Freedom For All Ireland Report – February 2020

FFAI ISSUES UPDATE

A chairde:

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

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

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

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

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

CHRISTMAS APPEAL

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

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

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

Don’t let them down!!!

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

REGISTER NOW FOR PRESIDENTIAL FORUM

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

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

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

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

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

FFAI MONTHLY BULLETIN

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

Slan,

Martin Galvin
NYAOH FFAI Chair
National AOH FFAI Chair

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

Historical Happenings for February 2020

FATHER TOM O’REILLY

by Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

On a trip to Atlanta some years ago, I met Father Thomas O’Reilly – figuratively, of course, – since Father Tom passed away back in 1872. Yet in March 2007, he was honored with the City of Atlanta’s Phoenix Award in appreciation of his heroism and outstanding contributions to the City and citizens of Atlanta. It simply just begged the question: who was this remarkable man?
Born in Drumgora, Co. Cavan, in 1831, Thomas O’Reilly graduated All Hallows seminary in Dublin and was sent to the American south as a missionary priest in the area of Atlanta where Masses were held in private homes. In 1848, a wooden-frame church was built by a fellow Irish missionary, Father John Barry. The people named it the Church of the Immaculate Conception. That was remarkable since it was dedicated in 1849, six years before the Church had even defined its official dogma that Mary had been conceived without original sin. During the 1850’s prosperity abounded in Georgia; cotton was king and new factories were the order of the day as well as a new influx of Catholics. In 1861 Father Thomas O’Reilly was appointed pastor of Atlanta’s first Church and its missions. 

                   Father Thomas O’Reilly

Then came the Civil War and Atlanta became the military manufacturing and supply depot for the South. The city also became a main medical center with at least ten hospitals where thousands of wounded were treated. These hospitals occupied much of Father O’Reilly’s time. In 1864, the Union Army, led by General Sherman, laid siege to Atlanta during which Father O’Reilly ministered to both Union and Confederate wounded. He became a hero to both sides, hearing confessions, answering letters, saying Mass and performing last rites. On 2 September, 1864, the city fell to General Sherman who evicted many residents to allow housing for his army. Many were Father O’Reilly’s parishioners, but Catholics among the boys in blue now crowded his church on Sunday.
In the autumn of 1864, General Sherman, planning his ‘total war’ march to the sea at Savannah, ordered the entire city burned. An outraged Father O’Reilly sent word to Sherman that burning homes and churches was beyond the normal rules of warfare. Sherman was unresponsive. Father O’Reilly pleaded for a compromise that would spare his church. Sherman rejected the request. Father O’Reilly sent word that a number of Atlanta’s merchants and tradesmen who had not gone to war stood ready to defend their churches and among them were an Irish group known as The Hibernian Rifles. Further, he warned Sherman that the Union army had a high number of Irish Catholics and stated, ‘If you burn the Catholic church, all Catholics in the Union army will mutiny and if not, they will be excommunicated’. Sherman considered having Father O’Reilly executed, but feared mutiny among his Irish troops and finally relented. Then, an emboldened Father O’Reilly asked that the other churches be spared, as well as City Hall and the Court House since they were in close proximity to his church and the fire might spread. Sherman changed his orders to spare City Hall, the Court House and five churches including Immaculate Conception, Central Presbyterian, St. Phillip’s Episcopal, Second Baptist and Trinity Methodist. As the Federal Army moved out on its infamous march to the sea, only one-third of Atlanta survived with about 500 brave people and Father Tom O’Reilly. From this they would rebuild.
Feeling that their old church would be out of place in the new city going up around it, the parishioners built a new church on the same spot which stands to this day. Sadly, Father O’Reilly did not live to see it completed. In 1872, the ravages of war which had ruined his health, caused his death at 41 in a Virginia sanitarium. His remains were brought back to his beloved parish for the largest funeral ever held up to that time. Father O’Reilly was buried in a vault prepared beneath the altar of the rising new Church. As a result of Father O’Reilly’s heroic stand, and the bravery of the Hibernian Rifles, the City of Atlanta deeded the Hibernians a burial plot in Oakland Cemetery in 1873. The five churches and the City also erected a monument to Father O’Reilly on the grounds of City Hall. On 10 December, 1873, the new Church of the Immaculate Conception was formally dedicated and local newspapers described it as one of the most handsome in the South and an ornament to our city.

