Siobhan Dennehy Awarded JFK Medal

Siobhan Dennehy, Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, was the 2010 recipient of the JFK Medal at the AOH & LAOH National Convention in Cincinnati Ohio. She thanked the AOH/LAOH in these words:

I am so very glad indeed to be here this evening to accept this award.  And I am especially grateful to Brendan Moore his wife Eileen, Danny O’Connell and their team of colleagues for their invitation to be with you tonight. I know firsthand how much work goes into an event such as this and am truly impressed with the outstanding job everyone has in welcoming me and my family.

I want to thank my family my husband Dan in particular there is a saying that behind every great man there’s a great woman – well here it works in reverse thanks to Dan for being the great man supporting me! My mom Sheila is here tonight from Dublin and my daughters Cara and Ashling – thanks for all your help to make this moment my FPD [favorite part of the day].

I want to pay a particular tribute to the AOH and LAOH membership tonight; by recognizing me with this prestigious national award you have chosen to highlight me as a person for the work I do, the organizations I represent, the staff & board members who help me achieve the work I complete, the clients and community members who seek our help, my own family who work with me and the family who sacrifice much for me. Like many others of my generation I came to this county as a young university student, in my case from Trinity College, with a love of my heritage and culture and yet aware that Ireland’s economy then could not offer me a career opportunity.  In New York I discovered a thriving Irish American community which offered me limitless potential. In meeting Dan and his dad (DJ) I came to know the AOH and many of you and part of this award is being accepted in his memory

In receiving an award named for someone else, protocol would dictate that as the recipient you do a little research about that person …there are very few here I’m sure that would argue that John F Kennedy needs any introduction at all and we can agree that he and his family represent a very proud immigrant history.

When President Kennedy arrived at Dublin my home town just over 47 years ago, he expressed, the special pride which he felt in the generosity of the United States over the years to so many immigrants from so many different countries and he also noted on that historic visit to Ireland that everywhere, immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.

Emigration to America represents a new opportunity, and our people by and large, make good lives for themselves here.  For many, emigration is never an easy option; but it can be their only option.  We know that emigration presents some people with very particular difficulties; they can, for instance, find themselves adrift and marginalized.  The people who offer front-line assistance and advice services to the vulnerable Irish provide, therefore, a critically important support structure.  The work of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, as well as all the Immigration Centers in the US continue to serve that cause on a daily basis. My pleasure in receiving the JFK Award is heightened by the fact that many centers are now such valued resource for the immigrant community.

There is an expression in the Irish language about co-existence and the importance of community support: is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine – we exist in each other’s shelter.  The spirit of community service and consideration for others is exemplified by people who receive the JFK Award in the name of the AOH and LAOH.

In his address to the Dail and Senate in 1963 President Kennedy said: Across the gulfs and barriers that now divide us, we must remember that there are no permanent enemies. The context here was in the face of Anglo Irish relations but I ask you all to think about these words and apply them to the US’s immigration policy particularly in the aftermath of 9/11 and how that event has changed the face of US Immigration policy.

There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US; some argue that number might be too high; many of us in the context of the challenges facing the Irish ecomony at the moment believe that number is arguably higher.

The reason that they are here in that undocumented capacity is that there are honestly no other options open to them.  Since assuming the position of Executive Director EIIC in March of 2003 every year in politics has brought renewed debate on immigration reform and after seven years the challenges are growing immeasurably and we must as a society choose to look at changing the immigration policy in a humane and effective way.

I have been honored to assist the AOH many times in recent years and have received the assistance of many members for which I am grateful.  I look to continue to extend the use of our resources and look for the day when legal and secure paths to US immigration will allow future flows of Irish to enjoy the cultural exchange and love for two countries which we all share here tonight.

We have some work to do on immigration reform and I appeal to you and your membership to continue to support on the matter of Immigration in this vision. President Kennedy wrote in 1958 in the book entitled A Nation of Immigrants.  And I quote, Immigration policy should be generous, it should be fair, it should be flexible; with such a policy we can turn to the world and to our own past with clean hands and a clear conscience.

In closing, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to you all from me as a mother of two daughters to be a female recipient of the JFK Medal Award that I am truly humbled and I assure you that it will inspire me to look for ways to do more for my adopted country going forward

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir

Share

New Candidates Announcing National Office Intent

As we enter the home stretch towards the biannual Nation Convention and election of officers for the Order we are receiving official announcements of members seeking higher office.

