Save the Dates: Wednesday July 7th – Saturday July 10th, 2021.
2021 NYS Convention Committee Updates
Your 2021 NYS Convention Committee, anticipating that by July we will all be able to meet in Syracuse, continues working on our biennial get together.
You can book your hotel rooms on the conventions website, https://nys2021syr.com . The convention rate of $135 per night, plus tax and fees, if booked by June 21, 2021, is available from July 2-16, 2021.
We hope to have all package details and purchase availability on the website by month’s end. Please see additional information in the back of the March 2021 Empire State Hibernian.
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).
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
Please join us for the rescheduled NYS AOH/LAOH President’s Testimonial Dinner on Saturday, May 1, 2021 at the Shamrock House in East Durham honoring New York State Presidents Thomas Lambert and Mary Beth Durkee. The Burns Hayes Award will be presented to Brendan J. Moore, Past President, National Board AOH.
On behalf of myself and the James F. Hayes Golf Committee, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all AOH and LAOH counties, divisions, and individuals who supported the 2021 James F. Hayes Annual Golf Classic and the Austin V. Carew Scholarship in the past. We depend on all of you to make this event a success. The Tee-off time is 9:00 am. We encourage golfers of all levels. You do not have to be a Hibernian to participate. If you cannot make the outing, a donation of any amount would certainly be appreciated.
The James F. Hayes Annual Golf Outing will take place this year at The Sunny Hill Resort and Golf Course. The date of the event is Friday April 30, 2021. This event is run in conjunction with the semi-annual board meetings which are held on Saturday May 1, 2021 and our Annual Mass on Sunday May 2nd at Our Lady of Knock Shrine Church.
Hole sponsors are $100 each. Your personal sign will be prominently displayed on the course and at the awards luncheon. The sign is yours to take home afterwards.
If you need any additional information or any questions, feel free to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 516-782-4762.
In Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity,
NYS Sports Chairman
The deadline for submission of the 2021 NYS AOH Scholarship application has now passed – February 26, 2021. The Scholarship Chair will be in touch with all applicants. Study materials can be found below.
Attached is the application for the 2021 scholarship that will be awarded by NYS AOH Board. The award is $3000. All high school seniors who are members, and children or grandchildren of a member belonging to a NYS AOH division are eligible to apply. Applicants should include any AOH family participation (please leave names out) and any other information that they feel makes them deserving of this scholarship. The applicant or his or her sponsoring family member need not have obtained their Major Degree but it is strongly suggested and is factored into the score. All applications will be judged by our scholarship committee, so applicants are urged to complete every section as instructed. Applicants must use a 12-point font when completing the application. No handwritten applications will be accepted.
An important reminder when completing the application: DO NOT try to fill this form out in the browser!
To fill in a form electronically:
1) Save a copy to your device.
2) Open it with the an Adobe Reader program.
3) Fill in all the fields as necessary and save it.
4) Attach the saved copy and email it to email@example.com
All applications must be received by Midnight, Friday, February 26th, 2021. You will receive a confirmation email within 48 hours. If you do not, please reach out to me at my cell # below. No late applications will be considered.
The second part of the scholarship process will involve the completion of a multiple choice exam. The committee will reach out to the applicants after Easter to set up dates and times to administer the exams.
All of the questions on this multiple choice test will be taken from study materials that the Scholarship Committee has supplied.
The winner is encouraged to attend the NYS Board spring meeting in East Durham, NY on Saturday, May 1st, 2021 with at least one family member to accept the award.
Please share this email with your fellow officers and division membership.
IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS OR PROBLEMS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.
Good luck and best regards,
Dermot O’Connor Moore
2021 Scholarship Application | 2021 Scholarship Study Materials
A DECEMBER TO REMEMBER
by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian
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.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, has issued the following statement by National Freedom for All Ireland Chairman Martin Galvin:
“HUNGER STRIKE 1980”, the first in a series of Hibernian events honoring the legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strikers, was highlighted by new revelations about British strategy inside and outside the prison, as well as the crucial battle for American opinion. The live online broadcast featured one of the seven 1980 Hunger Strikers Tommy McKearney, former H-Block Blanketman now MLA Fra McCann, and political commentator Andree Murphy. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s decision after the 53-day Hunger Strike ended December 18, 1980, to intensify repression rather than compromise, triggered the 1981 Hunger Strike, and forever changed Ireland’s political landscape as well as its American dimension.
