Historical Happenings for June 2020

A LITTLE GREEN IN THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE

by Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

 June 14 is a special day for America and especially for the Irish in America.  It is a day set aside to honor our national emblem ─ the stars and stripes.  June 14 is Flag Day, a day when we should all be flying our flag in its honor.  Why is it flag day, what does it mean, and what is our flag anyway that it should have a day of its own?

When you describe it in terms of material, it is only a piece of cloth, dyed with a little blue and red that makes a design symbolizing these United States.  And that may be all that it is to some; to those who show it no respect, to those who make clothing from it or to those who have the audacity to burn it.  But that piece of cloth is so much more than material.  It’s even more than a symbol, it’s an emotion and it’s a frame of mind.  The design on that banner wasn’t simply selected because it was attractive; there is a story in that flag.  In British North America, each of the 13 colonies had its own flag.  When they dared to unify and challenge the Crown for their liberty, they sought a banner that would represent them all and define that unity and that freedom.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress enacted a resolution that the flag of these United States should be 13 stripes alternating white and red to represent the purity of their new nation and the blood spilled to win it.  In the corner would be 13 white stars on a field of blue to represent a new constellation in the heavens ─ it was to be called the United States of America.  Later, when the country began to grow, the flag grew as well.  In 1794, when Vermont and Kentucky entered the Union, two more stars and two more stripes were added, but Congress later ordered that the stripes be restored to 13 in remembrance of the 13 original colonies, and allowed that only a new star would be added for each new state.

That’s how it was born, but like most infants, the real story is in how it grew up and it had a few Irish godfathers to help it.  It had a violent birth and the first to carry it into battle was Commodore John Barry, the Irish-born father of the American Navy.  It was also carried by General William Thompson of Co Meath, who became the first commissioned officer in the new United States Army and scores of others who gave their lives that it might fly unchallenged over a free nation and most of those in General Washington’s forces just happened to be Irish!  But those who gave their lives, didn’t give it for a piece of cloth, they gave it for an ideal.  They gave it so that the new constellation would not disappear, for that new flag was not like the flag of any other nation on earth. It didn’t represent a race, an ethnic group or a nationality as other flags did it represented freedom for all races; a truly radical idea.  And, in that respect, it was the first of its kind on earth.

And everyone in America supported it, whether their heritage was Jewish, Italian, Polish, Greek, German, Irish or other.  Yet it held a special place in the hearts of the Irish for this was an emblem that represented all they had ever hoped to achieve, but were denied in their own land.  Like Barry and Thompson in the American Revolution, they felt an emotion for this emblem and came to its aid at every call.  In the War of 1812, the British had to be reminded that our 21-year old United States was not just a temporary union.  They kidnapped American seamen who they claimed were English subjects; of course they were our Irish immigrants who they didn’t want to face once more in battle as they had in the Revolution.  And those same Brits ran from its colors in the final battle of that war at New Orleans where it was carried by General Andrew Jackson, the son of County Antrim immigrants.  When a great civil war threatened to tear that flag in half, among the Americans who rallied to its protection were Thomas Francis Meagher and the famed Irish Brigade who left many a son of Erin on the battlefield so that the stars and stripes might not fall.  It has been carried against oppression by the fighting 69th and led many an Irish heart to victory for his adopted land and there is a fair measure of Irish blood in the red of its stripes.  And while it has flown victorious in battle, it has also draped the coffins of America’s heroes, from her foot soldiers to her Presidents.

It has a grand and glorious history that star spangled banner of ours, and I daresay there’s not another one that can match it.  It is a proud ensign that bows to the flag of no other nation on earth and that tradition was started by an Irishman at the 1908 summer Olympics in London.  NYPD Patrolman Matthew McGrath was a Tipperary-born hammer thrower on the American team and, as the team approached the King of England’s Royal Box during the opening ceremony where all teams dipped their nation’s flags in respect, McGrath broke ranks and stepped up to the American flag bearer and said, Dip our flag and you will be in hospital tonight.  The flag was not dipped and caused an international incident.  Many said the Irishman just wanted to insult the English King, but team-mate, Mayo-born discus thrower Martin Sheridan cleared that up at a news conference. Sheridan spoke for the entire Olympic team when he pointed to the American flag and said, That flag dips to no earthly king.  That precedent is still followed today.  The American Flag has never been dipped to anyone since that day in 1908.  The only time the American flag can legitimately be lowered is in honor of a deceased American.  Yet, there are five locations where even that cannot happen ─ even upon the death of a President.  Under no circumstances is the flag ever lowered over the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia (its reputed birthplace); over the national memorials of the Alamo, the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor and the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The last one is because no one can reach it; it’s the American flag planted on the moon.

There has been much praise written for that grand old ensign of ours and it is fitting that some of its most memorable praise came with a bit of an Irish flavor.  When Francis Scott Key wrote the poem, Star Spangled Banner, it was put to the tune of a popular song of the day: To Anacreon in Heaven, but the melody, to which that popular song was written, was a planxty composed by the legendary Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan.   And it was never praised with more respect than by one of Irish-America’s favorite sons: George M Cohan.  Call it what you will: the Grand Old Flag, Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes or the Star Spangled Banner; June 14th is our flag’s birthday.  Long may it wave.

