Nassau County, NY, remembers Easter Rising

On Easter Monday 2012, more than 100 people attended the annual Easter Uprising memorial service in Mineola, NY. At a location behind the courthouse stands the now completed Irish Easter Rising Memorial, a testament to those who gave their lives for Ireland’s freedom. 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, Irish Northern Aid, The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Irish Americans in Government, the Brehon Law Society of Nassau County, and the Irish Studies Program of Hofstra University.

The ceremony, which was headed this year by the Police Emerald Society, included remarks from Deputy Consul General of Ireland Peter Ryan and Sinn Fein politician and Seanad Erirann Senator Kathryn Reilly about the peace process in Ireland.

Also in the ceremony the Proclamation of 1916 was read along with readings of Sean O’Casey’s eulogy and “The Rose Tree” by William Butler Yeats. The memorial concluded with a laying of a wreath at the monument.

“First dedicated in 1979, the monument has been a continuing work in  progress requiring renovation,” said master of ceremonies Donal Mahoney. “I have been pleased and proud to be part of the process of the monument as it has gone through various stages of renovation and refurbishment.”

Mahoney notes the Monument Committee has brought together a host Irish organizations on Long Island and has drawn together the Irish American community “with the government of Ireland which has been absolute.”

The monument has been located behind the Nassau County Court House since 1979, albeit unfinished. In 1993 it was rededicated and renovated.  Recently, Irish groups throughout Long Island decided to complete and renovate the project. Three 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. Flowers, lights and a walkway were added two years ago and this year, to finish it off, benches were installed and the plaques were placed back onto the memorial.

The Monument Committee also started a customized brick program to be placed in the paving stones around the monument for all the sponsors of the project.

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Commodore Barry to be Honored

Due to the persistent efforts of the AOH, Commodore John Barry, the founder of the U.S. Navy under the Constitution, will soon be honored at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Originally conceived of a simple memorial to Barry on the grounds of the Naval Academy, the AOH has obtained approval by Academy’s Memorials Oversight Committee for a Barry Gate and a Barry Plaza containing a newly designed Barry Memorial.

Project’s Background

This good news to properly honor Commodore Barry is the accomplishment of the efforts of many people in the Irish American community.  Two members of the District of Columbia State Board, Jack O’Brien and John E. McInerney, spearheaded relentless efforts to build support for a memorial honoring Commodore Barry at the Naval Academy.  This project was initially approved in 2007 at a State board meeting of the Washington, DC Hibernians.

The team of O’Brien, working as the Historian and Project Coordinator, and McInerney, as the writer and Public Relations Director, previously succeeded in a nationwide effort to erect the Irish Brigade Monument at the Antietam Civil War battlefield that was dedicated in1997.  Their perseverance in the face of numerous setbacks to make the Irish Brigade Monument Project a reality proved to be valuable experience in the quest to erect a Barry Memorial on the Naval Academy’s grounds.

 

AOH Proposal

On August 29, 2008, following the Academy’s guidelines, O’Brien and McInerney submitted a proposal for the Barry Memorial.  The proposal cited the numerous significant contributions made by Commodore Barry in serving our nation and its navy.  The passage of the Barry Resolution (Public Law 109-142) by Congress on December 22, 2005 recognizing Commodore John Barry as the first flag officer of the United States Navy enhanced the proposal.  However, the proposal was rejected on January 5, 2009 stating that a memorial to Commodore John Barry “would not be appropriate for placement on the Yard in an exterior location.”

Undeterred, O’Brien and McInerney filed an appeal with the Academy’s Superintendent on February 8, 2009. “It is important that we explain,” said O’Brien, “how a fine officer and gentleman such as Commodore Barry can be an inspiration to future officers of the Navy and Marine Corps.  We are asking that the Barry Memorial be placed in a prominent space in the Academy’s Yard,” declared O’Brien, “so that midshipmen, officers, and the public will know of the contributions of the Navy’s first Flag Officer.”

 

Commodore Barry

National AOH President Seamus Boyle strongly supports the efforts of O’Brien and McInerney to erect the memorial on the Academy’s grounds.  “It is important to recognize the significant contributions of the immigrants that have built America into the great county it is today,” said Boyle.  “John Barry emigrated from Ireland and settled in Philadelphia.  He came to America as a cabin boy and worked his way up to be the senior commanding officer of the U.S. Navy.”

At the very beginning of the American Revolution, John Barry offered his services to George Washington and Continental Congress in the cause of American liberty and independence. In December of 1775, Captain Barry was given command of the Lexington, a small brig.  On April 7, 1776, the Lexington fell in with HMS Edward, a small 6-gun tender of HMS Liverpool.  After a one hour naval battle, the captain of the HMS Edward surrendered after taking heavy losses and severe damage to his ship.  Captain John Barry triumphantly brought his prize up the Delaware River to Philadelphia.  This marked the first defeat inflicted on an enemy by the U.S. Navy.  The boost in morale and prestige to the leaders of the American Revolution facing the world’s most powerful military and naval force was nothing short of spectacular.

