Director Report

Director Greg Sean Canning

National FFAI Co Chairman

On behalf of the National FFAI Co-Chairmen, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Brothers and their State, County and Division Boards for their financial commitment to this year’s Christmas Appeal. Through your combined efforts and commitment in supporting those efforts that seek to effectively work for an eventual “United and Free 32 County Nation, our 2014-2015 FFAI Christmas Appeal was the most successful ever. Through your efforts and the support of the National Board, we were able to donate over $68,000 to various groups operating within the 6 Counties on behalf of political prisoners and their families and establishing programs that encourage cross community cooperation.

Now that this year’s Christmas Appeal is over, we need to work more closely in dealing with the continuing injustices occurring within the North of Ireland and the growing attack on and resistance to nationalist goals and agendas. Only through direct and constant American involvement in the political affairs of the 6 counties, can the goal of a United Ireland be achieved.

As I have stated previously, the ongoing struggle for attaining a “United Irelandand for ending the sectarian division that now exists between unionist and nationalist, has gone on far too long.  While the Good Friday Agreement has brought a welcome peace to northeast Ulster, many problems and challenges still exist for the nationalist communities. Recent and past events in the six northern counties of Ireland exemplify why the time has now come for the national and state governments within the United States of America to once again exert its influence in a positive way to support a peaceful and final solution to this division.

As Hibernians, we need to re-focus our efforts in this direction.  To begin with, each State President needs to appoint, if you have not done so already, a strong State FFAI Chairman or Co-Chairmen (if necessary). These State FFAI Chairmen should contact county and division boards within their respective states, to see that effect chairmen are being appointed at the local level. Once done so, each state should establish a method of communication among their FFAI chairmen within that state to coordinate activities and programs that will identify those issues of most concern to the nationalist community and work towards addressing the injustices that are occurring there. In addition, it is important for these FFAI chairmen to creating a strong relationship and direct communication with their Congressional Delegation in addressing 6 Counties’ issues and supporting United Ireland initiatives. This can be done by encouraging their delegations to join the Congressional Friends of Ireland and the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs.

At the national level, we need to create a more effective highway of communication between the State FFAI Chairmen and the National FFAI Co-Chairmen for the purpose of coordinating activities and responses to current issues taking place within the 6 Counties. The first step in working towards this goal is for each State FFAI to send their contact information to the two National Chairmen.  Email address, phone contact information, and addresses would be most helpful. The email address for Greg Seán Canning is grioghar@mac.com. The email address for Paul Gowdy is pgowdy5259@wowway.com.

Working together, we can more effectively identify those issues and situations adversely affecting the political situation in Northern Ireland. We need to respond effectively to the gun and bomb attack by dissident groups that has recently occurred, the continued imprisonment of political prisoners despite the lack of substantial evidence, and the continued social and political divisions that exists between unionist and nationalist communities. We also need to support those endeavors that are pushing for the devolution of policing and justice powers as a way forward in working for the political transformation of the 6 Counties.  In addition, we need to continue and double our efforts in seeking more State and County resolutions calling for a United Ireland.

Working together through effective communication and unity can better accomplish what needs to be undertaken.

As we all begin to focus ourselves on the events of the 1916 Easter Uprising, let us recall that 6 counties in the North of Ireland are still unfree and are forced to live every day under the flag and political structure on an occupying country.

Remember:  “Ireland Unfree, will never be at Peace!”

Director’s Report

Greg Seán Canning

While the Good Friday Agreement has brought a welcome peace to northeast Ulster, many problems and challenges still exist for the nationalist communities. Recent and past events in the six northern counties of Ireland exemplify why the support from FFAI is still essential to the continued success of the Agreement.

  • Flag protests in Belfast,
  • violent loyalist marches through Catholic areas,
  • burning of nationalist and catholic effigies and symbols on the 12th of July,
  • reneging by the DUP on the Long Kesh peace memorial project,
  • ridicule of Nationalist politicians for using the Irish language,
  • recent imprisonments and convictions of nationalists by kangaroo courts, and
  • the continued obstruction of truth and justice by the British government and Unionist politicians.

These examples identify just a few of the challenges and injustices still faced by the Nationalist communities within the Six Counties.

The need for a strong commitment by our AOH Brothers to this year’s Christmas Appeal is extremely important if we are to work effectively to accomplish our mission as Hibernians to achieve for the Irish people a United and Free 32 County Nation.

Without your financial support, we cannot assist is addressing the injustices imposed upon nationalist communities by unionists, nor support those programs that promote cross community cooperation, social change, economic development, political prisoner family support, and cross boarder collaboration.

Without your financial support through the Christmas Appeal, the FFAI would become an ineffective tool that would only serve to please the militant unionist population and those who would like to see a reversal of the progress that has been made since the implementation of the Agreement at the turn of the century.

To achieve our goals for this coming year, Paul and I are asking every State, County and Division President to recommit themselves to our Hibernian Goal of achieving a United and Free 32 County Nation by reaching out to their members and promoting pledges and contributions to this year’s Christmas Appeal. Remember: No donation is too small; No donation is too great!

