New York News

The Easter Rising Remembered on Long Island

By Joe McDonald

 

On April 25th, more than 150 people attended the annual Easter Rising memorial service in Mineola, NY. At a location behind the courthouse, stands the now completed Irish memorial, a testament to those who gave their lives for Ireland’s freedom in the early 20th Century. Sponsored by the Irish Monument Committee each Easter Monday, the one hour ceremony allows all those present to remember the martyrs of 1916.

The committee is comprised of various Irish organizations including the Nassau County Board of the Ancient order of Hibernians, the Nassau Police Emerald Society, the Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, the Irish Culture Society of Garden City, Irish Northern Aid, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Irish Americans in Government.

“It’s important to have this ceremony”, said Nassau County AOH Freedom For All Ireland Chairman Vic Sackett, “because after 800 years of oppression by the British, Irish leaders who knew very well what freedom was, had the courage to plan and train an uprising to would have some chance of success.  Although the rising was not successful, within two years, it rallied the Irish population to elect their own representatives and government, which then declared the 32 County Republic in 1919.”

This year’s ceremony, which was headed by the Police Emerald Society, included remarks from Consul General of Ireland Noel Kilkenny, and Leitrim County Councilor Martin Kenny. Kilkenny spoke about those who died in the Easter Rising and why it is important for people to believe in freedom and independence, while Kenny remarked about the culture of Ireland and how it is not a Catholic Protestant rivalry, but the mentality of peasants vs. planters.  “And the Irish people rose above the peasant mentality to become something more,” he remarked. “Now the planters need to change their way of thinking, for Ireland to become the great county it can be.”

The monument has been located behind the Nassau County Court House since 1979, albeit unfinished. Recently, Irish groups throughout Long island decided to complete and renovate the project. Two years ago the top was put on the monument, a harp with 32 strings representing the 32 counties and the names of 15 who died on the base. Last year, flowers, lights and a walkway were added and to finish it off benches will be installed and the plaques will be placed back onto the memorial.

The memorial concluded with a laying of a wreath at the monument.  “It’s rather unique that the Easter Rising is remembered on public ground in the United States,” said AOH Brother Robert Lynch. “I can’t think of any other place in America that has something dedicated to such an important event.”

Color Guard at the Easter Rising Memorial. Photo by Jim Henry

Div. 11 Hicksville marches proudly in the NYC Parade

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in Utica, NY

by John E. Fox

 

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in West Utica following discussions with city leaders, Great American Irish Festival Inc. organizers said. An Irish cultural center not only would be a benefit to West Utica’s Brewery District, but it bodes well for the entire city, Mayor David Roefaro said.  “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Roefaro said. “That piece of property is passionate to the Irish,” he said of the parking lot at Cooper and Columbia streets, where the former St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was founded in the 1850s. The $2 million project — funded almost exclusively from proceeds of the Great American Irish Festival — will yield a two-story building with an authentic Irish pub, kitchen, meeting rooms and office space. Matthew Sullivan, director of the festival, will serve as executive director of the center. A variety of Irish organizations, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, will make use of the space, Sullivan said. Construction of the 2-story multi-purpose, 10,000 square foot facility will include, a full basement, a banquet hall that will be able to accommodate about 300 people, a full commercial kitchen, an authentic Irish Pub, a cultural room, a meeting room as well as office spaces. Construction of the building will begin, “as soon as the weather will allow,” Sullivan said, adding that “We wanted this to be an investment in the hub of downtown and we wanted to be part of Varick Street, with the brewery,” A groundbreaking ceremony emceed by Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks and attended by about 150 people was held at 623 Columbia St. was held Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day.  Brooks commended Sullivan for his efforts and joked about the fallacy of the phrase, “the luck of the Irish.”  “The Irish got where we are by hard work and fighting for what we believe in,” he said. The center site was once home to the first Irish Catholic parish in the city, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which was founded in the 1850s but disbanded and later demolished in the 1960s. “This site is sacred ground for the Irish community,” Sullivan said. The plan has been through the city zoning and planning boards and has gained all necessary approvals Sullivan said. The entity that will run the center will be a non-profit, registered with the State Education Department as a Historical Society with Collections. The Irish pub will be open to the public and should be part of the Varick Street bar scene. Sullivan first began working on the project in 2003 through his involvement with the AOH, Brooks told the gathered crowd. Though some of the money came from other sources, both Sullivan and Brooks said no government money is involved. The ceremony also included several prayers from local priests, bagpipe tunes, the Irish and American national anthems and Irish ballads. Shortly after a procession down Varick Street, a robust party was held at the Celtic Harp.