In 1879, General Sherman returned on an inspection tour of Atlanta’s Fort McPherson. He was surprised at the progress of the city, to which he gave a toast at a local reception. Surely, as he rode through the re-born city, he noticed the new church and the memory of the gentle but persistent Father O’Reilly had to come to his mind, for religion had finally won in his own life as well ─ at the time his son was studying for the priesthood! Although never a religious man, Sherman’s foster mother, Maria Ewing, was a devout Catholic of Irish ancestry as was his wife, Ellen. Sherman now lies in the Roman Catholic Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

On 18 October 1945, eighty-one years after his brave and defiant intercession, the Atlanta Historical Society erected a monument to Father O’Reilly in gratitude for saving the churches and City Hall in 1864. In truth he was like so many other courageous clerics from Father Murphy of Boolavogue to Archbishop ‘Dagger John’ Hughes of New York, but he was not as well known outside Atlanta. Ironically, his burial place was soon forgotten as the memory of this heroic priest began to fade especially with the new arrivals in the bustle of a growing metropolis. Then, in 1982, the Church of The Immaculate Conception caught fire and the roof fell in. It broke through the concrete floor of the church to reveal a long-forgotten crypt. In it were the coffins of Father O’Reilly and his successor Father Cleary. The discovery resurrected the story of this hero of Atlanta and the crypt was made accessible to pilgrims. A small adjacent room contains museum-style glass cases with artifacts of the Church’s history and the resurrection of Atlanta from the ashes of the Civil War. In one of those cases, beside a portrait of Father O’Reilly, lies his membership ribbon from Atlanta AOH Division 1!

J. Barney Ferguson Hibernian of The Year Award

William B. Burke Division Three, New York County Ancient Order of Hibernians will honor Malachy McAllister with the J. Barney Ferguson Hibernian of the Year Award. All Brother Hibernians are invited to join in honoring and to continue support Malachy McAllister’s battle for permanent residence in the United States..

Coogan’s Restaurant
4015 Broadway (cor. 169th St.)
New York, NY 10032

Monday Evening, March 2, 2020
6:30- 8:30 p.m.

tickets: $40 in advance
$45 at the door

$42.50 using paypal

Committee:
James Hamilton (646) 406-5804
Paul Carr, Brian Fitzpatrick, Tom Mullany – Co-Chairmen
Event flyer is available at www.div3nycoaoh.org

Historical Happenings for January 2020

WASHINGTON AND HIS MONUMENT

By Mike McCormack, AOH Historian

George Washington held a special place in Irish hearts. No, he was not Irish, but he did have an Irish cousin named McCarthy by marriage.  However, he did appreciate the contributions of the Irish in his Colonial Army. During the revolution, he even issued a proclamation in honor of the high percentage of Irish under his command, declaring March 17, 1780 a holiday for the Army. It was their first holiday in two years and he wrote it was “an act of solidarity with the Irish in their fight for independence“. He also had two Irish-born Aides-de-Camp: Lt. Colonels John Fitzgerald and Stephen Moylan.  When the Revolution ended, no man commanded more respect than he. After building a fighting force that won independence from the most powerful kingdom on earth, in 1789 he was unanimously elected President and defined the new office. He denied the trappings of power by refusing a kingship and, despite considerable pressure to do otherwise, gave up his most powerful position after two terms since he felt that a President could never become as powerful as the king they just fought. Though many wanted him for a third term, in 1797 he retired and went home to build a business with Irish-born Lt. Col. Fitzgerald.

Progress towards a memorial in his honor began in 1833 – the 100th anniversary of his birth – as the Washington National Monument Society began collecting donations.  By the mid-1830s, they had more than $28,000 and they started construction believing that the appearance of the Monument would spur further donations. In 1848 a cornerstone was laid in an elaborate Fourth of July ceremony and construction continued until 1854, when donations ran out. The next year, Congress voted to appropriate $200,000 to continue the work but, they halted it before the money was allocated. The reversal came because of a series of shameful events.

The Society had also encouraged the donation of memorial stones to be used on the inside walls and organizations, societies, businesses and foreign nations donated blocks of marble, granite and sandstone. However, one stone stopped not only the Congressional appropriation but construction altogether.  In 1854, Pope Pius IX contributed a block of costly variegated marble from the Temple of Peace in Rome built in 366 B.C.  It bore the inscription, ‘From Rome to America’.  The stone, 3 feet long, 18 inches high and 10 inches thick was stored with other gift stones from across the States and the world, waiting to be installed.