Brothers, please ask yourselves these important questions:

  • What did you do with the Christmas Appeal packet that was mailed out to you?
  • Did you address the importance of supporting this worthy endeavor among your members?
  • Have you been actively seeking commitments from your respective Boards and members for pledges and monetary donations?
  • Are you periodically sending out reminders through your email system?
  • Are you doing everything possible to help achieve our goal in promoting the unification of the Irish People?

Again, Paul Gowdy and I would like to encourage all Hibernians to recommit themselves in making every effort this year to support this worthy and extremely important initiative.

Greg Seán Canning
National Director & FFAI Co-Chairman

 

P.S. As a reminder —

All donations for the Christmas Appeal are to be made out to “AOH FFAI Christmas Appeal”. Payments should be sent to Paul Gowdy at 13201 Rosselo Ave., Warren, MI 48088-3154. FFAI Co-Chairman Paul Gowdy is in charge of collecting all Donations.

Organizations requesting financial support should contact Greg Seán Canning at 4530 Caladium Court, Kissimmee, FL 34758-2156 or through the following email: grioghar@mac.com. FFAI Co-Chairman Greg Seán Canning is in charge of receiving all Applications for Financial Support.

Freedom For All Ireland

By Paul Gowdy Co-Chairman

After the St. Louis Convention, I was appointed as Freedom For All Ireland Co-Chairman by President Brendan Moore. This is a great honor for me and I will do my utmost to perform my duties to the best of my abilities.

Let me share with you some background information on myself. I was born and brought up on the Falls Road, Belfast, County Antrim. At the height of the troubles in 1977, I gathered up my wife, Agnes (former LAOH FFAI Chairwoman), and three children and headed to Warren, Michigan. I joined the Fr. Solanus Casey AOH Division, Macomb County, in 1980. I have held every office in that division and was four years as Michigan AOH State President. In 2012, I was honored with an AOH Life Membership in recognition of service to the Order.

Every year we travel to Belfast and visit with family and friends. This helps me to keep up to date with the political situation in the North of Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland.

 

The Annual AOH/LAOH Christmas Appeal

Last year the AOH/LAOH Christmas Appeal was very successful, reaching a record $75,000 that was distributed to 13 organizations. I would like to see that amount increased next year. We have State boards, County boards and divisions who step up to the task by holding special annual fund raisers. God bless them. Sadly there are a lot of AOH and LAOH divisions who do not participate in any way. I appeal to those brothers and sisters to get on board and bring up at your meetings ideas to raise funds for our FFAI project.

Newly designed Christmas Appeal packages are on the way to all State, County and Divisions of the order. I expect all Presidents to take the time to share this updated information at your meetings with your brothers and sisters.

Remember all FFAI check donations should be mailed to – Paul Gowdy, 13201 Rosselo Ave., Warren, MI 48088-3154

 

Same old same old

Currently in Ireland there are plans for talks between the Stormont, London, Dublin and USA politicians. They will revisit and hopefully resolve the Flag flying problems and the contentious Orange Order parade problems when marching through catholic areas, etc…

The loyalist reaction to these talks can be summed up by Unionist politician Mike Nesbitt when he stated that his party was putting the N.I. Secretary of State Theresa Villiers “on notice” that “there would be no official role for any foreign government in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland.

Director’s Report by Greg Sean Canning

Director Greg Sean Canning
National Director & FFAI Co-Chairman

 

Brother Paul Gowdy and I (Co-Chairmen for FFAI) have been quite busy updating and preparing this year’s Freedom For All Ireland Christmas Appeal and the Appeal Application for the 2014-2015 Christmas Season.

Based on previous years, the FFAI Christmas Appeal has a strong core of longtime supporters in individuals, boards and divisions throughout the country. These supporters are the foundation that makes this program successful. However, for this success to continue and to grow, we must reach out to those who have not supported the appeal in the past. Only about 25 percent of our boards and divisions are contributing to our success. The FFAI Committee is requesting every Division, County and State President to make a serious effort to support this year’s Christmas Appeal. With increased participation, we can significantly increase the amount of good work directed toward the building of a “United 32 County Ireland” based on peace and justice for all.

Those Divisions, County, State Boards that make a $1,000 or more pledge to the FFAI Christmas Appeal will receive special recognition as well as a customized award. Also, for the first time, a special recognition and award will be given to individual Brothers who pledge $100 or more.

In addition to reaching out to all of our Divisions across the country, we have modified the $10 Club to the $10+ Club. This Club is a voluntary membership donation effort, separate from and in addition to Division, County and State contributions. When the Christmas Appeals Packet is mailed within the next few weeks, Paul and I are requesting that Division Presidents circulate the $10+ Dollar Club Donation List (included in the packet) among their members and strongly encourage participation. This important part played by Division Brothers can and does add significantly to the success of the Christmas Appeal. No donation is too great or too small. That being said, donations will not be limited to just $10. We are asking each Brother to give as to what you can personally afford.

