Join the AOH Christmas Appeal to Help Secure Freedom, Justice

Clara Reilly 2011 Sean MacBride Humanitarian Award winner with Sean Pender, Mike Redmond and Mike Glass.

As boards and divisions continue to consider their contributions to the annual Freedom for All Ireland Christmas appeal, I would like to present a speech I made recently regarding Relatives for Justice. It is my hope that it will convey to you the importance of the work that we support with our appeal:

It was almost 10 years ago that I first met Mark Thompson, Clara Reilly and the staff of Relatives for Justice (RFJ) in their Falls Road office in West Belfast. In that time I have learned about the hundreds of families that they have helped in their quest for justice. I have had the honor to personally meet dozens of these families and learn firsthand of their quest for justice. I have been in awe of the staff of RFJ and inspired by their determination to fight for truth and justice. Often faced with what would seem insurmountable odds, they labor on, for they have the truth as their most valuable asset on their side.

Through my work with the AOH I have rallied support for RFJ at the local, state and national levels. The AOH has helped with our donations and our voices; We have told their story in meeting halls, conventions and to our elected officials both locally and in the halls of Congress.

Dealing with the past in a transparent and truthful way is a remaining challenge of not only the Good Friday agreement but a key component of the transition of a society from post conflict to true, lasting peace. It is the difference of defining a fragile peace as a lack of war to a lasting sustainable peace for equals.

RFJ’s quest is for justice for those families still seeking truth. Unfortunately, that quest for justice and truth has been often delayed, deferred, postponed and put off by the existing systems that are in place in the North of Ireland. For the truth to emerge, the vehicle that will provide the process must be free from the prejudices of the British government and her henchmen disguised as civil service employees in offices that they still influence. Britain has had its opportunity to address the past but it has failed terribly. Justice — even when it has been achieved — takes not months or years but generations.

Ignoring the issues is no longer an option. Britain must acknowledge what it has done, admit what it has done and apologize to those it has harmed.

It is my hope that the recent awarding of the 2011 AOH Sean MacBride Humanitarian award to Clara Reilly, chairperson and founding member of Relatives for Justice and a woman who for 40 years has been the backbone of the civil and human rights movement for the people of the North, will continue to highlight the critical importance of truth recovery in North of Ireland. RFJ has proven to be a true broker for peace and justice in the North. They have supported families regardless of their religion or political affiliation. RFJ does not believe in a hierarchy of victims, they believe that we cannot let those who seek the truth be left behind.

Their important work is often threatened and impeded by the subtle forms of discrimination that still exist in the North. A new building that RFJ desperately needs to serve the communities they support sits available and vacant but funding and support is held up by bigots disguised as bureaucrats. Funding is often tenuous with workers having to be laid off while new funding is searched for. But through all of this, they preserve and thrive.

If we do not address the past then the truth will be the last victim of the troubles, and there will not be a strong foundation for the future. The future cannot be built on the lies of the past. A foundation of truth can be the only hope for the future. The work of RFJ will help cement the future of all people in the North.

Notes:

On October 14th, only three days after the cowardly British prime minister David Cameron reneged on his government’s commitments to the family of Pat Finucane, Geraldine Finucane, Pat’s widow, issued the following statement: “The world is now aware that my family and I were invited by the British Prime Minister David Cameron to 10 Downing Street earlier this week to hear his decision on the holding of an inquiry into the murder of my husband, Pat Finucane. Even now, days after the event, we still feel humiliated and insulted by the ordeal we were made to endure … We cannot be expected to take the British Prime Minister’s word that it will be effective when he is reneging on a Government commitment in order to establish it. His actions prove beyond doubt that the word of British Prime Minister is not to be trusted. The case of Pat Finucane shows that British Prime Ministers no longer keep their promises.”

Geraldine Finucane has for over 20 years strived for justice and truth in the murder of her husband. Cameron’s actions and mistreatment of the Finucane family serve as a perfect example of why we still need to be cognizant of the issues that still affect the North of Ireland.

Congratulations to Dan Dennehy for hosting such a wonderful, first-class fundraising event in Manhattan to support RFJ and the Christmas Appeal.