The Honorable Michael Dwyer named Grand Marshal

by John E. Fox

Judge Michael Dwyer

Oneida County Court Judge Michael Dwyer was named as the grand marshal for Utica’s (NY) 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said Kevin Dowling, the parade director. Dwyer is a “standup” person who is very deserving of being named grand marshal and has a difficult job as county court judge, “He works very hard for this community,” Dowling said. Dwyer said there are many others who deserve the honor just as much or more than he does. “I am very proud, and also very humbled,” Dwyer said. 141 groups turned out for the annual parade down Genesee Street this year, according to event director Kevin Dowling. Other participants included seven bagpipe bands, nine or ten additional musical groups and a plethora of service organizations – all of which made their way from Oneida Square to Columbia Street.

“This is the third largest parade in the state behind New York City and Buffalo,” Dowling said. “Last year, we counted about 2,000 people marching in the parade. With 33 more units that entered this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got up to 2,500.” Many say for them the parade is a way to honor their ancestors by remembering Irish traditions and traditional music.

“I see the pride in being Irish; just being Irish you know, having it in your blood, but it represents the day and the spirit and the holiday,” said parade attendee Michael Collins.

Parade goers say the event wasn’t just about celebrating their heritage, but also about recognizing some important members of the community. It was a chance for local organizations — from emergency squads to food banks — to shine. Dowling, and other parade organizers, said the parade remains a community-oriented event, where rowdier celebrators mix with families and children – and where everyone has a good time. “The key theme that we try to stress is respect,” Dowling said. “Everyone is respectful of each other and we have a good time.”

New York News

The Easter Rising Remembered on Long Island

By Joe McDonald

 

On April 25th, more than 150 people attended the annual Easter Rising memorial service in Mineola, NY. At a location behind the courthouse, stands the now completed Irish memorial, a testament to those who gave their lives for Ireland’s freedom in the early 20th Century. Sponsored by the Irish Monument Committee each Easter Monday, the one hour ceremony allows all those present to remember the martyrs of 1916.

The committee is comprised of various Irish organizations including the Nassau County Board of the Ancient order of Hibernians, the Nassau Police Emerald Society, the Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, the Irish Culture Society of Garden City, Irish Northern Aid, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Irish Americans in Government.

“It’s important to have this ceremony”, said Nassau County AOH Freedom For All Ireland Chairman Vic Sackett, “because after 800 years of oppression by the British, Irish leaders who knew very well what freedom was, had the courage to plan and train an uprising to would have some chance of success.  Although the rising was not successful, within two years, it rallied the Irish population to elect their own representatives and government, which then declared the 32 County Republic in 1919.”

This year’s ceremony, which was headed by the Police Emerald Society, included remarks from Consul General of Ireland Noel Kilkenny, and Leitrim County Councilor Martin Kenny. Kilkenny spoke about those who died in the Easter Rising and why it is important for people to believe in freedom and independence, while Kenny remarked about the culture of Ireland and how it is not a Catholic Protestant rivalry, but the mentality of peasants vs. planters.  “And the Irish people rose above the peasant mentality to become something more,” he remarked. “Now the planters need to change their way of thinking, for Ireland to become the great county it can be.”

The monument has been located behind the Nassau County Court House since 1979, albeit unfinished. Recently, Irish groups throughout Long island decided to complete and renovate the project. Two years ago the top was put on the monument, a harp with 32 strings representing the 32 counties and the names of 15 who died on the base. Last year, flowers, lights and a walkway were added and to finish it off benches will be installed and the plaques will be placed back onto the memorial.