On the night of 5 March 1854, several anti-Catholic Know Nothing nativists tied up the night watchman, stole the Papal stone, broke it with sledge hammers and threw it into the Potomac to insure that the monument would fit their definition of ‘American.’ Two stones donated by Ireland were also lost. The watchman was fired and the Society put up a $500. reward for the thieves.  They were never caught.  Know-Nothings then ran a fraudulent election and took over the Society whereby Congress rescinded its $200,000 contribution.  Know-Nothings added 13 parts to the Monument – all of which were of such poor quality they were later removed.  Unable to fund the project, they returned all records to the original Society in 1858. 

In 1876, the Centennial of the Declaration of Independence, Congress appropriated another $200,000 and the partial monument, which stood as a public embarrassment for 18 years, was now ready for completion.  Construction resumed in 1879 under Irish-American Lt. Col. Thomas Casey of the Army Corps of Engineers.  He strengthened the foundation to support more than 40,000 tons, followed the original plans and even incorporated the 170-foot tall pile of memorial stones which had been a target of ridicule by the media.  Casey recognized that the donors wanted them to be a part of the memorial, so he installed all 193 stones as part of the interior walls. However, he was unable to find the same quarry stone used earlier, resulting in the bottom third of the monument being a slightly different color than the rest.  On 6 December 1884, a 100 ounce aluminum capstone was put in place during an elaborate dedication ceremony. In the 1880s, aluminum was a rare metal, selling for $1.10 an ounce and used mostly for jewelry. All four faces of the pyramid-shaped capstone are engraved with related information and the words Laus Deo (Praise be to God) are prominently engraved on the east face. At the time, a 55.5 foot base and a height of 555.5 feet made it the tallest building in the world; it is still the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world and was, by law, the tallest building in Washington D.C.

I wrote this story in the Hibernian Digest and in conversation with our NY State Treasurer, Tommy Beirne, he informed me that the Pope’s stone had eventually been found and I should check out that part of the story.  Knowing that Tommy is well informed in Irish and American history, I did just that.  I learned that in June 1892, divers digging foundations for a new pier discovered the corner of a large stone.  It was a sharply cut and beautifully polished piece of variegated marble about six inches thick, a foot and a half high by three feet long.  One side had the damaged inscription: Ro—t—merica, cut deep in Gothic characters.  In the crowd of spectators was an elderly gentleman who struck the stone with his cane. Shouting, Where did that thing come from?  It’s the Devil’s own work and it’s come back from hell where it belongs, at which point the old man ran off.  He was obviously an old Know-Nothing leftover!  The stone was stored in a small shed nearby for safekeeping until it could be donated to the Smithsonian.  However, on the night of 19 June, the crew locked the shed door and left for a supper. When they returned, the stone was gone.  Nobody ever found out what had happened, although in May 1959, the local Evening Star printed an urban legend that the stone was buried under 21st and R Streets, N.W.  Our thanks to Tommy for the ‘rest of the story’.

Memorial stones are now accepted only in very rare circumstances, such as the admission of a new state to the union or replacement of a previously donated stone.  At any rate, a new “Pope’s Stone” was commissioned by a priest in Spokane, Washington and installed in the monument by the National Park Service in 1982. Later that same year, the Vatican did indeed donate another stone to replace the first.  It is made of shiny white marble and is now inside the Monument, at the 340 foot level, on the west wall of the stairway. The inscription is “A ROMA AMERICAE” (Latin for From Rome to America.) Although it’s not the original, it’s a good reminder of the resilience of those it represents.  Then on March 17, 2016 it was announced that the offer of a plaque from Ireland was accepted by the director of the National Park Service. The presentation was made in May 2016 by Senator Mark Daly of the Irish Seanad Éireann, Irish Spokesman for the Irish Diaspora.  After 183 years, the monument is now complete!

Freedom For All Ireland Report – December 2019

A chairde:

FFAI ISSUES UPDATE

 

A-Johnson has his Brexit majority – Boris Johnson picked up 47 seats and an overall majority more than 70 seats, which will empower him “to get Brexit done quickly.” Meanwhile wins by nationalists and republicans in the north and the Scottish National Party in Scotland, kept Irish unity and Scottish independence on the agenda.

 Johnson called the British General Election after a series of parliamentary defeats blocked him from moving forward with Brexit and his renegotiated withdrawal agreement out of the European Union. He banked on winning an outright Tory majority in the election, picking up enough MPs approve his deal. With the largest Tory majority in 30 years, he has his parliamentary backing to get out of the EU by 31 January. Johnson wants to complete a new trade deal with the bloc by December 2020 or go without any trade deal and terminate any interim agreements by the end of 2020.

 Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbin will resign after the worst showing by Labour in 30 years.

