AOH Celebrates 175

It was a truly historic weekend as members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and their friends gathered in New York to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Order.  Although it wasn’t until 1853 that the name Ancient Order of Hibernians was officially adopted, the organization grew out of a fusion of fraternal societies from Pennsylvania and New York which met in 1836 near Old St. James Church on James Street, later renamed AOH Way for the 150th Anniversary of the Order.  It is from that point that the AOH dates its origin.

The weekend began with the hospitality of Ireland’s Consul General to New York, Noel Kilkenny and his lovely wife, Honora, at their rooftop residence in mid-town Manhattan overlooking Robert Moses Park and the East River.  As traditional musicians, Scott Mattey, Stephen Gara, Donie Carrol and Jimmy O’Neill provided lively Irish tunes, an endless parade of hors d’ouvres and canopes paraded through the assembled guests – a literal who’s who of Irish America – gathered to congratulate the AOH on its milestone.  As the sun set over a breathtaking view of Manhattan’s lights emerging like an earthly constellation, AOH Div 7 invited all to a buffet dinner sponsored by the New York County Board at their nearby local ‘The Black Sheep Pub and Restaurant’ where the gaiety went on. Irish Counsel General in New York  Noel Kilkenny It is a huge honor for me to join you in celebrating 175 years of service to Ireland, Irish America, and your communities.  I have seen the work you do and read about your York history. And now you are celebrating 175 years of what you have done for the Irish.  The Irish in the past when things weren’t easy – in fact when it as very dangerous to be Irish here in this city and right across this country.  It is an occasion to celebrate that, to celebrate what you have achieved.  And you have achieved so much.  What about today? As I travel around I see the AOH in action today and yesterday, and please God tomorrow – not only in your Divisions but in almost every facet of Irish life in this city, Irish) I have found AOH members at the center of it:  they have founding it they have funded it, they have supported it, they have volunteered in it.  So as an organization you have a glorious past, but you also have a great presence… But what of tomorrow Hibernians? What of next year? What of 30 years from now? He added,         Kilkenny called on Hibernians to plan for the next 175 years. You are the largest Irish organization in this country – you are coast to coast – you are in every city, in every community. future of the Hibernians is not the bloodline from Ireland but is the children and grandchildren of our members. He called on the AOH to hare with them your history engage them in your communities, encourage them to join divisions and to have to play their part in Irish America and to think to the future.  The Irish government is here and we want you to re-engage in Ireland.

On Saturday morning, the gates of the city opened wide to receive hundreds of Hibernian men and women from as far away as Pittsburgh, Rhode Island and New Orleans and they formed up on Mulberry Street, just north of  the infamous Mulberry Bend.  The Bend was one of the worst parts of the old Five Points neighborhood in which arriving Irish immigrants were forced to live in the 1840s and 50s with many notorious back alleys like Bandit’s Roost, Bottle Alley and Ragpicker’s Row.  The Bend is gone now, replaced by Mulberry Bend Park and so are the Irish who were forced to live there in more biased times.  Just as the Irish marched out of the Five Points into American prosperity, the AOH paraded north on Mulberry Street to the church that has become the icon of the Irish experience in New York – the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral – accompanied by four Hibernian Pipe Bands: Tara Pipes and Drums, Siol na hEireann, Glor na Gael and Orange County AOH Pipe Band.

Back in 1844, when Archbishop Hughes had called on the fledgling AOH to protect his church from a nativist threat, armed Hibernians lined the street in front of the Cathedral; on this day Hibernians again lined the street in front of the Cathedral, but this time it was Hibernian Pipe Bands and they were armed with pipes and drums; the massed band performance they provided would have made Archbishop Hughes proud.  The Mass in honor of the AOH milestone con-celebrated by the Pastor Monsignor Sakano, AOH National and Deputy National Chaplains, O’Donnell and Reid, and several AOH Chaplains and sung by the Hibernian Festival Singers.