The memorial concluded with a laying of a wreath at the monument.  “It’s rather unique that the Easter Rising is remembered on public ground in the United States,” said AOH Brother Robert Lynch. “I can’t think of any other place in America that has something dedicated to such an important event.”

Color Guard at the Easter Rising Memorial. Photo by Jim Henry

Div. 11 Hicksville marches proudly in the NYC Parade

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in Utica, NY

by John E. Fox

 

The Mohawk Valley Irish Cultural Center will be built in West Utica following discussions with city leaders, Great American Irish Festival Inc. organizers said. An Irish cultural center not only would be a benefit to West Utica’s Brewery District, but it bodes well for the entire city, Mayor David Roefaro said.  “It’s a win-win for everybody,” Roefaro said. “That piece of property is passionate to the Irish,” he said of the parking lot at Cooper and Columbia streets, where the former St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was founded in the 1850s. The $2 million project — funded almost exclusively from proceeds of the Great American Irish Festival — will yield a two-story building with an authentic Irish pub, kitchen, meeting rooms and office space. Matthew Sullivan, director of the festival, will serve as executive director of the center. A variety of Irish organizations, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, will make use of the space, Sullivan said. Construction of the 2-story multi-purpose, 10,000 square foot facility will include, a full basement, a banquet hall that will be able to accommodate about 300 people, a full commercial kitchen, an authentic Irish Pub, a cultural room, a meeting room as well as office spaces. Construction of the building will begin, “as soon as the weather will allow,” Sullivan said, adding that “We wanted this to be an investment in the hub of downtown and we wanted to be part of Varick Street, with the brewery,” A groundbreaking ceremony emceed by Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks and attended by about 150 people was held at 623 Columbia St. was held Thursday, St. Patrick’s Day.  Brooks commended Sullivan for his efforts and joked about the fallacy of the phrase, “the luck of the Irish.”  “The Irish got where we are by hard work and fighting for what we believe in,” he said. The center site was once home to the first Irish Catholic parish in the city, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, which was founded in the 1850s but disbanded and later demolished in the 1960s. “This site is sacred ground for the Irish community,” Sullivan said. The plan has been through the city zoning and planning boards and has gained all necessary approvals Sullivan said. The entity that will run the center will be a non-profit, registered with the State Education Department as a Historical Society with Collections. The Irish pub will be open to the public and should be part of the Varick Street bar scene. Sullivan first began working on the project in 2003 through his involvement with the AOH, Brooks told the gathered crowd. Though some of the money came from other sources, both Sullivan and Brooks said no government money is involved. The ceremony also included several prayers from local priests, bagpipe tunes, the Irish and American national anthems and Irish ballads. Shortly after a procession down Varick Street, a robust party was held at the Celtic Harp.

The Honorable Michael Dwyer named Grand Marshal

by John E. Fox

Judge Michael Dwyer

Oneida County Court Judge Michael Dwyer was named as the grand marshal for Utica’s (NY) 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said Kevin Dowling, the parade director. Dwyer is a “standup” person who is very deserving of being named grand marshal and has a difficult job as county court judge, “He works very hard for this community,” Dowling said. Dwyer said there are many others who deserve the honor just as much or more than he does. “I am very proud, and also very humbled,” Dwyer said. 141 groups turned out for the annual parade down Genesee Street this year, according to event director Kevin Dowling. Other participants included seven bagpipe bands, nine or ten additional musical groups and a plethora of service organizations – all of which made their way from Oneida Square to Columbia Street.

“This is the third largest parade in the state behind New York City and Buffalo,” Dowling said. “Last year, we counted about 2,000 people marching in the parade. With 33 more units that entered this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we got up to 2,500.” Many say for them the parade is a way to honor their ancestors by remembering Irish traditions and traditional music.

“I see the pride in being Irish; just being Irish you know, having it in your blood, but it represents the day and the spirit and the holiday,” said parade attendee Michael Collins.