 In the north the Democratic Unionist Party, went into the election with 10 seats and expected to pick up the seat vacated by the retiring Sylvia Hermon. Instead the DUP suffered a “Friday the 13th nightmare” defeat. Both deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Emma Little-Pengelly were ousted, while the vacated seat was taken by Alliance.

 The SDLP won seats in Derry and South Belfast, leaving the DUP and unionists with only 8 of the north’s 18 Westminster seats. It is the first time nationalist parties held more seats than unionists in the six counties. Nationalists swept all border communities and 3 of Belfast’s 4 seats.

The DUP also lost all leverage at Westminster. The party’s 10 votes had been needed first by Theresa May and then Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister. However the DUP broke with Johnson over his Brexit plan, calling it a “betrayal agreement” because it allowed for checks and regulations on goods which crossed the Irish sea. Getting his Brexit deal done proved more important to Johnson than keeping his word to unionists about avoiding a line down the Irish Sea.DUP objections to Johnson’s deal will now be dismissed.  

 The loss of Nigel Dodds, party leader at Westminster, and the seat he had held for 18 years to John Finucane, was a bitter blow for the party.

Meanwhile the SNP swept 48 of Scotland 59 seats. Party leader Nicola Sturgeon called the result a “renewed, refreshed and strengthened” mandate for Scottish independence. Johnson said he will not allow Scotland a new referendum on independence but the calls for a new referendum continue and will be noted in Ireland.

B-Britain reneges on OTR letters for Republicans while moving  amnesty for British troopers-Sixty-seven year old John Downey, is being held without bail in Maghaberry Prison, on IRA related charges from 1972,despite an OTR pledge by the British crown that he would not be prosecuted. Meanwhile Boris Johnson has pledged what amounts to a legal amnesty for British troopers, by changing the Human Rights Act, to cease applying to any acts by British forces that took place before 2000, including murders during the Troubles.

This move would cut-off access to British courts for relatives of victims killed by British crown forces, and violate specific sections of the Good Friday Agreement where Britain pledged to put the European Convention of Human Rights into law for the north, with direct access to the courts.

John Downey had been arrested in 2013 and accused of involvement in an IRA attack in England.However those charges were dismissed because he had been granted immunity in an OTR “on the run” letter,which pledged he was not wanted for arrest, questioning or charge by the crown. Terms for the release of Republican prisoners and closure for those Republicans, who the crown wanted to make prisoners for pre-1998 actions, were high on the agenda in negotiations. Tony Blair, the British leader in these negotiations, said the OTR issue was “absolutely critical”, “fundamental” and talks could have “collapsed” without a satisfactory settlement. Negotiations on OTRs continued after the Good Friday Agreement and were amplified in the Weston Park Accord of 2001.The British, in Paragraph 20, pledged to take such steps necessary to insure that prosecutions for pre-April 1998 actions against members of organizations on ceasefire were “no longer pursued”. Administrative mechanisms were constructed to carry oral and later written immunity pledges. Senior staff  were assigned to carry out this agreed process. Republicans who had lived years outside the north returned home and lived openly. Following the 2013 arrest and the 2014 dismissal of all charges, the British apparently decided to renege on these immunity grants and make an example of John Downey.

Meanwhile the one-sided secretive scheme of undeclared immunity or impunity for members of the British Army or constabulary who committed or colluded in sanctioned murders is now about to be made British law.

 C-Stormont agreement expected from new talks-After a nearly  three year absence, talks are beginning this week which are expected to revive the Stormont Assembly. Past talks broke down, most notably in February 2018 when the DUP reneged on an agreement because supporters would not accept an Irish Language Act. However the election results put new pressure on both the DUP and Sinn Fein to make an agreement. The British General Election took away the DUP’s leverage at Westminster and cost it two seats while the Sinn Fein vote share was also reduced. British colonial secretary Julian Smith  threatened to call new six county Assembly elections, if there is no deal by mid-January. Stormont collapsed in January 2017 when Martin McGuinness resigned as deputy first minister over the DUP’s handling of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme. Other issues, such as an Irish Language Act, reform of the Petition of Concern and the legacy of the Troubles, have also come to the fore in successive rounds of failed talks aimed at restoring power-sharing.The talks will begin with individual meetings between Smith and the five largest Assembly parties, the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, Ulster Unionists and Alliance before moving to round table talks. The Irish government is also scheduled to join in the talks.