“The webinar opened with the Republican prisoners’ statement declaring the 1980 Hunger Strike, read by Ancient Order of Hibernian President Danny O’Connell. Seven prisoners in the H-Bocks of Long Kesh began hunger strike on October 27,1980, demanding to be treated as political prisoners, “refusing to bow the knee before the British administration and wear a criminal uniform” despite years of British brutality. They were Brendan Hughes, Tommy McKearney, Leo Green, Sean McKenna, Raymond McCartney, Tom McFeeley and INLA member John Nixon.
“Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians President, Karen Keane, noted that Mairead Farrell, Mary Doyle and Mairead Nugent had joined the Hunger Strike on December 1st, from Armagh Women’s Prison. Past AOH President Judge James McKay, commended those using new technologies to bring key speakers from Ireland at this crucial time”. The support of other Irish organizations, including Irish Northern Aid, Irish American Unity Conference and the Brehon Law Society also welcomed.
“ Fra McCann former Belfast City Councilman, and elected Stormont Assembly member, explained how seeing British troops and Royal Ulster constabulary carrying out the Falls Curfew, Internment and Bloody Sunday, convinced him to join the Irish Republican Army and fight to end British rule. He was twice imprisoned as a political or special category prisoner, a status recognized by the British after a 1972 Hunger Strike led by legendary IRA Commander Billy McKee.
“However, in 1976 the British decided to deny jury trials and establish special laws for political offenses, then treat those jailed were criminals, not political prisoners. The new laws were central to a new strategy portraying all Irish resistance to British rule as a crime. The centerpiece of this new policy was making prisoners wear a criminal costume, instead of their own clothes as political prisoners.
“Kieran Nugent, Fra McCann’s lifelong friend, was the first man jailed in the H-Block cells in Long Kesh prison under the new British strategy. He said that if the British wanted him to wear a criminal costume, ‘they would have to nail it to him.’ Kieran Nugent was then forced to remain naked, except for a blanket. He and other Republican prisoners, called Blanketmen were systematically mistreated.
“Fra McCann joined the protest after being re-arrested. He and other Blanketmen were constantly beaten. There were no toilets in the cells, which became filled with human waste. Young prisoners were targeted for special beatings. The Blanketmen began a series of protests inside Long Kesh, while Cardinal O’Fiaich and others attempted to get the Thatcher regime to compromise.
“Upon his release Fra McCann was sent to America in the crucial battle for American opinion. He, Kieran Nugent and Liam Carlin, travelled to America despite being denied visas and legal entry. Fra McCann was smuggled into Buffalo then sent to New York. Irish American supporters sent him on a national tour including San Francisco, Chicago, Dayton Ohio, Albany, and Washington DC. doing newspaper and television interviews and meetings with Irish American supporters. In Boston he had to leave a press conference in the Massachusetts State House, as Immigration arrived.
“Caught by Immigration, a sympathetic judge told him to claim political asylum and released him. This meant Fra McCann could appear publicly at advertised events. When the Hunger Strike ended he was in New York, speaking in a packed hall alongside the United Nations. He saw headlines, ‘Irish Hunger Strikers near death.’ A leading politician pointed out Ireland was front page news in America for the first time since Bloody Sunday.
“Political commentator Andree Murphy was introduced by LAOH FFAI Chair Dolores Desch. Ms. Murphy described how the political campaign outside the prisons began with the mothers and relatives of Irish prisoners forming Relatives Action Committees to highlight conditions. These grew into a National H-Block Armagh Committee and protest marches began to turn out large numbers showing political support for the Blanketmen. The British reacted by deploying loyalists to assassinate leading members of the committee including Miriam Daly, John Turnley, Ronnie Bunting. Bernadette Devlin McAliskey, and her husband were severely wounded.
“As the campaign grew. British troops and Royal Ulster Constabulary took over. Women and children were killed with plastic bullets. The aim was to intimidate and criminalize supporters. Those killed were portrayed as rioters or criminals and no member of crown forces was held accountable.
“Before the Hunger Strikes, Ms. Murphy said, the north seemed to be ignored or forgotten in the 26 counties. By the end of the Hunger Strikes, the names of the Hunger Strikers could be seen on street corners across the country and the impact is felt in Irish politics today.