(repeated from June 2010 by request)

Freedom For All Ireland Report – May 2020

May 2020

FFAI ISSUES UPDATE
Martin Galvin

A chairde:

A-Catholic Bishops, legal scholars and justice campaigners slam British plan on legacy killings- Four Catholic Bishops, legal experts and justice campaigners slammed British plans on crown legacy killings, accusing Britain of “bad faith” and “rewriting the rules of justice.” Instead of an Historical Investigations Unit investigating hundreds of controversial killings, including British trooper killings, Britain wants only a review by their appointed “independent body”. This panel would close all cases, unless they saw “new compelling evidence and a realistic prospect of a prosecution”. They would hold no investigation to look for new evidence, before ruling there was none.

Bishops Eamon Martin, Noel Treanor, Donal McKeown, Larry Duffy and Michael Router, expressed “alarm and disappointment” at the plan announced by British secretary Brandon Lewis. They said the British had stepped away from the Stormont House Agreement and the fundamental principle that “justice would be pursued, where possible, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator.” The Bishops concluded, “For those victims who do not feel justly treated, the wounds of the past will never fully heal. We therefore support the ongoing pursuit of appropriate criminal, legal and civic justice for all victims”.

Professor Kieran McEvoy, Dr Anna Bryson and Professor Louise Mallinder of Queen’s University Belfast, joined Committee for the Administration of Justice lawyer Gemma McKeown, to publish: Prosecutions, Imprisonment and the Stormont House Agreement: A Critical Analysis of Proposals on Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland. Ms. McKeown said,“ For some members of the current government, and some back-benchers, even one soldier being convicted and imprisoned for conflict related offences is one too many. It is that urge for impunity, dressed up as ‘witch-hunt’ that appears to be propelling government policy”. They found Britain’s plan incompatible with the European Convention on Human rights (ECHR), the Good Friday Agreement, and Stormont House Agreement. The British countered opposition by referring their proposals to be rubberstamped b the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster. Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice said : “This committee does not hold the confidence of the many thousands of people from across our entire community bereaved and injured as a result of collusion and direct state violence”.
Amnesty International’s Grainne Teggart said Britain’s plans “amount to a further betrayal of victims and are the latest attempt to close down paths to justice”…Amnesty will be submitting to the Westminster inquiry to highlight a human rights compatible way forward to finally deal with the past.”
B-No new Irish government formed nearly 100 days after election-The search continues for a governing coalition supported by at least 80 elected Dail representatives. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil agreed on a “full and equal partnership” for five years, during which they would rotate the position of Taoiseach. Both parties lost seats in the February election, ending in a parliament, unable to muster a majority. Fianna Fail with 38 seats and Fine Gael with 35,are negotiating with the Green Party holding 12 seats. All three parties have competing interests and all compromises made by party negotiating teams must be approved by a full party members vote..Any agreement by the Greens must be passed by two-thirds of the party membership before they join a coalition. The Greens have been racked with internal turmoil over entering talks and members have been meeting via video link to debate Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s policy framework document. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael could also try Labour and other small parties as potential partners but there is no guarantee any party will join a coalition facing economic dislocation and hard choices. Both parties still refuse to talk to Sinn Fein which won 37 seats, citing historic links to the IRA. The Fine Gael-Fianna Fail policy document contains a section on a “Shared Island” and proposes a unit to work towards a “united island” but makes no reference to a united Ireland.
C- Kevin Barry Artt, who escaped Long Kesh and won refuge in America sees conviction dismissed 37 years later-The Diplock Court conviction which sent Kevin Barry Artt to Britain’s Long Kesh Prison in 1983,was reversed because the written notes of his so-called confession were fabricated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Artt was one of 37 IRA members who escaped from Britain’s top security prison in 1983.He settled in California, and defeated Britain’s attempt to extradite him back to the north. He had been convicted in a non-jury court where the only evidence was a disputed admission that he was one of the IRA members who killed a notorious Long Kesh prison official in 1978.This conviction was reversed because scientific tests proved RUC members revised their written notes of the statement to convict him. The ruling means that Artt should never have been sent to Long Kesh, forced to escape or flee to the USA.
Kevin Barry Artt was part of the great escape from Long Kesh , regarded as one of the biggest prison escapes in history. He fled to America, settling in California and establishing himself as a successful car salesman. In 1992 he was arrested on a passport violation, and British officials filed to have him extradited back to Long Kesh. In a landmark 1998 decision the United States Court of Appeals refused to extradite him and two other escapees, Terry Kirby, and Pol Brennan, upholding their right to show the political bias in Britain’s non-jury Diplock court political trials. Mr Artt, who has lived on the west coast ever since, renewed an appeal he had lodged before his escape. He challenged his so-called confession during RUC interviews in 1981,maintaining he had been subjected to ill-treatment, coercion, threats, misleading promises and that the RUC had fabricated the statements. Scientific tests proved him right.
Following the verdict Mr Artt’s lawyer Fearghal Shiels of Madden & Finucane said: “This is the latest in a number of appeals in this jurisdiction which highlight a depressing enthusiasm on the part of RUC officers to lie on oath to a court to secure a conviction of an innocent man at any cost.”
D-No checks on British control over border poll-A Court of Appeals proceeding started by campaigner Raymond McCord to compel the British Secretary for the north to set out criteria for holding a border poll on Irish reunification, has instead
resulted in a British Court of Appeal ruling that no criteria are required. The ruling was the latest in a series of cases brought by Mr. McCord testing issues like Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement, which ended in adverse rulings. He claimed the British Secretary’s failure to set out circumstances in which he would direct the holding of a poll on unifying Ireland breached constitutional issues.
The court said the British Secretary could decide what factors to consider for granting a border poll and noted there was no requirement for guidelines in either the 1998 Belfast Agreement or in the legislation enacting it, the Northern Ireland Act.
E-Britain rejects EU request for post-Brexit Belfast office- The British government has rejected the EU’s request for a Belfast office needed to check post-Brexit Irish border trade. The EU had to close its offices across the north when Britain exited the bloc on January 31st, but EU officials must be present to monitor checks and controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea, which could then be transported into the 26 counties. Under Britain’s withdrawal agreement, the north stays in the single market, but remains within Britain’s customs territory to allow it to gain from future British trade deals. However the full EU customs code has to be enforced on goods travelling between the six counties and British mainland.
The protocol agreed last October stated that EU officials “have the right to be present” during customs and regulatory checks on goods entering the north from Britain, in order to ensure they comply with Single Market rules.
Irish Tánaiste, Simon Coveney said the EU understood that British officials would carry out the required checks but that there would be an EU office with officials able to observe checks taking place.“The whole point was to provide reassurance not just to Ireland but to the EU more generally that the Single Market was not being undermined or compromised… In other words, some across the EU have a concern that Northern Ireland becomes a sort of unguarded back door for goods to come into the Single Market through Ireland and the protocol has to deal with that.” The agreement was supposed to avoid a hard border across Ireland.