All donations for the Christmas Appeal are to be made out to “AOH FFAI Christmas Appeal.” Payments should be sent to Paul Gowdy at 13201 Rosselo Ave., Warren, MI 48088-3154. FFAI Co-Chairman Paul Gowdy is in charge of collecting all donations.

Organizations who would like to request financial support from the FFAI Christmas Appeal fund must be those who promote such programs as encouraging cross community cooperation, economic development, social change, cross border collaboration, Irish history and language education, nationalist infrastructure maintenance and construction efforts, and Irish unification initiatives based on peace and justice for all throughout all of Ireland.

Organizations requesting financial support should contact Greg Seán Canning at 4530 Caladium Court, Kissimmee, FL 34758-2156 or through the following email: grioghar@mac.com. FFAI Co-Chairman Greg Seán Canning is in charge of receiving all Applications for Financial Support.

Again, Paul and I would like to encourage all Hibernians to make every effort this year to support this worthy and extremely important initiative. We must continue our mission as Hibernians to do everything within our power to help achieve for the Irish people a “United and Free 32 County Nation.”

FFAI Sean Pender

I hope that all have enjoyed the summer months; it has certainly been a hot one. I would first like to mention that due to a transposition error on my part I failed to list the AOH and LAOH Division 22 of Philadelphia as contributors of a $1,000 donation to the most recent Christmas Appeal. My sincere apology for the error and sincere thanks to the members of the LAOH and AOH for their tremendous donation.

In late May, a fine Irish Catholic gentleman, Harold “Bud” Thompson, passed away at 88 years young. I had the absolute honor of being on several trips to Ireland with Bud and his son, Chris, attending Bloody Sunday marches, and our most recent trip in March and April of this year. On our last trip Bud was an integral part of our delegation, he attended all of our events in Belfast and Derry. Bud and Chris coordinated a visit to meet the Ballymurphy Massacre families; Bud held court at the Kinturk Tyrone AOH hall with the children who entertained us, he proudly led the Belfast Easter commemoration march up the Falls Road to Milltown Cemetery in a black taxi, he asked questions regarding the PSNI at our Good Friday presentation and, in a moment I’ll always remember, Bud gave us two songs at the Derry AOH Hall. At 88 years old he was as sharp as a tack and an absolute joy to be with. After our visit to Milltown Cemetery where we attended the Easter Commemoration and stood by in the very bitter cold listening to speeches we couldn’t wait to get back to the bus for some much needed warmth. Bud got on the bus after getting out of the black cab and as we were defrosting he said dryly, “I’m glad to be back in the bus, it was getting warm in that cab.” Before Bud and Chris left for home I made it a point to take a Fathers and Sons picture of them with myself and my son, Tadhg. It is my sincere hope that some day I will have the same loving relationship in my latter years with Tadhg that Bud and Chris have.

To Bud, well done good and faithful servant, you will be missed but never forgotten; To Chris, your love and devotion to your Dad is an example that we can all learn from.

 

Shortly after you receive this edition of the Hibernian Digest the yearly Freedom for All Ireland Christmas Appeal packets will be mailed to all divisions and boards. This year, instead of me writing of the importance of the Christmas Appeal and the continued need for support, I have asked members who have traveled to Ireland and met the groups on our trips to tell you instead. It is my intention to include more contributions in upcoming Digest issues from members and groups in the hope that this information will confirm the need for our Appeal and answer any questions members may have regarding it. As always, I am available to answer any questions regarding the appeal just drop me an email at paddyspeed@yahoo.com

 

 

Jere Cole National Director

            As you know I have been on this trip for many years. We have met many people and listened to many stories about the struggle in the North.

For me I can say it has been Educational, Informative & Rewarding it has offered a unique perspective on life in the North during that time. You cannot explain the feeling you receive from the people you talk to about what was going on. We must continue this trip to let our “IRISH” brother & sister we still care about their hope & dreams. 

 

________________________________________________________________________

Dan Dennehy National Immigration Chairman:

            I have been a participant in the past 3 FFAI tours.
Three years ago we marched with the jubilant Bloody Sunday families and listened to the families of Ballymurphy, Coalisland and many others involved with Relative’s for Justice, felt the warm gratitude of the wonderful youths of the Omagh Choir and Basketball Team, visited Iveagh House for the first time and met the young mayor of Belfast, Niall O’D. Two years ago we visited the stunning beauty of the Giants Causeway, DownPatrick and Armagh, met the wonderful people of Crossmaglen and South Armagh and participated in a pivotal Unite Ireland Conference.
This Easter Week we met the beautiful people of the Short Strand, Belfast, Derry, Tyrone and Dublin, joined in numerous Easter Commemorations’, hosted a 15th Anniversary Good Friday Agreement Conference, and were given unbelievable access to Iveagh House, Glasnevin Cemetery, and Padraig Pearse birthplace by legendary historians, (Shane McThomais and Ruan O’Donnell) dignitaries (Niall Burgess and Joe Byrne), artists (Robert Ballagh) and writers (Tim Pat Coogan).

These trips are important because they are productive, informative and fun. Chairman Pender surpasses himself each year as the trips become more connected, involved and well received by the legislators, activists and ordinary people of the cities and communities that we visit. Great friendships between Hibernians from across the US are forged each year on these trips and last long after the FFAI tours.