D-Veteran Republican Ivor Bell vindicated after 5 year ordeal-The five year prosecution of 82 year old prominent Irish Republican Ivor Bell, ended with his being cleared of all charges and a ruling that there was not any admissible evidence against him. Bell had been in his late 70s in 2014, when taken from his home and charged with soliciting the death and disappearance of an informer more than 40 years earlier. Ivor Bell had been one of a 5 member delegation flown to England to represent the IRA in negotiations with the British in 1972,as well as a former IRA Chief of staff and Belfast Commander. The controversial charges were based on statements allegedly made by him in an interview recorded on the Boston College tapes. Bell said he was not the man on the tapes, known as ‘Interviewee Z’ and that he had been living in County Louth at the time of the Belfast killing. The interviewee said only that he was opposed to disappearing or secretly burying any informers killed by the IRA. After 5 years of stringent bail restrictions and petty harassment, the tapes were ruled unreliable and could not be used as evidence against Mr Bell. The judge told jurors: “There is now no evidence which the prosecution can put before you in order to support the case.”My role now is to direct you to return a verdict of not guilty, because you simply cannot find him to have done the acts alleged.”Mr Bell’s solicitor, Peter Corrigan, said his client had been vindicated. The Boston tapes were an oral history project, commissioned by Boston College. Recordings were made of interviews with former combatants about their activities during the Troubles on the understanding these would not be made public until after their deaths. Ed Moloney, the journalist behind the Boston College project, said he welcomed Mr Bell’s acquittal.

 

                CHRISTMAS  APPEAL

  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is no fiend of Ireland or Irish justice. His top issue is Brexit no matter what Brexit means for Ireland. He wants to deny truth and justice to the families of victims murdered by the crown or loyalist agents by laws that remove Human Rights Acts protections formally agreed in the Good Friday Agreement. He will continue austerity cuts in funding that will bring greater hardship in the six counties.

At times like these, Irish people in the north look to America to stand behind them. We have already received more appeals for help than ever before. America can make a difference for them, at this crucial time but only if the AOH and LAOH, as the voice of the Irish in America, lead the way. Our donations to carefully chosen charities through monies raised by the FFAI Annual Christmas Appeal, alongside our political and educational campaigns, are the cornerstone of our FFAI initiative.

 

           Don’t let them down!!!

           AOH-LAOH FFAI CHRISTMAS APPEAL

                                            PO Box 904

                                          Jefferson Valley,

                                         New York 10535

 

  TIME TO MAKE McALLISTER’S VICTORY FINAL

 

It was a “Happy Thanksgiving” for Malachy McAllister, his supporters and for justice. After yet another six months of deep anxiety for himself and his family, the combined efforts by political leaders, Cardinal Dolan and the AOH succeeded in halting Malachy’s deportation for another six months. It is too important a victory to be hollowed out, or even lost, six months from now.

One can only imagine what it is must be like for Malachy to face the real threat of deportation again and again.

Few individuals could have earned the sympathy and backing of the range of supporters necessary to keep him here, given the current political climate. Senators Menendez, Schumer, Congressmen King, Engel, Smith and Pascrell were among those who personally intervened with the administration. Cardinal Dolan called the President. Many law enforcement and military officials publicly endorsed him. The Irish Embassy backed him. The AOH and other Irish organizations campaigned for him. 

Malachy has multiple grounds which should have entitled him to full legal permanent residence under American law. He has lived in America for decades, is a father , successful businessman and, respected member of the Irish-American community. He should  be allowed to live here without semi-annual battles against  deportation hanging over his head, where the British and DHS as the expression goes “only have to get lucky once.”

In 1997 the Irish political deportee cases were settled by the Clinton administration, upon formal request by  Secretary of State Albright to Attorney General Reno.It was supposed to open the door for others. Malachy McAllister found the door had been shut. Malachy McAllister, was involved in a conflict which is long over. Clearly Cardinal Dolan, leading politicians, law enforcement and so many Irish Americans would not have backed a criminal. America must not continue to victimize him and his family at Britain’s behest! We cannot enjoy Malachy’s victory only to see him go through it again in 6 months.

                                                 

 FFAI MONTHLY BULLETIN

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

                                                     Slan,

                                                 MARTIN GALVIN

             NOLLAIG SHONA DAOIBH!-MERRY CHRISTMAS

Bronx Hibernians bestow honors

Pictured at the gathering are (l-r) Honoree Sean Ruane, Margaret Ryan Gravelli (sister of the late Liam Ryan), Relatives for Justice CEO Mark Thompson, Mary Ryan (sister of the late Liam Ryan), AOH Bronx County Board President Martin Galvin, honoree Tom Lambert (president, AOH NYS), AOH Bronx Hibernian of the Year Bob Nolan, and Father Brian McCarthy (chaplain). Among the honorees, though not pictured, was Brian O’Dwyer, Grand Marshal of the 2019 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo by Nuala Purrcell.