REMBERING THE LEGACY OF HUNGER STRIKE MARTYRS

Thirty-nine years ago this month, in May 1981,Bobby Sands MP, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh and Patsy O’Hara died on Hunger Strike in the infamous H-Blocks of Long Kesh, rather than let Britain brand them as criminals wearing criminal uniforms.

These men were born into Britain’s Orange State, which used systematic religious discrimination in employment, housing and voting rights to make them second class citizens in their own land. Civil rights marches were met with violence, leading to conflict.

After events including Internment or indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial, the Hooded Men torture, the Ballymurphy Massacre, Bloody Sunday and a Hunger Strike led by legendary IRA Commander Billy McKee in 1972 , British policy makers conceded that those imprisoned because of the Irish conflict, were not criminals but special category political prisoners.

Conditions associated with prisoner-of-war status, such as no criminal uniform, no prison work, association with other political prisoners, etc, were honored in the cages of Long Kesh.

Soon British ministers who claimed there was no legitimate struggle for freedom in Ireland and no political prisoners merely criminals in Long Kesh or Armagh, were challenged with questions about large numbers of Irish prisoners who even Britain recognized as special category.

The British decided on a new strategy to label Irish political prisoners as criminals, and make them living symbols that Ireland ’s struggle for freedom was a criminal enterprise.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher ordered that from March 1, 1976 Irish Republicans must dress up as criminals. She would use them to label Ireland’s historic struggle for freedom as “800 years of crime.”

Those jailed for actions taking place on or before February 28, 1976 would still be recognized as special category prisoners, not wear a criminal uniform and instead, retain all of the conditions of political status.

Those engaging in the very same actions as part of the same struggle after that date, were to be branded as criminals. They must wear criminal uniforms and be confined in H-block cells, as living symbols that they were criminals not patriots.

Kieran Nugent became the first Republican prisoner handed a criminal uniform. He shouted back that his British jailers would have to nail it to his back in order to force him to wear it.

Hundreds of “blanketmen” would be held in Long Kesh. The British tried beatings, brutal searches, intimidation and loss of remission to make them accept criminal uniforms and criminal status.

A steadily escalating campaign to break them and Armagh women political prisoners was resisted by an escalating protest campaign by Republican prisoners.

Massive support for them was provided by Churchmen, politicians and human rights activists who recognized that these Republican prisoners would never have been inside a prison except for the struggle against British rule in the north.

All attempts at honorable resolution were rejected by Thatcher and the British, even a mediation by Cardinal O’Fiaich and a 53 day hunger strike in 1980 led by Brendan Hughes.

Ten Irish Republican patriots, Bobby Sands MP, Francis Hughes, Raymond McCreesh ,Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee and Michael Devine would ultimately give their lives on hunger strike rather than betray their struggle by bowing to Thatcher’s criminalization.

Thatcher was beaten albeit at a terrible price. The world recognized that criminals do not die such deaths for the freedom of their country.

We can be proud that America, including AOH members across the country, ,marched daily at British consulates, generated national publicity, and enlisted Congressmen to visit the north and were crucial part of their victory.

Now 39 years later we remember all of the Hunger Strike Martyrs, who locked away in a British prison, overcame everything in the arsenal of the British Empire to win a victory for Irish freedom.

Next year the 40th anniversary of their heroic sacrifice the AOH FFAI is planning a program of commemorative events, state and city resolutions, speaking tours and visit to the north to honor the Hunger Strikers and their unforgettable legacy.