Father O’Donnell’s homily read like a history lesson drawing in this wonderful spiritualism into the hearts of those gathered. The 175 year history of the AOH is intimately connected to the history of Old St Patrick’s Basilica. If it were not for the Irish and the Ancient Order of Hibernians the other historic events of this church may not have been possible.  In the 1830s there was a great deal of anti-catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment.  The need to defend the Cathedral against mob violence was not uncommon.  The “Know Nothing Party” organized Protestants to march against the Cathedral. Mobs and vigilante groups shouted anti-catholic epitaphs threatened the Cathedral and vowed to burn the Cathedral to the ground.  At this point Archbishop Hughes enlisted the Irish and in particular the Ancient Order of Hibernians to surround the walls of the Cathedral and safeguard the church. Then Archbishop Hughes wrote to the New York Mayor and told him, “Should one Catholic come to harm, or should one business be molested, we shall turn this city into a second Moscow.”  Although the AOH was able to save the Cathedral, they were not able to prevent the anti-papist mob who stoned the beautiful stained glass windows of both the church and the Bishops residence.  For 175 years the Ancient Order of Hibernians has continued to defend the church and its priests during times of both peace and turbulence.

Just as all of us who make up the Body of Christ give life to the bricks, stone, wood and steel of a church, likewise, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is more than just the AOH logo on a division building or the AOH emblem on the top of stationary.  Just as we are the living and breathing members of the Church so we must give live to our Hibernian virtues of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.  As members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians when we perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in our everyday lives, we are Christ to others. We are Christ when we protect the dignity of Human life from the first moment of conception until the time when our heavenly Father summons us to the Eternal Kingdom.  We are Christ to the world when we provide clothing for the homeless, provide meals for the hungry, and work at food banks so that poor families may have some nourishing meals.  We are Chris when we support the various Hibernian Charities not only by our material donations but by the gift of ourselves.  We are Christ when we fight for fair immigration laws not only for the Irish immigrants but for every immigrant who legally wishes to pursue freedom and the American dream.  We are Christ when we support seminarians and novices through Project St. Patrick and enable these men and women to pursue their vocations.  We are Christ when we provide scholarship funds for deserving students who wish to pursue their academic dreams.  We are Christ when we continue to fight for a free and independent Ireland so that perhaps by the centennial of the Easter Rising in 2016 we will have a united, free and independent Ireland.

As Hibernians we are alive, we are grateful for the glorious years of our past, but we must continue to be active in the present and be dynamically committed to the future because years from now we need future Hibernians to look back on us with the same aw with which we have looked back at 175 years of faithful and committed people.

The Mass was sung by the Hibernian Festival Choir under the direction of Maura Allen. This choir has performed at the White House and at many venues in Ireland, Canada and the U.S. and has always added to the solemnity of the liturgy. Ancient Order of Hibernians members were ushers and deacons who along with the altar servers under the guidance of a committee headed by past national director Martin Kelly of Brooklyn. Gifts presented by member Hibernians during the Mass included bread and wine, and in addition, a stature of St. Patrick, flags of the United States and Ireland, turf and potatoes, a model ship, and a Celtic cross.

After Mass, Monsignor Sakano invited all in attendance to a feast in the activities yard of the adjacent St. Patrick’s School where traditional music, food and beverage were plentiful and awards were presented to those responsible for the celebration. Hundreds of Hibernians and guests packed the old schools courtyard for food and drink and craic.  All were entertained by the band Celtic Justice and individual performers that included fiddler Scott Mettey and others.  The reception will be chaired by Sir Patrick Allen, a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and a brother Hibernian. Awards that included special plaques with bricks from the original church wall built by the original Hibernians were presented to the committee members who prganized the celebration.