________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

Christopher Thompson, ESQ Long Island New York:

Bobby Sands said it best – “Our revenge will be in the laughter of our children.”  I started to travel to Northern Ireland when I was in the 10th grade.  That was over 34 years ago.  I have watched the Christmas Appeal grow into a beacon of peace allowing organizations that receive little, if any, financial support from the government to reach across religious barriers once thought unbreakable – changing the minds of the youth of Ireland even if one mind at a time.  Perhaps, that is the laughter Bobby Sands spoke of.

Also, I told you how I came about sending a $1,000 donation by not drinking coffee.  This year, my dad raised $3,150.00 from his grave simply by asking for donations instead of flowers.  People should know this is an option – especially those of us who visit and support the work FFAI does.
Thank you for your hard work Sean it’s greatly appreciated and sorely needed.

 

___________________________________________________________________

Stephen M. Dick Jr.

Albany County Treasurer

            There is NO substitute for the experience I had going on the FFAI Tour last year.  The opportunity to meet the people that lived the history can never be replaced by history books, movies, or the like.  To have had the chance to speak to past prisoners, to see historical memorabilia from the troubles in person, and listen to the stories of the families still seeking justice was more profound than I had even imagined.  I look forward to getting another chance to return in 2014.

 

 

________________________________________________________________________

 

 Kathleen Savage LAOH Massachusetts

I don’t think it should make any difference that it’s 15 years after the GFA to continue funding most of the charities that the AOH has supported.  I definitely would like to see checks still going to Mary’s Gift to promote the Irish Language. The Belfast National Graves because the upkeep of the graves will always be needed.

The Pat Finucane Centre & Relatives for Justice because families of loved ones who were murdered by the Crown Forces have a right to know the Truth and Peace will only come with Truth & Justice. The cross-community projects should continue to be helped by the Christmas Appeal as this is the pathway to Peace (David Ervine Trust – Omagh Basketball Club). St. Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, Tar Anall, Thar Saile, and Coiste should continue to be on the list of recipients of the Christmas Appeal. I would also like the AOH to once again give to the Suicide Prevention Centre. It seems to be happening more & more in the North. Just a few weeks ago Fr. Matt Wallace, a great priest who helped so many in Belfast, took his own life. I think for now these charities still need our help.

________________________________________________________________________

 

Robert Bollbach Westchester County NY

            For the past two years I have had the privilege of traveling to Ireland with my fellow AOH Brothers and Sisters.  I have seen the good works of the funds we raise and the positive effects they have on the organizations and the people they serve. We have visited Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Crossmagelen, Downpatrick, Kinturk, Loughlinisland and Dublin.  Everywhere we went the message from the people of Northern Ireland was the same. THANK YOU for the voice of the AOH in America on their behalf. Thank you for our friendship and thank you for the funds we give to them to help support their programs. We have reached out to many different aspects of the community.  Many friendships and lifelong bonds have developed as a result of the Freedom for All Ireland campaigns.  We have seen firsthand the great work done by Relatives for Justice under Mark Thompson and his dedicated team in Belfast.  We are proud to have supported for many years John Kelly and the families from Bloody Sunday in Derry. We work with a school in Twinbrook (home of Bobby Sands) where ALL classes are in the Irish language. To quote Bobby Sands, “our revenge will be the laughter of our children”. We have witnessed the joy and laughter of the children. We support groups that help former prisoners, the Republican Graves Association and once you meet him, you will not forget “the coach” who established a cross-community basketball team and now a league in Omagh.
This year was the 15th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to The Troubles and peace to Northern Ireland.  At the two conferences I attended in Downpatrick and in Derry, the message from the AOH was very clear. We stand behind the Good Friday Agreement and we will continue to use our influence and make sure that our voice is heard until all aspects that were agreed upon 15 years ago are fully implemented.

FFAI – Sean Pender

Concerned Irish American groups led by the AOH crafted the letter below to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to her recent visit to Ireland. In the weeks since that visit it has become abundantly clear that our concerns are well founded and immediate attention is needed.

The continued white wash and lies by the British government regarding the Pat Finucane case, and the vitriolic mob-violence in the streets of Belfast in response to the democratically approved Belfast City council vote to no longer fly the British flag 365 days a year, and — possibly most alarming — the utter shamefulness of Unionist politicians trying to justify the actions of these mobs are examples of why British control of the North continues to fail.

National Board members with Gerry Adams, second from left, at NYC event were Jere Cole, left, Dan Dennehy, Sean Pender and President Brendan Moore.

National Board members with Gerry Adams, second from left, at NYC event were Jere Cole, left, Dan Dennehy, Sean Pender and President Brendan Moore.

The British government’s past human rights violations and murders of their own citizens has simply promoted a sectarian culture of hate and lies that it is not able to face up to or defend, so they continue to deny their complicity. Somehow they try to promote to the world a British version of the truth and when challenged regarding that version, they simply ignore or cover up.