FFAI VIDEOS
https://youtu.be/GETiU5ASOB0
Most of you have seen the video provided by Mark Thompson, thanking the AOH and LAOH for our donations to Relatives for Justice, and for our political and solidarity work. We had intended to video similar messages for you from the recipients of your Christmas Appeal grants. Being unable to travel to Ireland in March we asked Mark for a video message and as usual he exceeded all our expectations. At the suggestion of Danny O’Connell and with help from Lee Patterson, Sean Pender and the National FFAI Committee, we are trying to do a series of messages and updates for you.

MALACHY McALLISTER-MAY 28TH
Malachy McAllister still has a deadline to leave the United States on or before May 28th. FFAI has been working with Malachy, his legal representatives ,National VP Sean Pender and Immigration Chair Dan Dennehy. All of our National leaders are involved in Malachy’s fight to remain here.

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

Historical Happenings for May 2020

Historical Happenings ─ Margaret ‘Captain Molly’ Corbin
by Mike McCormack AOH NY State Historian

More than 200 guests gathered at the Captain Molly Memorial at West Point’s U.S. Military Academy on 1 May, 2018, for a re-dedication Ceremony. Recent developments revealed that Margaret Corbin was not in fact buried there as had been believed since 1926. After the grave was accidentally disturbed in 2016 by excavators building a wall nearby, the opportunity for forensic testing of the remains presented itself and the tests revealed the remains were of a middle-aged man who lived in the Colonial period. However, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) who erected the memorial felt that she was too important to be forgotten. With National Military Cemeteries and the US Military Academy a decision was made to schedule a special re-dedication of the monument to Margaret’s valor and celebrate her legacy regardless of where she may be buried. But just who was Captain Molly?
She was born Margaret Cochran in November 1751 on the western PA frontier to Irish immigrant Robert Cochran and his wife Sarah. When just five years old, her father was killed in an Indian raid and her mother was kidnaped. Margaret escaped and was raised by an uncle. At 21, she married farmer John Corbin. When America’s Revolution began, John enlisted in the regiment that General ‘Light Horse’ Harry Lee called the ‘Line of Ireland’. As was common at the time, Margaret went with him, joining other women in cooking, washing and caring for the wounded; it was there her dominating personality won her the nickname ‘Captain Molly’. On 16 November 1776, while stationed at Fort Washington, NY, they were attacked by the Brits. John Corbin’s cannon crew was being decimated by enemy fire when John was killed. Margaret sprang into action and began loading and firing the cannon by herself until she was wounded by grapeshot which tore her shoulder, mangled her chest and lacerated her jaw. After the fort was captured, the wounded were ferried across the river to Fort Lee, then by wagon to Philadelphia.
Margaret never fully recovered from her wounds and was left without the use of her left arm for life which was a terrible blow for a such a previously dynamic Irish-American woman. She had no way to earn a living and even needed help bathing and dressing. In June, 1776 the Commonwealth of PA gave her $30.00 in recognition of her bravery, but that didn’t go far. Then in 1779, impressed with her service, Congress made an unprecedented decision; they granted her a pension of half a soldier’s monthly pay and clothing allowance; she even got a rum ration and some back pay. With this act, Congress made her the first woman to receive an American military pension. At war’s end she was transferred to the Corps of Invalids at West Point, where she helped, as best she could, with cooking and laundry. In Major Boynton’s History of West Point, she is described as ‘appearing with an artilleryman’s coat over her skirts, she was coarse, red-haired, wholly wanting in feminine charms and one of her biographers recorded that used swear words.’ She died in Highland Falls, NY on 16 Jan 1800, at the young age of 48. In 1909 a plaque was set to her memory in Fort Tryon Park near the Fort Washington battle site noting that she was ‘the first American woman to take a soldier’s part in the War for Liberty’ and the park entrance was named Margaret Corbin Circle. A large mural depicting her in the battle also decorates the lobby of nearby 720 Fort Washington Avenue.
In 1926, the 50th anniversary of American independence prompted a search for her forgotten burial site. An overgrown grave was discovered and a body exhumed and identified by the wounds she incurred and the DAR had her re-interred with full military honors in the West Point Cemetery and erected the memorial, making her the only Revolutionary War veteran so honored. Despite the recent discovery that she was not really in that grave, the DAR decided to rededicate the memorial to her memory since her story is so important. DAR President Ann Dillon noted: “it epitomizes the very reason our organization was founded”. At the ceremony, Jennifer Minus, New York State Officers Club President said: “It’s important to remember that Margaret Corbin’s life and actions are not folklore; she was an actual woman who lived, fought and was recognized by name in Congressional and War Department records. Military spouse and widow, wounded warrior, prisoner of war and disabled veteran, she remains an inspiration to all who serve.” Colonel Diane Ryan, on behalf of the Military Academy added: “She is not just a role model for female cadets, she is an example to all Americans of what women are capable of when put to the test. Let this monument serve as a reminder to us all.” Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director of National Military Cemeteries, followed by saying: “her bravery and legacy as one of the first women to fire an artillery cannon in the defense of our nation, continues to transcend and inspire women in military service even today.”
This story was taken from the New York State 2021 calendar which will be available soon.