Sunday morning dawned with the men and ladies of the AOH making their way to the tip of Manhattan and the oldest parish church in New York – St. Peter’ Church where a Mass was celebrated in memory of those AOH members and other victims of the cowardly attack on the World Trade Center right next door to the church.  After the Mass, a wreath was laid at the steel I-beam which remained standing amid the carnage in the shape of a cross and which has become an icon of faith and determination to recover.  It stands adjacent to St. Peter’s Church which is where Father Mychal Judge was carried after he was killed administering to the victims.

The day concluded with a visit to the Great Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City as part of the AOH New York remembrance of the International Hunger Memorial Commemoration.  As ceremonies took place all over the world in May to the memory of those victims of An Gorta Mor, the AOH National Board laid a wreath to the memory of the victims of that tragedy at the impressive memorial at New York Harbor.

 

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AOH Celebrates 175

It was a truly historic weekend as members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and their friends gathered in New York to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Order.  Although it wasn’t until 1853 that the name Ancient Order of Hibernians was officially adopted, the organization grew out of a fusion of fraternal societies from Pennsylvania and New York which met in 1836 near Old St. James Church on James Street, later renamed AOH Way for the 150th Anniversary of the Order.  It is from that point that the AOH dates its origin.

The weekend began with the hospitality of Ireland’s Consul General to New York, Noel Kilkenny and his lovely wife, Honora, at their rooftop residence in mid-town Manhattan overlooking Robert Moses Park and the East River.  As traditional musicians, Scott Mattey, Stephen Gara, Donie Carrol and Jimmy O’Neill provided lively Irish tunes, an endless parade of hors d’ouvres and canopes paraded through the assembled guests – a literal who’s who of Irish America – gathered to congratulate the AOH on its milestone.  As the sun set over a breathtaking view of Manhattan’s lights emerging like an earthly constellation, AOH Div 7 invited all to a buffet dinner sponsored by the New York County Board at their nearby local ‘The Black Sheep Pub and Restaurant’ where the gaiety went on. Irish Counsel General in New York  Noel Kilkenny It is a huge honor for me to join you in celebrating 175 years of service to Ireland, Irish America, and your communities.  I have seen the work you do and read about your York history. And now you are celebrating 175 years of what you have done for the Irish.  The Irish in the past when things weren’t easy – in fact when it as very dangerous to be Irish here in this city and right across this country.  It is an occasion to celebrate that, to celebrate what you have achieved.  And you have achieved so much.  What about today? As I travel around I see the AOH in action today and yesterday, and please God tomorrow – not only in your Divisions but in almost every facet of Irish life in this city, Irish) I have found AOH members at the center of it:  they have founding it they have funded it, they have supported it, they have volunteered in it.  So as an organization you have a glorious past, but you also have a great presence… But what of tomorrow Hibernians? What of next year? What of 30 years from now? He added,         Kilkenny called on Hibernians to plan for the next 175 years. You are the largest Irish organization in this country – you are coast to coast – you are in every city, in every community. future of the Hibernians is not the bloodline from Ireland but is the children and grandchildren of our members. He called on the AOH to hare with them your history engage them in your communities, encourage them to join divisions and to have to play their part in Irish America and to think to the future.  The Irish government is here and we want you to re-engage in Ireland.

On Saturday morning, the gates of the city opened wide to receive hundreds of Hibernian men and women from as far away as Pittsburgh, Rhode Island and New Orleans and they formed up on Mulberry Street, just north of  the infamous Mulberry Bend.  The Bend was one of the worst parts of the old Five Points neighborhood in which arriving Irish immigrants were forced to live in the 1840s and 50s with many notorious back alleys like Bandit’s Roost, Bottle Alley and Ragpicker’s Row.  The Bend is gone now, replaced by Mulberry Bend Park and so are the Irish who were forced to live there in more biased times.  Just as the Irish marched out of the Five Points into American prosperity, the AOH paraded north on Mulberry Street to the church that has become the icon of the Irish experience in New York – the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral – accompanied by four Hibernian Pipe Bands: Tara Pipes and Drums, Siol na hEireann, Glor na Gael and Orange County AOH Pipe Band.