“Tommy McKearney described collusion and how loyalists, directed by British crown forces, killed members of his family as they worked the family owned shop. He himself was jailed after a Diplock non-jury trial, where the only evidence was a fabricated confession he had never made. A doctor employed by the RUC, Dr. Robert Irwin, made a formal complaint about the injuries he saw that Mr. McKearney suffered under interrogation. Dr. Irwin’s charges about beatings of suspects were highlighted by Amnesty International and a television documentary.
“After years of inhuman conditions, and the British refusing any compromises, he volunteered to go on Hunger Strike, and was chosen to represent Tyrone. He was near death, going in and out of consciousness at the time the Hunger Strike ended.
“The H-Bock prisoners expected the British to make gradual moves on a criminal uniform or other conditions. Instead Margaret Thatcher and the British decided to intensify efforts to break the prisoners and their struggle. Her miscalculation made the 1981 Hunger Strike and death of 10 Irish patriots inevitable.
“The 1980 Hunger Strike, changed the political landscape in America as well as Ireland, so that when Bobby Sands began his Hunger Strike in 1981, Irish America understood what was at stake, and was united and ready to respond. The numbers of people and Irish American groups who joined with the AOH and LAOH to watch this broadcast demonstrates that the legacy of the 1981 Hunger Strike Martyrs continues to inspire Irish Americans. That legacy will be in direct contrast with British celebrations of the 100th anniversary of partition and formation of the Orange State”.
National and NYS AOH FFAI Chair
by Mike McCormack, NY AOH Historian
Many believe the War of 1812 ended when Irish-American Andy Jackson beat the British at New Orleans on January 8, 1815. Actually that’s not true. The Brits were already beaten and had signed a peace treaty on December 24, 1814. The fact is that Major General Edward Pakenham, commander of British forces in North America, decided that before sailing back to England, he would loot a major U.S. city and headed for the richest plum in the south – New Orleans. He was also the man who beat the French who came to help the Irish in 1798. Packenham was a loyal Brit and hated the Irish and America. Fortunately, General Jackson also hated the Brits since his parents had been driven into exile from their Irish home. He went to New Orleans to stop Packenham, aided by the very same French General that Packenham had defeated in Ireland, but that’s another story for another time.
The war had started over the issue of British naval vessels stopping American ships on the high seas and removing crew members they felt were British citizens. The fact is that they were grabbing Irishmen since their loss in the American Revolution just 30 year earlier was due to the large number of Irish in Washington’s army. Writing about the Revolution, James Froude, English historian noted: Washington’s Irish supporters were the foremost, the most irreconcilable, and the most determined to push the quarrel to the last extremity. Major General Marquis de Chastellux wrote: On more than one occasion Congress owed their existence, and America her preservation to the fidelity and firmness of the Irish.
However, 30 years later, England was at war with Napoleon and the U.S. was trading with France. That made American shipping targets in the eyes of the Brits and if a war with America was in the cards, they didn’t want to face Irishmen in the American army again so they began impressing American seamen and also inciting Native Americans to attack American citizens on the frontier. On 18 June an angry Senate, following an equally furious Congress, voted to declare, for the first time in the young nation’s history, war against a foreign nation – Great Britain. President James Madison signed the declaration into law and the War of 1812 began. Sometimes called the Second War of Independence, battles raged on the high seas and British soldiers invaded American soil, captured Washington D.C., and even burned the White House. But it all boiled down to a major area of conflict on the 120 mile long Lake Champlain extending from British Canada into New York and Vermont. That 435-square-mile lake was the scene of several naval battles as the Brits sailed down from Quebec into the U.S.
Fortunately, one of Washington’s Irish-American revolutionary officers, Major Thomas McDonough, Sr., a hero of the battle of Long Island who was praised by Washington for gallantry, had a son who was just as ready as his father to fight the Brits. Grandson of James McDonough who migrated from Ireland in 1725, his name was Thomas Macdonagh Jr. He joined the new U.S. Navy, formed just a few years earlier in 1797, when President Washington gave Wexford-born Commodore John Barry Commission Number One. Three years later, in 1800, Thomas received a midshipman’s commission at the age of 16. He served with Stephen Decatur at Tripoli and as a member of a select group of U.S. naval officers under Commodore Preble attacking Barbary pirates. He was reassigned to command U.S. naval forces in Lake Champlain in October 1812 and in 1813, was promoted to master commandant. When the war began, there were only two American naval vessels on Lake Champlain and both were captured by the Brits giving them undisputed control of this strategic waterway. In a secret Vermont shipyard, MacDonough began construction of a corvette, a sloop, several gunboats and converted a schooner into a 17-gun warship. The Brits found and attempted to attack the shipyard with eight galleys and a sloop, but Macdonough learned of the coming attack and prepared a defense using his ship’s guns as a shore battery and repelled the attack driving them back to Canada.