Historical Happenings for April 2020

THEY WENT TO SPAIN

by Mike McCormack AOH Historian

Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia in 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars, leading to his abdication and restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. Russia then played a central role at the post-war Vienna Congress of 1814 as a leader of anti-revolutionary forces. This suited the Bourbon kings who once again ruled and allowed the formation of the French Communist Party (PCF). Then, in 1920, after the death of Lenin, his successor Josef Stalin established a new ideology for the Communist International. He called it Marxist-Leninism and redefined the theories of both Lenin and Marx to establish a new meaning to benefit establishing a global Communist world.  It reformed civil law, made marriage secular between social-and-legal equals, facilitated divorce, legalized abortion and voided the political power of the upper and middle class and  privately owned businesses. The Marxist–Leninist world view was totally atheist denying religion in the affairs of human society. The PCF as the French Section of the Communist International adopted the new ideology.  In 1921, they spread it to Spain where the Spanish Communist Party (PCE) was founded. The PCE was legalized by the Second Spanish Republic in April 1931 and  gained much support.  Soon the Republic began introducing the atheistic doctrines of the new Communist ideology. In May 1931, anti-clerical violence broke out all over Madrid and south-west Spain. The government’s slow response disillusioned the population and reinforced their view that the Republic was determined to persecute the Catholic church.  In December a new reformist, liberal democratic constitution was declared and included strong provisions to secularize the previously Catholic country by abolishing Catholic schools and charities; many committed Catholics strongly opposed.   Churches were closed down, unspeakable atrocities were committed against priests and nuns and sacred artifacts were destroyed or stolen.  Then in July 1936, a rebellion was led by General Francisco Franco which marked the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.

Due to  international politics at the time, some saw it as either a class struggle, a religious war, a struggle between dictatorship and  democracy or between fascism and anarchism. In reality it was the result a polarization of Spanish life and politics that had developed since the introduction of communism. On one side, the Nationalists were mostly Roman Catholics, ranking members of the military, middle-class landowners and businessmen. On the other side, the Republic was supported by urban workers, agricultural laborers and members of a newly educated lower class.

The war became notable for the passionate political division it inspired and for the many atrocities that occurred, on both sides. Organized purges occurred in Republican areas to eliminate suspected opposition and revenge killings took place in areas controlled by Franco’s Nationalists.  As the execution of thousands of priests and nuns took place, New York’s Archbishop Cardinal Hayes asked New Yorkers to cry for Spain.  The Church hailed Franco as a deliverer but never sanctioned violence in retribution for the atrocities against his followers.  While Stalin sent volunteers and weapons to the Republicans, many nations officially took a neutral stance.  That neutrality faced serious opposition from sympathizers in the U.S. and other European countries leading to International Brigades.  Thousands from all nations voluntarily went to Spain to aid in the fight on either side.

The new Irish Free State joined an International Committee for Non-Intervention and passed The Spanish Civil War (Non-Intervention) Act in 1937 making it a punishable offence to travel from Ireland to Spain for any who would volunteer to serve in Franco’s cause.  However, while the IRA sent 300 men to support the Republicans, former IRA General Eoin O’Duffy led 700 Irishmen to fight for Franco as a result of the violence being perpetrated against Catholics and clergy.  By the end of the war, more than 6,000 Irish had volunteered in the Christian cause creating unofficial Irish involvement in the Spanish Civil War on both sides.  County Councils passed resolutions of support for Franco and requiem Masses were said for the fallen showing the support of the Irish people for the cause of Spain’s persecuted Catholics though today’s Irish government will not recognize that. Of 500,000 deaths in the War, 200,000 were combat-related: 110,000 Republicans and 90,000 of Franco’s Nationalists, the rest were civilians, but the destruction of a world-famous library’s priceless manuscript collection is lamented by historians to this day.  Another Irish Free State legislation, the Merchant Shipping Act of 1937 restricting Irish shipping to Spain was finally repealed on 27 April 1939 after Franco’s forces defeated the Republicans.  Franco set up a military government under which the PCE was repressed with specific laws banning Communists.  General Franco ruled anti-communist Spain until his death in November 1975 and was always grateful to the Irish who followed O’Duffy and were proud to claim, “We went to Spain!” which had a special meaning in the 1940s; it wasn’t just for a holiday!  The Irish volunteers who were ready to fight Communism in Spain were convinced that the cause of Franco was the cause of their Church and rose to its defense; every Hibernian should be able to relate to that.

Freedom For All Ireland Report – April 2020

            FFAI ISSUES UPDATE

A chairde:

A-Search continues for new Irish government coalition after Sinn Fein surprise in February election-Nearly two months after an election producing a three way split between, Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Fine Gael, the leader and composition of the new Irish government are still unknown. Sinn Féin gained 14 seats, and now holds 37,with Fianna Fail at 38,and Fine Gael at 35 seats. At least 80 seats are needed for a government majority and no party is close..The Dáil (Irish parliament)met on February 20th but no one had the votes to form a new government. Outgoing  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar resigned, but will remain as a caretaker until his successor is chosen. Sinn Fein Party leader Mary Lou McDonald began contacting smaller parties, including the Greens, Labour, Solidarity People Before Profit and the Social Democrats, but their combined numbers would not be enough for a majority. During the campaign, Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin said he would not join with Sinn Féin, because of its links to the IRA. A Fianna Fail-Sinn Fein combination would need only a few votes from Independents or the smaller parties. As results came in, Mr Martin appeared to soften and open the door to partnership with Sinn Féin. However Fianna Fail has since firmly rejected this option. Fine Gael, now the third biggest party, also says it will not join a coalition with Sinn Féin. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are in negotiations about forming a new coalition, with support from independents or one of the smaller parties. However, nothing is set. The results of the February 8th election registered dissatisfaction with the Fine Gael led government on issues like housing, homelessness, hospital waiting lists, and pensions. A planned ceremony for the Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin constabulary, sparked  memories of the infamous Black and Tans. The ceremony was cancelled but not before boycotts, protests and awakened patriotic feelings. Sinn Fein gained votes on all these issues and voters wanted someone new. A Fianna Fail and Fine Gael coalition, might succeed long term or might trigger voter resentment next time around.

