Irish American Heritage Month

By Neil Cosgrove, Chairman


“… local AOH Divisions are hereby urged to unite in this worthy mission by appointing Divisional IAHM Committees charged with developing and implementing strategies for the promotion and expansion of Irish-American Heritage Month celebrations in taxpayer supported institutions”

That was a resolution passed by the Order at its national convention in July 2004.  How is your Division doing with this charge?  Do you have a Divisional IAHM Committee? Does your County or State?  If not, now is the time to start one.  When you read this column we will be approximately six months away from Irish American Heritage Month 2014, and the time for planning is now.  The protection and furtherance of our heritage is one of our reasons for existence as an organization and a basic duty of us as Hibernians.  If we are not foursquare behind IAHM, no one else will be.  To those of a pessimistic bent, I point to the fact that other Heritage initiatives often began with the idea of one person and are now nationally recognized.  Are we saying that the Irish can’t succeed where others have?  The history of our people says a resounding “NO”, the Irish have always succeeded when others said they couldn’t.

Strategies for promoting Irish American Heritage Month need not be overly elaborate or expensive.  Does your area have a person or site connected to Irish Heritage (what area in the United States doesn’t?).  How about a Divisional IAHM commemoration of that person or place in March, coordinating with local press coverage?  Does your division run a scholarship contest with an essay portion?  Do any speak to the role of the Irish in the History of America?  Again, why not coordinate their publication by your local paper in March?  What a great message not only on our Heritage, but the fact that it is alive and well amongst the next generation.  Ask your local schools and libraries what are they doing to recognize Irish American Heritage Month and be prepared to back this up with a commitment to lend you and your divisions support and expertise.   The time for action is now, while we have an opportunity to get on organizations calendars and have time to prepare.  Also, begin reaching out to your elected officials and ensure that Irish American Heritage Month will be proclaimed in your State.  As a wise man once noted “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Let’s make Irish American Heritage Month 2014 a success.

Our Heritage is who we are and why we are the way we are.  I was reminded at the NY State Convention in the recognition of some of the many Divisions that came to the aid of their fellow citizens, both Irish and non-Irish, what a truly remarkable group that Irish Americans are.  I believe that the overwhelming aide of the Irish American Community, especially you my Brother and Sister Hibernians, is a direct result of our heritage making us “the way that we are.”  Let us always be proud of “who we are” and ensure that proud heritage is recognized and carries forward into subsequent generations.  That is why Irish American Heritage Month is such an important program.

If you have ideas on how to promote Irish American Heritage Month, if you wish to contribute to this worthy effort please do not hesitate to contact me at


Irish American Heritage Month

First, I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year to you and yours.  Let us also work to ensure that 2013 is a significant year in the preservation and recognition of our great Irish American heritage starting with the 23rd observance of Irish American Heritage Month.   Does your Division have a plan to observe, and foster observance, of the month set aside to commemorate our great heritage?  Here are some simple suggestions:

  • Contact your local legislator and have March Proclaimed “Irish American Heritage Month” in your state.   Many legislators are more than happy to do this, as one put it “it’s a no brainer” as it shows them being responsive to their constituency and costs nothing,
  • Every division boasts at least one “bard” among its membership that can write a good piece of prose.  Write an Op Ed or Community View piece on the contributions that the Irish have made to our Nation and submit it well in advance so that it may be included on or about the start of March.   Perhaps have your division historian research a prominent person or event of local Irish American interest.
  • Please make plans that you Division Web Site is up-to-date for March and promotes Irish American Heritage Month.  March is a time when people want information on their Irish Heritage, and their first recourse today is the web.  What must they think when the hit a division website and it is still wishing people a “Merry Christmas” in March?  What a wasted opportunity not only to promote Irish American Heritage Month but also to spread the word on the AOH and recruit.
  • Try to plan one community event in conjunction with your local library of school in late February or March under the auspicious of “Irish American Heritage” month.   Perhaps showing a film of Irish/ Irish American interest followed by a discussion of the events depicted.

