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.

Freedom For All Ireland Report – Chairman’s December Report on the Legacy of “Hunger Strike 1980”

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.

PRISONERS STATEMENT

 “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.   

BLANKETMEN

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.

AMERICAN HEADLINES

“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.

CAMPAIGN

“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.

NEAR DEATH

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.

REACTION

“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”.

Martin Galvin
National and NYS AOH FFAI Chair

Historical Happenings for November 2020

THOMAS MACDONAGH

by Mike McCormack, NY AOH Historian

                 Thomas Macdonagh Jr

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.

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

2021 NYS Convention to be Held in Syracuse

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.

Bob Bunce
2021 NYS Convention Committee 

From the Desk NYS AOH President – December 2020

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.

Tom Lambert,
President NYS Ancient Order of Hibernians

Aifreann Gaeilge/Irish Language Mass

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.

2020 NYS AOH Fall State Board Meeting

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.

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

2020 NYS AOH/LAOH President’s Testimonial Dinner


Due to the continuing Public Health Emergency the NYS AOH/LAOH President’s Testimonial Dinner will be postponed until Spring 2021. Date and location to be determined.

Being honored at the dinner are:

Thomas A. Lambert
 President, New York State AOH

Marybeth Durkee
President, New York State LAOH
and


Past National AOH President Brendan Moore
2020 Burns Hayes Award Recipient

 

Download the commemorative journal contract if your county, division or individual members wish to recognize our honorees. 
 
Fall meeting and  spring accommodations are available at:
 
Gavin’s Country Inn                                   Shamrock House
118 Golden Hill Road                                2388 Route 145
Cornwallville, NY 12418                            East Durham, NY 12423
518-634-2582                                            518-634-2897 or 347-241-6489