Minister Deenihan announces plans for Boston & Drogheda Famine Commemorations in May 2012

Jimmy Deenihan T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Chair of the National Famine Commemoration Committee, today (22nd March, 2012) welcomed the news that President Michael D. Higgins will lead the official representation at this year’s overseas Famine Commemoration, which took place in Boston on Saturday, 5th May 2012.

“I am delighted that President Higgins is leading the official representation at the Famine Commemoration in Boston this year. Many Irish emigrants during the Great Famine, and indeed after that period, have settled in Boston and on the eastern coast of the United States of America and I know that the community in Boston are working hard to ensure that the Commemoration will be a dignified and fitting tribute to the victims of the Great Irish Famine”.

Minister Deenihan also commented, “The National Famine Commemoration ceremony is taking place in Drogheda in May this year. Drogheda was the second largest port of departure for over one million people who were forced to emigrate. Some travelled only as far as Britain while others travelled onwards from the UK to North America . Many of these people arrived in Boston , hoping for a more prosperous life. We know from the evidence of Irish heritage in Boston that many settled and prospered in that city. I would like to thank the community in Boston for their ongoing work to ensure that the victims of the famine are remembered and respected in a dignified manner”.

There have been three international commemorations of the Great Irish Famine to date. These overseas events coincide with the annual National Famine Commemoration, which rotates around the four provinces of Ireland . Previous overseas events have taken place in Canada (2009), New York (2010) and Liverpool (2011).

The 2012 National Famine Commemoration was scheduled to take place in Drogheda, Co. Louth on Sunday, 13th May 2012. An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. will lead the official representation at this event.

News from Immigration & Legislation

It has been over ten months since I was re-appointed as the National LAOH Immigration and Legislation Board member by our National President Margaret Hennessey.  I have attempted to keep up with the important issues and reform measures.

In January, I traveled to Ireland for the Bloody Sunday Commemoration with approximately 60 others, the majority of whom were AOH and LAOH members.  Besides taking part in the march itself, one of the highlights for me was being able to meet with members of the AOH Division 207 Brantry, Co. Tyrone Division and speak with a couple of their Junior members.

Another highlight of our trip was that the LAOH and AOH National Board delegation had a meeting with the former New York Consul General and Director Niall Burgess and several members of the Irish Foreign Affairs Department during our visit to the Iveagh House in Dublin.  A variety of issues of mutual interest, including immigration, were discussed by the AOH leadership and the leaders of the Irish Department, making this a significant meeting.  Mr. Joe Hackett of the Irish Abroad Unit stressed that communication between the Irish government and the United States government needs to continue, and that both sides need to work closely on providing secure avenues for Irish emigrants.

On a personal note, I must mention is that I had the occasion at the beginning of March to travel to Ohio to see my son perform in Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance.  Upon arrival, I was met by members of the Youngstown AOH Division who served as most gracious hosts.  They introduced me to many fellow Hibernians in the Youngstown AOH and the Akron AOH homes.  I can only say that true Irish Hibernian hospitality was shown by all.

We all want to be known as Irish-Americans and we tout this fact not only during the month of March but hopefully twelve months a year.  I recently received my Irish citizenship/passport.  I must point out that is was a relatively easy process.  I consider it an honor to have that line of ancestry that allowed me to obtain my Irish citizenship.  I am sure my feeling of pride in receiving my Irish citizenship and passport is the same as that felt by Irish immigrants achieving American citizenship.

I have recently been in contact with Siobhan Dennehy, Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center. Siobhan pointed out that the change in government in Ireland will have an effect on the immigration policies.  Siobhan tells me that it is important that we provide the outreach to our Irish citizens, whether upon their arrival on our shores for the first time or when they are coming back to the U.S. for a return visit.  She stressed that it is important that intended Irish immigrants explore all their options starting with seeking information and help from a local center to be sure they are fully informed before arriving in the United States.  They should seek the advice of an Immigration Attorney or staffer of a local Immigration Center who will walk them through their options (if any) and give them information on current job and employment trends.  She specifically noted that the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers (CIIC) provides a good educational tool.  The CIIC is a national umbrella group for all of the Irish Immigration Centers in the U.S.    Its mission is to represent immigrant organizations who are committed to providing services to Irish immigrants. Anyone considering coming to the US, through a Holiday Visa Waiver, a summer J-1, the one-year J-1, or any other program they should be encouraged to seek the advice of Crosscare or any of our Irish immigration centers affiliated with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers. Consult (www.ciic-usa.org) or (www.migrantproject.ie/emigrating_from_ireland_usa.htm).