New Jersey State President Jere Cole has announced that he will run for AOH National Office this July in Cincinnati Ohio at the National Convention.  Jere’s Irish heritage has always been an important aspect of his life.  It is this pride that has led him to become involved in a number of Irish American organizations.  Among these organizations is the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division #9, Essex County New Jersey for the past 20 years.  Jere has chaired a number of committees & is currently a past president, and also serves on the State Board of the AOH executive committee where he was elected to the Hibernian Charity Board and is currently the New Jersey State Board President.  Jere is also an active member of the following organizations: The Cryan Association, Giblin Association, Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh, Heritage Festival Ball past chairman, Vailsburg Irish American Association, Essex County Emerald Society, Irish American Cultural Institute, Ironbound Irish American Association, The Irish American Assn. of Northwest Jersey, Frank McGovern Association, Belleville Irish American Association and the Joseph Nugent Sr. Association. Jere is an active member of the Newark Saint Patrick’s Day Parade committee. He has held numerous positions including General Chairman 2003-04 and is also a member of the West Orange Saint Patrick’s Parade committee.  Jere was the General Chairman of the 30th Annual New Jersey Irish Festival in June of 2000.

Joe Dougherty of North Carolina announced that he will run for National Secretary.  Joe’s resume includes serving as Past National Director, Past South Carolina State President, Past South Carolina State Organizer, Past South Carolina Division President.  He is currently a Division President in North Carolina, Mecklenburg County Board Vice President and serves as North Carolina State Organizer.  As he looks forward towards his campaign for National Secretary at the 2010 National Convention in Cincinnati, Joe stated, “My platform will be very simple, it is time to move the office of National Secretary into the 21 Century.”

National Pro-Life Chair and Immediate Past New York State President Matt Nelligan recently announced his candidacy for the office of National Director. Elected as State President at age 34, he was the youngest person to be elected to the presidency. During his time in office, he made significant progress toward modernizing the recruitment and public relations efforts of the AOH. In addition, he helped to raise more than $20,000 for AOH related charities and expanded our Order into two counties that had never before had an AOH Presence. In February of 2008 he was selected by the Irish Echo newspaper was one of the top 40 Irish-American leaders under the age of 40 in the United States.

A member of the AOH since 1992, Mr. Nelligan served on the NYS AOH board since 1999 in every elected office including the offices of President, vice president, treasurer and secretary. He was selected to be general chairperson for the 2007 New York State AOH convention and in 2008 was appointed as the National Chairman of Pro-Life.  As National Pro-Life chairman Matt has worked hard to engage our membership on important public policy issues and to expand our presence at the annual March for Life in Washington DC.  Professionally, Mr. Nelligan serves as the Committee Director for the New York State Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee as well as Legislative Director for its Chairman Senator George Maziarz. Matt is also President of the Irish 2000 Music and Arts Festival– one of the largest celebrations of Irish culture in the United States – marking its 14th anniversary in 2010. Since its inception, the not-for-profit festival has raised more than $350,000 to assist local and Irish charities.

Mr. Nelligan is a past Hibernian of the Year for his Division in Albany NY and has also been recognized as the recipient of the prestigious Father John Murphy award in 2008. In 2009, he was also recognized by his brothers from Division 9 in New York City as their “Guest of Honor”.  Matt is a past committee member and one-time committee chairman of the Doors of Hope benefit concert that raised more than $50,000 for Father Des Wilson’s Community Centers in Belfast and Derry and is a past Vice-Chairman of the Irish American Heritage Museum.  A graduate of Siena College in Loudonville NY, he received his master’s degree from The College of St. Rose in Albany NY. He and his wife, Jennifer, live in Guilderland NY with their two daughters, Molly and Emily.

Montana’s O’Connor Announces Bid for National Director With the full support of his Brother Hibernians, Montana’s Mike O’Connor has announced his intent to seek the office of National Director at the 2010 National Convention in Cincinnati. A member of the Thomas Francis Meagher Division of the AOH for nearly 25 years, he has held his Major Degree since 1991 when the Tara Court Major Degree Team came to Montana.  Following his service as Division and State Presidents, he became active nationally by arousing the interest in the West for the AOH.  Mike was elected to the position of National Director in 2000 and re-elected in 2002.  Brother Mike continues to be very active in AOH activities in Montana.  Just this past year Mike was part of the committee responsible for erecting a monument to Thomas Francis Meagher in Fort Benton, the location of his demise.  It was a difficult year to take on such a project considering the country’s economic downturn, but it was a huge success and a great Irish celebration.  Mike says, I would like to bring back to the National Board that “can do” attitude we have here in Montana. Mike has always considered it an honor to be a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and a great privilege to serve as an officer. He asks Brother Hibernians across the country to support his effort in seeking the position as National Director.

Share