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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Simply The Best

Clara Reilly was born and raised in the St. James district of West Belfast, the eldest daughter of 12 children born into the proud Irish family of James and Bridget Burns.  She is the wife of Joe Reilly, the mother of 6 children, 18 grandchildren, and 1 great-grand child. But to us, her children, she is our teacher, our advisor, our cook, our coach, our babysitter, our role model, our inspiration, our rock; the glue that holds our family together.

When we reminisce about the good old days and not-so-good old days we find ourselves in awe of our mother’s stamina, courage, sacrifice, and dedication as she balanced a house full of demanding kids, two jobs outside the home, and an arduous battle for human rights and justice in the British-occupied North of Ireland.

Our Mother’s crusade began in the early 1970’s, when she grew increasingly alarmed over the injustices perpetrated by the British Army and RUC, who brutalized working-class Catholics daily in the North of Ireland.   She believed strongly that discrimination should be confronted and eradicated, especially discrimination committed by forces disguised as “law and order.” Soon she became actively involved in the Association for Legal Justice (ALJ), where she documented, from her kitchen table, cases of torture and unlawful imprisonment of innocent people.  As word spread in the area about Clara’s volunteer work with the ALJ, our home quickly became the first port of call for distressed families whose loved ones had been savagely beaten and then hauled off to undisclosed locations.  Our mother would offer a cup of tea and comforting words to the families, before taking their statements and commencing her barrage of telephone calls to all the British barracks in an attempt to locate the missing person.  She was relentless in her pursuit – and the Brits quickly learned she would not cease until she had obtained accurate information on the victims.

The RUC soon took note of our mother’s human rights work, as they did with anyone who challenged their tactics, and they certainly did not appreciate her persistence and her knowledge of British law.  Her goal was to obtain information on detainees as well as to send a clear message that the community would not tolerate the violation of their human rights and the perversion of law.  Our Mother phoned the barracks so often the RUC started to recognize her voice before she even introduced herself.   On a few occasions she shamelessly had her daughter make the call anonymously, in her best attempt at a proper English accent…..Hey, desperate times called for desperate measures.

In 1972 we lived in Turf Lodge, West Belfast.  There had been a lot of tension in the area and more so on one particular day when the British Paratroopers, clad in full combat uniform, were patrolling the area with their tanks and guns, harassing and arresting residents.  When our mother heard screams from one of our neighbors as the soldiers set upon their 14-year-old son, punching him and kicking him with their steel-toed boots, she ran to the scene in an attempt to defuse the situation. She quickly realized these Paratroopers were ruthless, dangerous thugs who showed no respect to human beings, least of all to Catholics.  The soldiers spouted vulgarity towards the women.  Witnessing their depravity, the ladies retorted with slogans of resistance.   Suddenly, and without provocation, a soldier aimed his weapon toward the women and fired a rubber bullet.  (The British army murdered 3 Catholics with rubber bullets before they upgraded to their “safer” plastic bullet which has claimed the lives of 17 people, 9 of them children.)   One neighbor quickly assessed the situation and reported that no one was hit.  As soon as the Brits fled the street Mom collapsed to the ground.  She had in fact been struck by the bullet! Thankfully she did not sustain any permanent physical injuries.  When questioned afterward as to why she did not react immediately to being wounded, Clara answered, “I wouldn’t give those British bastards the pleasure of knowing they had shot another Irish person.”

By 1973, four of Clara’s brothers were interned in Long Kesh and served years behind bars without benefit of a court trial, a basic legal right. One brother, Kevin, who had not yet been scooped, fled to the Free State for fear he would be the next victim of British tyranny in the Nationalist community.  It was years before Kevin could return to the North to be with his family.  This was a difficult time for Clara and her family.

In 1974 Clara’s husband Joe intervened when he saw a young lad being brutally assaulted by the British Army.  Joe was subsequently beaten and arrested.  He was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment for this incident.  Six of those months were served in solitary confinement, a harsh punishment for an act of bravery.  Our mother’s journey became more challenging as she struggled to maintain some semblance of normalcy in a war zone.