Remember, if we as Hibernians are not active in promoting Irish American Heritage Month, no one else will.

We continue to work to have Irish American Heritage Month recognized and commemorated by our public institutions with the same level of commitment as they recognize other heritages.  In particular, the Smithsonian, which claims to be America’s leading educational institution, honors with extensive programs Black History Month, Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and American Indian Heritage Month yet, continues to ignore Irish American Heritage Month.  We have tried to engage the administration of the Smithsonian several times, and have met with what can only be described as practiced bureaucratic obfuscation:

  • First we were told that we didn’t qualify as Irish American Heritage Month was not proclaimed in law. We pointed out that Irish American Heritage month was proclaimed in Public Law 101-418.  We also pointed out that some of the Heritage Months that the Smithsonian does recognized appear to not have been proclaimed in law and therefore violate this supposed Smithsonian standard
  • We were then were by a Smithsonian representative that the Smithsonian, often called the “Nation’s Attic” did not have any items in their collection to support an exhibit on Irish American Heritage Month.  This was incredible!  We quickly pointed out that for starts the Smithsonian had the Apollo Command capsule commanded by Michael Collins not to mention the tremendous contribution Irish American women such as Colonel Eileen Collins, Dr. Katherine Sullivan and Christa McAuliffe have played in space exploration.  We would certainly expect that the Smithsonian would have materials on the nine Irish American signers of the Declaration of Independence, Commodore John Barry or the 253 Irish born awardees of the Medal of Honor.
  • Most recently, we have been told that there is just no funding for an Irish American Heritage Month programing.   This is an unacceptable argument:  the Smithsonian can’t fund programs for other heritages and then say the “coffers are dry” when it comes to recognizing the Irish.  It is particularly unjust given that Irish Americans have always given of their treasurer and their blood to this Nation.

It is clear that for reasons which are not clear and which they seem hesitant to directly articulate, the administration of the Smithsonian are resistant to recognizing the contribution of Irish Americans and Irish American Heritage Month.  We therefore ask that every Hibernian and their family members to send a letter to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian asking that this prominent taxpayer funded institution recognize the heritage of Irish Americans comparably to the other heritages that the Smithsonian currently celebrates annually.  The address and a suggested letter can be found on the National Website.

To paraphrase David McCullough, our Heritage is who we are and why we are the way we are.  No group has given more to the creation, formation and defense of our nation than the Irish, yet the contributions of our ancestors are often overlooked and underrepresented.  Let us make a resolution that in 2013 we as Hibernians will begin to change this.  If you have further ideas or wish to help in this important initiative please do not hesitate to contact me at

Irish American Heritage Month

Irish-American Heritage Month 2012 has come and gone. As I noted in my most recent report, the responses we received from those government agencies with whom we have communicated were mixed at best. Undaunted, we press on. Of course we were pleased that once again the President issued his annual proclamation naming March as Irish-American Heritage Month. So that’s a good thing.

Another “good thing” is the responses we have been getting from around the country on the actions you, our Brother Hibernians, have taken leading up to and during the month of March. President Boyle has asked for a report of your actions as have John Schell, Neil Cosgrove and I.  As of the end of April, your responses are still coming in.  And I must say, they are impressive. As an Order, we seem to have really taken up the cause, and are doing many great things. I just want to highlight a few of the things we have done so far.

Joe Dougherty, President of the Mecklenburg County Board, reported that they celebrated a St. Patrick’s Day Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mount Holly, NC. This is the oldest existing Catholic Church in North Carolina. The church was built in 1843 by Irish miners. The church is only open three times a year including on St. Patrick’s Day in honor of our Irish ancestors and our heritage. The Mass was covered by the Diocese of Charlotte newspaper and by the Time-Warner TV station in Charlotte.

John Callahan, reporting from Missouri, lists three cities which proclaimed March as IAHM – Saint Charles, Saint Peters, and O’Fallon. In addition, on the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day, Division 1, Saint Charles County, distributed green carnations, and collected donations for four parishes. These contributions are made to the parish Saint Vincent DePaul Society. This is an activity which has been going on for several years.

