Digital Digest Exclusive: Director’s Report

One of the greatest obligations we have as Hibernians is to pay our last respects to our deceased brothers. Those who have been our friends and mentors and have blazed trails for us to walk on in the years before us are ever deserving of our tributes and prayers at the time of their final Mass and their burials.  Their families and friends, at their time of morning, deserve our presence as a sign of respect and honor towards our deceased brethren.  On many occasions I have buried good friends, older Hibernians who have dedicated much to our Order.  For the first time I attended the funeral and burial of a young Hibernian.  Twenty six year old Shane Kelly of Pennsylvania Div. 61 was murdered as he protected his girlfriend during a holdup in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philly.  Shot in cold blood – a senseless act.  Shane was a rising star in the Hibernians.  An energetic young man, Shane was very active in his division and well respected by his division members no matter what their age.  As one Brother commented to me “Even as a young man, Shane showed great leadership.  I would have followed this man into battle any time.”  God Bless you Shane Kelly – may the Perpetual Light shine upon you, and may we all be better Hibernians after having you (for too short a time) in our Order.

I attended the book launch of Former Director (and newly minted “Life Member”) Pat Troy’s book titled “I have a story to tell.”  The launch took play at Pat Troy’s restaurant in Old Town Alexandria and was hosted by General (ret.) Stanley McCrystal – the former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. A tremendous crowd attended and was treated to stories about Pat’s life, fine Irish music and a long line to get books signed by this budding author.  I was honored to bring as a guest to the event; Irish Senator Mark Daley, who was in Washington representing the Irish Government on a number of issues including immigration and the new Irish Heritage Certificate.  Senator Daley is Kerry man and a fine gentleman who was very happy to see the fine works that the AOH is involved with in the States.

On Veterans Day, I was privileged to attend a fundraiser for the Military Archdiocese of the United States.  If you are a veteran, I think you realize the great works and efforts of Catholic Priests who serve in our armed forces throughout the world.  Please consider making a donation of your own to assist the only archdiocese that serves worldwide yet has no churches for collections – go to www.milarch.org and click on the “Donate” button.

Over the past several months I have had numerous occasions to attend functions at the Irish Embassy here in Washington.  On one such occasion I had the opportunity to attend a welcoming reception for the newly arrived staff at the Embassy.  Six staff departed the post and only four have replaced them and will have to fill all of the previous staff responsibilities.  These are fine Irish men and woman who will spend at least the next four years here as diplomatic core.  I look forward to working with these professionals and assisting them in any way possible on behalf of the AOH as I can. Another occasion was joining members of the National Board and many AOH members from the DC Tri-State area to attend a reception hosted by Ambassador Collins and his lovely wife Marie in honor of OUR 175th Anniversary.  We have a wonderful working and personal relationship with Ambassador Collins and the Irish Government and it was a nice evening to reflect on our 175 year history and to anticipate the great works in the next 100 plus years ahead for the AOH.  During the reception we were honored to have Senator Leahy (D-VT) make a brief appearance to pay his respects to our Order.

The day after the Embassy reception, I joined Immigration Chair Dan Dennehy, Directors Jere Cole and Danny O’Connell, along with former National president Ed Wallace at the Capitol visitor’s center for a brief meeting with Senator Porter (R-OH) to request his support for some Irish immigration initiatives currently before the U.S. Congress.  We as an organization are forging long lasting relationships with members of Congress from both sides of the isle to help our cause and need to work with many organizations to negotiate and get our opinion known.

I had the pleasure of assisting with Mike McCormack our Historian and Tom Conway from New York at the National Council for the Social Studies conference which took place at the Washington, DC convention center.  For a short time, I helped Mike and Tom, these extremely dedicated members of our Order, with explaining what social study teachers should include Irish heritage and especially information about Commodore John Barry.  In the category of learning something new every day, a woman from southern Virginia told me of ancient Irish writing (Ogham) carved into a cliff in West Virginia dating back to the year 600 A.D. – over 1000 years before Columbus. And from an article written by Mike McCormack a few years ago (titled America’s First Christmas Cards) this believed it to be the world’s longest Ogham message and dated it between the 6th and 8th century.  This 3-line message, when deciphered, read, A happy season is Christmas, a time of joy and goodwill to all people.  The second line read; A virgin was with child; God ordained her to conceive and be fruitful.  Behold a miracle.  The third line read, She gave birth to a son in a cave.  The name of the cave was the Cave of Bethlehem.  His foster father gave him the name Jesus, the Christ, Alpha and Omega.  Festive season of prayer.

 

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Diplomatic Meeting

Members of the AOH National Board and guests pose for picture with the Irish Ambassador after a luncheon he hosted in Washington at his residence. Pictured (L – R) Dan O’Connell Sr., Sean Pender, Jere Cole, Tom Brady, Brendan Moore, Seamus Boyle, Ambassador Michael Collins, Jim McKay, Ned McGinley, Dan Dennehy, Danny O’Connell, Joe Roach, Keith Carney.