***

Dan Dennehy, NYS FFAI Chairman, reports that the NYS FFAI 2012 Christmas Appeal Fundraiser held at Harbour Lights Restaurant was a tremendous success. Co-hosted by the Brehon Law Society of NY and with the dramatic views of Manahan skyline and The Brooklyn Bridge, the event was a lively evening of music provided by AOH members Sean Griffin and Stephen Gara, excellent food and great guest speakers.

Among those who presented a contemporary view of the issues in Northern Ireland were National Vice President Brendan Moore, National FFAI Sean Pender, Steve McCabe and General Jim Cullen of the Brehon Law Society. Many Hibernians, including Brian Kelly, NYS Director, Aidan O’Kelly Lynch, President of the AOH Peekskill participated in the event as well as National Director Jere Cole and Mike Carroll of the Brehon Law Society.

The highlight was a  moving speech by 2011 AOH Sean McBride Award winner Clara Reilly of Relatives for Justice, who was presented with a $2,000 check from the NYS Board as part of their Christmas Appeal Fundraiser proceeds. Dan Dennehy said, “The Brehons have helped make this event a complete success, and we are excited by the prospect to working with them on many more efforts and causes in the future.”

Clara Reilly and daughter Colleen with NY and NJ AOH members at NYS AOH fundraiser; chaired by Dan Dennehy.

Dan Dennehy, Mike Glass, Mike Redmond, Colleen Reilly, Jere Cole, Clara Reilly and Sean Pender at the NYS FFAI 2012 Christmas Appeal Fundraiser held at Harbour Lights Restaurant.

 

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President Boyle Addreses AOH on the 175th

The 2011 President’s Dinner was held in Philadelphia on October 8, and all who attended raved about the grand event. Also at the dinner, the presentation of the Sean MacBride Award was made to the highly deserving Clara Reilly.

National AOH President Seamus Boyle addressed the dinner’s participants, and his speech is reprinted here.

 

“Rev. Clergy, distinguished guests, National, State, County and Division officers of the AOH and LAOH, family and friends, and especially our recipient of the prestigious Sean MacBride award, Clara Reilly, thank you for attending this evening’s festivities.

I know many of you have traveled quite a distance, both from here in the States and Ireland so I hope you enjoy your night and have a safe trip home. (It’s not over yet, that is usually said at the end of the speech).

As most of you know, this year is our 175 Anniversary of the formation of the AOH in America and we did have a great celebration in New York City in May, which many of you attended. This Anniversary celebration that has been ongoing throughout 2011, took over a year of hard work on the part of many people to accomplish. I would like to single out two people, Ed Wallace, chairman of the Anniversary Committee, and Mike McCormack, who was responsible for the beautiful Souvenir Journal that is on your table tonight. I think we owe a round of applause to both of these gentlemen.

It is almost 14 years since I was elected to the National Board of the AOH and I must say it has been one hell of a ride. Although I have had many great times, there were also some sad times that came with the positions I held. Some great friends in the organization have passed on, as have some of my own family, and it is at times like this that I miss them most.

Tom Gilligan, Past National President, who encouraged me to get involved and run for office, told me it was a piece of cake, but Tom always did exaggerate. And my brother, Mike, told me I was nuts, but he meant it. The people I have met on my travels throughout this great country of ours have treated me with the utmost respect, whether they agreed with my policies or not, and I have remained friends with many of them.

The Board that I have worked with over the past 4 years has supported me in all my decisions, and I have always included them in making these decisions because I have learned that one man cannot run a ship by himself. Your Board has made great strides and has made many decisions that may not have been popular but it is easy for one to make popular decisions, but a lot harder to make the right decisions, and as far as I am concerned we have made the right decisions over the past 4 years.

For 174 years, our organization has had no registered Trademark or Copyrights to our name or logo. But today, thanks to our Legal Counsel George Clough, we are now registered. We have contracted with Harris Connect, at no cost to us, to do a history of the AOH, by the AOH members themselves, telling their story about their state, county or division or their own personal story of how they came to be in the area where they now reside. Our online edition of the Hibernian Digest has been a great source of information to our members. We are now in the process of gathering emails and updating our membership list so as to save time and money on communications. There are so many other things that we have done as a board but most of you know what has been accomplished and I will leave it at that. The board we have today is one of the best boards I have ever worked with and they continue to serve you in a most effective way.