In 1976, on a quiet residential street in Turf Lodge, our mother witnessed the murder of 13-year-old Brian Stewart.  Brian was killed by a plastic bullet.  To this day, the British soldier who fired the shot has never been prosecuted for ending this innocent boy’s life.  It was after Brian’s death that Clara became a founding member of the United Campaign Against Plastic Bullets.  Then and now, she has always believed, with every fiber of her being, that we must seek truth and justice, and has actively pursued both.

Early one morning in 1977, the Reilly family awoke to thunderous banging on their door.  It was the British army’s “friendly” wake up call.  The six children, whose ages ranged from 8 to 16, staggered sleepily out of bed.  Our mother, who was well-versed in her legal rights, had passed some of her knowledge onto her children, including the fact that legally we were only required to provide the soldiers with three pieces of information: our full name, where we were coming from, and where we were going to.   One son answered: Joseph Reilly, bed, and hopefully back to bed.

Apparently, the soldiers had orders to arrest Kieran Reilly, who had recently turned 16 years old.   (In the 1970’s it was common, albeit illegal, to arrest anyone over the age of 16 for a 4-hour screening process, during which the person would be questioned, interrogated, and in many cases beaten.) The soldiers, who could not pronounce the name Kieran and who thought it was a girl’s name, decided to arrest the only female child in the house, 13-year-old Coleen. (Hmmm…..Coleen, Kieran – close enough!  Arrest her!)  A scuffle ensued when the family envisioned the horrific possibilities of allowing a 13-year-old girl to be released into the hands of brutal thugs.  Even the baker delivering his bread that morning joined in the protest.  He loaded his arms with his best ammunition and proceeded to fire freshly baked Baps (Irish bread) at the soldiers.  In hindsight it was pretty funny……We believe we were fed that same bread for breakfast later that morning — Mother was also very resourceful!  Finally, the soldiers abandoned their mission, without an arrest. They realized they had botched up the assignment and vowed they’d be back.

In 1981 we received another wake-up call, this time to arrest our Mother.  The family braced themselves for another bread-tossing battle.  But, our mother did not resist.  For years she had taken statements from victims describing their brutality at the hands of the British government and now she too would experience the infamous 4-hour screening process.  So, with a rifle pointed at her back, she was taken to Springfield barracks where the Brits attempted their routine interrogation techniques on her……Fools!  Didn’t they know Clara had documented these techniques for years? She could predict their every move.  Needless to say, the exasperated RUC soon released her.   Clara, with the help of attorney Pat Finucane, subsequently took the British government to court for wrongful arrest.  Both Pat and Clara sat side by side in High Court to hear the ruling: “The process of interrogation the RUC called “screening” was ILLEGAL.” Clara and Pat were elated; they both punched the air in delight.  Finally, a small victory for justice.

By this stage our mother had become a thorn in the sides of both the RUC and British Army.  When she wasn’t tending to her family and work, she was campaigning vigorously for justice and basic human rights and equality for all.  We feared for her life back then and even more so after the murders of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson.

During the early 1980’s, the unemployment rate was very high in Catholic West Belfast, so it was with great delight that Clara’s son Terry informed his family that he had been offered a job with the state-run Northern Ireland electricity service and that he would soon receive a confirmation letter.  One Saturday morning Clara entered Terry’s bedroom with the letter in hand.  Terry excitedly sat up in bed and ripped it open.  His joy quickly turned to dismay when he discovered he had been rejected. He was devastated.  He couldn’t grasp what had happened since he had been verbally notified he had been accepted.  Clara sadly explained to her son the harsh reality of discrimination and injustice.  Clara fought the discrimination through legal channels.  However, she was blocked by the British establishment.  The Secretary of State had signed an order claiming Terry was a threat to national security.  He was 16 years old and had never been in trouble with the law in his life.  He was not alone.  John Hume (MP) had later raised the fair employment issue in the House of Commons that outlined the discrimination toward applicants who were denied employment based on their religion or their family’s views on British oppression.   At this point the best our mother could do to console Terry was to encourage him to never accept second best. She inspired Terry and all her children to look at these discriminations merely as setbacks in life’s many challenges.  Moreover, she taught us to never accept the unacceptable, to never allow injustices to go unchallenged and to never give up hope.