Back in 1844, when Archbishop Hughes had called on the fledgling AOH to protect his church from a nativist threat, armed Hibernians lined the street in front of the Cathedral; on this day Hibernians again lined the street in front of the Cathedral, but this time it was Hibernian Pipe Bands and they were armed with pipes and drums; the massed band performance they provided would have made Archbishop Hughes proud.  The Mass in honor of the AOH milestone con-celebrated by the Pastor Monsignor Sakano, AOH National and Deputy National Chaplains, O’Donnell and Reid, and several AOH Chaplains and sung by the Hibernian Festival Singers.

Father O’Donnell’s homily read like a history lesson drawing in this wonderful spiritualism into the hearts of those gathered. The 175 year history of the AOH is intimately connected to the history of Old St Patrick’s Basilica. If it were not for the Irish and the Ancient Order of Hibernians the other historic events of this church may not have been possible.  In the 1830s there was a great deal of anti-catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment.  The need to defend the Cathedral against mob violence was not uncommon.  The “Know Nothing Party” organized Protestants to march against the Cathedral. Mobs and vigilante groups shouted anti-catholic epitaphs threatened the Cathedral and vowed to burn the Cathedral to the ground.  At this point Archbishop Hughes enlisted the Irish and in particular the Ancient Order of Hibernians to surround the walls of the Cathedral and safeguard the church. Then Archbishop Hughes wrote to the New York Mayor and told him, “Should one Catholic come to harm, or should one business be molested, we shall turn this city into a second Moscow.”  Although the AOH was able to save the Cathedral, they were not able to prevent the anti-papist mob who stoned the beautiful stained glass windows of both the church and the Bishops residence.  For 175 years the Ancient Order of Hibernians has continued to defend the church and its priests during times of both peace and turbulence.

Just as all of us who make up the Body of Christ give life to the bricks, stone, wood and steel of a church, likewise, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is more than just the AOH logo on a division building or the AOH emblem on the top of stationary.  Just as we are the living and breathing members of the Church so we must give live to our Hibernian virtues of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.  As members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians when we perform the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy in our everyday lives, we are Christ to others. We are Christ when we protect the dignity of Human life from the first moment of conception until the time when our heavenly Father summons us to the Eternal Kingdom.  We are Christ to the world when we provide clothing for the homeless, provide meals for the hungry, and work at food banks so that poor families may have some nourishing meals.  We are Chris when we support the various Hibernian Charities not only by our material donations but by the gift of ourselves.  We are Christ when we fight for fair immigration laws not only for the Irish immigrants but for every immigrant who legally wishes to pursue freedom and the American dream.  We are Christ when we support seminarians and novices through Project St. Patrick and enable these men and women to pursue their vocations.  We are Christ when we provide scholarship funds for deserving students who wish to pursue their academic dreams.  We are Christ when we continue to fight for a free and independent Ireland so that perhaps by the centennial of the Easter Rising in 2016 we will have a united, free and independent Ireland.

As Hibernians we are alive, we are grateful for the glorious years of our past, but we must continue to be active in the present and be dynamically committed to the future because years from now we need future Hibernians to look back on us with the same aw with which we have looked back at 175 years of faithful and committed people.

The Mass was sung by the Hibernian Festival Choir under the direction of Maura Allen. This choir has performed at the White House and at many venues in Ireland, Canada and the U.S. and has always added to the solemnity of the liturgy. Ancient Order of Hibernians members were ushers and deacons who along with the altar servers under the guidance of a committee headed by past national director Martin Kelly of Brooklyn. Gifts presented by member Hibernians during the Mass included bread and wine, and in addition, a stature of St. Patrick, flags of the United States and Ireland, turf and potatoes, a model ship, and a Celtic cross.