Tonight is a night to celebrate. Celebrate our heritage with the music from the Willie Lynch Band. Celebrate our Religion, which we just did at our beautiful Mass celebrated by our National Chaplain Fr. Tom O’Donnell and our two Deputy Chaplains Fr. Reid and Fr. Pearce, not to forget the beautiful voice of Louise Donnelly, our vocalist.

Celebrate a woman who has fought for many years for peace and justice in Ireland, Clara Reilly. Celebrate our history by reading the history in our Anniversary Journal and educating our friends, family and especially our children of the history of our ancestors. Celebrate our health by being able to be here tonight with our friends and family and celebrate our peace in Ireland, fragile as it might be but much better than it was even 15 years ago.

I would like to thank all of you for attending the festivities tonight, especially all of my family from here in the States and from Ireland. My relatives from Ireland who came here for the wedding last week, about 12 of them, are like grandchildren: I like to see them come but I love to see them go back — and that works both ways when I go back they feel the same, here he comes when is he leaving. My children, Mike and Tara, Bronagh who was married last Saturday and is on her honeymoon and opted to miss this affair, but most of all my wife, Berna, who puts up with me all of the time but especially when I ask her, can you pack a bag for me quick, I forgot to tell you I am going to Montana or Georgia or someplace else in the morning. Thank you all especially you, Berna, have a great night, enjoy the band and have a safe trip home.

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A Richly Deserved Honor

By Andre Murphy – Relatives for Justice, Belfast Ireland

 

When the conflict began in Ireland Clara Reilly was blessed with a home and a young family around her. When the darkest of abuses began she chose to stand up for the next family, despite the vulnerability in which it placed our own – this is courage of enormity that few can boast. Getting through the conflict with your own family intact was challenge enough for most. Mothers standing up for other mothers’ sons and daughters, no matter the threat or how serious that threat may be – with full understanding of its magnitude – places a few of those women apart in our recent history.

This year’s recipient of the Seán MacBride Award is one of the few.  In the tradition of Sean MacBride’s own mother Maude Gonne, Clara Reilly stood up for those with no voice. Those being tortured, imprisoned without due process, being injured with no recourse and murdered with impunity Clara Reilly stood up and was counted. Regardless of the fear she felt for herself and her own young family.

With others she stood against a tide of repression and censorship and demanded that a light be shone on human rights abuses. She did it without fear or favor – challenging all abuses equally. She defended human rights and human life universally – at a time when they had lost their value in the turmoil of our recent Irish conflict. And she did this despite all the threats and repressive measures of the British state.

There are homes across Belfast and the North where people will state that when the worst of our conflict came to their door, no one else did – except Clara Reilly. She with Monsignor Raymond Murray were a support at a time when no support was available. She did this despite her own grief losing her much loved brother Jim to a British state death squad in 1981. That year she put her own trauma to one side as she traveled to the homes of others experiencing the worst of the traumas of that historic year.

Following the death of John Downes with a Plastic Bullet in 1986 she and her great friend and mentor Emma Groves (herself a mother blinded by a rubber bullet) with the other families affected by plastic bullets formed the United Campaign against Plastic Bullets. This campaign highlighted the terrible cost of these weapons on a defenseless civilian population – and what are more the injustices that surrounded these extra-judicial killings. Together they traveled from New York to Moscow, to the very factories where they were made, to highlight the weapons of torture that they are. She fights this battle at every opportunity to this day.

In 1991 she was, of course, in the room when Relatives for Justice was formed. This group which from its formation challenged a hierarchy of victims focusing on universal human rights – dismissing the anti-republican propaganda of the day which placed culpability for those the British state killed on the victims themselves. This was at a fiercely dangerous time. Her great friend and colleague Pat Finucane whose practice with Peter Madden she supported from its founding – was murdered only 2 years earlier. There were direct state assassinations and assassinations by proxy at a hither to unseen scale – with the importation of South African weapons to loyalism. And yet she stood demanding international attention for all the victims of our conflict no matter where they came from.

Without the documentation of the abuses of the 1970s and 1980s, without the campaigning throughout those decades and without the gentle and secure support she gave indeed there would be no focus on victims needs today. There would be a diminished capacity for families to establish the truth. The full complexion of our conflict would not have been established. She is Relatives for Justice spine, heart and soul. She is much loved, deeply respected and this honor is richly deserved.

