What a marathon this St. Patrick’s season was. Since our blessed day was on a Saturday this year the events ended up being stretched over a three-week period. I attended a Northern Ireland Bureau St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the Ronald Reagan Center in DC. While there were many U.S. politicians in attendance, the event centered on the promotion of Northern Ireland as a place to do business and to visit. The keynote speakers included First Prime Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (who mentioned to me that he looked forward to seeing us in July at the Convention in New York).
My wife, Ann, and I attended the Irish Embassy St. Patrick’s Day Reception at the Fairmont Hotel in DC with a number of other National and local Hibernians. The Barry Gate was proudly raised at the entrance to the ballroom. Ambassador and Mrs. Marie Collins hosted a large and enjoyable reception for the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife, Fionnuala. The Collins’ and the Kenny’s only stayed for a short while at the reception before they were off to the annual White House St. Patrick’s reception at which President Obama was presented with a Certificate of Irish Heritage. President Obama was honored to receive the certificate and I was told that he commented that he would hang it proudly on the wall next to a copy of his birth certificate – ahh, Washington humor.
I attended three St. Patrick’s Day masses, one a beautiful Gaelic Mass celebrated each year by my Arlington, Virginia, brothers; the Washington DC Mass at St. Patrick’s Church downtown with Cardinal Wuerl celebrating; and on St. Patrick’s Day proper, with my family, at the fabulous Mass held on Capitol Hill at St. Peters Church. I would note that each Mass also had a representative of the Irish Embassy in attendance, often with members if their family.
I was honored to present, along with Senator Mark Daly of Ireland, the Certificate of Irish Heritage to Mr. John Garvey, the president of Catholic University here in DC, and to Congressman Rooney of Florida (who commented about the great work the AOH is doing in Florida). The Irish Government is extending a unique offer to the AOH with discounted pricing and a streamlined process of proving heritage in an effort to provide the AOH with unique gift opportunities as we honor our members and guests who get involved with our Divisions, Counties and States. If you are interested in presenting a Certificate of Irish Heritage to one of your members or honored guests please call me at 202-320-8351 and I will be happy to provide you with details about the program.
It was a great honor to attend a breakfast of the Washington Ireland Program. This is a fantastic organization, which brings Irish college students to the Washington and New York metro areas. The greatest success of this program is that at least 12 alumni of this program (who worked as interns here in DC through the program) are now Members of the Dail in Ireland.
I was happy to attend a concert at Pat Troy’s Pub in Alexandria, VA, with Derek Warfield and the Young Wolfe Tones. What a fantastic concert he put on. Derek just released a new album called “Washington’s Irish” with Irish songs during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, with an especially fine song about Commodore Barry.
I attended the annual “Planting of the Shamrocks” at the Custis-Lee mansion at Arlington Cemetery co-hosted by the AOH and the National Park Service and always attended this year by Kevin Conmy, Chief of Missions at the Irish Embassy along with his son. The DC Hibernians gave our annual “Friend of Ireland Award” to Ms. Geri Garvey, the Administrator of the Irish Apostolate USA. This was truly a well-deserved award for her fine and tireless work on behalf of Irish immigrants here in the U.S.
I marched in the annual Washington, DC, St. Patrick’s Day Parade with my Division and our DC Brothers. I am proud to announce that under the direction of DC State Board President Ralph Day (The Commodore himself) we won the Best in Show for our float this year and brought home a big trophy to prove it. As with every year, we had a tailgate party after the parade hosted by Jenny Day who puts on the best spread of food any Irishman could request. Thank you, Ralph and Jenny, for your tireless work on behalf of the DC AOH.
