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


Anti Defamation – Neil Cosgrove

As I write this with the threat of a snow storm hitting the New York area, I must report that the first sign of Spring has been cited. It is not the first robin or the crocuses sprouting, but the sighting of the first defaming “St. Paddy’s Day” [sic] shirts at the local mall.

From all reports this years’ crop looks to plum new lows. Among the shirts spotted were: ”Want to Get Lucky With an Irish Girl?”, “ Irish Food Stamps” (depicting chits with beer mugs on them) and “Did you hear the one about an Irishman who left a bar?…Nah, me neither”. Of course there were also the repeat offenders: “Irish Drinking Team” and “Drink till you’re Irish” shirts also. Note that these were observed at two kiosk, habitual defaming recidivists Spencer’s and Urban Outfitters have yet to be heard from and their “St. Paddy’s Day” materials usually make what is on the kiosks look complimentary by

Brother’s how much longer must the heritage we love, the very reason we became Hibernians, suffer with this defaming depiction? No other group is asked to accept the “it’s only a joke” defense when their heritage is defamed. No one in the media questioned the outrage of African Americans when they were incensed by the “Boyz on the Hood” TShirts (shirts depicting African Americans being arrested) or when Cuban Americans protested (and successfully stopped) Mercedes Benz using images from the brutal Castro regime as part of its “revolution” marketing campaign. Yet Irish Americans are asked
yearly to accept bigoted and defaming stereotypes as humor. Why?

Brothers, it is time to put our oaths not to countenance the defaming of our proud heritage into action. When you see a local mall retailer selling bigoted and defaming merchandise, first address the store owner, if you get nowhere address the Mall management and then finally if that does not work address your members, their families and the broader community through the newspaper and your local government representative. Make sure to express your outrage that the heritage that gave us signers of the Declaration of Independence and hundreds of awardees of the Medal of Honor should not be so shamelessly
treated. It would also be worthwhile to point out that March is both Irish American Heritage Month and Women’s History Month and that many of these shirts not only offend our heritage but highly offensive and degrading to women irrespective of ethnicity.

Do not be put off by “free speech” arguments: Shopping malls invariably have regulations and covenants in their lease agreements that allow them to evict tenants they find objectionable or to ask patrons to leave who wear apparel they find in questionable taste. If a mall refuses to take action that sells defaming, obscene and stereotypical material it is because they chose to allow it and they are complicit with the vendor. Consider a “Day of Action” where your members, family and friends boycott the mall. Again, make sure the public is aware of it in advance and try to involve your local government leaders. In
particular, let the big anchor stores at the malls know that you are not shopping with them because of the offensive products that another tenent is being allowed to sell. They will likely not be too happy with the mall management that they are losing sales because of other classless, ignorant merchants and will likely also pressure mall management to take action against said tenant.

Finally Brothers, as we enter the joyful celebration of our Heritage and Culture and march or watch our St Patrick’s day parades let us look in the mirror. Are we or our children wearing any of this objectionable apparel? Are we being good ambassadors of our Heritage and Culture . Perhaps we should consider leaving the green and white “Cat in the Hat” hat, face paint and Mardr Gras beads at home.

As always, if you become aware of any defamation of our heritage, or more positively if you and your division take action to defend it, 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.





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.


Irish American History Month

Did you read Brother Neil Cosgrove’s letter To the Editor on page 10 of the September-October 2010 edition of the National Hibernian Digest? If not, stop here – go to your pile of Hibernian Digests, pull out the previous edition and read it. If you have already read it, go back and read it again.

Brothers, this is our mission. As Neil very clearly points out, our Constitution is very clear in our mission to promote, preserve and foster our Irish heritage and culture. I have commented in the past that we as an Order must take all positive steps to do those things which make the general public and our politicians aware of the serious side of our Irish heritage. Certainly St. Patrick’s Day parades are extremely important. I am constantly impressed with the way John Dunleavy and the New York Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee run their parade. It is indeed a celebration of our Irish heritage. There are no green plastic hats. There is no green beer. In fact, there is no beer or any other beverages in the possession of any of the marchers in the parade. It is a model for us all to emulate. Too often the “everybody is Irish for a day” mentality tends to trivialize such celebrations.