 

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175th Update

After many months of planning for our 175th Anniversary and the hard work by the chairman, Ed Wallace, and especially his on the scene men, Tom Bierne and Jim Burke, and the rest of the committee, a decision has been made to have a Mass and a reception on May 21st 2011 at Old St Patrick’s Church in Lower Manhattan. The Mass has been set for 11:00 a.m. followed by a reception in the Youth Center across the street from the church. National Chaplain, Father Tom O’Donnell will be in contact with Archbishop Dolan to see if he can say the Mass.

Originally, the committee and the National Board had set aside Columbus Day weekend, October 7-9th in New York City, but this just proved to be too cost prohibitive. For a 2 night stay in a hotel, busing to and from Old St Patrick’s, and a banquet outside the Hotel, (which would be much cheaper than in any hotel) would cost approximately $700-$800 PER PERSON, without travel expense, parking or bringing your spouse. We felt, that in this economy, it was not feasible for our members to attend at such a cost. It was then agreed that a one day celebration, closer to our original organizational date, on Saturday, May 21st, was set.

The National Board meeting, in conjunction with the National President’s Dinner, would be held on the original date of Columbus Day weekend, October 7 – 9th, with the meeting and dinner on Saturday October 8th 2011, in Philadelphia. This would be less expensive and we will continue the celebration of our 175th anniversary at this function. So we will have a celebration in NY on May 21st and the National Board meeting in conjunction with the National President’s Dinner & the Sean MacBride award in Philadelphia on the weekend of October 7th-9th.

We are asking those who can attend the Mass and reception on May 21st to contact Ed Wallace at 315-686-3917 / ewallac2@twcny.rr.com as we will need a head count as soon as possible.

In conjunction with the 175th anniversary, we have an add journal which will be distributed at the President’s Dinner for those advertisers attending or will be mailed to all others. This Journal will be a history of the AOH for the last 175 years, as well as any division, county or state board who wants to write the history of their entity and sponsor that page. Our Historian, Mike McCormack is the chairman of that committee with Tom O’Donnell as the person to contact to write your own history or sponsor a page. The Journal Committee, besides Mike and Tom consists of Phil Gallagher, John Ridge, John Gara and others who wish to contribute. Contacts for both of these men are: Mike McCormack 631-732-1390 / aohbard@optonline.net and Tom O’Donnell 215-698-7434 / nlnod@comcast.net

For the celebration we have struck a Commemorative Coin. These are a beautiful bronze coin with one of the oldest AOH Logo’s (1890′s) on the front side and the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell on the reverse side. Jere Cole is the chairman for the coins and Sean Pender is also on this committee. Jere Cole can be contacted at : 973-632-7914 or jcole4838@aol.com. Sean Pender at paddyspeed@yahoo.com You may purchase a coin immediately so you get a lower number as all coins are numbered and will be sold in the order they are received.   A form and a check must accompany each purchase so a list of numbers can be tracked. The form will be in each digest until the August/September edition.

The dinner committee will be chaired by Ed Dougherty & Nancy Cullen. Ed can be contacted at: 215-338-4315 or eddoc215@verizon.net and Nancy’s contact is 215-322-0223 or ncp806@verizon.net More information will follow.

We are asking all division, county and state boards to celebrate our 175th year in existence. Take the time to write the history of your division, county or state or if you are relatively new or do not want to write the history, sponsor one of the many pages written by our National Historian. We are also asking each division, county and state to celebrate our anniversary throughout the entire year with a mass at some point and for our State Conventions to do something special to commemorate this pinnacle of our Order. How many organizations do you know who have achieved this honor of being in existence for 175 consecutive years? Right after the New Year a mass mailing will be sent out with all the information, forms, contact information and everything you will need to partake in this special time of our Organization’s festivities.

You may contact the Ad Journal Committee, Tom O’Donnell, Commemorative Coin Chairman Jere Cole or Sean Pender, or Dinner Committee co Chairs Ed Dougherty or Nancy Cullen immediately for more information, to purchase coins, to sponsor or submit History ads or the make reservations for the dinner. ALL OF THEIR CONTACT IS ABOVE.

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