In the coming months, Irish American groups will come together to further discuss our plans to address issues in the North during this, the 15th year since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

 

ITALICS START
December 4, 2012

This brief, prepared on the occasion of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Ireland, offers some insight on the issues, we consider roadblocks on the path to peace and reconciliation created 15 years ago by the Good Friday Agreement.

At the Albany AOH, the Father John Murphy Award with this year’s honoree Kathy Savage and other Hibernians.

At the Albany AOH, the Father John Murphy Award with this year’s honoree Kathy Savage and other Hibernians.

We in the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, have consulted with the Brehon Law Society, Irish American Unity Conference and  fellow  Irish American’s  in order to share our concerns about  the future of peace and Justice in the six North Eastern counties of Ireland.

Irish Americans, while thankful for the 15 years of relative peace since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, are frustrated with the lack of progress in the full implementation of the agreement especially in terms of legacy issues regarding victims and truth and justice.

The abusive treatment of Republican prisoners; the internment and incarceration of Gerry McGeough and Marion Price; the racist overtones and inequities in regulating the Orange Order marches; and our own US policy of Visa Denial to Republicans and others who worked for peace, so clearly demonstrated with the recent embarrassing visa denial of noted historian Tim Pat Coogan are among the issues that are of great concern to us all.

Niall Murphy of Kevin Winters Law firm and Mark Thompson the director for Relatives for Justice have presented to our groups an overview of the current systems set up to review legacy issues and the need for US and international intervention to address these issues.

Next week, the DeSilva review of the murder of the Pat Finucane is due. The method in which this review is being meted out has caused grave concern for all of us and can best be summed up by Finucane’s own son, John:  “Whilst we have not seen the Review’s contents, it’s fair to say we are extremely skeptical as to its conclusions and we fear that the British government will attempt to draw a line under my father’s murder once and for all on Dec 12th. Now more than ever, we are relying on international support, especially from the US, to make sure the British govt. Understand that until such times as there is a transparent examination of this case, then it will not go away.”

John Murphy Award Kathy Savage and trip participants

John Murphy Award Kathy Savage and trip participants

This week’s violence by Pro Unionist mobs represents perfectly the mindset of many in the British and Unionist mainstream. Instead of looking towards the future of peace and justice for all that treats all as equals, they cling to the past, a past that needs to be shown for what it was, full of the same inequities that today we hope this brief underscores.

On behalf of our fellow Irish Americans, we wish Secretary of State Clinton, those who travel with her, and those they meet, all the best wishes, a successful visit and safe return home. We hereby renew our pledge to strive with you on the journey towards true peace with justice in the north of Ireland.

Sincerely,

Sean Pender, National Freedom For All Ireland Chairman

Dan Dennehy, New York State Freedom For All Ireland Chairman

 

Freedom For All Ireland

It has been a great honor to serve as FFAI National Chairman under the leadership of National President Seamus Boyle. Seamus is an unrepentant Fenian who as someone who grew up and lived in South Armagh saw first hand what the British government and her henchmen did in the North of Ireland. Seamus never shied away from helping shed the light on what really happened in the North during the troubles; as someone who lost friends and neighbors in the troubles he has served as a champion to the victims who still today search for justice and truth.  Seamus on behalf of all the people in the North: Go raibh maith agut.

In the last few months I have been a part of several events that have made me proud to be a member of the AOH and even prouder to know that our efforts are making a difference. These events served to fortify my resolve for our continued support of the full implementation of the Good Friday agreement and the need for an independent vehicle to address the past in the North of Ireland.

In March I spent a week with family members who lost loved ones in three collusion related murders in the North; despite the best efforts of these families they are still seeking the truth decades later since the British government continues to stonewall their attempts to achieve the truth. The group was led by Mark Thompson the director of Relatives for Justice the Belfast Based victim’s rights group that our Christmas Appeal supports and Niall Murphy of the Kevin Winters law firm also based in Belfast.  We should take pride knowing that the trip was partially funded by Christmas Appeal donations.  Family members of those who lost loved ones in Belfast, Down and Tyrone met for the first time in New York City and spent a week in New York and Washington DC, telling their stories to media, human rights groups, US elected officials, and a Congressional hearing. In New York they were interviewed on the Adrian Flannelly Irish Radio show, interviewed by the Irish Voice and Irish Echo; they attended and were recognized at New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at Gracie mansion, and they marched proudly with their counties in the NYC St Patrick’s parade. In Rockland County New York they were featured prominently at the mass and the grand marshal breakfast, where they briefed NY Congressman Eliot Engel. They walked proudly behind their banner in the Rockland County St Patrick’s Day Parade. The great people of the Rockland County AOH,LAOH and St Patrick’s Parade were superb hosts to the families; many thanks to Rockland County AOH and LAOH Presidents Vince Tyer and Joan Moore and Parade Co-chairs Mary O’Sullivan and Bill Lee for allowing the truth to be on display in front of what looked to be hundreds of thousands of people.

