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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Catholic University of America

Pictured (L- R) meeting at Catholic University are Bob Sullivan and Dean Poos of CUA, Vice President Brendan Moore and Director Keith Carney.

In 1896, 8 years after Catholic University of America (CUA) was founded in Washington, DC, the AOH provided a gift in the amount of $50,000 to endow a Chair in Gaelic Languages and Literature. That endowed fund still exists at Catholic University today, under the title AOH Chair of Gaelic Language and Literature.  The AOH endowment was looked at with great suspicion by some at CUA when it was originally provided.  It was a unique and extremely generous gift at the time and it was only the second endowment the University had ever received, the first being in 1893 (in the amount of $30,000) by U.S. Catholic Bishops.  The only other Celtic department in the United States at that time was at Harvard.  Many at the University were suspicious of the AOH at the time actually frowned upon the gift for a Chair calling the organization a “secret society”.  One historic reference in a University correspondence of 1892 expressed the view that “this University Chair ought to labeled the ‘Murderers’ Chair.”

In 1983, Catholic University established The Center for Irish Studies which organized lectures and other co-curricular events relating to Irish history, literature, and culture. Subsequently, a Master’s Degree in Irish Studies program started in 1991.  The degree program required study of modern Irish language but enrollment in courses for that language included students who were not in the Irish Studies Master’s Degree program.  In 2009 the AOH discovered that Catholic University had shut down (if only temporarily) their Irish Studies program because of a shake up and abrupt departure of the acting chair of the department and other associated staff.

Vice President Brendan Moore (a Catholic University alum) and National Director Keith Carney recently met with representatives of Catholic University in Washington, DC to discuss the status of the AOH endowment at the University.  The meeting included the Dean Larry Poos of the English Department, Bob Sullivan – the head of Development for Catholic and Dr. Coilin Owens a professor currently teaching an undergraduate Gaelic Language class at CUA.  Many options are on the table on how to deal with the AOH endowment and CUA is determined to maintain the fund for use as close to its original intent as possible.  Director Carney had requested a status of the endowment provided by the AOH and was provided with a status of the account in October of 2010 – that account currently holds (according to the University’s document) over $215,000.

While the amount of money currently in the endowment is significant, it is not enough to pay to hire a full time dean to run a Gaelic Studies program.  The University could not comment on the accounting of the fund over the years but readily admitted that they had not invested “any” endowments well over the years (until recently).  Catholic University has several other endowments that support Irish studies, including the Rose Saul Zalles Chair in Celtic Studies, the John F. Kane Fund, and the Mary Moran Chair in Celtic Language.  The two former funds were the chief sources of funding for The Center for Irish Studies activities. While no conclusions were drawn at the meeting, the combining of the other endowments (similar in purpose) to better pool resources in order to fulfill the original intent for the funds was proposed.

The Washington, DC AOH recently organized a Division at Catholic University, named the Sons of Saint Aiden Division and have over 40 members (all college students) that is serving as a model for other College students looking to start divisions.

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