After Mass, Monsignor Sakano invited all in attendance to a feast in the activities yard of the adjacent St. Patrick’s School where traditional music, food and beverage were plentiful and awards were presented to those responsible for the celebration. Hundreds of Hibernians and guests packed the old schools courtyard for food and drink and craic.  All were entertained by the band Celtic Justice and individual performers that included fiddler Scott Mettey and others.  The reception will be chaired by Sir Patrick Allen, a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem and a brother Hibernian. Awards that included special plaques with bricks from the original church wall built by the original Hibernians were presented to the committee members who prganized the celebration.

Sunday morning dawned with the men and ladies of the AOH making their way to the tip of Manhattan and the oldest parish church in New York – St. Peter’ Church where a Mass was celebrated in memory of those AOH members and other victims of the cowardly attack on the World Trade Center right next door to the church.  After the Mass, a wreath was laid at the steel I-beam which remained standing amid the carnage in the shape of a cross and which has become an icon of faith and determination to recover.  It stands adjacent to St. Peter’s Church which is where Father Mychal Judge was carried after he was killed administering to the victims.

The day concluded with a visit to the Great Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City as part of the AOH New York remembrance of the International Hunger Memorial Commemoration.  As ceremonies took place all over the world in May to the memory of those victims of An Gorta Mor, the AOH National Board laid a wreath to the memory of the victims of that tragedy at the impressive memorial at New York Harbor.

 

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Michael Collins

I’m absolutely delighted to be here today at the 2010 Biennial National Conference of the AOH and the LAOH.  I want to thank your National President and our good friend Seamus Boyle for inviting me here.  Our Consul General in Chicago will also be with you during these days.  I would like also to salute and acknowledge the presence of deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Despite its long history and early beginnings, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is an integral part of Irish America.  Although the challenges we face are new and ever changing, the Order has an importance today just as it had 174 years ago.  The roots of this organisation can be traced back to some of the darkest hours in Irish history – A time when freedom was more an idea than a reality.  Today our country is at peace and our fortunes greatly improved, but the work of this Order goes on, particular on this side of the Atlantic.

We salute you for your commitment and support of Ireland.  I particularly applaud the solidarity of the AOH with the Bloody Sunday families.  You have long supported the families and survivors of Bloody Sunday and rightfully share in their joy that those who died and were injured were innocent. The Saville Report on 15 June makes clear that the shootings by the British Army that day were “unjustified and unjustifiable”. Thus, for the families and after 38 years, the gaping wound of the injustice wrought by the Widgery Report was healed.

AOH involvement in education programs to ensure a greater appreciation of Ireland’s National heritage is a welcome priority. I was delighted to present at the awards last year at the National History Day.

The Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of the precious peace that Ireland enjoys today.  Its great strength derives from its endorsement by the people North and South.  The recent election results in Northern Ireland were a ringing endorsement for those wanting to work together in the devolved institutions for the benefit of all the people.  We now have a unique opportunity to build sustained peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland. Today, Northern Ireland enjoys partnership Government and the various institutional structures of the Agreement are all in effect.

There has been a transformation of relations on the island of Ireland and also between Britain and Ireland.  The Taoiseach met with Prime Minister Cameron on 23 June at which the PM confirmed that the British Government was fully committed to the Good Friday Agreement.  Just last Monday there was a meeting in Dublin of the North South Ministerial Council chaired by the Taoiseach and the First and deputy First Minister. The Council is a vital part of the Good Friday Agreement architecture and provides the forum for Ministerial colleagues from North and South to address the key issues of the moment. And on Monday obviously the economic challenges that we all face were centre stage.

The devolution of Policing and Justice earlier this year marks an important milestone in fulfilling the full vision of the Good Friday Agreement. Ten years on from the Patten Report the responsibility and authority for policing and justice are now where they ought to be – at local level, accountable to and operating for the benefit of all the community.

There remain those who refuse to accept the will of the people. We deplore the acts of these dissidents and we are committed North and South to defeating them.  The work of reconciliation is a generational task. I welcome the ongoing support of the U.S. in helping us to underpin peace in Ireland, including through the International Fund for Ireland.