 

Public Support

Seamus Boyle and Joseph Roche, National PEC Chairman, approached Philadelphia native John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, for his support.  Lehman provided a very strong letter to the Academy supporting the project. He wrote “It has always been an oddity that his [Barry’s] memory and example have been largely absent from the Naval Academy.  … The time to rectify this absence is at hand.”

McInerney and O’Brien organized a national letter writing campaign to the Naval Academy’s Superintendent supporting the Barry Memorial Project.  The result was that many other groups and individuals sent impassioned supporting letters to the Naval Academy.

Fran O’Brien, President of the Navy League of the United States – Philadelphia Council, sent a letter of support to the Academy’s Superintendent.  The Society of The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick provided a letter expressing support for the Barry Memorial Project signed by President Edward Last, Vice President Todd Peterman, and Secretary Drew Monaghan.

It became clear that Congressional support was needed.   So, McInerney, very familiar with Capitol Hill, walked the halls of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  Visiting the offices of at least 33 senators and 160 offices of congressmen, he hand delivered personally signed letters and talked to Congressional staff about supporting the Barry Project.  The end result of these efforts was that the letters signed by Senators and Congressmen proved to be successful.

In addition several cardinals, bishops and clergy enhanced the letter writing campaign.  Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Military Archdiocese wrote “As a frequent visitor to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, I have often wondered at the absence of a memorial to Commodore Barry.”

The significant history of Commodore Barry’s contributions to the American Revolution and the American Navy, the monuments honoring his memory in the United States and Ireland, the numerous memorial ceremonies celebrating his accomplishments, and the groundswell of support for the approval of the Barry Memorial Project all seemed to represent a critical mass that would surely persuade the Naval Academy to approve a Barry memorial its Yard.

However, much work still lay ahead for O’Brien and McInerney and the ever-increasing group of supporters to convince the Academy to approve the project.  The appeal filed on February 8, 2009 was answered in a letter dated June 16, 2009 from the Superintendent stating that he had referred the “proposal to the Executive Director of the Memorials and Grounds Oversight Committee.”

 

Crucial Meeting

It would be a year later on May 21, 2010 that a delegation of six met with a subcommittee of three military officers representing the Academy’s Memorials and Grounds Oversight Committee. McInerney chaired the meeting.  Representing the AOH was DC State President Bob April, National Director Keith Carney, Past DC Barry Division president Frank Duggan, John McInerney and Jack O’Brien.  Russ Wylie represented the Philadelphia Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.  The delegation met with Admiral Bruce DeMars, USN (Ret.), Admiral Robert Natter, USN, (Ret.), and General Michael Hagee, USMC (Ret.).  Captain Robert Hofford, USN (Ret.), Director of Special Projects, and Sara Phillips, AIA, Executive Director of Academy Projects, were also present.

A detailed proposal citing the many contributions of Commodore John Barry and the planned design of the Barry Memorial was presented to each subcommittee member.  The subcommittee members reviewed and conveyed the information to the main committee for evaluation.

 

Another Rejection

On July 20, 2010, the Memorials and Grounds Oversight Committee sent a letter to Jack O’Brien informing him that the submitted plan was not approved.  This was a discouraging second rejection but O’Brien and McInerney persevered and filed a second appeal with the Academy’s Superintendent.

 

Turning of the Tide

Ironically, while all of this was going on, the tide was already turning as a result of the intensity of the letter writing campaign to the Academy’s superintendent supporting the project.  Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley wrote a great letter of support.  Numerous retired Admirals sent letters expressing their strong support.  Congressional letters were having a major impact.  Letters supporting the Barry Memorial from many members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives were inundating the Superintendent’s office.  One month following the second rejection of the project by the U.S. Naval Academy, O’Brien and McInerney were contacted and offered a possible location for the memorial at the new pedestrian gate on Prince George Street.

On August 31, 2010, a delegation composed of National President Seamus Boyle, Keith Carney, Lt. Charles Cooper, USN, (Annapolis AOH Division), Jack O’Brien, John McInerney, and Russ Wylie met with Captain Hofford and Sarah Phillips at the Naval Academy.   They reviewed and inspected the site of the proposed location of the memorial.  The Academy’s offer was accepted.

“Throughout our efforts,” McInerney pointed out, “the Naval Academy worked with us in good faith.”  Finally, it was a dream come true to be offered an ideal site for the Barry Memorial where the majority of visitors as well as the midshipmen and their families enter and leave the grounds of the Naval Academy.