(click on picture for the complete article from the Irish Echo)

Historical Happenings for December 2019

GEORGE WASHINGTON’S CHRISTMAS IRISH

by Mike McCormack, AOH National Historian

There were a few Irishmen living in and around Trenton, NJ prior to the Revolutionary War. Among them were Paddy Colvin and Sam McConkey, who ran two Delaware River ferries; Paddy Lamb, who resided near Quaker Bridge on Assunpink Creek; and John Honeyman, a retired British soldier, now a butcher and cattle-dealer in nearby Griggstown. They were all there during a very special Christmas.

Toward the end of 1776, George Washington’s patriot army retreated from New York through New Jersey, headed for the Delaware River with the British army in hot pursuit. On 1 December, he sent a message to Congress in Philadelphia to quickly line up a fleet of boats at Trenton to get him across the Delaware into Pennsylvania. Wexford-born Captain John Barry contacted his friend Cavan-born Paddy Colvin who set to the task. No bridges spanned the river and yet it had to be crossed quickly or the patriot army could be trapped on its banks. Colvin owned the closest ferry to Trenton and knew all the fords and obstacles of the river and how to avoid them. He also knew who owned other ferries and boats and where they could be found. He placed all this valuable information, as well as his ferry, at the service of Washington’s patriot army. On 3 December, Washington’s advance guard reached Trenton, and Colvin began ferrying them across the Delaware. Early on December 8, Washington crossed with the rear guard. Colvin was at his post continually and with his fellow ferrymen, got the army safely across, just as the British entered Trenton. A disappointed Cornwallis found all boats safely moored on the Pennsylvania side of the river, which was now an impassable barrier between him and the disorganized patriot army he had hoped to capture on the Jersey shore. Cornwallis left a force to hold Trenton and re-located to Princeton. Washington set up headquarters in Pennsylvania about half a mile north of Colvin’s Ferry.
Concerned that the British would build their own boats or bring them over land to attack him, Washington decided to cross the Delaware on Christmas and surprise them first, but he needed to know the disposition of the British in Trenton. He met with Armagh-born John Honeyman, a local butcher and cattle dealer who had retired from the British army, but was now supporting the patriot’s cause. As a butcher, Honeyman had traded with and was familiar to the British and their Hessian allies. From him, Washington learned of the meager force of Hessians left by Cornwallis to guard Trenton. Under the pretense of having escaped from Washington’s camp, he was sent back to the Hessian camp to inform their commander, Col. Johann Rall, that the colonials were in no shape to attack. He told Col. Rall that Washington’s men were demoralized, suffering dreadfully from the cold and hunger and that many were even unshod. Hoping that the Hessians had been lulled into a false sense of security, Washington chose that bitingly cold Christmas night to cross the ice-choked Delaware River and surprise the unprepared Hessian force who would likely have spent the previous night celebrating Christmas. Like most of Washington’s clandestine operators, few formal records exist of Honeyman’s activities, but his actions were recognized and celebrated by friends and family after the revolution.

Washington then arranged with Paddy Colvin to cross at a few ferries since Colvin knew the river better than anyone and was trusted as a friend of Capt. John Barry. Like Honeyman, Paddy Colvin’s name would have been forgotten were it not for Rev. A. Lambing who, in 1885, found a mention of him in an old Trenton paper. He resolved to know more about him, and made him a subject of investigation.1 Fortunately he did, for were it not for Lambing’s research, Colvin may have suffered undeserved anonymity in history just like Honeyman. From Lambing we learned that Patrick Colvin of Co. Cavan, bought a ferry on the Delaware River in 1772 and for 20 years, Morrisville, PA was known as Colvin’s Ferry. Considering the number of times that Washington’s forces were transported across the Delaware, it was most fortunate that the ferry was in the hands of a patriot like Colvin. Colvin’s Ferry – the oldest ferry on the Delaware – was less than 2 miles from Trenton. Other ferries were McConkey’s Ferry 9 miles above Trenton, Howell’s ferry 4 miles above and Dunk’s ferry 10 miles below.
So it was that on Christmas night and the morning of St. Stephen’s Day, 1776, Washington quietly crossed the Delaware into New Jersey in a biting wind and snow storm, successfully surprised the Hessians and captured Trenton. Washington knew the importance of holding Trenton and that Cornwallis would soon be on his way back to recapture it. He decided to stand and fight, but the rest of his army was still on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware. Furthermore, he had about 1,000 prisoners to lock up. W.H. Davis in his History of Morrisville wrote: A long fatiguing march to McConkey’s Ferry would have been a great hardship to men so severely tried. There seems to be no escaping the conclusion that they crossed at Colvin’s Ferry. Thus, Washington re-crossed the river and mustered the rest of his forces to cross and fortify Trenton before Cornwallis could arrive. On 30 December, Washington crossed back into New Jersey at McKonkey’s Ferry, with his troops crossing simultaneously at several Ferries.2 All the necessary boats were waiting, but the river was still choked with large masses of floating ice being carried rapidly by the swift current and extending out from both shores. Navigation was near impossible but Colvin supervised the crossing with great skill.