It will come as no surprise to many of you that Ireland has challenges of its own right now. Ireland, like most countries, has gone through a period of economic turbulence. However, the Government has taken the hard decisions necessary to deal with the effects of the global economic and financial crisis by stabilising our public finances, repairing our banking system and cutting costs to boost competitiveness. We are pursuing a detailed and well-planned strategy to ensure our economic recovery into the future.  It is evident that we are living through tough and difficult times, but we are meeting challenges head on and we will emerge stronger than before.  The U.S. is a key economic partner and foreign direct investment from here is vital to our economy.  But our economic relationship is also now a two way one reflecting the increasing investment by Irish companies in the U.S.  The Farmleigh Global Irish Economic Forum last September was an important initiative of the Irish Government to engage with our global family in a new and modern way. It has proven to be very successful.  We have also been engaged in a strategic review of our relationship and last year published the result of that review entitled “Ireland and America – Challenges and Opportunities in a new context”.

We say this is the year to come home to Ireland.  Tourism from the U.S. is very important to us.  I welcome the comments made by President Obama last Thursday in which he called for renewed efforts in establishing comprehensive immigration reform. The President stated it was time to “squarely confront our challenges with honesty and determination”. I would like to acknowledge the work and support of the AOH in this area. It is very important for our undocumented that this issue is resolved.  It is also important for us that we secure future flows through what we call the E3 programme.

I want to thank the Ancient Order of Hibernians for their work and their friendship. In you we have a formidable partner, and with you at our side we know that Ireland, and its people, will continue to flourish both at home and abroad.

Thank you.

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Martin McGuinness

We share the same objectives of Irish Reunification by Peaceful and Democratic means. We know that it is not enough to hold the aspiration; it is about what we do to make our objective real. I am proud that the AOH, LAOH and the bulk of Irish America has worked to make our shared objective of reunification a job under way.

Tom Paulin in his poem, ‘The Wild Birds Act of 1931’, likened the experience of nationalists and republicans in the northern state as being like tapping through granite with a spoon. We have always recognized that our struggle would not be easy. No grand gesture by a few would win freedom. Change comes from the small steps, and the resolute actions of the many.

38 years ago the British Army shot 27 innocent people on the streets of Derry. 14 of them died. These were people who were on a march for civil rights. A march which was banned from entering the centre of their own city!  The British compounded that tragedy by setting up the Widgery Tribunal and claiming that those killed were in some way guilty and complicit in their own deaths. They maintained that lie for 38 years.  But Bloody Sunday cannot be taken in isolation from the many acts that led up to it. The actions of the same troops in Ballymurphy left 11 innocent people dead. The same army enforced the Falls Curfew and internment without trial! It cannot be divorced from the countless acts of collusion, shoot to kill and intimidation that was visited on the nationalist community.

I also recognize and sympathize with that loss endured by the unionists and other communities due to the actions of Irish Republicans. Over the most recent period of the conflict in Ireland we have all suffered grievous loss. No one was exempt.       But over that period we built a movement for peace, a movement for equality and a movement for reunification; we had many partners including the Irish Government and British Government led by Tony Blair. We have moved from conflict, through negotiations and towards an inclusive power-sharing administration in the North.

At times it did indeed feel like tapping through granite with a spoon.  But by working together with the Irish Government other political parties and the involvement of America we have achieved:

–          Ceasefires

–          British Army being taken off the streets and returned to barracks

–          The signing of the Good Friday Agreement

–          The ending of the IRA campaign

–          The establishment of the Executive and Assembly

–          The establishment of the North South Ministerial council. Only last Monday a crucial meeting with Taoiseach Brian Cowan and Cabinet sitting with Ministers from the north including Unionists to share ideas and solutions for economic recovery took place in Dublin.