Members of the National Board recently attended a luncheon at the invitation of the Irish Ambassador to the United States, Michael Collins. The luncheon was held at his residence not far from the Irish Embassy in Washington, DC.  The residence of the Ambassador of Ireland was built in 1924 and is historically named the Frederic Delano House after its original owner. Frederic Delano was a member of the Federal Reserve Board and uncle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  The Irish Government purchased the house in 1965.

The AOH was represented by 10 members of the Board including Executive Board Members Seamus Boyle, Brendan Moore and Jim McKay. Jim McKay also serves as Honorary Consul in New Orleans for the Irish Government. In additional two other AOH members attended as guests.  The Ambassador was joined by his Diplomatic staff members Mr. Myles Geiran, First Secretary and Press and Information Officer and Mr. Adrian McDaid, Political Counselor.

Making note that the AOH is the largest Irish Catholic organization in the United States and that our membership reaches every community around the country, the Ambassador was intent on furthering the relationship with our organization and finding ways in which we can help each other further common goals. The luncheon fostered significant discussion on such important topics as immigration policy, the undocumented and community support for Irish immigrants.  In addition we discussed how the AOH and its members can help Ireland in the current economic climate through tourism, business opportunities for American companies, and enticing higher education opportunities now being promoted to the Irish Diaspora in the U.S.

Also a topic of conversation was the Ambassador’s suggestion that the AOH play leading roles in future historic commemorations such as the upcoming 1916 Anniversary. The Ambassador was measuring our strength and demographics in age and other areas. Upon learning of our focus on youthful recruitment he suggested that we associate with the Irish Networks starting up in major metropolitan areas in the U.S. and sponsored in part by the Irish Government.

The luncheon provided an open and candid dialog and showed that a fine relationship continues to develop between the AOH and the Irish Foreign Affairs Department. This is true not only at the Irish Embassy in Washington, DC but at Irish Consulates throughout the U.S.

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International Great Hunger Commemoration

In recognition of the considerable significance of The Great Hunger, the Irish Government established a National Famine Commemoration Committee, chaired by TD Eamon Ó Cuív, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs in 2008. The first National Memorial Day was held on 25 May, 2008 in Dublin. It was so well received that the following year it was extended to an International Commemoration and it was established that the National Memorial Day in Ireland would revolve between the four provinces.

On May 17, 2009, the Irish National commemoration took place in Skibbereen, Co. Cork with parallel events held in Canada, Australia and other Irish communities around the world. International participants were encouraged to hold their own local events to commemorate the Great Hunger while, in Ireland, all public and sporting events observed a minute’s silence on that day. The AOH National and NY State Boards produced a onehour, four-part DVD on the tragedy, especially for teachers, entitled The Reasons For Learning as the AOH part in the international commemoration.

In 2010, the Irish National commemoration site was in Murrisk, Co. Mayo on 16 May and even more members of the Irish Diaspora around the world celebrated masses and/or sponsored events on that date as world-wide interest grew. Masses International Great Hunger Commemoration were also celebrated and services held at Great Hunger Memorials across America. The DVD Reasons for Learning was put on the AOH.Com national website for free download with a number of lesson plans and exercises in support of the DVD. A number of divisions held public showings of the DVD on that weekend.

This year, 2011, the international commemoration is scheduled for May 21 and 22. Our National President has urged local AOH divisions to schedule some type of public activity in their local areas and to alert the media to the event. For those without access to the Internet, and who would like a copy of the DVD on the Great Hunger, it is still available at only $18. from the AOH Charities by contacting F. Kearney at (203) 980-9324.

There is nothing else in the history of the Irish people that can be likened to the Great Starvation of 1845 and beyond, either for its immediate impact on Ireland, its legacy of emigration, its effect on the United States, its cultural loss or the decline of the Irish language. The population of Ireland, which exceeded 8 million in the Census of 1841, was reduced by millions through death and emigration. In honor of those who died, those who refused to abandon their faith and those who fled Ireland in order to survive, articles can be submitted to local media and educational workshops can be held to inform people about the official apathy that caused a potato blight to become a man-made tragedy. Historians have proclaimed Ireland’s Great Hunger as the worst social disaster of the 19th century when people starved outside the gates of prosperous farms as tons of food was exported. Let’s remember the victims on May 21-22.

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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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In Convention

The 2010 – 2012 officers pictured (L to R) are seated – Seamus Boyle, president; Father Tom O’Donnell, chaplain; Brendan Moore, vice president. Standing – Tom McNabb, secretary; directors Keith Carney, Mike O’Connor, Chris Norris, Danny O’Connell, Jere Cole, and Bob Mott (Len Byrne stands in for Bob); and Jim McKay treasurer.

