Meehan to receive Golden Bridges Award

In 2007, Mairtin O Muilleoir, publisher of the Irish Echo, announced the Golden Bridges award, to be annually presented in tribute to those who had built golden bridges of prosperity and investment between the U.S. and the North of Ireland.

This year, the recipients are author Mike MacDonald, Mary McAleer of the Irish American Partnership and AOH Past National President Jack Meehan. Jack was nominated by Boston’s undocumented Irish community for his more than 30 years of service to that cause.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon to be held at the Seaport Hotel and World Trade Centre, Boston, on November 11. The guest speaker will be Gerry Adams, TD. Our congratulations to Jack.

Congrats From Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams TD, Sinn Fein President

I want to congratulate Clara Reilly on receiving the AOH 2011 Sean McBride Award. This is a prestigious award hugely deserved by Clara.  Clara Reilly has been a champion for justice for over four decades of activism in the north of Ireland.

As a founding member of the Association for Legal Justice in the early 1970s she gave unstintingly of her time in defense of those citizens denied basic human and civil rights in the north of Ireland.

Following the pogroms of 1969, the serious militarization of the north by the British state, the introduction of new repressive laws and the introduction of internment Clara Reilly and a small number of human rights workers, including Leo Wilson and Fr. Brian Brady and others, worked day and night providing legal advice to families of citizens detained by the British forces.

They also played a key role in exposing the torture and brutality of the British Army and RUC toward detainees in the days after hundreds were arrested under the internment legislation.

Clara has been centrally involved in key campaigns around shoot to kill actions by the British state; demands for the right to inquests by victims’ families; the taking of cases to the European Court of Human Rights; policing; institutionalized collusion between British state forces and unionist paramilitaries and the use of plastic bullets by the British Army and RUC.

Despite having a young family, and receiving threats from the British state, Clara’s door was always open to those in need. She traveled widely speaking out against state repression.                 Her outrage at the murders and injuries, particularly on children, perpetrated by the use of rubber and plastic bullets took her to Dublin  London, Washington and beyond in her fight to expose brutal reality of these deadly weapons.

Through her work with the Relatives for Justice she has ably demonstrated the hypocrisy and double standards of the “Hierarchy of Victims” attitude of the British government and its allies.

Clara’s clear and unequivocal demand for equal treatment for the victims and families bereaved by the killings of their relatives by the British Army, the RUC and their agents and surrogates has been heard in Ireland and around the world.

Clara has shown enormous bravery, skill and determination in raising her voice in demanding equality of treatment and dignity for victims and their families over very many years.

I am pleased to extend my congratulations to Clara on the awarding of this significant honor to her and to thank all of you for recognizing the importance of her work.

Deputy Chaplain

Since my appointment as Deputy National Chaplain, I have been fielding questions on my position on Northern Ireland, and my immediate response is that I have always loved Donegal, but if you are talking about the six counties, it gets a little more complex. Complex is probably the best word to describe the situation in the Six, as well as my position on what is happening there. A friend asked me if I was opposed to the peace process. First of all, I am a priest, a Christian, and have many people that I care about living in Ireland, many of them in the British controlled section, who I worry about. I am all in favor of peace. But we also have to look at what we mean by peace. This is where it gets complex, because as well as being a priest, I am also an Irish Republican, and it is my firm belief that only through the establishment of a 32 county sovereign Republic, can there be any hope of peace, because only through a United Irish Republic can justice be assured for all. That being said, I don’t necessarily agree with the “peace” process that has been pursued by Sinn Fein (and for the sake of brevity and sanity I am not going to refer to them as Provisional Sinn Fein, as this is the one everyone recognizes as SF), since I think much has been sacrificed for various reasons, but peace and justice will not be served by the current direction.