–          The signing of St. Andrews agreement which led to the establishment of power sharing between Ian Paisleys ‘s party the DUP and ourselves in Sinn Féin

–          Most recently we have successfully negotiated for the return of policing and justice powers from London to our administration in the North. We have now a policing and court service which recognizes human rights and is accountable to the people it serves.

–          And over the last two elections Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party in the North.

At all these junctions we were told that no further progress could be made. But we continued. In all of this progress we have been accompanied by the AOH, LAOH and our friends in Irish America and the American political establishment. Clinton, Bush and Obama and Hilary Clinton

The recent release of the Saville Tribunal into Bloody Sunday demonstrates how far we have travelled together. A British Prime Minister recognized that those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday were innocent. He said that the actions of the British Parachute Regiment were unjustified and unjustifiable. Maybe now after nearly 4 decades the British media will call it what it was in the words of the coroner of the time, ‘Unadulterated Murder’. When David Cameron apologized on behalf of the British Governments and acknowledged the injustice of Widgery his words were beamed directly into the centre of Derry where the families were gathered. The very place to which the original march was barred!

This only came about because of the lobbying and campaigning by the families of those injured and murdered. It came about because of the pressure of those who marched every year in the biting wind of January to mark the anniversary of the original march.  The people of Derry and the north are grateful for the support of the AOH and LAOH who marched loyally with us in Derry and who were part of making the apology possible. For the past 38 years, the AOH and LAOH have marched in support of the families. When others thought that it was pointless you persevered. I was delighted to be invited here, because the families and the people of Derry owe the AOH and LAOH a debt of honor. You stood with the people of Derry and we never forget our friends.

Yes a thousand spoons tapping through granite long and hard enough can reduce a mountain to rubble. Yet we cannot rest on our laurels if we are to achieve our objective of a unified Ireland.  We support reunification because it is the right of the Irish people in the fullest sense to define our own destiny. We support reunification because it makes sense. It makes economic sense, it makes political sense and it is the way to heal the divisions in our society.

We need to continually build support here and at home for peaceful democratic change.  I thank the many legislative and other bodies across this great nation that has supported resolutions in favor of reunification.  We also have much to do to build support at home for reunification.  Partition had an impact not just along the border. It infested a mindset in the 26 counties that turned its back on the north and it entrenched community division and promoted sectarianism in the North.

We need to unpick 90 years of partition and knit our society back together. We are working with Unionists and the Irish government in this regard.  The visit to the Bogside of the leaders of the main Protestant Churches in the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday Report to meet with the relatives of those killed and injured was inspiring. It was an act of leadership born out of compassion and respect for the families and people of Derry. I know you will applaud them for it.   Everyone in the community needs to feel the benefits of peace and change. As we build our coalition to support reunification there are those that seek to take us back to conflict, whose actions seek to have the British Army returned to our streets. They offer no strategy or plan to achieve Irish reunification and have repeatedly been rejected by the community. They should now go away.

I am mindful that we are in the lead up to the 12th July at home. A tense time for many communities! A time when another fraternal organization celebrates its heritage! I am of course referring to the Orange Order. I think that the Orange Order has much to learn from the open, generous and pragmatic approach to marching and working with host communities demonstrated by the AOH at home.

We recognize that the Orange Order is part of our shared heritage. They are part of our diverse nation and history. There is no greater symbol of this than our national flag. A symbol of peace and equality between green and orange!

All communities want to move forward together with equality and respect. I look forward to the day when the leaders of the Orange Order are willing to engage positively with the political and civic representatives of the Nationalist people of the North in the process of creating a better future for all our people.  Recent attacks on Orange Halls, places of worship, GAA, Sinn Féin Offices and other premises are to be unreservedly condemned for the hate crimes they are and I know you will all wholeheartedly agree with me that sectarianism like racism has no place in the New Ireland which is under way.