B-No border poll for united Ireland in my lifetime says Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster.-Despite recent opinion polls  showing increased support for getting rid of the border, Arlene Foster, who turns 50 this year, told BBC’s The View there would not be a united Ireland nor even a poll in her lifetime.  The Stormont First Minister and Democratic Unionist Party leader  was asked if she thought she would see a united Ireland in her lifetime. She replied: “No I don’t”. When asked if she would see a border poll in the same timeframe, she again replied: “No, I don’t“. Asked why, she added:”Because there has to be evidence there...As you know the test for a border poll is that people would vote for it in a majority. And there’s no evidence of that…Yes, people can have different opinion polls, but there’s no tangible evidence if you look right across Northern Ireland”. The Good Friday agreement says that Britain’s six county secretary “may by order direct the holding of a poll… if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting” would vote to be part of a united Ireland. Foster thinks this means British officials need not allow a vote in her lifetime. Meanwhile the DUP refused to join in a discussion week organised by Shared Ireland, a group which believes unity is the way forward, but asks unionists to take part in discussions. Colin Harvey, professor of human rights at Queens University, said unionists faced a challenge. “There has been a lot of focus on those proposing Irish reunification,” he said.”But if these referendums do take place, if there’s a referendum in the north, what is the proposition of unionists?”

C-New British Secretary Brandon Lewis plans Legacy Whitewash-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson removed Julian Smith as six county secretary and replaced him with Brandon Lewis, the former chair of the Conservative Party. Smith had brokered the deal to get the north’s parties back to the Stormont Assembly, after a 3 year impasse. He was faulted for pledging to deliver the legacy bodies agreed in the December 2014, Stormont House Agreement. The “New Decade New Deal” promised these laws within 100 days and this pledge was crucial to six county nationalists and the Irish government. The new plan for legacy cases is designed to shield British troops and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, from investigations which could lead to prosecutions. For decades British crown forces had a de facto immunity or impunity, and were not punished for murders on behalf of the crown. Legal excuses were found for mass murders like the Ballymurphy Massacre or Bloody Sunday. Nationalists fought court battles to define right to life protections under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The leading case stemmed from the murder of the Gibraltar 3.It held that the right to life created  legal obligations (1)to conduct full, open and transparent investigations into state killings, which are public, independent and involve victims’ families, and(2) a duty of command, control and training over its forces who take life. The Stormont House Agreement made by the British and Irish governments and five of the north’s political parties in December 2014,promised 4 new legacy bodies to fulfil these obligations. The key body was a Historical Investigations Unit. The HIU would investigate almost 2,000 Troubles killings including those by British forces or collusion killings. An Independent Commission on Information Retrieval(ICIR)could give information to families in exchange for immunity. There would be an Oral History Archive and an Implementation and Reconciliation Group. The new plan is a gimmick to close the vast majority of almost 2,000 unsolved cases and stop them from ever being re-opened. Cases would be  reviewed by what the British say  will be an “independent body”. Only where it saw “new compelling evidence and a realistic prospect of a prosecution”, would they investigate.  All other cases would be  permanently blocked from further investigations. The updated legacy plan was set out on the same day as Boris Johnson’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Jonny Mercer, announces legislation to protect former soldiers from “vexatious” historical investigations. Irish Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Simon Coveney said the measure had “significant changes” from the legacy approach signed up to in the Stormont House Agreement. Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin said the new plan was “unacceptable”. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called it “an act of spectacular bad faith”. Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice said ” the British government has once again moved the goal posts to protect those within its armed forces and those within illegal organisations they colluded with. Its ultimate aim is to prevent the truth from emerging about its role in the conflict”.

D-Final chapter in Renewable Heat Scandal that led to 3 year Stormont collapse- The Renewable Heat Initiative, ridiculed as “Cash for Ash” or “Money to Burn,” which cost taxpayers 480 million pounds, and led to a three year collapse of the Stormont Assembly, ended without political fireworks in a quiet report by Judge Patrick Coghlin. Arlene Foster apologized for her failures but would not resign as DUP leader and First Minister. Coghlin was critical of Foster, for endorsing a plan which allowed businesses to make a profit by burning unneeded fuel, when she was minister at the Department of Enterprise, Trade Investment (DETI).Foster admitted she had not read the legislation, but blamed her advisors and civil service. Traditional Unionist Voice head Jim Allister said “by spreading the blame widely, some may have escaped the sharper criticism that they deserved…Yet, the question remains – will there be consequences for anyone? In any other jurisdiction it is hard to imagine that heads would not roll. But here, even the concept that the buck stops with the Minister when a department spectacularly fails, as DETI did, has become so muted that a preemptive apology seems to do.” After the scandal broke in November 2016,there were calls for Foster’s resignation. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness asked Foster to step aside temporarily, while the matter was under investigation. When Foster refused, he resigned. Under the power-sharing rules, this meant the assembly could not meet. It remained closed for three years.