In Washington DC the families were able to confront members of the British and Stormont government who were there telling the US how good everything is progressing. They added a much needed dose of reality to the one sided British take on the past.  As the likes of the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, Stormont Minister of Justice David Ford and PSNI director Matt Baggott were painting an idyllic picture of looking forward the family members were able to highlight the importance of dealing with the past.

The highlight of the time in Washington was the March 21st Congressional hearing entitled “Prerequisites for Progress in Northern Ireland”; the hearing was chaired by past AOH-LAOH Sean MacBride award winner NJ Congressman Chris Smith.  I was proud to have worked with Father Sean MacManus of the Irish National Caucus in making this hearing possible.  Among those that testified was Mark Thompson who entered into the Congressional record the detail pertaining to each of the three collusion based murders and whose testimony  was based on the basis the that the legacy of human rights abuses relating to the conflict in the north of Ireland requires resolution.  Along with representatives of other Human rights groups and Geraldine Finucane all of those that testified highlighted the fact that the English government continues to abdicate its responsibility to address the past and has willfully obstructed the truth.  This hearing set against the backdrop of the continuing Boston College debacle and the absolute injustice of the continued interment in the North of Gerry McGeough and Marian Price highlighted what seems to be the British government’s philosophy of Hypocrisy, Hierarchy and Hubris in its dealing with the past.  The British believe in justice only if it serves there pervasive insidious principle that justice is due to the select few that it deems as worthy. There is no sincerity, magnanimity, fairness or truth in any of their actions and it is about time that our country and others insist that truth be told.

It is my hope at our upcoming convention at Turning stone to highlight the three attacks in Belfast, Clonoe and Loughinilsand; and my intention to use a sykpe type hook up to have both Mark Thompson and Niall Murphy address the FFAI break out session.

In April and May I had the honor to represent the AOH and the people of the North in round table discussions with both the State Department and US Senator Robert Menendez of NJ.  At both sessions I spoke of the issues that confront the people of the North and of the need to deal with the past in a truthful non-obstructed way.  I added my voice to those of other concerned Irish Americans and it is my hope that in some way we have been able to raise the awareness of this issue and will enlist a new reinvigorated concern on behalf of our government.

 

Notes: While in Washington Congressman Richie Neal and Chris Smith were presented by the AOH with framed prints of the Bloody Sunday families’ vindicated poster. The families had signed the prints and thanks to the efforts of Baltimore AOH member Bill Pribyl we were able to have them shipped to the US to be presented to these two Congressmen.

Sincere thanks to Dan Dennehy NYS FFAI chair for his help in hosting the joint NY-NJ State Board Project Crossmaglen at Harbour Lights in New York City in early May.  The beautiful area of South Armagh and its tourism potential was highlighted in a presentation by Fiona Kernan and Colum Murphy of the Cross Square Hotel and Matthews tours of Crossmaglen, County Armagh

 

 

FFAI

Pictured (L-R) National Director Jere Cole, New CT President William Flannery, CR President Emeritus Robert O’Sullivan, FFAI Chair Sean Pender

On May 18th the following words regarding the relationship between England and Ireland were spoken by the Queen of England at the historic state dinner held in her honor at Dublin Castle:

“…the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the          centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history          our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.       These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We   can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who             have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and       deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we        would wish had been done differently or not at all.”

Less than a year earlier we had heard English Prime Minister David Cameron say “What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong….And for that, on behalf of the Government – and indeed our country – I am deeply sorry.”  Could it be the Queen’s remarks might continue us on the path of a truthful review of the legacy issues that still linger in the North?  These words brought hope and anticipation for further justice but the acts of the following days and weeks proved that they were just words without any real sincerity and no doubt well planned words spoken for effect only.

Consider the recent results of these three cases:

Rosemary Nelson was a prominent human rights lawyer in the North who was killed by a loyalist paramilitary group in 1999. Twelve years after her murder on May 23,, 2011 the results of the inquiry into her murder was released. At the release in the House of Commons, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Patterson said: “Mr. Speaker, those who are looking for evidence that the state conspired in or planned the death of Rosemary Nelson will not find it in this report.” It seemed as if Paterson hoped that people would only remember his opening statement and not read the results of the inquiry which concluded: “The combined effect of these omissions by the RUC (police) and the NIO (government) was that the state failed to take responsible and proportionate steps to safeguard the life of Rosemary Nelson.”  When questioned about the inquiry’s failure to use the word collusion in its conclusions, Rosemary Nelson’s brother aptly summed up the thoughts of so many when he said: “If it sounds like a duck and it walks like a duck, well, the chances are…”

A total of 34 men, women and children, including an unborn baby, died in the loyalist attacks on Dublin and Monaghan on May 17, 1974.  The queen actually arrived in Dublin on the 37th anniversary of that attack. On May 24th days after she left Ireland, the following statement appeared on the BBC regarding the Dublin government request to the British government to release all files related to the Dublin Monaghan bombings:

“The information supplied by the British government on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings is all the relevant information they intend to supply. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny           made the announcement to the Dail (Irish parliament) on Tuesday. He said he did not   have the authority to instruct Britain to supply any other files they hold”   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13532868

 