Joe Kennedy, Right to Life Chairman in Virginia, once again had the school children at St. Michael Parish in Annandale set out 30,000 green, white and orange flags  in the shape of the Irish tri-color on the field in front of St. Michael Parish, the number representing the number of abortions performed annually in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The flags went up the day before St. Patrick’s Day. On St. Patrick’s Day, the Monsignor Bradican Division color guard led the parish associate, the school principal and the children out to the field where the flags were blessed, and prayers were said. It was a very moving ceremony. In addition to the City of Alexandria, the Governor of the Commonwealth proclaimed March as IAHM.

We are still assembling a list of all the states that have proclaimed March as IAHM. We know the list includes North Carolina, Pennsylvania and others. Great work gentlemen.

And now the challenge – now is the time to start preparing for March 2013. It will be on us before we know it. The National IAHM Committee continues to work with our various government agencies, but it is you – the State Boards, County Boards, Divisions and individuals – that make the difference. We are all proud of our Irish heritage. Live our motto, and let the AOH lead the way.





From the Editor’s Desk

Just a few, brief notes this issue.

For those who submit articles and photos to the Digest, please send photos that have a resolution of more than 200 dpi. Bigger would be better. Smaller-sized images look fuzzy and don’t do justice to your article. When taking photos, use a camera, not a phone, and make sure your camera is set to LARGE and FINE. The file sizes will be anywhere from 2 to 5 megapixels, which is great.

I’m looking forward to the National Convention in July. I hope many of you can attend. You will find on the back page all the deadlines and registration forms you’ll need. My hope is especially meant for the newer members of our Order. Attending national conventions is a great way to learn of the ongoing work of the Order, to get to know brothers from all around the country, to participate by your vote (if you are a delegate) in the decision on who the national officers will be who’ll lead our Order for the next two years, to realize the wide scope of the matters Hibernians are involved in, to discover Irish and Irish-American history and, best of all, to grow in your sense of what the Ancient Order of Hibernians has been, is today and plans to be tomorrow. Oh, and it’s also a lot of fun!

Read this Digest at meetings. No, there’s nothing in the Blue Book about doing this; it’s just my suggestion. Not every Hibernian can attend conventions, and even though every Hibernian gets a copy of the Digest, I know not every Hibernian reads every column, article and caption. And yet in every issue there’s history, there’s news about what other divisions are doing that we could all emulate, there’s features on aspects of the Order like Project St. Patrick, Freedom For All Ireland, Immigration, Catholic Action, Irish-American Heritage, Ireland and Hibernian history, Irish language, Veterans Affairs, and special features unique to each issue. This issue we have a special sports-history feature, and last issue we had an inspirational poem and a report from the Industrial Development CEO in Ireland. And we have dozens of reports from around the country on what Hibernians are up to. So I think 10 minutes spent at a meeting reading aloud one of the items in the Digest about any of the above topics would help all brothers to learn more about their Irish-American culture and history, their Faith, the work of their Order, and also gain ideas for how we can live and act ever more fully in our Motto.


In my view, the Shamrock and Major Degree Rituals, Hibernian conventions (national, state and county), and reading the Digest are the three ways we grow from individual Hibernians into fully fledged members of the Order.


Regarding changes of address: If you move, please tell your Division Financial Secretary. He must then inform the National Secretary. Why? Because we get notices from the Post Office right after every Digest gets mailed a brother has moved. This costs the Order money. Please don’t tell me you have moved. Tell your Division officer, and Division officers must tell the National Secretary. He is in charge of the Membership List and that’s the same list we use to mail the Digest. If a brother passes away, moves, leaves the Order, this information must be communicated to the National Secretary so we don’t waste money for postage.


The deadline for the next issue is June 27. There is no penalty for getting submissions in before that!

IAHM program a success in Florida

The Brevard Division, from left, Br. George Flemming, State FFAI Chairman Rick Hewitt and VP Rukosky with Mayor Rocky Randels of the City of Cape Canaveral.