Parade goers say the event wasn’t just about celebrating their heritage, but also about recognizing some important members of the community. It was a chance for local organizations — from emergency squads to food banks — to shine. Dowling, and other parade organizers, said the parade remains a community-oriented event, where rowdier celebrators mix with families and children – and where everyone has a good time. “The key theme that we try to stress is respect,” Dowling said. “Everyone is respectful of each other and we have a good time.”

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AOH/LAOH National Convention Homily

After National Chaplain, Father Tom O’Donnell, delivered the homily at the closing Mass of the AOH/LAOH Convention, his remarks were the talk of the convention.  There were so many seeking copies of his words that President Boyle authorized their reproduction on the front page of your National Digest.  We even procured a photo of Father Tom’s father, the patriot Bartley O’Donnell, as a young man.  This is what Father Tom had to say:

It is very appropriate that we are celebrating the closing Mass of the 2010 National AOH and LAOH Convention at this beautiful Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains. Just as St. Peter was held in chains by the Romans prior to his martyrdom, the Irish people have been held in chains far too long by the British government. Today we are celebrating this Mass for the intention of Peace and Reconciliation and to pray for the many thousands of Irish martyrs who have died as a result of British tyranny – the thousands who died of starvation in An Gorta Mor, the Great Irish hunger of the 1840’s, the heroes of the 1916 War for Independence, the fourteen martyrs of  Bloody Sunday of January 30, 1972, the ten Hunger Strikers of 1981 and the hundred of other innocent men, women and children who have died as a result of the troubles over the years.  All of these brave people had these goals in common – peace and justice, faith and freedom, and One Island, One Ireland with Justice for all.

There are not too many people, let alone a Catholic Priest, who would admit that their father spent time in jail. However, I am proud to admit that my father, Bartley O’Donnell, was incarcerated and was a prisoner 0f the British. When the Irish War for Freedom and Independence began on Easter Week of 1916, my dad was not quite sixteen years old.  He was saddened by the news that the uprising was crushed after one week and that the Freedom Fighters became martyrs for the sake of Irish Independence.  My father’s desire to be able to practice his Catholic faith and be free from British oppression inspired young Bartley and his brothers to join the Galway Volunteers, a provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army.  My dad and my uncles were motivated by the symbol and the words of the O’Donnell family crest which they saw tacked above the door of their humble farm home near Woodstock, in Galway.  The family crest contains a hand holding a cross with the words: ‘With this sign, thou shall conquer.”

For several years my young teenage father and his brothers engaged in commando activities.  My dad told me how they hid in the woods near their thatched room home and destroyed several British trucks which were carrying supplies and munitions back and forth along the main road from Clifden to Galway City. Eventually, the revolutionary activity of the O’Donnell brothers was reported by informers and my dad and my Uncle Tom were arrested by the Black and Tans and thrown into the Galway jail.  Dad and Uncle Tom tried to dig a tunnel to escape but the tunnel collapsed on them and they were recaptured. My father spent a total of six months incarcerated in the Galway jail. His faith and his desire for freedom sustained him during his time in prison.

The heroic efforts of the Martyrs of the Easter Rising and many young Irishmen like my father laid the foundation for the Anglo-Irish agreement and the establishment of the Irish Free State in   1922.  However, for all the Irish people the treaty was a bitter pill to swallow since the six counties of the Northern Ireland were separated from the twenty six counties of southern Ireland and remained handcuffed and in chains to the British reigns.

On Sunday, January 30, 1972 as the residents of Derry were engaged in a peaceful Civil Rights protest, fourteen people were murdered by the British paramilitaries.  Seven of the fourteen who were killed were teenagers, including six who were only seventeen. They were innocent of any wrong doing. On that Bloody Sunday a dark cloud descended over Derry City and remained for thirty eight years until Tuesday, June 15, 2010. On that day, about one month ago, the ghost of the British Army was banished from the streets and the dignity and pride of the people of Derry returned as the Lord Saville report exonerated the Bloody Sunday martyrs of any wrongdoing. Prime Minister David Cameron offered an extraordinary apology for the 1972 killings of the unarmed demonstrators by the British soldier saying that the long awaited judicial inquiry left no doubt that the Bloody Sunday killings were both unjustified and unjustifiable. Mr. Cameron went on to relate that there was no justification for the shooting of the civilian casualties. One of the most damaging sentences in the Saville report stated that one of the victims was shot while crawling away from the soldiers and another while he was lying mortally wounded on the ground.