Before I go any further, let me explain my position on “dissident” Republicans. Politically, I can see where there would be a great deal of frustration, not only among the older leaders who sacrificed their youth to the cause of an Irish Republic, only to see (remember it’s about perceptions) Gerry Adams and others abandon these principles. Keep in mind, many of the men and women that lead these “dissident” groups were involved in Irish Republicanism before Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness were, some of them served alongside of the two. I think the biggest tragedy with the political groups is that they represent a failure of dialogue within Republicanism; the leadership of Sinn Fein failed to listen to its base (and for those who disagree with this last part, I’ll tell you later on why I’m not). As for the military wings of these different groups, I wish they would take their weapons and put them up in their attics for the next ten years, or more. Do I dispute that Irish Republicans have a right to be armed? No, especially since I believe that the right to keep and bear arms is a God given right of every free man and woman, that’s why it’s enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the United States. Neither do I deny them the right to the armed struggle, since it was the armed struggle that forced the British government to negotiate with Irish Republicans for peace, but this is just not the time. Now is the time for talking, for dialogue, and for envisioning what a future Irish Republic will look like.

There has also been a lot of talk about the killing of a Catholic PSNI officer by members of the RIRA. Is it tragic? Yes. Should it have happened? No. But I have a big problem with Sinn Fein and others exploiting this young man’s death for their own political agenda, or to use it as a club to silence anybody that may oppose the current political strategy. There are three concerns I have with the PSNI (Policing Service of Northern Ireland): 1) Before the Good Friday Agreement, the RUC, predecessor to the PSNI, numbered 16,000, which was 10,000 more than recommended by the European commission on policing, for the size of the population. The PSNI should only have 6,000 members. 2) Many of the members of the PSNI are former RUC men, who should not be allowed to police a herd of goats, let alone human beings. The human rights violations committed by them should have resulted in War Crimes charges, not pensions and promotions. 3) While Sinn Fein and others are complaining that the quota of Catholics (50% of the force) has not been realized, I object to the way that the Catholic recruitment was pursued. Advertisements in Polish language newspapers in Ireland, England, the US and Poland assisted in the recruitment of many Catholics, who really don’t give a damn about Ireland or the Irish. 4) While I can recognize that many young Catholics in the six counties viewed a position with the PSNI as a job, as a way to better themselves, and I realize that not all of them came from Irish Nationalist, let alone Republican, families, it is a concern that they are now committed to defending the interests of the British Crown above all else, since their careers and pensions depend upon continued British rule.

As far as Sinn Fein goes, am I completely opposed to them? No. In fact I see that they could be the best chance of achieving an Irish Republic with the next generation. However, there is also the possibility that they could destroy everything Irish Republicans have struggled for over the past 213 years. I disagree with Sinn Fein on their abortion policy, not only as a Catholic priest, but as an Irish Republican; the Right to Life is the fundamental right of any human being, denial of that right is the denial of all other rights. As for Socialist politics, Sinn Fein has to make up their mind whether they are a Marxist group or not, instead of speaking Marxism on the Falls Road and Free Trade on 5th Ave. It is also discouraging to see Sinn Fein use tactics that were used for years by the British government against Republicans, to criminalize and isolate those who disagree with them. One of the big lies has been that all those opposed to the Sinn Fein leadership are lunatics wanting to turn back the clock, while many of those who have broken away, or been run out, had a long history with the party. Groups like Eirígí formed when members of Sinn Fein, many of whom had been advocates of the Good Friday Agreement, could not have their voices and concerns heard by the leadership. This was especially true over the issues of policing, and the abandonment of the Good Friday Agreement by Sinn Fein, in favor of the St. Andrew’s Accord, which was never approved by the Irish people. Yet all those who dare to challenge the Leadership are dismissed as opposed to the GFA, or told they do not know what they are talking about. Somebody asked me recently what gave me the right to talk about the situation in the six counties; my response is that God gave me Freedom of Speech. But if you want to know what makes me believe I am able to speak about the subject, without sounding like an idiot spouting off whatever some politician or party tells me to, then I would have to say: over 20 years of Irish Academic studies, an MA in Irish History, post-graduate research work in Irish History, living in Belfast for a couple of years, and for various periods before that, being active in the Irish Republican movement here and in Ireland, even when it was not popular or politically correct.

