President’s Message

It is my pleasure to report that the Spring Board meeting weekend in East Durham was a tremendous success and was perhaps one of the best attended in a long while. As I announced at the Board Meeting; the entire weekend was dedicated to N.Y. State’s celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the A.O.H. The Jim Hayes Memorial golf outing was a great success raising funds for our Austin V. Carew Scholarship Fund. It was necessary for a change from one golf course to another nearby course at the last minute as a result of a very rainy week in the Catskills. Our meeting was held on Saturday morning at the Shamrock House where much business of our Order was conducted in fine form with the pleasure of having a number of National Board officers present. Of course our own Brendan Moore, National Vice President and Tom McNabb National Secretary were present and gave very informative and inspiring reports. Also present was the National Director responsible for N.Y. State, Jere Cole who gave us both an update on Catholic Action activities as well as an update on the 175th Anniversary Commemorative Coin.

At the beginning of the meeting we also conducted a memorial service in honor of the 30th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike. Led by our State Historian Mike McCormack we stood in quiet remembrance of the ten brave Irish Nationalist who painfully gave there lives 30 years ago while on hunger strike for truth, justice and to see all Ireland free. We then shared in prayers and heard each of the names of the ten souls. The State Board also produced a memorial prayer card commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike that has been distributed to all jurisdictions. The card was created by F.F.A.I Chairman Tim Miles and Mike McCormack. These cards were widely distributed throughout the State and are still available by contacting Tim Miles.

In light of both of these significant historical events I called on all jurisdictions to sponsor local 175th Anniversary celebrations of some form as well as conducting a memorial service for the 30th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike. As a result I have been receiving many reports of these events and I encourage all jurisdictions that have not yet done so, please schedule and conduct both of these events soon.

Of course the National Boards celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the Order was held in New York City on the weekend of May 2022. There were a number of events held and I would like to congratulate two of our own who were tapped to organize the weekend. Ed Wallace who was the general chairman and was responsible for the entire event and Tom Beirne who was Ed’s right hand man in tightening down all the loose nuts and bolts. Hibernian leaders and Hibernians from throughout the country came here to mark the Anniversary. I recognize and thank all of our New York Hibernians who traveled from far and near to be part of the event.

Now all that’s left is for you to get your 175th Anniversary Commemorative Coin which can be ordered with the form that can be downloaded from our N.Y. State website at www.nyaoh.com or can it be purchased on line through the website. The coin will also be offered for sale at our Convention in Pearl River, Rockland County this July.

Speaking of our N.Y. State Convention, which will be held from Wednesday, July 13th to Sunday, July 17th, planning is very advanced as it should be and the reservations are coming in for all of the events. We have worked hard to put together an outstanding package which ranges from a Wednesday night ‘Icebreaker’ with a full BBQ Dinner menu to two great dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings. I assure you that you will not be disappointed with this Convention’s events. The Journal deadline has been extended to June 24th; I remind and ask all the jurisdictions to take a page in the journal to be part of the historical chronicle of the event as well as supporting the Convention. If you have any questions regarding the Convention kindly contact the Convention Chairman Warren Scullin (917-751-1661).

We are in the midst of the County Convention season and I encourage all Counties to consider carefully when electing your County leaders who will be in office for the next two years. They will have much work to do. I have been very fortunate to have traveled to many Counties to date to participate in there Conventions and to conduct the installation of the newly elected officers. I congratulate those officers and I look forward to being with you for your County Convention. Please make sure that you notify me of the date and time and I will make every effort to be with you.

As always, all the best to you and your families with prayers and best wishes from my family. Stay cool and I look forward to seeing you in Pearl River, Rockland County, July 13th – 17th to conduct the work of the Order in Convention and to share great Hibernian fraternalism with all of you.

Hunger Strikers

30 years ago, a five-year protest of Irish republican prisoners ended in one of the most pivotal events in recent Irish history. It began when the Brits withdrew Political status from Republican prisoners. In July 1972, Political Prisoner Status had been introduced after a hunger strike by 40 IRA prisoners led by Billy McKee. It meant being treated as prisoners of war and not having to wear prison uniforms or do prison work.