Over the years our home had become an open door for many people from all over the world who were interested in learning the truth.  Regrettably, we did not keep guest books of the hundreds of journalists, organizations, and concerned individuals who were welcomed to our humble pad, who received a warm bed, a traditional Irish breakfast, and an ordinary chat with an extraordinary woman.

There are many more stories we could share about our mother, but not enough ink and paper to do them justice here. Perhaps one day they will all be revealed in a book.  But, for now, we hope the few memories we have imparted will give you some insight into this remarkable Mother’s personal life.  An average working-class woman with a not-so-average resilience, perseverance and courage, who managed to pursue her passion for truth and equality without comprising her family. They don’t make too many woman of this caliber anymore.

In the words of our Mother’s favorite singer, Tina Turner, she is “Simply the Best.”

We are very proud and grateful to be the children of the 2011 AOH McBride award recipient, Clara Reilly, ar mathair.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

The Reilly Clan

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Extraordinary Trip to Ireland

Blizzards, power outages, airplane mechanical issues, missing luggage, unplanned stops in foreign airports and cancelled hotel reservations couldn’t keep the large contingent of AOH and LAOH members from making the trip to Derry this year to attend the final Bloody Sunday commemoration march.  The trip started out more like an episode of “The Amazing Race” than our yearly visit to Derry.  Members left from airports in Florida, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Newark with most taking connecting or direct flights to Belfast or Dublin. More than 30 plus hours after the original planned arrival and with unexpected stops in airports from London, Paris, Frankfort and Shannon many arrived exhausted and with no luggage – but it did not dampen our enthusiasm or dedication to complete our journey.  To be there and to feel the vindication that the Bloody Sunday families experienced was entirely worth every obstacle we had to overcome.  It was an amazing and unforgettable trek that the AOH and LAOH members from Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas will not soon forget.

Our trip started in Belfast but because of the late arrival we were forced to cancel many of the visits and events that we had scheduled. Luckily we were still able to meet and greet the organizations that we support in Belfast at our welcome dinner in Culturlann on the Falls Road in West Belfast.  With the majority of people eating their first meal in two nights not in an airport or on a plane, the great food and Irish music was much appreciated.  Our presentations on Friday night to Relatives for Justice, Belfast National Graves, Coiste, Green Cross and the West Belfast Suicide Awareness group were well received with sincere thanks from the representatives of these groups.  Most of the groups we met that Friday night in Culturlann are long time groups tied to the Republican community but all recognized the importance of our support of cross community efforts.  On Saturday we took a brilliant tour of the historic Belfast City Hall hosted by former Sinn Fein Belfast Mayor Tom Hartley.  Former LAOH FFAI chair Kathy Savage later told me, “This was truly a highlight of being in Belfast. I have to say that I had marched for many years in the Anti-Internment March in Belfast and could never even go near the City Hall so to be able to tour it with a former Sinn Fein Mayor was a wonderful experience for me. It is such a beautiful & historical building”.