The young Hunger Strikers of 1981 were all martyrs for the sake of their Catholic faith and freedom for all Ireland. These heroes were confined in the H-Blocks of the Maze prison, more infamously known as Long Kesh.  These ten Republican prisoners went on a hunger strike with five demands, the most potent being that they refused to be treated as criminals. After the hunger strike was completed these ten brave Irishmen had made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for what they believed in – that they had the right to practice their Catholic faith and the right to be free Irishmen.

This hunger strike of 1981 was one of, if not the most influential periods in the Irish Republican Army’s long campaign to remove Britain’s role from Irish politics. It not only thwarted Britain’s plan to criminalize the IRA prisoners in the H-Blocks, but concentrated world wide media attention on the war in Ireland, paving the way for Sinn Fein’s entrance into the political arena and the electoral successes that have followed. These ten Republican volunteers paid the ultimate sacrifice in the summer months of 1981. Their names will be forever written in the hearts and minds of all people in Ireland and abroad.

As their lives were ebbing away, the Bloody Sunday Martyrs and the Hunger Strikers were sustained by their deep and abiding faith.  They had the same faith as St. Peter. When Jesus asked Peter; “Who do you say that I am? “  Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Christ then said to Peter: “Upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”  The martyrs of 1916 and the martyrs of 1972 and 1981 were sustained by their faith in Christ, the Son of the Living God, and their faith in their Catholic Church, a Church that will be here till the end of time and a Church that neither hell nor the British government can destroy.  For many centuries the British oppressors have tried not only to take away the freedom of the Irish people but their Catholic faith as well. But the words of Christ will always prevail “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” All of these Irish martyrs have given their lives to preserve the faith and the freedom of the people of Ireland.

Bobby Sands wrote in the last lines of his diary “If they weren’t able to destroy the desire for freedom, they won’t break you, they won’t be able to destroy me, because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people is in my heart. The day will dawn, when all the people of Ireland will have the freedom to show. It is then that we will see the Rising of the Moon.”

In the past thirty eight years since Bloody Sunday, there have been many significant gains and progress towards the freedom for all Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and its further implementation during the past several years is one step in the right direction. Unfortunately, sometimes with a measure of success, also comes apathy.  Some may think that the struggle for a peaceful reunification is over. However, we must remember that the dissidents will continue to fight to prevent and derail the unification process.  Therefore, it is of prime importance that we leave this convention with a new strength and purpose. We must continue to lobby our politicians on the National, State, County and Municipal levels to support the United Ireland Resolution, so that, God willing, we will have a United Ireland in 2016, the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rising.

As Irish American Catholics and especially as members of the AOH and LAOH we must continue the peaceful fight and hope for the day when all Ireland will be free  and the six counties of the North will be  reunited to the twenty-six counties of the South and there will be a One Island, One Ireland with Justice for all, Because if even one county is not free, if one town is not free, if one village is not free, if one neighborhood is not free, if one family is not free, if one man is not free, if one woman is not free, if one child  is not free, all of Ireland remains in chains.

All of these Irish martyrs and my father, Bartley, will be forever connected by their deep and abiding faith in the cross and the belief that “with this sign thou shall conquer; with this Cross thou shall conquer.”   The Sign of the Cross has triumphed in Galway.   In 1955 the Cross rose triumphantly on top of the dome of the Galway Cathedral. This beautiful Cathedral, dedicated to St. Nicholas and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was erected on the site of the infamous Galway jail where my dad and many other brave Irish men were held prisoner by the British.  This magnificent Cathedral and its cross will forever be a sign that good will triumph over evil and that “with this Cross thou shall conquer.”  In the words of late broadcaster Paul Harvey: “That’s the rest of the story.”

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