Numerous meetings ensued reviewing the proposed plans for the Barry Memorial with Academy officials.  Working closely with the Academy, O’Brien and McInerney were able to reach agreement on the final design of the Barry Memorial.

 

Victory!

On January 11, 2011, the Memorials and Grounds Oversight Committee met and officially approved the Barry Memorial to be located inside the pedestrian gate.  The project will be developed in two stages starting with the arched Barry sign over the Commodore John Barry Gate.

The Barry Memorial will be developed as the second stage.   It will feature a 28-inch circular bronze relief of Commodore John Barry mounted on an 8-foot granite block.  Below it is an enlarged copy in bronze of Barry’s Commission Number One signed by President George Washington.  Below this will be a bronze plaque giving the naval career highlights of Commodore Barry.  The area surrounding the memorial and gate will be named “Barry Plaza.”

“The Barry Memorial will bring to the forefront the decisive role Commodore Barry played in founding the American Navy under the Constitution at the direction of President Washington,” said Jack O’Brien.  “With the Barry Gate and Memorial, future officers of the Navy will know the role Commodore Barry played in our nation’s great naval history,” McInerney pointed out.  “This memorial will become the pride of the Navy and of Irish Americans,” McInerney concluded.

In the future, midshipmen, officers, and visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy will routinely say, “Let’s meet at Barry Gate” and in the process will learn about Commodore John Barry, a great Catholic Irish American Revolutionary War naval hero and the founder of the U.S. Navy under the Constitution.

 

Fundraising

The most important effort that AOH Members from around the country can do now is make donations to help build the gate and memorial.  With over $200,000 needed it is incumbent upon every member, division, county and state to make donations to this important AOH project.  In a recent letter President Boyle wrote:  “Brothers, noble causes make for generous hearts.  Let none of us lose this golden opportunity to educate future generations of naval and marine officers of the contributions of our noble Irish heritage in the foundation of our nation. Commodore Barry made great contributions to our freedom.  Do not let this opportunity to pass us by due to lack of funds.  Show your Irish pride and please contribute generously.”

Hibernian Charity is the AOH’s 501(c)3 organization and they are assuming the responsibility to receive the needed funds.  All checks are to be made out to Hibernian Charity Barry Project.  All donations are tax deductible.

Mail all donations to Hibernian Charity Barry Project, Post Office Box 391, Meriden, Connecticut 06450.  On the check memo line please write “Barry Project.”  If there are any questions, you may e-mail fkearneyjr@cox.net or call during the evenings after 6:30 PM. (203) 235-2746.  If you need additional information about the Barry Project, please feel free to contact John McInerney at (202) 213 – 2055 or e-mail him at McInerneyVerret@aol.com.  You may also reach Jack O’Brien at (301) 336 – 5167.

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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

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AOH Briefed by White House

Hibernians, lead by National President Seamus Boyle, had the largest contingent at a January White House briefing on Irish immigration and US-Irish relations. Over fifty Irish American Community Leaders were invited to the Old Executive office building located in the White House complex to hear overviews on these topics by representatives of the President’s Domestic Policy Council on comprehensive immigration reform and the National Security Council.

Prior to the White House briefing, many of the attendees were invited to attend a reception and luncheon at the elegant Hay-Adams Hotel by the Irish Lobby for Immigration (IRIL) just across the street from the White House.  Ciaran Staunton who heads up the IRIL was a gracious host and pointed out the significance of this historic briefing.  Former congressman Bruce Morrison, now an IRIL advisor, provided the attendees with their perspective on the state of Irish immigration.  As member of Congress, Morrison co-sponsored the Immigration Act of 1990 or H.R. 4300 and a provision of the bill became known as the Morrison Visa Program and some called it the Irish Lottery because of the positive effect it had on granting Irish entry to the U.S.  Touting the IRIL position, Morrison pointed to the fact that presidents don’t pass immigrations bills – Congress does. He also said, “Don’t let anyone tell you that Congress won’t pass an immigration bill in an election year.  It has been done before.”

At the meeting, Heather Higgenbotham – Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council mentioned that Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano wants to reach out to legislators and stakeholders to work together pragmatically with the Irish-American and other ethnic communities in hopes of building bi-partisan support.  With that in hand, president Obama will bring immigration reform to the forefront. Deputy Policy Director of the National Security Council Jake Sullivan, speaking on Northern Ireland, mentioned that Secretary of State Clinton named Declan Kelly as special envoy because she wanted to keep the North in her own office and that her view has become a deep commitment to seeing the peace process completed.

The various events that that day proved the influence that the AOH maintains on the national stage.  Our organization was well represented at these events by the president, national directors, chairs and members.

(Photo courtesy of IRIL)

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