The Loughinisland massacretook place on June 18, 1994 in the small village of Loughinisland.  The attack killed six and wounded five. A loyalist paramilitary group attacked a crowded bar whose patrons were watching the Ireland – Italy World Cup match.  On June 23rd, 2011 the Police Ombudsman office report on the Loughlinisland Massacre stated:

Since the killings, 16 people have been arrested – some more than once – but there have    been no convictions. The report found that the car used by the gunmen was destroyed        when it should not have been, that records are missing, and that links between the killings and other atrocities in which one of the same weapons was used were not sufficiently           examined. It also reveals that the original senior investigating officer did not co-operate       with the new investigation. Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said: “These cumulatively             indicate a lack of cohesive and focused effort over the years. The families [of the victims]     have been failed.” But he continued: “While there is reason to be suspicious over certain         police actions, I consider there is insufficient evidence to establish that collusion took        place.”

http://www.thejournal.ie/police-failed-victims-families-while-investigating-loughinisland-massacre-162476-Jun2011/

 

So much for nice speeches by old women who doesn’t like Guinness, but the pity of the matter is that most people will only remember what the Queen said and not the above reprehensible and cowardly acts by her majesty’s servants after she left. Upon further review one could argue that the only portion of the speech that was forthright was her remarks stating that the English-Irish relationship “has not always been straightforward”

The legacy issues pertaining to truth in the North of Ireland are not being addressed and until there is a centralized vehicle that will truthfully address these issues we will continue to have a peace that is merely the absence of war in the North.  Until there is justice there will not be a peace that can serve as a foundation for all the people of the North of Ireland.  Actions not speeches are needed.

Notes:  Thanks to all who have sent congratulations regarding my recent election as NJ AOH State President.  Many thanks for the warm welcome and reception that I received at the Connecticut AOH and LAOH convention.  As part of the National Board contingent that visited Washington in June it was an honor to represent our members and speak to important AOH issues to members of the Senate, House and the Irish Ambassador.  Full details on 2011 Christmas Appeal should arrive in mail by early September to all divisions and boards and will be included in my next article.  Preliminary discussions are taken place regarding a tour of the North to once again coincide with the anniversary of Bloody Sunday and to present Christmas appeal donations, if interested please email me at paddyspeed@yahoo.com

FFAI

Best wishes to all members of the AOH and LAOH as you prepare for your upcoming state conventions.  2011 represents two very special anniversaries for Irish history the 95th anniversary of the 1916 Easter rebellion and the 30th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strikers.  These two watershed events helped shape the political and social landscape of Ireland to this very day.  In a special way please remember at your conventions the leaders of 1916: Thomas J. Clarke; Seán Mac Diarmada; Thomas MacDonagh; Padraig Pearse;Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly; Joseph Plunkett and all those that died in the Eater Rebellion of 1916.  Additionally remember the 10 that were Ireland’s bravest men; the hunger strikers of 1981 Bobby Sands, Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh, Patsy O’Hara, Joe McDonnell, Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Kieran Doherty, Thomas McElwee, and Michael Devine.

Since my return from Ireland there have been many events that continue to highlight the need for a vehicle to address the truth as things really happened in the North. It seems that the passage of time has for some made them forget what has happened and for others that same passage has just delayed justice. It’s as if many in society want to forgot or not remember what happened during the troubles. The longer that they can delay the truth the more inevitable it becomes that the memories of those that witnessed the truth will be lost to old age and that death will soon win out in the race for truth.

The Search for the truth continues and on March 16th I attended the 12th hearing chaired by past Sean McBride Award recipient Congressman Chris Smith on human rights issues in the North of Ireland.  As chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), Smith held the hearing on the continued search for justice in Northern Ireland. It was entitled, “Northern Ireland: Why Justice in Individual Cases Matters”.  As I sat there listening to the testimony of the victim’s relatives I began to once again question why those that testify need to travel over 3000 miles to tell their story and seek justice. Why can’t we just get the truth and insist that British security and government come clean on what really happened.  The family members of Pat Finucane, the Ballymurphy massacre victims, the McGurk’s bombing victims and Raymond McCord gave testimony.  While the truth was on display in Washington, DC, current events and news items from the North continue to demonstrate the how the concepts of cultural and artistic censoring; selective enforcement for past actions; the denial of the past, and living in the past all serve as a means to thwart justice, conceal the truth and threaten the peace.

 

Consider these recent events:

 

Cultural and artistic censoring: The city of Derry has over recent years received funding thru the Northern Ireland tourist board to light up the city at night. From the board’s website it states that the lighting: recognizes the unique aspects of the historic Walled City, including the 17th Century walls, its unique architecture….and a number of significant historic buildings and tourist attractions. It also covers the two road bridges over the Foyle – the Craigavon and Foyle Bridges – given their iconic Gateway status to and from the city centre. Notably missing as a lit tourist attractions are any of the 11 murals that the Bogside artists have painted on the gable walls of the Bogside.  The murals document in a historically correct way the history of Derry during the troubles and the hopes for the future. In what is the best example of keeping the truth in the dark, not a penny of tourist board funds have been allocated to the illumination of these world famous murals.  Luckily thanks to the efforts of the local people and our support thru the Christmas appeal many of these murals are now lit for the entire world to see.