If we follow the direction of the Immigrant Centers then we must realize that it is our job to help those individuals that are striving to either become citizens of the United States, or are here legally on visas and green cards. The greatest percentage of Irish Americans, LAOH and AOH members included, do not realize the importance of the need to reform and create immigration legislation that will allow the hard-working people not only continue to work among us but to achieve the American dream.  So, in consideration of the fact that we are unable to lobby our legislators, I encourage our members to refer to the websites noted in this report and the articles in the various Irish newspapers, as well as our own Hibernian Digest.  Support for our Irish immigrant population in our Country is just as important as the laws that allow them to come here.

 

 

 

Maine News

The Daniel O’Connell O’Donoghue Division (Div. 1), Portland, Maine is very happy to welcome a new AOH division in the state of Maine. Another Division has been created in North Whitefield, ME, the home of St. Denis Catholic Parish, created by Irish immigrants and Father Denis Ryan in the 1820s. Robert King has been nominated the first president. Welcome aboard!

Portland’s Division 1 has been quite active in recent months, including hosting their 11th Annual Mass at the Catholic Ground in Western Cemetery in Portland (August 15). In 1999, the division erected a black marble monument there to commemorate An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger), 1845-1851, and to memorialize the Catholic Ground, where 1200 of Portland’s early Roman Catholics were interred, most without headstones. Of these 1200, most were Irish emigrants or their children. Many were also Civil War veterans and casualties on the railroad.

On November 1, 2010, the division participated in an Open House at the Maine Irish Heritage Center (the old St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, dedicated 1893, closed 1998), where Mass was first concelebrated on November 1, 1830 (in the old church) by Bishop Benedict J. Fenwick of Boston and the pastor, Father Charles D. French, originally from Galway City. A few Irish priests from Boston assisted them.

This year the division has come together to remember two of their brethren who passed away: Daniel J. Crowley, aged 81, the division’s sentinel and longtime historian, who died in April, and the Rev. Coleman Patrick O’Toole, son of Galway emigrants, who passed away in November, aged 84. Fr. O’Toole, along with the late Fathers Patrick Barrett (the Division’s longtime chaplain) and Robert E. Lee, celebrated Mass at the Western Cemetery each August. Rev. Robert Regan, S.J., stationed at Cheverus High School in Portland, now celebrates the Mass each summer.

We also congratulate our president of more than twenty years, Paul O’Neill, of Cape Elizabeth, who celebrated his twentieth year of hosting Portland’s only Irish radio program, The Harp and Bard. President O’Neill created the program in 1989 after an AOH meeting in which it was discussed how the Greater Portland area was lacking a good Irish music program and radio show.

The division has recently discussed the feasibility of having government memorial plaques erected at the graves of Portlander Lt. Michael C. Boyce, killed at Gettysburg three months after getting married, and Colonel Daniel O’Connell O’Donoghue, a Civil War veteran, relative of the Daniel O’Connell, and local Fenian leader (1865-67), for whom the division is named.

Division 1 continues to decorate the Western Cemetery Famine Memorial stone and the SS Bohemian Celtic Cross monument in Calvary Cemetery each St. Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day. Our member James Avjian has long placed flowers and small Irish flags at these locations. The BOHEMIAN was a British steamer that sank off Cape Elizabeth, Maine on Washington’s Birthday, 1864, with the loss of 42 passengers and crew, most of whom were immigrants from County Galway. The local AOH and the Irish American Club of Maine erected a large and impressive Celtic cross here in their memory in 1985.

Our longtime member Michael J. Furey, a native of Anbally, Corofin Parish, County Galway, celebrated the 30th Anniversary of his owning and operating “Ireland’s Crystals and Craft” in Portland, the only store of its kind in southern Maine (perhaps in all of Maine!). Congratulations and keep up the good work, Mike! Furey, who will turn 82 this year, came to America in the 1950s, married, and had four daughters with his wife, the former Sally Conneely, also a Galway native. He is at the store seven days a week!