The fact is, I support peace in Ireland, but peace must come with justice, and anyone who advocates the democratic process, while at the same time silencing dissenting voices is not a champion of peace.

Pennsylvania News

Congratulations to Mick Dunleavy, President, Division 1, Chester County, and all the Hibernian Brothers who helped clean up the Medal of Honor Grove at Valley Forge, PA.  It was certainly a task worthy of their time and effort.  Let’s all help them keep it in good shape.

Congratulations also to Fr. Tom O’Donnell (National and PA State Chaplain) for completing the AOH Chaplain’s Handbook.  Because of Father’s Handbook, Priests all over the country will have a set of guidelines to help them be better AOH Chaplains.

I have two appointments to report.  Tom Coughlin, Jr. from Division 4, Montgomery County, is back as our webmaster.  Thank you Tom, and welcome back to the State Board.  Also, as a result of being contacted by the National Co-chairs of Irish American Heritage Month, a PA State Board position has been created.  Mark Snyder, Bucks County President has accepted the appointment as Chairman, Irish American Heritage Month.  All Division and County Presidents will be hearing from Mark in the near future.

On October 27th I went to New York City to meet Noel Kilkenny, Counsel General of Ireland.  Also there was National President Seamus Boyle, National Vice President Brendan Moore, Past National President Ned McGinley, National Director and New Jersey President Jere Cole and New York State President Chip McLean.  It was a very interesting meeting that lasted for about two hours.

On November 3, along with Jim Lamb, President of the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh and member of Division 32 Allegheny County, Devinney, our State Solicitor, and Jim Caldwell, Allegheny County Freedom for All Ireland Chair, I traveled to Allegheny College in Meadeville, PA to meet Gerry Adams.  We arrived early and after getting myself a cup of coffee, I turned around and Gerry Adams walked up to me, introduced himself, and we talked one on one for a few minutes before he began his interview with the school paper.  After several other interviews we were all invited into the dining hall.  There were 30 to 40 tables of 8 set up and we were escorted to the one that was front and center.  Mr. Adams and a school professor were on a small dais just in front of us.  Before he started his question and answer session he said – “Before we start I would like you to know that Irish Americans, especially the AOH”, he pointed at us, “are those most responsible for the peace in the North of Ireland.”  It really makes you proud to be a Hibernian.

Let’s keep working for a United Ireland.

National President Seamus Boyle receives his Commission as a Kentucky Colonel from Colonel David Marantz AOH Div. 5, Luz. PA at a Ceremony which was held at the Chapel of Four Chaplains in Philadelphia. During the ceremony President Boyle inducted a Div. 5 member Paul Yankanich and his wife Joan into the Chapel of Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Awards program.

Bucks County Delivers

Bristol Division 1 recently delivered two truckloads of canned food to the Saint Joseph the Worked Parish food pantry Martha’s Cupboard in November.  The food was collected at Warren Snyder John Girotti Elementary School to participate in dress down day.  The school PTO allowed us to take charge and distribute the food as needed.  Martha’s Cupboard the food pantry became empty Tuesday and this delivery was a shot in the arm.  Betty Russell runs the food pantry.  In addition The Ancient Order of Hibernian’s set up a Grant funded by AOH Division 1 with Phillabundance the local food bank so Martha’s Cupboard can order food from them and they will deliver free of charge.  The money to do this was raised through our Hibernian Hunger Project.  Our president Mark Snyder is proud and we have doubled our efforts recently.

Celebrating John Mitchell Day

AOH Division 4 “Hook O’Malley” Scranton, PA recently celebrated John Mitchell Day with a wreath presentation at Cathedral Cemetery. John Mitchell was the president of the United Mine Workers and his greatest pride was representing the coal miners of the Northeastern region. His success led to the 8 hour work day and safer conditions for the working man.

Pictured (L – R) are members of Div.4.Patrick O’Malley holding Vincent O’Malley, Patrick O’Malley II, Keith Oleski, Kevin Shaughnessy, Mark McDade, John Maher, Joe Walsh, Matt O’Malley, Matt O’Malley Jr., Jack Gilroy and Griffin Gilroy. The wreath is a yearly memorial event held by the O’Malley Division to celebrate a great man who made great changes for American workers.