                 CHRISTMAS APPEAL APPRECIATION

Nineteen applicants will receive a record amount in FFAI  Christmas Appeal grants. The presentations were scheduled to be made personally this past week, but had to be postponed along with meetings to plan FFAI strategy proposals for our National Convention. With the British moving on a legacy whitewash, and added financial burdens of working despite closed offices, these groups tell us that our AOH-LAOH grants are desperately needed ! Four first time applicants will receive grants including : the Ballymurphy Massacre Families Committee (2) Museum of Free Derry operated by Bloody Sunday Trust,(3) Tyrone National Graves and (4)the Witness Project headed by Sean Murray. Repeat recipients include: Relatives for Justice, Pat Finucane Centre, Holy Cross Ardoyne-headed by Fr. Gary Donegan, EALU-( Escape in Irish) centre for  Tyrone Republican ex-political prisoners, Greater New Lodge Commemoration Committee, Conway Mill Trust, Cairde Strabane, St. Patrick Centre, Duchas Oiriall-South Armagh, Bridges beyond Boxing, Down Patriot Graves, Green Cross, Belfast National Graves, Omagh Basketball and Omagh Choir.

New York and Pennsylvania were the top state contributors. Virginia rose to third and is a major success story. Jim McLaughlin and Terry Riley and Virginia challenge each division to earn awards for $1000 donations. There were some welcome successes in California, Florida, North Carolina and New Hampshire along with repeat success in Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Louisiana and Kentucky. The LAOH must also be congratulated for a major increase in its contribution. America can make a difference for the six counties still denied freedom in Ireland, 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.

            

 

           FFAI SPIRIT AND DETERMINATION

                 

All of us have seen a great many things which we took for granted disappear, because of the current health crisis. That list includes platforms which we counted on, to help those in Ireland still denied freedom. St. Patrick’s Day parades, always an Irish rallying point, were lost. The Irish Presidential Forum, forcing candidates to speak to Irish issues has been pushed back. New York Hibernians lost formal ceremonies in the state Senate and Assembly memorializing the sacrifices of Terence MacSwiney, Kevin Barry and other patriots a century ago during the Black and Tan War.

 

Meanwhile the crisis has not slowed British injustice. As the AOH warned at a House Foreign Affairs Committee  Congressional hearing, the British government designed legacy bodies that were supposed to open the door to truth, but will instead nail that door shut. Recently I met Emma de Souza, the County Derry woman whose application for her American husband was refused because she said she was Irish not British  under the terms of the Good

 

Friday Agreement. According to her the British government’s attitude was that the GFA was something the Labour Party negotiated more than 20 years ago, and the Tories did not have to bother keeping today.

 

Meanwhile the clock continues ticking for Malachy McAllister, whose deadline for deportation remains the end of May, and has lost chances to push his issue on St. Patrick’s Day with Cardinal or at the Presidential forum.

 

Hopefully this national crisis will end soon. We will get through it with the Irish spirit and unbreakable determination that was forged within us as part of our Irish heritage. As part of that Irish spirit and determination we cannot forget those still denied Freedom for all Ireland, and come back stronger than ever behind them!    

 

                     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

 

 

Historical Happenings for March 2020

MARCH 17
Mike McCormack, NY State Historian

March 17 is a special day on our calendar because it marks the return to God of our beloved patron saint in the year 461 AD.  It was in that year that a humble missionary passed to his eternal reward.  Today he is revered around the world as Saint Patrick, patron Saint of Ireland, the Archdiocese of New York, the nation of Guiana, and hundreds of towns and parishes across the globe. But there are many other events which occurred on this day throughout history which also make it memorable; for example on March 17:

1014, High King of Ireland, Brian Boru, marched from Kincora, his stronghold at Killaloe, Co Clare, bound for Clontarf, and the battle that would break Viking power in Ireland;

1737, the first St Patrick’s celebration in America took place sponsored by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston;

1763, before the United States was even established, the first St Patrick’s Day celebration was held in New York City;

1766, it is recorded that a Saint Patrick’s Day Dinner in New York featured twenty toasts, the nineteenth of which declared “may the enemies of Ireland be tormented with itching, without the benefit of scratching“;

1776, the British evacuated Boston leaving the city to the American patriot army. General George Washington made the password of the day “Saint Patrick”;

1804, Jim Bridger, American scout, fur trader, and mountain man, was born;

1858, in a Dublin back room, James Stevens and Thomas Luby founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood, which was supported by the Fenian Brotherhood in America;

1871, the first professional baseball league – the National Association of Professional Baseball Players  was founded at Collin’s Saloon on Broadway and 13th Street in New York;

1889, Harry Clarke, the most celebrated stained glass artist of the age, was born in Dublin;

1899, An Claideamh Soluis (The Sword of Light), the official newspaper of the Gaelic League first appeared;

Many past march readings have discussed our Patron Saint, so this month we will focus on another great and glorious character from the pages of Ireland’s history and that is the first one listed above: the Emperor of the Irish: High King Brian Boru.  Brian mac Cennetig was the youngest son born to Cennetig (Kennedy) mac Lorcáin, King of Thomond, and a prince of the Dal Cais Clan.  His birthplace was near Killaloe, Co. Clare at about 940 AD.  At the time, Ireland was besieged by Viking warriors who raided up and down Ireland’s rivers from their strongholds at Dublin, Waterford, Limerick and other seaside settlements.  The tribal structure of the Irish provided no unified opposition  and, as a result, some clans sided with the Norse out of fear, some clans fought the invaders, but only when they were threatened.  Some clans even ignored the threat and continued to fight among themselves over local disputes. 