Selective enforcement for past actions: In my last article I told the story of Nora McCabe and how she was murdered by British soldiers on the streets of Belfast in 1981 and her family’s noble attempt for justice. Despite knowing the identity of the soldiers who killed Nora there are no plans to prosecute them.  The Bloody Sunday families of course received vindication but there again no soldier who pulled a trigger and murdered innocent people has ever spent a minute in jail or has even been indicted.  Add to that the story of Majella O’Hare a 12 year old girl from South Armagh that was shot twice in the back and killed by an English paratrooper almost 35 years ago. Only this year did the family get an apology from the British government. Despite once again knowing the identity of the soldier no actions are planned.  Now compare these three cases and the lack of prosecution for soldiers who killed the citizens they were sworn to protect to the case of Gerry McGeough. McGeough was recently found guilty and sentenced to twenty years for the attempted murder of an off-duty member of the Ulster Defense Regiment in 1981.  McGeough’s trial was held in a Diplock court where the right to trial by jury is suspended and the court consisted of a single judge. I met Gerry McGeough in Derry and Tyrone during my last trip to Ireland; he is the Tyrone County Board of Erin president. I found him to be a very articulate, sincere and staunchly faithful and conservative man. Thirty years ago he was a paramilitary and was fighting in the struggle for Irish freedom, a fight that thousands took part in.  McGeough was not in the North at the time of the prisoner release as part of the Good Friday Agreement, he returned to the North to live peacefully but was picked up and charged for his actions of 1981 in 2007.  The long story short here is that if Gerry McGeough is to get 20 years for an attempted murder then all the soldiers who murdered innocent people should get the same.  Selective enforcement and imprisonment must end.

Denial of the past: Recently there has been vociferous consternation by members of the unionist and loyalist community in regards to the prosecutions related to the work of the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) and the need to end 50/50 recruiting for policing.  The HET was set up to explore and investigate past crimes, and while imperfect, in that it still reports to the PSNI, it has resulted in many families getting the truth and some justice for past losses. 50/50 recruiting for policing was put in place in an effort to make the police force of the North, which for so many years as the RUC was a protestant force for protestant people more representative of the community of the North of Ireland.  Unionist and loyalists are complaining regarding the high percentage of their community being prosecuted because of the work of the HET and claiming that recruitment with the intent to increase Catholic police membership is biased.  These stances left me speechless!  It is as if they have forgotten that the entire troubles were based on the denial of civil and human rights to the Catholic/nationalist/republican community.  Did they ever hear of internment, shoot to kill, collusion and so many other unjust policies created and enforced by the Brits and their people to keep the Catholic/nationalist/republican community down?  If you rebelled against the British security forces you had the entire force, power and resources of the Her Majesty against you.  Thousands of republican prisoners spent years in prison many unjustly accused and many without trial.  The fact that these unionist and loyalist leaders forget the past is why families have to travel 3000 miles for justice.

Living in the past: It was during the opening game for my son’s 6 year old baseball team season when between innings I checked my blackberry and saw the email from Eamon Daly in Omagh.  As I read it over and over I became engulfed with rage, sorrow and disappointment.  Dissident republicans had killed 25 year old Catholic PSNI police officer Ronan Kerr.  All I could think about was the time we had spent in Omagh less than two months prior. I became oblivious to the game and in a short span of time I wrote the following letter and submitted to Irish newspapers:

 

Less than two months ago I was in Omagh with members of the AOH and LAOH and we witnessed firsthand the good that was being done there.  We were hosted by the Omagh Thunder basketball team and entertained by the Omagh choir. Two cross community groups of children and young adults making a difference in the North and representing the hope for the future. Those that support these groups are on the right side of history.

The reprehensible attack and murder of Ronan Kerr will be condemned by all those that support peace and justice in Ireland. It is time for these dissident factions to be seen for what they are; thugs, criminals and murders. Spare me the rhetoric that some will undoubtedly spew about an attack on occupying forces. The mayor of Derry, Colum Eastwood, hosted our group on Bloody Sunday he reminded us that over eighty percent of all the people of Ireland north and south voted in support of the Good Friday agreement. So attacks against the agreement are against the people of Ireland. This attack was on all Irish people.  Moving forward, our litmus test must be to ask all: do you condemn this attack? Should those who committed today’s attack be prosecuted as criminals to the fullest extent of the law? The only answer to both questions must be yes.

Eternal rest to Ronan Kerr the brave young officer who had hoped to make a difference in his community.

Elsewhere in this edition you can read President Boyle’s statements on dissidents.  It unequivocally states that the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America Inc. is not affiliated nor do we support in any way the dissident republican organizations or any individuals or groups who do not support the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. There are still a small percentage of people that want to live in the past; we cannot let them spoil the future for all. Their actions must be condemned for the good of all. The past in all its complexities still influences the present in the North of Ireland to break its hold on the future it must be dealt with truthfully.

FFAI

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.