In republican parlance we refer to the cause of reunification as ‘the struggle’. We use the term because it will only be achieved by hard work, commitment and sacrifice. I am confident that it will be achieved. I am confident it will be achieved when I look back at how far we have come working together. And I am confident because it is the way to secure prosperity, inclusion and peace for all in our diverse community across Ireland.

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Building the Irish American Museum

In life it is said that the best ideas are the most obvious.  In the case of a small group of Irish Americans from Connecticut, their vision of building a national Irish American museum in our Nation’s Capital has been staring them in the face for years and now they are taking steps to make it a reality.  The Irish American Museum of Washington, DC will be a major cultural institution that will bring Irish-American history to life for visitors of all ages and for all American’s to see.       According to Carl Shanahan, a founding director of the Museum, The history of the United States is the history of Irish America and that history deserves its rightful place in our nation’s capital. He continued to explain that, The museum belongs in Washington to reflect the national character of our story; the Irish legacy is evident all across this country.

The museum will be one of ethnic identity and join the likes of similar museums in DC honoring African Americans, Native Americans, Jewish Americans and most recently German Americans.  The goal, according to Shanahan, is to explore the experience of the Irish people from immigrations through the evolution of their communities as well as to acknowledge their struggles and triumphs.  James Dougherty, another founding director, explained that The story of Irish America must be preserved and the story must be told. Every day a little bit of our history fades away. We must record and preserve that history before it is gone.

AOH National Historian Mike McCormack noted, How many times have we said I wish I could have been there to help during the Great Hunger, to fight with Pearse in the 1916 rising, to work with Michael Collins, or to lend a hand at any other crucial time in Irish history – but I was born too late.  Revise that thought!  We were born at just the right time to do all those things and more for to keep their memory alive for posterity is to aid them more than any aid they received in their lifetimes.  This museum is a critical effort and it’s what we are all about.  Now is our time to be a hero for Irish history.

Early plans for the museum include housing in temporary gallery space until a permanent building can be built; site locations for a prestigious permanent establishment are presently under investigation.  The museum will provide future generations of Irish-Americans with a proper sense of their history.  With very limited space for museums available on the national mall, the search will include property of historic significance in the early Irish history of Washington DC which also allows convenient access to visitors.

Education will be a key component of the museum to showcase 250 years of Irish-American history through innovative exhibitions, education and cultural programs.  This will be done in a state of the art facility designed to pay proper tribute to all those of Irish descent who played a role in the birth and development of the United States of America. The Museum will be a living and constantly developing entity. The core elements of the initial plan include exhibits of historical artifacts from the earliest Irish settlers up through the present.  Also included will be oral history projects recording the memories of individuals who contributed to the Irish American story; a library of donated and collected books, films, magazines, newspapers and recorded music; a historical research center; a genealogical research center; an auditorium for presenting plays and musical performances that tell the Irish American story and a gift shop where visitors can purchase books, films and other items of Irish American interest.  A cafeteria will serve quality food including dishes that would have been familiar to Irish immigrants.  A publishing department will also develop and publish books and films on the Irish American experience. Also planned is a state of the art cinema to present audio/visual material produced by the Museum and by outside sources on topics of Irish-American interest.

Raising money for such a facility and operation will take a significant amount of time and effort and it all began in 2007, when the Board of Directors of The Wild Geese, an Irish American cultural organization based in Fairfield County Connecticut, authorized its President and Vice-President to pursue the establishment of an Irish-American Museum as a standalone tax exempt organization.  They appropriated $30,000.00 as seed money to form the organization, and produce publicity material. The Wild Geese have subsequently granted an additional $5,000.00. The Museum has been incorporated and has been granted section 501(c)(3) tax exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.  According to Patrick Flaherty a founding director of the Museum, the organization must raise $10 Million to build, maintain and endow the museum in perpetuity.  They are soliciting funds from numerous sources including corporate sponsors, foundations, governments and individuals.

More informational can be found at their website www.irishamericanmuseumdc.org which is also in the process of being expanded.

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