street.  After eight hours of uncontrolled destruction, five acres of the city, including more than 40 businesses and 300 homes were destroyed, amounting to near $11 million  in damage by today’s value while many were left homeless and 2,000 were left jobless.

The final act of vengeance associated with that event took place on 15 December as Auxie officer, Vern Hart, killed Catholic Very Rev. Canon Thomas J. Magner, who had been told to toll his bell for deceased British military on Armistice Day a month earlier on 11 November and he refused.  On a quiet road a mile from the Cork side of Bandon, he was walking with parishioner, Tadgh O’Crowley, when Hart shot them both dead.  Hart was arrested and at his Court Martial it was noted that he had been a close friend of the Auxie killed at Dillon’s Cross and had been drinking heavily since 11 December.  A number of ‘expert’  witness testified that Hart was temporarily insane at the time of the murders and the Court Martial ruled that he ‘was guilty of the offenses with which he was charged, but was insane at the time of their commission.’   He was discharged from the Auxies and sent to an asylum for a year.  He was then retired to South Africa and died in Golden Valley Hotel, Cape Provence in 1937 at age 55.  If that wasn’t rubbing enough salt in the wound, the Auxies took to wearing burnt corks in their caps to taunt the Irish. Auxie Captain Schulze, wrote to his girlfriend in England that it was “sweet revenge“, while to his mother he wrote: “Many who had witnessed scenes in France and Flanders say that nothing they had experienced was comparable with the punishment meted out in Cork.

Some debated whether British at Victoria Barracks had planned to burn the city before the ambush at Dillon’s Cross ever took place, or whether the British Army was even involved and whether those who set the fires were under the command of superior officers.  Florry O’Donoghue, intelligence officer of the 1st Cork Brigade IRA at the time, answered that debate when he wrote: “The ambush provided the excuse for an act which was long premeditated and for which all arrangements had been made.  The rapidity with which supplies of petrol and Verey lights were brought from Cork barracks to the centre of the city and the deliberate manner in which the work of firing the various premises was divided amongst groups under the control of officers, gives evidence of organization and pre-arrangement.  Moreover, the selection of certain premises for destruction and the attempt made by an Auxiliary officer to prevent the looting of one shop by Black and Tans: ‘You are in the wrong shop; that man is a Loyalist’ and the reply, ‘We don’t give a damn; this is the shop that was pointed out to us’, is additional proof that the matter had been carefully planned beforehand.”  Then, the month ended on 30 December 1920 as Martial law was extended to Counties Clare, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford and the horror began anew. 

We can only imagine what those little girls who lived through that time would have experienced or the trauma they may have endured.  On the other hand, we are happy that they lived to see a partially independent Irish Republic when so many others were denied that privilege.

“Hunger Strike 1980” Webinar Honors the Legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strikers

Forty years ago, seven Irish Republican political prisoners were in the midst of a 53 day Hunger Strike against British torture and a strategy to brand them as common criminals rather than political prisoners. Britain’s decision at the end of that Hunger Strike, to intensify efforts to break the H-block prisoners rather than compromise, triggered the 1981 Hunger Strike transforming Irish politics and its American dimension. Hibernians will host a special live webinar broadcast ‘Hunger Strike 1980’ on Saturday December 5th featuring key perspectives from inside the Hunger Strike, from the campaign on Irish streets, and from the crucial battle for American public opinion.

View the Webinar Recording on YouTube here.

The webinar was sponsored by America’s oldest and largest Irish organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Joining in the live webinar broadcast were Hibernians across the United States, led by National Presidents Danny O’Connell and Karen Keane. Watch as a 1980 Hunger Striker, Tommy McKearney, discusses the events with former H-Block Blanketman now MLA Fra McCann, and political commentator Andree Murphy.  Read Martin Galvin, National and NYS AOH FFAI Chairs report on “Hunger Strike 1980.

Suffolk Division 4 Living Our Motto of True Christian Charity

Well deserved recognition goes out to Tom Dougherty, President AOH Division 4, Huntington, NY, his Brother Hibernian Jack Ryan and all the Brothers that came out on Friday and Saturday November 20 – 21 to help with the annual food basket deliveries. There were plenty of challenges in this year of COVID-19 but in the end the mission was accomplished. 
 
Starting Friday night, the food was loaded into cars at the local Stop and Shop then unloaded at the VFW and set up for the next day’s assembly lines. Saturday morning saw bags packed and in-person home deliveries made as well as turkey drop-off to the individual parishes. Thanks go out to all the new Division Brothers for helping out. The weather cooperated capping off the beautiful day of charitable activities.  
 
Approximately 130 full meals were delivered to parishioners of St. Patrick, St. Francis and St. Anthony’ of Padua parishes. Also 50 large turkeys were delivered to Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish and an additional truck load of bulk food was delivered to St. Hugh’s Soup Kitchen.

 
President Tom Dougherty reported that the kitchen workers and recipients were visibly overcome with emotion and extremely thankful for all the food and supplies provided by the division. The Hibernian deliveries provided sorely needed supplies in these difficult times.  
 
 

After a day of deliveries, President Tom Dougherty congratulated his Brothers and remarked, “Guys this is what we are about and what we do. This small act of kindness will help make someone’s Thanksgiving a little brighter.  Again, thank you all for your support and dedication to the division and our community.” 
 
Congratulations Brothers on a job well done!
 
 [Story and photos provided by Tom Dougherty, President AOH Division 4, Huntington, NY]

Freedom For All Ireland for December 2020

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.

STATE HONORS

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.

CHRISTMAS APPEAL

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.

Martin Galvin
NYAOH FFAI Chair

Call to Action

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
(518) 474-8390

In Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity,

James Hamilton
Ancient Order of Hibernians – New York State Chairman Catholic Action

Historical Happenings for October 2020

Bloody Sunday

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.