I have recently sent a letter to all of our state presidents asking them to take those positive steps to promote, support, and report activities promoting our Irish heritage. We need to keep the pressure on our local, state and federal political leaders to finally get March permanently designated as Irish-American Heritage Month. I again refer to Brother Cosgrove’s letter and his references to the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute. We need to continue to work that action from every level. We need to continue to push for special curricula in our schools reflecting the contributions of the Irish to our country, the sacrifices of the Irish as a result of An Gorta Mor. Contributions to our local libraries of books and displays reflecting our Irish Heritage can be extremely helpful. Your IAHM Committee, John Schell, Neil Cosgrove and I, will continue our work at the federal level. We need you all to work at all levels to make this happen.

As you undoubtedly know, we will be celebrating the 175 year anniversary of the AOH in 2011. It would certainly be wonderful if, as part of that celebration, we could report that March has been permanently designated as Irish-American Heritage Month!

Irish American Heritage Month

As I write this, we are still in the dog days of summer, hot and humid in the wonderful Commonwealth of Virginia. But, brothers, now is the time to get active – to take those steps we all need to take to get March officially designated as Irish American Heritage Month. Our National President has made getting March designated permanently as IAHM a priority. That’s good enough for me – and I hope it’s good enough for all of us.

As you all know, at the recent National Convention in Cincinnati, we held our biennial elections which resulted in some new National Directors and new assignments. I am very honored and happy to say that the IAHM Committee consisting of myself, John Schell and Neil Cosgrove remain intact. John and Neil will be using all available resources to communicate the goals, objectives and ideas to all of you, going through National Directors and State Presidents. Additionally, we will be setting up meeting with key congressional leaders of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs to enlist their support.

So what is it that we are asking you to do? It may look like a lot – but there is so much that can be done with the talent we have in the Order.

I am asking each State President to appoint a state IAHM Chairman to work with and coordinate the activities of County Boards and Divisions. Each County Board and Division should also appoint an IAHM Chairman. State Presidents, please take responsibility for making contact with the office of the Governor of your state asking the governors to declare March as IAHM. This needs to be done early on. Waiting until February to start the process just won’t work. I know – we had elections in Virginia in 2010 and I waited until the new Governor and his staff were in place – too late! So we are starting early this year.

Presidents down the line should be coordinating with local jurisdictions for them to declare March as IAHM. Talk to your mayors and other elected officials to make this happen. In doing this, be prepared to propose language for the resolution, focusing on the contributions of the Irish and those of us of Irish descent to the State, County or local jurisdiction. We need to stress positive contributions, avoiding the “wear your green, everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day” trivial prose.

We call on all – State, County, Division – to plan and execute positive activities for March that will stress and build upon our Irish Heritage. Do you need some ideas? Contact Dr. Tim O’Donnell, President of Christendom College in Virginia. He has a great series of talks on Catholic Ireland and the Nine Years War. The lectures are based on his book “Swords Around the Cross – The Nine Years War – Ireland’s Defense of Faith and Fatherland 1594-1603.” It is a fantastic book. Or, just get the book and present it to your local library. How about a series of talks either in schools or libraries by a local seanchai or storyteller. We have so many wonderful stories in our heritage. Have you considered having a Gaelic Mass around St. Patrick’s Day? Publicize it in your parish bulletin, and invite all your parish. Oh, by the way, these activities are also a wonderful way to find Irish Catholic men in your community who would make great members of the AOH.

The key to all this is that we must start now for activities to highlight our Irish American Heritage in March. The more we can take forward to our national elected leadership in Congress and the White House, the better chance we have in getting IAHM permanently designated for March – make it grow – so that the military, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and others can expend funds and manpower to recognize the contributions of Irish and Irish Americans to this great country.