Brian’s brother, Mahon, became King of Thomond following the death of their father in 959 AD and attempted to cement relations with the Vikings and establish a lasting peace, but his younger brother Brian shared no such desire.  In fact, ever since Brian had learned of the death of his mother in a Viking raid when he was just a boy, he harbored a hatred against the Vikings that guided the rest of his life.  Too young to participate in Clan activities at the time and too old to be treated as a child, he was sent to be educated – most likely at Clonmacnoise.  There he studied Greek and Latin, but the parts he studied hardest were the battle tactics of Greek and Roman generals.  When he returned to the Dal Cais, he urged the study of Viking weapons and battle methods with the idea of waging war on the invaders, but Mahon could not be convinced.  When he was old enough, Brian broke away from his brother and with a band of followers, waged a guerrilla war on Viking settlements.  A skilled tactician, he made use of mounted cavalry, which had never been used by the Irish before.  He won many decisive victories and instilled fear in the enemy as well as the Irish clans who had allied with them.

Brian’s campaign gained popular support and many joined him, including his Brother Mahon, who finally renounced his truce with the Vikings. Their combined forces drove most of the Norse from Southern Ireland, including their leader Ivar.  Eager for revenge, Ivar returned ten years later and captured and killed Mahon. Brian succeeded his brother to the throne of Munster, bringing with him a re-fueled hatred of the Vikings.  Soon after, his forces met and defeated Ivar’s army, killing Ivar, and striking Viking influence in Southern Ireland a serious blow.  Brian returned to his boyhood home at Killaloe and in 1002 built his fortress stronghold.  It was called Kincora, deriving its name from the Irish Ceann Coradh, meaning ‘the head of the weir’.  It was located on a hill overlooking the Shannon – a site now occupied by the Catholic Church.  It guarded a part of the river that was wide enough to hinder an attack, yet shallow enough to drive cattle across.  Brian ruled from Kincora and exacted a tribute from the Munster Clans in return for his protection.  The cattle tribute was driven across that shallow part of the Shannon in the shadow of Kincora.  Tribute in Irish is Boroimhe, and from this, Brian became known as Brian of the Tributes or Brian Boru.  With this value from tribute, he paved new toads across the province, erected churches and rebuilt monasteries and monuments destroyed by raiding Vikings.

In the northern part of Ireland, Malachy the Second, followed Boru’s lead when his forces defeated a Norse army to take Dublin in 980 and Malachy became King of Meath. About the year 987, Brian was undisputed ruler of southern Ireland, yet he had no official title.  In Ossory, in Leinster, and in Connaught, his voice and his arm were felt everywhere. But a divided authority is favorable to invasion, so the Viking power began to loom up to its old proportions. Sitrick ‘silken beard’ one of the ablest of Viking leaders, was then at Dublin, and his constant raids were so formidable, that they produced an alliance between Brian and Malachy.  The alliance lasted three years, and in 997, with reinforcements  from the North, the Vikings were routed by Brian and Malachy in Wicklow, with the loss of 6,000 men and all their chief captains. Immediately after this victory the two kings, according to the Annals, entered into Dublin, and the fort thereof, and there remained seven nights, burnt the town, broke down the fort, and banished Sitrick from thence.

Finding Brian’s influence still on the rise west of the Shannon, Malachy, having vainly endeavored to secure the alliance of the Northern Hy-Nial, submitted to Brian allowing Boru to peacefully take over his lands.  Boru was granted the title “Ard Ri”, meaning “High King”. This made him one of the first – and last – kings to effectively unite Ireland under one monarch. The rivals to Brian Boru’s rule were numerous, however, both among the native Irish and the remaining Norse. In 1013, Maelmordha, King of Leinster, revolted and allied with the Vikings. They summoned reinforcements from Boru’s other Irish rivals and the Viking nations, as far away as Normandy and Iceland.  On March 17, 1014, Brian Boru led his forces out of Kincora headed for Dublin and the pages of Irish history.  The two forces met on Good Friday, April 23, 1014 on the field of Clontarf. Nearly 4,000 Irishmen were killed at the Battle, including Brian’s son Murrough, but the Viking/Leinster forces suffered even heavier losses.  At the end of the battle, what little remained of the Norse forces retreated to their ships. But before all the invaders fled, a fleeing Norse leader, Brodar, came upon Brian’s tent and attacked the Irish leader in prayer thanking God for the victory.  Then in his late seventies or early eighties, Brian was able to wound Brodar who struck Brian a mortal wound.  Brodar was captured by Brians attendants and left tied to a tree by his own intestines.

With Boru gone and his strong influence absent, Ireland soon fell into chaos and anarchy. There would never be another king powerful enough to rule all of Ireland.  In 1016, Connaught men raided and destroyed Kincora. As his descendants feuded among themselves in 1062 for the crown, Aodh O’Connor burned Killaloe and destroyed the rebuilt Kincora.  He claimed it for himself and feasted on the two sacred salmon kept in a pool within the walls of the palace

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!