One of the most interesting events I attended was a dinner at Father McManus’ favorite Thai-rish restaurant on Capitol Hill with members of Relatives for Justice who were in town to attend and some testify at a hearing in Congress the next day. What tragic and amazing stories these people from Northern Ireland have had to endure. Injustice after injustice at the hands of the RUC and the British after members of their families were murdered, they were in the United States seeking some hope that some type of fair investigation can be made and they can get some closure in their lives. As I conversed with a woman whose brother had been assassinated in 1994, she showed me the color brochure that they were handing out describing their tragic stories so the world could bear witness to these horrific events they have had to endure. Pointing to the brochure, she said, “This is thanks to the AOH that we can bring these. It is your support through Sean Pender and your Freedom for All Ireland campaign that makes this information we have possible. Your generous donations make this printing possible.”
I attended the Helsinki Commission hearing on Capitol Hill, which was chaired by our good friend from New Jersey, Chris Smith. The hearing was about Northern Ireland and why justice in individual cases matters, with the focus on what can be done to ensure that peace is sustained there. Witnesses included Mrs. Pat Finucane, Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, and Christopher Stanley of British-Irish Watch. Amazingly during the hearing, a guest panelist – Rep. Elliot Engle from New York – held up the three brochures documenting the killing of these innocent people and said, “I was given these pamphlets and have been reading them… I hope we can give copies to every member of Congress so they can read them.” This is the same brochure that the family member from Relatives for Justice thanked me, the evening before, for the AOH’s support for making its creation possible.
I attended a State Department briefing on Ireland in which six of the 25 people attending were members of the AOH. I can’t express how important it is to our Order that we garner that much respect from the Department of State to have over 20 percent of the representation at that event. The event was considered “off the record” and was hosted by Jake Sullivan, Deputy Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Kathleen Dougherty – Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe. The meeting was about Ireland and Northern Ireland but the primary focus of the meeting centered on injustices and economic issues in the North.
I had the pleasure of attending a newly formed Division’s meeting in Rehoboth Delaware – The Commodore John Barry Division with 24 new members and 19 transfers from the Ocean City Maryland Division. What a wonderful and anxious group of Hibernians. They are hitting the ground running and I wish them the best in success and congratulate them on a fine meeting.
I would like to express my deep sympathy over the recent death of Congressman Donald Payne (NJ) has passed away at the age of 77 after a brief battle with colon cancer. Congressman Payne has been a great supporter of the Irish cause and a true friend of the AOH. At a recent fundraiser I attended he admitted to the audience that he was of Irish decent – something he never discussed (as an African American) publically but certainly something he directly expressed in his efforts and support of the Irish through his position on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, as well as a frequent guest panelist on the Helsinki Commission. I would also note the passing of Frank Fitzmaurice. He was a fine and long time Hibernian brother from Maryland. He was one of the best recruiters for the Order because he had 7 sons and if I am not mistaken they all became Hibernians. He loved being Irish and he loved his family and he loved being a Hibernian. He will be missed.
Thank the members of this fine Order for trusting in me to be your National Director for these past 4 years. There was a tremendous amount of time and effort that put into being a National Director, many demands and many compromises with family and the Order to enable us to do our job. It is not a small undertaking and I hope that I have proven worthy of my efforts. I was proud to be the National Editor for 3 years. I did my very best to improve the Digest and to keep it to a consistent level of quality while cutting and controlling the budget of the paper to save the Order money. I was also extremely proud to have created (along with the talent and volunteer efforts of Joe McDonald – a fine Brother from NY) an online version of the Digest at www.hiberniandigest.com.
As I say farewell I would like to say what an honor it has been to meet so many friends throughout the country over my term as Director – it was a pleasure to serve each and every Hibernian. I want to thank my wife, Ann, and my children, Matthew and Kate, who supported me in my efforts and allowed me the time away from home so often to do my job. I would like to thank my counselors Father Hurley, Ralph Day, Kevin Dillon, Pat Troy and the late Admiral Rod Flannery for their confidence in me and their trusted advice to me while I was in office. On an ending note I would again like to thank the greatest Hibernian I have ever met – Brother Mike McCormack; for your great friendship, your unquestioned assistance with the Digest, your guidance and counseling when I needed it the most, and for your unique ability to keep the flame burning through the darkness to show us all the rich history and culture we share as Irishmen.
May Saint Patrick, the Glorious Apostle of Ireland, Bless you all.