Meanwhile, Cornwallis, hearing of the fall of Trenton, left two regiments to fortify Princeton and marched back to Trenton. Washington sent out small units, under Co. Offaly-born Col. Edward Hand, to harass the oncoming British. These small bands succeeded in slowing Cornwallis down, inflicting heavy casualties, but the British force still arrived in force by late afternoon on 2 January. Washington was ready. The Second Battle of Trenton began with the armies facing each other, only 200 yards apart at a small bridge on either side of Assunpink Creek. Cornwallis made three attempts to take the bridge, but each one failed and Cornwallis withdrew for the night. Hundreds of British dead and wounded were recovered from the bridge and Cornwallis told his army, Rest now, we’ll bag the fox in the morning.

That night, Washington’s army built up their campfires to burn all night and silently slipped away. A small group was left behind to noisily build fortifications as if they were planning to defend at dawn, but also to cover the sound of the rest of the army slipping away. Washington and his force led by General John Sullivan, son of Co. Kerry immigrants, snuck away in the night. Another local Irishman, Paddy Lamb, guided them along back roads around the British forces to launch a surprise attack on the British force left in Princeton. Cornwallis awoke in the morning to distant cannon fire as the attack on Princeton had begun. He quickly divided his army and sent a force to relieve Princeton but they were too late to prevent another American victory. Meanwhile, darkness put an end to the second battle of Trenton. The British were driven back everywhere. Assunpink creek ran red with British blood as the entire campaign was decided in the patriot’s favor. As Washington went into winter quarters, he was master of New Jersey. The war had finally turned in his favor and new recruits poured in thanks to a courageous group of Irishmen who helped Washington’s army when they needed it most.

McConkey, the owner of other ferry where Washington crossed some troops was also an Irishman by birth. Historian John D McCormack, editor of the Potter’s Journal whose painstaking research into the early history of New Jersey brought many obscure records of the Colonial period to light, was a native of Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary and no stranger to conflict. As a boy, he had been held by a British Police Squad that commandeered his family home during the Young Irelander uprising in 1848. McCormack wrote, Colvin was a Catholic and McConkey was a Presbyterian in religion. Yet I find that these two Irishmen, holding religious beliefs so divergent, laid their theological differences upon the altar of their country, and made common cause to secure our independence. It is a rule that has but few exceptions 3 and also a story that has few more laudable heroes. Washington’s army endured a bitterly painful Christmas so that we might enjoy a peaceful one. Let us remember their saving sacrifice this year as we celebrate the birth of our heavenly savior.

1 Catholic Historical Researches, edited by Rev. A.A. Lambing, July 1885, Page 19
2 Extract of Lawrence H. Hale letter written to Theodore W. Bozarth:
3 History of Bucks Co. PA, Chapter XLII & XLIII, 1804:

Historical Happenings for November 2019

THE IRISH BRIGADE COMES HOME TO NEW YORK

By Mike McCormack, AOH NY State Historian

Prior to the American Civil War, the regular Army was small reflecting the logic that America was best defended by hundreds of volunteer militia units. Many were little more than glorified fraternal organizations, filled with men who liked to parade, drink, and sometimes drill.  New York had the Continental Guards, German Black Sharp-shooters and Hungarian Kossuth Rifles among others.  Not to be outdone, the Irish formed the O’Connell Guards, Irish Rifles and Irish Zouaves.  The more serious of these units were mustered into a formal state militia.  On October 12, 1851, the 69th New York State Militia Regiment was officially organized.  It consisted of eight companies of 643 men each, most of Irish birth or parentage. Within a year it topped 1,000. The regiment would go on to earn fame and glory during the Civil War as a key part of the Irish Brigade. The heroic sacrifice of the Irish in battle boosted the reputation of the Irish in America and provided a new and more ennobling meaning to the term “fighting Irish.”