In 1976, as part of a policy of “criminalization”, the Brits ended Political Prisoner Status. Prisoner’s clothes were taken and prison uniforms issued. Refusing to wear convict uniforms and brand themselves and their cause as criminal, they wore nothing but a blanket through the brutal northern Irish winter in a cold stone cell. After men leaving their cells to empty their chamber pots were beaten, prisoners feared to leave their cells and covered their cell walls with excrement. In 1980, it was decided to embark on an age-old Celtic method of redress – the hunger strike, whereby one could force justice from a more powerful adversary by attracting public opinion to their cause by demonstrating their sincerity. There was no lack of volunteers but only seven were selected to match the number of men who signed the Easter 1916 Proclamation of the Republic. The Brits appeared to concede and said they sent a proposal to Stormont; the strike ended after 53 days in December. In January it became clear that the prisoners’ demands had not been met. On February 4, the prisoners declared another hunger strike. This one began on March 1, 1981 – the fifth anniversary of the withdrawal of political status – led by former commanding officer Bobby Sands refusing food.

It should be noted that starvation is not an easy end. By the time death comes, starving people are blind, deaf, speechless, and in a coma. Throughout the horrid ordeal, their limbs are bloated, their abdomens swollen, and their tongues are thick and bright red. Their hair loses its color and falls out, their gums ulcerate, and their teeth loosen. They suffer dehydration from constant bouts of nausea and diarrhea; whatever the temperature, they shiver with cold; their skin is shriveled and scaly and they are as dry as old parchment, no longer able to muster enough fluid to even cry. The agony is staggering to imagine. After losing about 1/3 of his body weight, a more serious weight loss begins when the body begins to consume itself. First the brain, which uses 65% of the glucose in the bloodstream and 45% of the oxygen, turns on other organs to keep itself alive when food is denied. The liver, which normally supplies the all-important body sugar, is forced to break down the protein in body tissue and muscle into glucose, leaving the victim light-headed. Next the body consumes its own fat. The resulting imbalance of fatty acids (ketoacidosis) results in nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst, and hunger for air. To preserve energy, the body slows down all of its functions: heartbeat, breathing, metabolism, etc. As protein supplies are reduced and not replenished, antibodies and white blood cells, needed to fight infection, drop in number so that wounds don’t heal and there is no resistance to infection. The depletion of proteins from the muscle tissue continues until, in the end, they are pulled out of the muscles which sustain life – the heart itself and the muscles involved in breathing. Near the end, the bones often pierce the skin at the joints.

Fully aware of the consequences, other prisoners joined one at a time at staggered intervals, to arouse maximum public support to exert pressure on PM Thatcher. A sympathetic public even elected Bobby Sands to the British Parliament during the strike, prompting media interest from around the world. Tomás ÓFiaich, Archbishop of Armagh, even visited the prison and condemned conditions there. Other prisoners ran for office and after two were elected, the Brits rushed through an Act preventing prisoners from contesting elections. But neither public pressure, the value of Irish life nor the cause of refusing to be labeled criminals swayed the Iron Maiden from her stubborn refusal to grant the simplest of con-cessions. Bobby Sands was first to die. Then one by one nine more young men had starved to death rather than criminalize Ireland’s fight for freedom; it wasn’t just about wearing jeans. Sands’ funeral was attended by 100,000 people.

The strike was called off on October 3. Three days later the prisoners were allowed the right to wear their own clothes at all times and gradually all the demands were met, but without formal recognition of political status. Thirteen others who had been saved by the ending of the hunger strike, still suffer from the effects, with problems including digestive, visual, physical and neurological disabilities. In the final analysis, the Brits paid the price of having world pressure focused on what, until then, had merely been an internal struggle that they had been able to conceal from the world. Ireland’s 10 new martyrs had made their cause a world issue and verified their sacrifice by paving the way for Sinn Fein’s entry into the political arena and the Peace that followed.

They were our bravest and best which is why they had to die, for because of them our cause was made sacred. As we prayerfully remember with love and pride the names of the martyrs of 1916, let us also remember the names of:

Bobby Sands (27), died 5 May after 66 days; Francis Hughes (25) died 12 May after 59 days; Patsy O’Hara (23) died 21 May after 61 days; Ray McCreesh (24) died 21 May after 61 days; Joe McDonnell (29) died 8 July after 61 days; Martin Hurson (24) died 13 July after 46 days; Kevin Lynch (25) died 1 August after 71 days; Kieran Doherty (25) died 2 August after 73 days; Thomas McElwee (23) died 8 August after 62 days and Mickey Devine (27) died 20 August after 60 days.