For many years, Brother Ed Reilly, a 1983 Charter Div. Member and past Financial Secretary of the Brevard County Div #2, and his brothers have quietly delivered letters of request for a Proclamation of Irish-American Heritage Month to the county and surrounding cities and towns.

His consistency of success with the help of the brothers is an example. The Division annually tops more than 15 Declarations from those solicited, and is a matter of pride for the Division.

“We have made a longstanding commitment as a Division to furthering the awareness of the AOH and Irish Culture in our area. We are very pleased that our success is shared with our Brothers across the State,” said Div #2 Uachtarán Frank Corcoran.

The success of the Brevard Division and the method it was achieved was shared with all the Divisions in the State. Using the letters provided by the National IAHM Committee, sample letters were customized for us in requesting Proclamations from counties, cities, libraries and colleges. A “how-to” with recommendations by the State Board was included.

Across the state, Div. presidents and their brothers appeared before councils to accept the Proclamations and shared AOH history, and that of the Irish-American in America and Florida.

There are more than 2 million Floridians who claim Irish birth or ancestry, and millions more who travel there.

As of February 26, the Governor of the State of Florida, Rick Scott, had proclaimed March Irish-American Heritage Month in Florida along with 24 counties, cities and towns. Seven of nine counties that the AOH has a Division in had responded with a Declaration already. More of each was expected.

Additionally, seven county and city libraries and six colleges throughout the State joined in the support of the Irish people’s contributions to America and Florida with displays of Irish Culture and Literature. “We expanded on the proven success of the Brevard Division and made it easier for others to achieve the same result,” said IAHM Chairman SVP Rukosky. “It’s great to see Florida painted green with the support of our government officials.”

DC News

Ralph D. Day “The Commodore,” President of the District of Columbia State Board and President of  Commodore John Barry Division, Division 1

On 4 March, members from the District of Columbia joined with our Brothers to the south and marched in the Old Town Alexandria St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  This is the first time we have officially marched in this parade.  The parade is organized by the Ballyshanners led by AOH’s own Pat Troy.

The following week found us in the District of Columbia St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  This year we continued the Commodore John Barry theme with our float having a replica of the Commodore John Barry Gate  recently erected at the Naval Academy.  I rode the float as the “Commodore.”  As we were approaching the judging stand the announcer departed slightly from the script and reminded everyone that the float had a replica of the gate.  This was not in the script, so the effort to get the word out on our quest to erect the gate and memorial is getting out, mostly due to the efforts of John McInerney and Jack O’Brien (members of our JFK Division).  Also on the float was a brand new banner promoting the celebration of Irish-American Heritage Month.  The Monday after the parade I received an email telling us that our entry was considered the best in the parade!  There were over 150 entries in the parade. The Commodore John Barry Division is now the proud owner of a very nice trophy.

Addressing the Irish-American Heritage month, the State Board each year presents the George Washington Parke Custis Friends of Ireland award.  This award is presented to an individual or group that had extended support to the Irish community in the United States.  As a bit of a history lesson, George Washington Parke Custis was the son of George Washington’s adopted son.  It is he who built the Custis-Lee Mansion we now call Arlington.  While not a Catholic, nor of Irish descent, he nonetheless took an active role in supporting Irish immigrants.  On his death bed he requested that each March, “an honest Irishman would place shamrocks on his grave and say ‘bless him.”  This year there were four strong candidates for the honor with the eventual selectee being Mrs. Geri M. Garvey, administrator of the Irish Apostolate, USA.  In this capacity, she interacts with the staff and volunteers at the Irish Pastoral Centers and Outreach Programs, the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants, the Irish Government, the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, plus other faith and immigrant coalitions.  Geri has built upon the success of her predecessors, Fr. Tim O’Sullivan and Fr. Colm Campbell, in enhancing and expanding the outreach of the Apostolate Centers to Irish immigrants living in the United States.  After presenting the award, we proceeded to the grave of George Washington Parke Custis to plant shamrocks provided by the US Park Service and the Embassy of Ireland.  Mr. Kevin Conmy, Deputy Chief of Mission, represented the Irish Embassy.  Once the shamrocks were planted, the crowd of some sixty people all said in unison “Bless Him.”  What a day it was.