Later that afternoon the group made a very special stop at the remembrance wall on Beechmount St. in West Belfast.  In my last article I described the wall as a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done to bring justice to those lost to British state-sponsored murder.  We met long time civil rights champion Clara Reilly, Robert McGlenahan from the justice group An Fhírinne and Jim McCabe.  (For a video of our presentation visit the AOH homepage.) Jim McCabe’s story is a sad all too common one about the discriminatory way the British security system treated the Irish and the justice that is stilled denied many.  On the same day that hunger striker Joe McDonnell died on July 9th, 1981, Jim McCabe’s wife Nora was murdered by the RUC – it was just three months after the birth of her child. RUC members including the senior officer testified at the inquiry into her murder in November 1982. The RUC claimed that there were barricades on the Falls Road in West Belfast; they testified that there were rioters and that they fired two plastic bullets when petrol bombs were thrown at them.  Their account also stated that there were burning vehicles on the road.  Unbeknownst to the RUC until the November 1982 inquiry was that a Canadian film crew had filmed the attack. That film showed that there was no rioting, or barricades or petrol bombs.  What it did show was the RUC vehicle turning to where Nora was walking and the firing of rubber bullets. Nora McCabe was shot in the back of the head at close range by a plastic bullet fired from that RUC vehicle. She died the next day in hospital from her injuries. Inexplicably and despite the film evidence the Director of Public Prosecutions or DPP decided not to press any charges against the RUC officers.  It was only in April of last year that Jim and his family experienced some vindication when another court ruled that there were significant factual conflicts between the evidence of the RUC witnesses and the film evidence. The judge said that consideration ought to have been given to charging the RUC witnesses with perjury.  Jim and Nora’s youngest child who was just three months when her mom was murdered is now 30 years old. That is entirely too long to wait for justice.  What do you say to a man like Jim McCabe? How do you try to make sense of what happened or not feel a rage at those who killed his wife, covered up the truth and protected murderers?  In an article referencing this story Gerry Adams wrote “Jim McCabe is one of our unsung heroes. He reared his young family while pursuing truth and justice for his wife Nora. I am sure there were times when grief, anger and frustration must have threatened to overwhelm him. But he never gave up. He persisted”.

As we prepared to make our way to Derry, Kathy Savage’s comments and the story of Nora McCabe would put our trip in perspective.  The North has come a long way, touring Belfast City hall with a former Sinn Fein mayor would have seemed inconceivable just a decade ago, so there has been progress made.  But the story of Nora McCabe reminded us that in the North of Ireland the time it takes to achieve justice is often measured not in days, months or years but generations.  Nora McCabe and the hundreds other on that wall on Beechmount Street deserve justice, the wall is a testament to the fact that there is still much that needs to be done.

On our way to Derry our group stopped in Bellaghy, County Derry at the graves of hunger strikers Francis Hughes and Thomas McEllwee, we met with local activists and representatives and discussed the current social and political landscape of the North.  Texas AOH member Tim Pat O’Connor read at the grave site memorials to Hughes and McEllwee that Tim’s division places every year in local papers to commemorate the anniversaries of the hunger strikers.

The focal point of our trip would be our time in Derry and that would prove to be very memorable.  The Derry AOH as always provided tremendous hospitality, and mass was celebrated at the hall with a large crowd in attendance.  Christmas Appeal donations were made to the Pat Finucane Center of Derry, the Ti Chulain center in South Armagh, the Bloody Sunday Families and the world renowned Bogside Artists (more on this group in my next Digest article).  Our visit to Derry was made even more special by the attendance of two special guests; past AOH Sean McBride winner and the author of “Eyewitness Bloody Sunday” Don Mullan and Patricia Breglio.  Mullan addressed those gathered at the AOH on Saturday night and spent time with our group at the march on Sunday. Don was also instrumental in arranging for the group to be received at the Guildhall in Derry where current Lord Mayor Colum Eastwood presented Patricia with a plaque to commemorate her visit to the city.  Patricia’s father Robert Breglio was an NYPD ballistics expert who worked with Don Mullan gathering and reviewing ballistic evidence that was instrumental in the appointment of the Saville Inquiry.  Robert passed away prior to the release of the Saville Inquiry but his daughter Patricia made it a point to represent her father at this historic event.  It was a tremendous honor to have Patricia and her cousin Walter on the trip with us.