We continue to ask you, our membership, to let the IAHM Committee know what you are doing in support of IAHM to help us strengthen our case with the appropriate legislative bodies at the National level.

President’s Message

Brothers, March has passed, but not without the usual defamation of the Irish culture, tradition and its people.

Denny’s offended us with their unbelievable desecration of the great hunger. Spencer’s Gifts also did so with their vulgar and degrading clothing line and the usual list of local and national greeting cards and posters. We, as an organization, do what we can to bring these matters to the attention of the Irish American people. We try to stop it. Sometimes we succeed, but most of the time we get lip service or worse. But we will continue to boycott these businesses and bring offensive advertising and store items to the attention of Irish American people. We can only hope that as we publicize these businesses, more people will get involved and we can eventually slow, if not stop, negative stereotyping of the Irish, especially during the month of March.

Again this year our President has declared March as Irish American Heritage Month, as have numerous other states and communities. Our Irish American Heritage committees, consisting of J.J. Kelly, Jack Schell and Neill Cosgrove, have done a tremendous amount of work on the Heritage Month as they try to have it declared a permanent month each year. They have worked since last April to try to find out who to contact to try to accomplish a permanent solution. They have contacted the politicians in Washington only to be told that it is no longer something that can be done by introducing a bill. We hope they will continue to work diligently and be successful by next March, but if success is not achievable, we will continue to introduce this resolution on a yearly basis until we are successful.

All the parades related to St Patrick’s Day have concluded for another year. I was so proud to be elected Grand Marshall of the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia. For the first time I really found out just how much work goes into putting this parade on each year.

The St Patrick’s Day Observance Committee, which runs the parade in Philadelphia, does a tremendous job. Two outstanding people who put everything they have into it are President Mike Callahan, and Parade Director Mike Bradley. Mike, it seems, does all the work of organizing the line of march, the fundraisers and media coverage. He coordinates everything from the reviewing stand to post-parade festivities and probably even cleans up. Mike would make the energizer bunny comparatively seem to be asleep. The parade day started with a Mass at St. Patrick’s in center city, celebrated by the Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal Justin Rigali, and concelebrated by Bishop Joseph McFadden and chaplains Father Kevin Gallagher and Father Christopher Walsh as well as numerous other priests and chaplains from various organizations. The Mass was served by four altar boys from my alma mater, Father Judge High School.

I was very proud to have my family, the AOH/LAOH Division 39 as well as the Junior Divisions of the AOH/LAOH 39, Father Judge Marching Band, the Irish Society, Celtic Flame Dancers from Division 39 and the Regional Council of Carpenters from Philadelphia march in the Grand Marshal’s Division. It was a day I will long remember. I thoroughly enjoyed not only the parade but all the festivities for weeks prior to parade day. Thank you to the observance committee and especially Mike Bradley for all the help and for his hard work and friendship in making this a special day for my family and me and for making the parade the success that it was, is and will continue to be for many years to come.

The day before St. Patrick’s Day, I had to return to the hospital for work on my knee. It was a very scary situation. The procedure went well, but in the course of a few hours it was realized that I had a reaction to morphine, which triggered other problems. Thank God I am fine now and on the road to recovery but not running any three-minute miles yet. Due to the hospital stay I had to forfeit an opportunity to attend St. Patrick’s Day festivities at the Irish Embassy in Washington and also at the White House.

I attended some local functions since March and a meeting in Cincinnati in mid-April to put the final touches on the convention. I also attended the Ohio state board meeting. A few things relevant to the convention needed to be changed including the menu and Mass times, but other than that the committee seems to have everything well in hand. They’re expecting a great crowd and a terrific convention. When we returned from Cincinnati we held a National Board meeting to discuss the convention and other things pertinent to our organization.

In closing I would like to thank you for the privilege of serving you as your national president for the past two years. I wish you and your family a safe and healthy summer and hope to see many of you at the convention in July.