With the way now clear, Macdonough’s squadron sailed out of the shipyard and made its way to Plattsburgh, NY, where it awaited a two-pronged British advance by land and lake. In August 1814, 10,000 British troops assembled at the US border to march south and attack Brigadier General Alex Macomb’s, army defending America’s northern border. Macomb, grandson of an Irish immigrant, had only 1500 men, but knowing he was greatly outnumbered, had his men fell trees and create fake roads to lead the Brits, unsure of the terrain, into dead-end traps where they became lost in the narrow maze of false roads and were targets of American ambush. Meanwhile, the Brits depended on their Navy which was headed for Plattsburgh to supply their planned advance into Vermont. This was now the most crucial part of the war. Macdonough knew Macomb was holding Plattsburgh and not allowing him to be surrounded by Brits forces on land and lake, was vital. The Royal Navy was on its way south to trap Macomb’s forces and open the door to an invasion of the U.S. However, Macdonagh had his back and his fleet was ready. On September 11, the Brits arrived and attacked Macdonough’s fleet with the firepower of a 36-gun flagship. As the battle unfolded, Macdonough fired a broadside severely damaging the British ship and forcing its surrender. Having removed the British flagship from action, the American forces captured or destroyed all the remaining ships in the fleet. On shore, the British, about to launch an assault on the American defenses, learned of the defeat of the British fleet. Without it, they had no choice but to abandon the expedition. They turned tail, returned to Canada and sued for peace. The War of 1812 was over. Both Macomb and Macdonagh received Congressional Gold Medals, a precursor to the Medal of Honor. In 1882, President Theodore Roosevelt wrote: Macdonough in this battle won a higher fame than any other commander of the war, British or American. He had a decidedly superior force to contend with and it was solely owing to his foresight and resource that we won the victory. His skill, seamanship, quick eye, readiness of resource, and indomitable pluck, are beyond all praise. Down to the time of the Civil War he is the greatest figure in our naval history. Macdonagh continued serving until 1818 when he was stricken with tuberculosis, yet at his request, he was granted command of the 44-gun frigate USS Constitution, Old Ironsides, in 1824. However, his health continued to worsen. On 14 October 1825, at Gibraltar, Macdonough turned command of Constitution over to another Irish-American – Captain Daniel Patterson who was born on Long Island to a Donegal immigrant father. Intending to return to New York, on 10 November 1825, 195 years ago this month, Thomas Macdonough, the hero of the War of 1812, died aboard ship as it was passing the Rock of Gibraltar. Shouldn’t Irish-Americans like that be remembered? Well, they are!
Standing on Washington Boulevard in Detroit where he was born is the statue of Gen. Alex Macomb, but Macdonogh is more celebrated. Several U.S. Navy ships have been named USS Macdonough; in 1937, he was on a US Postage Stamp; an annual 74-mile Commodore Macdonough sailboat race is held on Lake Champlain every September; the State University of NY at Plattsburgh has a dormitory named Macdonough Hall; the NY towns of Macdonough and East Macdonough and the greater Town of Macdonough in Chenango County are named after him; there is a Macdonough Hall at the US Naval Academy; the Macdonough Monument, a 135-foot-tall obelisk is located across from City Hall in Plattsburgh, N.Y. and in 1925, a Macdonough Monument was erected on the city green in Vergennes, Vermont to commemorate the secret building of the ships there used in the Battle of Plattsburgh. Macdonough County, Illinois is also named for him; two elementary schools in Delaware and Connecticut are named in his honor as are Macdonough Street in Montgomery, Alabama and Macdonagh Street in Brooklyn, NY. Macdonough is also the county seat of Henry County, Georgia and his home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. So now you know the War of 1812 was won by two Irish-Americans – Alex Macomb and Thomas Macdonagh and Andy Jackson just put the Irish-American seal of approval on it.
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
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