When the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861, Regimental Colonel Sligo-born Michael Corcoran called for the American Irish to join the 69th.   More than 5,000 applied for only 1,500 billets and 11 days later, Corcoran and his regiment marched down Broadway and steamed away to defend the Union capital in D.C.  The first test for the 69th was the Battle of Bull Run.  In their first battle, the inexperienced Union army cut and ran back to D.C., but one unit that earned praise was the 69th Regiment who stayed to provide cover for the fleeing troops.  They were the last to leave the field suffering 97 casualties and 95 captured, including Colonel Corcoran.  The 69th returned to NY to rebuild their tattered ranks. Acting Commander, Captain Thomas Francis Meagher, began recruiting from the Hibernian House on Prince Street. When thousands of Irish responded, Meagher requested permission to form a Brigade. The Army was against forming ethnic brigades, but since England was trading with the Confederacy, they felt that fielding an Irish unit might just give the British pause and so they agreed and the Irish Brigade was born. It included the 69th, 88th and 63rd NY regiments and, later, the 28th Mass and 116th Pennsylvania.  Some joined for the $300 signing bonus which was sent to family in Ireland, some out of a sense of duty toward their adopted land and some because of British support for the Confederacy. 

The Irish Brigade saw some of the war’s harshest battles and they earned a reputation as the most courageous unit in the Army of the Potomac. After one battle, President Lincoln visiting the troops lifted a corner of the Irish battle flag, kissed it and said, God Bless the Irish Flag.  Meagher had ordered 69-caliber smoothbore muskets for his men.  They were considered obsolete, but very effective at close range which was the style of fighting he wanted because they fired the more deadly buck and ball ammunition and could take down 3 men at a time.  Close up fighting made the Brigade fearsome, but also produced heavy casualties since they had to get up close to be effective.  The Brigade fought in every campaign of the Army of the Potomac, from the peninsular campaign in 1862 to the surrender of Lee at Appomattox in 1865.  At Fair Oaks, Gaines Mill, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and every major battle fought by the Army of the Potomac, the figure of General Meagher was seen leading his men into battle.  Between campaigns new Irish were recruited to replace the fallen.  Among all their battles the three most costly were Antietam, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg.  The Sept, 1862 battle of Antietam was the deadliest day in American history, with 23,000 killed and wounded. The Brigade suffered 540 casualties and Gen McClelland later wrote, The Irish Brigade sustained their well-earned reputation, suffering terribly in officers and men, and strewing the ground with their enemies, as they drove them back.  Three months later, the Brigade assaulted Confederate entrenchments along Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg achieving international fame with the tenacity of their attack and eliciting cheers from their rebel adversaries, many of whom were Irish themselves.  The next day, only 280 of 1,300 men were able to report for duty. Gen. Robert E. Lee later wrote, Never were men so brave. They ennobled their race by their splendid gallantry.  In July 1863 at Gettysburg they successfully countered a Confederate offensive near Little Round Top losing 202 men killed out of 530. When Lee finally surrendered to Grant at Appomattox in April 1865, the Brigade was there.  One rebel officer told a Union officer, the only reason you won was because you had more Irish than we had!  On May 23 and 24, 1865 they paraded in review in Washington D.C. and in the following months, they returned to their homes to celebrate the new national holiday declared by President Lincoln two years earlier — Thanksgiving.  Returning  to New York, they received a tumultuous welcome from not only the Irish citizens, but from all who had followed their courageous history.

In post-war America, the Irish still faced poverty but discrimination had diminished. Many Americans accorded the Irish a new level of respect since many thousands had made the ultimate sacrifice defending the Union and, as a testament to their bravery, 7 were presented with the Medal of Honor.  Soon it became unfashionable to discriminate against the Irish and the NO IRISH NEED APPLY signs began to disappear from Help Wanted ads.  And that was perhaps the greatest victory for the Irish Brigade.  Of the 7,715 men who served in its ranks, 961 were killed and more than 3,000 were wounded – more than ever served in its ranks at any one time. The 69th NY suffered 75 per cent casualties while the British Light Brigade memorialized by Alfred Lord Tennyson for riding into the ‘Valley of Death’ lost less than 37 per cent.  There is no famous verse for the Irish, but author Joseph Bilby in his book Remember Fontenoy wrote, The Irish Brigade was, many said, the best brigade in the Army of the Potomac. Some said it was the best brigade in the whole Union army and perhaps the best infantry brigade on either side. Today, others with the perspective of history have come to believe it may have been the best infantry brigade that ever was!