Supporting Local Food Banks

The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railroads Holiday Train is a special time for members of the Lackawanna County PA. Divisions and the “Hook O’Malley” Division 4 Scranton PA Div. 4 member Joe Walsh a Canadian Pacific Engineer and his division encouraged the Canadian Pacific Railroad to stop their annual Holiday train on the Nicholson Viaduct in Nicholson Pa. for a photo shoot of the train. The viaduct is one of greatest railroad structures ever built and draws thousands of people to see the train each year. The AOH Divisions along with the Nicholson Business Association started a food drive for local food banks in conjunction with the train’s arrival. The response has been great and local food banks have been greatly helped by our AOH Brothers and LAOH Sisters making this a yearly event.

The Philadelphia AOH, along with the K of C, (and an outside guest) sponsored a wonderful Nativity Scene in downtown Philly to celebrate keeping Christ in Christmas.

Division 1 Lycoming County Honors Hibernian of the Year

The AOH in Williamsport, Pa held its annual Hibernian of the Year ceremony at the Msgr. William J Fleming Center, St Joseph the Worker Parish Williamsport on Wednesday Dec 1st, 2010. The recipient of this year’s award was Brother Kermit Miller; he is a founding member of the Officer John P Maloney Division 1, Lycoming County which reorganized December 1997. He is a Major Degree member and the division’s Financial Secretary. Brother Miller received this award for his service, contributions and dedication to the Order and to the community.

Chris Norris National Director, Kermit Miller award recipient and Brian McQuillen Division President

All for a Good Claus

During this past Holiday season, Brothers from the PA Cumberland II, General William Thompson Division rallied to show their support to military families, and the children of the local community.  The Division acquired more than $3500 of toys and stocking stuffers. These toys went to children of all ages and were delivered in time for Christmas by Division Brothers portraying, “Military Claus” or “Celtic Claus.” Some of the local organizations that benefited from the sharing of AOH hospitality were the Children’s Cancer Recovery Center, area Reserve and Guard Units, as well as active duty Army, Marines and Air Force Families and military child care facilities. Toys were also distributed to the PA State House of Representatives for their “Adopt A Family” Program run by the House Democratic Caucus employees. Realizing how hard the holidays were hitting individual families, Cumberland II was told about some children who needed some Holiday joy and delivered to them as well.

Military Claus - Santa delivers Holiday joy to PA State House "Adopt a Family" Program Pictured (L - R) Dave Thomas, Nilda Jenkins, Diane Boyer, Santa and Sue Thomas.

A Letter To John Hume

Former SDLP leader, veteran Civil Rights campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, John Hume, has been voted the Greatest Man in Irish History in a nationwide RTE survey.  Hume came in first over such greats as Michael Collins, Mary Robinson, James Connolly and Bono.  Among the first to congratulate him were Gerry Adams and AOH President Seamus Boyle whose letter read as follows:

John Hume

7 Westend Park

Derry, Co Derry NI BT84 9JF

October 24, 2010

Dear John,

It is with great joy that I received the news this morning that you were chosen as the greatest person in Irish History.

Having won the Nobel Peace prize it is no wonder that the majority of the people of Ireland chose you as their winner. Your message as a non violent person and a huge participant in the peace process which has brought peace to Ireland after many years of war has been heard around the world.

I first met you when I was in Kerry building the replica of the Jeanie Johnston ship and you and David Ervine were instrumental in bringing young people together from both sides of the divide in Ireland to work as one on this great project. I did have the pleasure of meeting and hearing you speak many times since then and am so delighted to get the good news.

To have won this distinction over such great people as Collins, Connelly, Bono and Mary Robinson shows the esteem which you are held in by the people of Ireland. We, as the largest Irish/American Catholic Organization in the United States, wish you and your family all the best and congratulate you on your tremendous award.

Seamus Boyle National President

Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, Inc.