Our fund raising efforts for the Commodore John Barry memorial continue.  With the help of several divisions and joined by our Maryland Brothers and Sisters of the LAOH, we held a very successful fundraiser at the Stack Brother’s Irish Channel Restaurant in Crofton, MD.  The Stack Brothers have been very supportive of our efforts.  Not only did they provide numerous items for the silent auction, they also host our annual Right to Life breakfast at the District of Columbia restaurant of the same name.  This fund raiser collected greater than $13,500.00 in addition to two additional &5,000.00 donations announced at the event.

Irish American History Month


            We have been quite busy the past couple of months in our continuing effort to have March permanently established as Irish-American Heritage Month. I take this occasion to publicly thank Neil Cosgrove and John Schell for all they have done and continue to do. A couple of highlights of our ongoing efforts follow.

We have been in communication with the Department of Education regarding their Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) webpage. In an effort to make information available regarding Irish-American heritage, history and culture, we have asked them to include Irish-American information onto the list of Ethnic Groups under the U.S. History Topics. The officer in charge of this webpage, Kirk Winters, has responded favorably, stating he will be searching federal agency websites for quality teaching and learning materials related to our heritage, history and culture. He further stated that what he finds will be added to the FREE website. He further invited us to do the same — to locate any federally created or federally supported materials — and send the URL to him. If you are aware of any such sites, please send the information to John Schell at

We met with Congressman Peter King’s senior staffer in charge of Irish Programs, and brought her up to date on our efforts to make IAHM a permanent event. She was fully supportive of this, and promised to work with Congressman King and other members of the Friends of Ireland in helping to make this happen. She had further ideas in how we, the AOH, can proceed, which we will pursue. Further, she provided us with the names of the current Friends of Ireland. This comes to about 44 names.

We have initiated a letter-writing campaign to a very limited number of federal agencies, asking them to devote resources to Irish-American events during the month of March in future years. Primary targeted agencies include the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, a letter has been drafted to the Secretary of the Army asking that Army Regulation 600-20, Table 6-1 be amended to include Irish-American Heritage Month, thus allowing DOD agencies to plan for and expend funds to promote IAHM. This would not require public law, in that some of the ethnic observances listed in this table cite as the authority the date of an earlier Presidential Proclamation.

So, our efforts continue. Finally, thank you all for all you do to support and promote our Irish heritage, and to support our goal of making Irish-American Heritage Month a permanent, recurring event, not dependent upon an annual Presidential Proclamation.

Irish American History Month

As I write this, we are still in the “dog days” of August. But as you read this, we will certainly be into fall – which means we will be less than six months until March – and all those events that happen during that month. Of course, I am referring to parades, parties and other activities that always surround St. Patrick’s Day and Irish American Heritage Month.

Be aware that the members of our national IAHM committee, consisting of John Schell, Neil Cosgrove and myself, have been busy in a number of different areas, including contacts with the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Department of Education and various members of Congress. As these efforts bear fruit, we will be reporting on them.

We need to stress, however, that we as an Order have to support Irish American Heritage Month, and not rely on “the other guy” to do the job. We should be celebrating IAHM with specific programs at all levels, from Division through State. If we don’t do that, it is hard to ask others to recognize March as Irish American Heritage Month. We encourage you to start NOW! It is never too early to start planning your programs – coordinating with local governments, libraries, schools, etc.

Special congratulations to the New York State Board. In Convention this year, they passed a resolution to encourage the recognition of March as Irish American Heritage Month. The resolution is too long to be totally included in this article, however some of its most important points include:

  • All state and county boards and all divisions will commit themselves to remember the vital contributions made by Irish Americans during IAHM.
  • The History Committee of each county and division will encourage recognition and appropriate events at our schools, universities and other public institutions.
  • Ask for fair and equal recognition of IAHM comparable to the recognition these institutions expend on other Heritage Months.

Well done, New York State Board. If other jurisdictions have made comparable resolutions, please let us know.

