California News

United Ireland Proclamation from the Long Beach City Council

1916 AOH Easter Commemoration in Orange County, CA — From left, front row: Eric Reiss, Mick Byrne, Mick O'Keefe, and Mark Mowen; second row, seated: Andy Finnerty, Jerry O'Keefe, Michael O'Keefe Jr., Jeff Gallagher, Ken Jamieson, Daniel Murphy, Daniel McGowan, and Tim Weston. Back row: Tristan Wolffe, Elijah Moynahan, Molly Moynahan, Jesse Moynahan, Olen Daugherty Jr., Craig Phildius, David McKenna, Tom Mullan, Jimmy McSorley, Peter O'Brien, Andrew Manning, Jim McGuirk, Chris Wittman, Devon Stone, Paul Gilbrook, Olen Daugherty Sr., Brent Smith, Terry McCarthy, Seamus McCullough, and Eamonn Knuff.

On March 13, 2012, AOH Brothers David McKenna and Andrew Manning from the Joseph Plunkett––Joe McDonnell Division in Long Beach, California stood before the Long Beach City Council and urged their elected officials to issue an official unanimous proclamation in support of a free and united Ireland. Thanks to the support of our good friend, Councilman Patrick O’Donnell, the proclamation was issued and presented to us in a beautiful frame. As Brother Andrew noted in his presentation before the Council, “When a free and united Ireland takes its rightful place among the nations of the world, the great city of Long Beach, California will justifiably hold its head high and smile with pride as a true friend of our brothers and sisters in Ireland.” Through this action, we are, my brothers, one step closer to fulfilling the promise of so many generations of Hibernians –– Tiocfaidh ár lá. The Joseph Plunkett––Joe McDonnell Division encourages all of our brothers to take similar action in their respective cities, counties, and states.

Easter Rising commemoration in California

On April 7th, the Orange County Board, the Michael J. Farrell Sr. Division #2 and the Jerry O’Keefe Division #3 held their AOH 1916 Easter Commemoration at the VFW in Anaheim. This AOH Commemoration event was held to honor all the fallen Heroes for Irish Freedom in 1916.

David McKenna, AOH Long Beach Division Vice-President, delivered a wonderful speech as the keynote speaker, and Daniel Murphy, past Orange County Board President, kept the program moving as master of ceremonies. Tim Weston gave a moving rendition of Padraic Pearse’s oration at the graveside of O’Donovan Rossa. Daniel McGowan, Long Beach President, read the 1981 roll of honor, and Jerry O’Keefe, past National Director shared the 1972 roll of honor. Also a special presentation was made and a beautiful plaque was given to Andy Finnerty, past Orange County President, for his years of dedication and guidance for the 1916 Commemoration since 1967.

Eamonn Knuff entertained the crowd by performing all our Irish favorites, and Terry McCarthy graced the day and led the Flag processional with his bagpipes. Many thanks to Jeff Gallagher for producing such a wonderful program journal, and special thanks to Mick O’Keefe, Commemoration Chairman, for providing his leadership and guidance.

Overall the commemoration was a complete success! We were able to raise several hundred dollars profit toward keeping the tradition alive, as well as providing a proper tribute to the heroes of the 1916 Easter Rising. Erin Go Bragh!

AOH Long Beach and AOH Orange County Commemorate Volunteer Joe McDonnell

The Joseph Plunkett-Joe McDonnell Division and guests from Orange County Divisions 2 & 3 gathered in Long Beach, CA, on July 9 to honor Vol. Joe McDonnell on the weekend of the 30th anniversary of his death from the Republican Hunger Strike of 1981. McDonnell was an unwavering Volunteer, committed to the Republican cause for Irish freedom. All the Brothers in attendance were honored and truly humbled to pay tribute to such a sound individual.

Pictured from left to right, front row: Bob Hannan, David McKenna, Daniel McGowan, Kevin O'Keefe and Kevin Spaeth. Back Row: Andrew Manning, Jim McGuirk, Chris Wittman, Jim Walsh, Eric Reiss, Mick O'Keefe, Chris O'Keefe, Jerry O'Keefe and Chuck Gildea.

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.