The 95th Biennial National Convention of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America gaveled in on the 7th of July and concluded on the evening of Saturday the 10th with celebratory installation dinner of newly-elected officers. This year’s convention featured prominent speakers and visitors from Ireland and the U.S. and featured tremendous breakout sessions including live video teleconference to Belfast via the Internet in a combined Immigration and FFAI report.  Attending members of the men and ladies, numbering nearly one thousand in total, were inspired by moving homilies and historic news of a positive report on the Bloody Sunday official report.

Irish Ambassador to America, Michael Collins, came from Washington to address the gathering.  He mentioned that the economy in Ireland was growing and that U.S. investment in Ireland was vital.  Ambassador Collins spoke of the ongoing efforts to better immigration policies and to bring the undocumented Irish living in America out of the shadows and give them a path to legalization and U.S. citizenship. One direct immigration policy effort on the part of the Irish government is their push for more E3 Visas that are designed to allow for greater entry into both the U.S. and Ireland.  He also discussed his government’s efforts to connect with the 40 million Irish Americans and encouraged all Hibernians to come “home” and visit Ireland.

Also addressing the Hibernians was Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuiness. “I thank all the members of the AOH and LAOH down through the years. We share a single object of Irish reunification but by purely peaceful and democratic means. I am pound of the AOH, the LAOH and the bulk of Irish America.”

He addressed the recent apology from the British Prime Minister that acknowledged those who died on ‘Bloody Sunday’ were murdered by the British Army. However,   McGuiness said he recognizes and sympathizes with the loss endured by Unionists and others, in other communities, due to the actions of Irish Republicans. “We have all suffered grievous loss and no one was exempt over that period. Commenting on the progress that has been made he said, “Through all this progress we are constantly aware of the fact that we have been accompanied by the AOH, the LAOH and our friends in Irish America, and the United States political establishment from Bill Clinton to George Bush to Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton.”

The business of the convention included a number of resolutions passed and the elections of officers.  The AOH reaffirmed through a resolution to again proceed with an active Notre Dame fund.  Immigration has always been an important issue to the AOH. As a result, a resolution was passed that appoints an Immigration Chair at all levels of the Order, State and County Boards and on the Division level.  A dues increase of four dollars was approved by the body – the first national dues increase in over 25 years.

Attending the convention from the Board of Erin were President Jimbo Crossin and Trustees Gerry Harkin and Charles (We Charlie) McLaughlin.  To encourage “brother” relationships with Ireland’s Board of Erin, the Convention resolved to encourage the growth of the Order in Ireland. As a result, a resolution was presented that expresses the belief that the AOH in Ireland would greatly benefit by the support, love and assistance of their brothers in America. The resolution passed that encourages “brother’ relationships with corresponding jurisdictions with Ireland’s AOH Board of Erin.

The AOH historically has had more Divisions in the east, which has allowed for the election of Directors from that area. Because the South, Midwest and West are desirous of equal representation, the Convention resolved to appoint a committee to investigate the issue of under-representation in those aforementioned regions. It was resolved to appoint a committee to investigate the issue and present a solution at the next national convention. The measure passed.

Another resolution was referred to the Anti-Defamation Committee for further action. It petitioned the National Board to ask for the removal of Real Time with Bill Maher from HBO’s programming due to his consistent, insulting, anti-Catholic banter.

On Saturday evening the prestigious John F. Kennedy Memorial Award was presented to Siobhan Dennehy for her work on Immigration. The medal is a joint AOH-LAOH award given to “a Roman Catholic of Irish birth or descent outstanding in their field of endeavor.

Upon learning of the award Dennehy said she was “absolutely overwhelmed and amazed”. I had only heard of the award before and the magnitude of it; I could ever imagine to be nominated.”  Dennehy is a nationally-recognized leader on all issues related to Irish immigration. “There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish in the U.S.,” she said.

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.  She and her husband Dan are the parents of daughters Cara and Ashling.

“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.”

Six National Director positions were up for grabs.  Elected were Danny O’Connell, Girard, OH; Robert J. Mott, Myrtle Beach, SC; Keith Carney, Washington, DC; Jere Cole, Rockaway Township, NJ; Mike O’Connor, Helena, MT and Christopher Norris, Williamsport, PA.

Unopposed for officer positions were National President Seamus Boyle, Philadelphia, PA; Vice President Brendan Moore, Blue Point, NY; Secretary Thomas D. McNabb, Auburn, NY and Treasurer James McKay, New Orleans, LA;

The 2012 convention will find the AOH and Ladies AOH convening at the Turning Stone Resort located just north of Syracuse, New York (www.turningstone.com).  It was also agreed that the 2014 convention will be held in St. Louis, Missouri.

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