Finally, thanks to you all for all you do to support and promote our Irish heritage, and to support our goal of making Irish-American Heritage Month a permanent, recurring event, not dependent on an annual Presidential Proclamation.

Irish American Heritage Month

Brothers, we are making progress! We are not yet where we need to be in getting March permanently designated as Irish-American Heritage Month, but the many outstanding events currently being reported to John Schell and Neil Cosgrove show that we, the AOH, are in fact leading the way.

President Obama once again issued his Presidential Proclamation designating March as IAHM. This has now been done by US Presidents every year since 1991. This is remarkable. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but we know that at least three federal agencies have actively observed March as IAHM, these being Department of the Navy, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security – Customs and Border Protection. There may be others – we are still searching.

In my article in the next issue I intend reporting on some of the more outstanding events you have held in March. The reports are still coming in. I do want to report on one event, though, that was so very noteworthy. Virginia state pro-life chairman, Joe Kennedy, a member of Fairfax County Division 2, had the idea of displaying thirty thousand flags on the field in front of St. Michael Parish in Annandale, VA. The number was to illustrate the magnitude of the number of abortions performed each year in Virginia. After several modifications to the plan, Joe was able to procure the required flags – the type used by utility companies to mark your underground utilities – ten thousand each of green, white and orange, displayed as a huge Irish flag! The plan was for it to be put up the day before St. Patrick’s Day, and come down the day after St. Patrick’s Day. However, after the pastor blessed the flags he decided the flags should stay up for two weeks, to make sure everyone could see and appreciate what it was all about. What a wonderful combination of Pro-Life and IAHM. It’s what we are all about!

Keep up the good work. I am encouraged that we are on the right track, and will eventually get March permanently designated as IAHM.


Veteran’s Affairs

The month of March highlighted several areas and events when my responsibilities in the areas of Veterans Affairs and Irish-American Heritage Month overlapped. None more dramatically than the activities which took place at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday, March 26th. Led by Former National Director Pat Troy, I was part of a group that had the honor of laying a wreath at The Tomb of the Unknowns. The wreath and the event were in remembrance of all those Irish and Irish-Americans who have given their life in defense of this great country of ours. The wreath, a specially designed floral arrangement in the form of a shamrock with leaves of green, white and orange, can be seen on the web site of the Alexandria Virginia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, I encourage you to go to the site and click on the link for the event at Arlington. As part of the day’s events, we placed flowers on the tombs of the Kennedys before proceeding on to the Tomb of the Unknowns. Our group comprised many members of the AOH and the LAOH. It was an honor and event I don’t think any of us will forget.

I have been somewhat remiss in not acknowledging the outstanding contributions to Veterans Affairs issues by the many great Veterans Affairs state chairmen around the county. Guys, I hereby publicly promise to do better in the future. As a starter, I refer you to a site created by our guy in Ohio, John Sullivan. He presents a great article, and site, at  This includes an excellent article on medallions for veterans’ graves. I recommend the article and the rest of the site to all. On a related note, I am trying to find out if anyone knows of any grave site flag holders currently in use with the AOH emblem. Examples of what I am referring to can be found at If anyone is aware of such flag holders or grave markers with an AOH emblem, please let me know. I have talked with the folks at FlagGuys, they are very knowledgeable about the AOH and things Irish, but don’t know of any AOH flag holders or grave markers.

Do you have any old cell phones you are no longer using? Have you upgraded and don’t know what to do with the old one? Here’s an idea which I recommend. The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) has recently partnered with Cell Phones for Soldiers to turn old cell phones into calling-card time for service members abroad. Each recycled cell phone gives about an hour of much-needed talk time. Just mail your old phones to: Cell Phones for Soldiers, c/o Re-Cellular, 2555 Bishop Circle W., Dexter, MI 48130. They will also accept phone accessories and batteries, but you can just as well discard those items to save on shipping costs. It is the phones that help our service men and women.

Finally, please remember to thank a vet or an active duty soldier, sailor, airman or Marine. They are a constant reminder that our cherished freedom is not free.