Sunday’s memorial and march were emotional and historic. For the first time Protestant clergy attended and contributed at the morning memorial, but conspicuous by their absence and silence were any Unionist politicians – I guess that would be too much to ask for.  It was by all accounts the largest march ever and very symbolically the march ended at the Guildhall, just where it was supposed to have ended 39 years earlier. Many were heard to ask what would have happened if the British paratroopers let the march finish as planned 39 years ago. What would have happened if they didn’t murder innocent people? What was gained by stopping the march a little less than a quarter mile before its planned end?  How would have the history of the North changed? There are questions that are without an answer.  The end of the final march was celebratory unlike any previous ones.  Vindication was indeed in the air. Instead of ending with the reading of all the victims of Bloody Sunday’s names and a moment of silence, all in attendance were asked to applaud as the names were read.  Thousands applauded and eventually ended the day singing We Shall Overcome. Somewhere one had to hope that the victims: Patrick Doherty, Gerald Donaghy, Jackie Duddy, Hugh Gilmour, Michael Kelly, Michael McDaid, Kevin McElhinney, Barney McGuigan, Gerald McKinney, William McKinney, William Nash, Jim Wray, John Young and John Johnston could finally rest in peace vindicated.

Leaving Derry we would, over the next several days, meet and learn more about other groups that our Christmas Appeal supports; Cairde in Strabane, the Omagh Basketball team and Omagh Choir in Omagh and Justice for the forgotten in Monaghan.

In Strabane we were hosted by the ex-prisoner group, Cairde.  We visited the community development area that Cairde has helped develop over the years; what had been waste land has been developed into sport fields, an Irish speaking school and a community garden of plants and vegetables. Kathleen Savage and I had the great honor of planting the first of what will be twelve trees in memory of the hunger strikers of 1981 and Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan.

A highlight of the trip was our time in Omagh where we met with the Omagh basketball team, toured the Ulster American Folk park, visited the garden of remembrance dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Omagh bombing, met with AOH members from Tyrone and attended a dinner hosted by the Omagh basketball team.  Our good friend and Philadelphia AOH division 39 member, Eamonn Daly, and the team arranged for our entire group and to have dinner at Sally’s in Omagh.  It was a tremendous night where local officials, team members and their families welcomed us to Omagh and thanked us for our support of this cross community program.  Recognized especially for their support in organizing the 2010 Omagh basketball tour of the U.S. were Frank Kearney, Richard Thompson, Jere Cole, Tim Myles and the AOH of Philadelphia.  Thanks to the efforts of AOH National Director Danny O’Connell we were also entertained by the world class Omagh choir another successful cross community group that the Christmas appeal had supported.  We hope to post highlights of their performances on the AOH website and online digest.  In Omagh we also experienced first-hand a great example of Hibernian friendship, unity and Christian Charity.  Patti Flaus of Allegheny County Pennsylvania received a call late one evening and was told that her mother was hospitalized and she needed to come home.  After the initial shock many pitched in to do whatever we could to help Patti make calls to try to get home.  It was almost midnight and we were hours from Belfast or Dublin airport.  Finally we were able to make flight plans and arranged for a taxi to bring Patti to Dublin airport.  The fare for this three plus hour taxi ride was 125 Euros.  There were about a dozen of our members in the hotel bar and we passed the hat to help defray the cost of the taxi.  In a little over five minutes we had collected enough to pay the fare, tip and allow Patti to have a meal in the airport.  It was a great testament to those who without hesitation pitched in and donated to help a fellow Hibernian.  Luckily Patti made it home and even better news is that her Mom is recovering.

In Monaghan we were received by local representatives including Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, it was interesting to get his take on the upcoming Irish elections.  We also met Margaret Unwin director of Justice for the Forgotten a group that has worked for justice for those lost in the Dublin- Monaghan bombing and other unsolved collusion murders of the troubles.

In Dublin, a 1916 themed tour that included Kilmainham Gaol, the Arbor Hill graves of the leaders of 1916 and the GPO provided a historical perspective of the struggle for Irish freedom.  Our tour concluded with a reception that the Irish government hosted for our group in the Iveagh House, which is the headquarters of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. This was possible thanks to the efforts of our National President Seamus Boyle, National Director Jere Cole and National Immigration Chair Dan Dennehy.  Over the years they had developed close ties with the past Irish Consul General Niall Burgess, who is now head of the Department of Foreign Affairs.  Prior to the reception members of the National Boards met with Burgess and members of his staff to discuss immigration, legacy issues in the North of Ireland, the growth of the AOH in the south and future plans to work closely on several topics.

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