Director’s Report

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.

 

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.

FFAI

by Patricia Rattigan

As you know, this is the time of year that the FFAI Committee from the AOH and the LAOH ask for your help.   Sean Pender so elegantly quoted remarks, on the AOH website, by Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from his address to the AOH and LAOH joint session in Cincinnati on the Peace Process in Northern Ireland. I quote:  In his address to the delegates of the National AOH – LAOH convention the Deputy First Minister of the North of Ireland quoted a poem by Tom Paulin. The poem likened the experience of Nationalists and Republicans in the Northern State to tapping through granite with a spoon. Martin McGuinness added that “we have always recognized that our struggle would not be easy. No grand gesture by a few would win freedom. Change comes from the small steps, and the resolute actions of the many.” The continued progress in the peace process still needs your attention and support and I came away from your Convention confident of that. We appreciate your important work in America for Irish Unity which has so effectively raised the issue and informed the debate on achieving it. Finally let me thank you all for your support and help for republican prisoners through all the years of conflict and for your support now for former prisoners in rebuilding their lives.”

There are strong people in all communities who are trying to live up to the opening words of the Good Friday agreement that stated:”We … believe that the Agreement we have negotiated offers a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning. The tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering. We must never forget those who have died or been injured and their families. But we can best honor them through a fresh start in which we firmly dedicate ourselves to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance and mutual trust and to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all.

Each year we take small steps through the Christmas Appeal to help our fellow Irish in Northern Ireland and as you can see by the above comments it does work.  That being said, I would like the LAOH to consider the following non political recommendations from the list of Charities for this year’s donation to the Christmas Appeal

1)  Mary’s Gift Irish Language Foundation, a non-profit corporation and registered 502c(3),

2) Holy Cross Ardoyne Trust which continue to promote educational and recreational activities for the youth of the parish in their deeply divided area.

3) Omagh Basketball Team that helps bring children from all sides of the community to teach them to work together using basketball as their tool.

4) A newcomer to the block is Mrs. Flo O’Riordan an active Republican who is writing a book based on her life experiences of loss and her imprisonment during the troubles in the 1970’s.  Mrs. O’Riordan is in need of funds to help defray the cost of her book.   Please give this new Charity your consideration.

Please help us!  Make out the check payable to AOH Christmas Appeal and note on the bottom left memo area of your check, the designated charity you would like your donation to go to and the money will go to the specified charity. I would appreciate you mailing the LAOH checks only to me first, so that I can keep an accurate tally for the LAOH and then I will send them on to Sean Pender, the AOH National FFAI Chair.  My address is 59 Linden Street, Lindenhurst, NY 11757.  You can visit the AOH website for a full explanation of all the recipients of the Christmas Appeal.  All State Presidents and FFAI Chairs will be receiving a complete mailing of all material.  We must have donations no later than December 31st to ensure the money is accounted for and ready for presentation in the North of Ireland in late January.  So please act quickly.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Michael Collins

I’m absolutely delighted to be here today at the 2010 Biennial National Conference of the AOH and the LAOH.  I want to thank your National President and our good friend Seamus Boyle for inviting me here.  Our Consul General in Chicago will also be with you during these days.  I would like also to salute and acknowledge the presence of deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Despite its long history and early beginnings, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is an integral part of Irish America.  Although the challenges we face are new and ever changing, the Order has an importance today just as it had 174 years ago.  The roots of this organisation can be traced back to some of the darkest hours in Irish history – A time when freedom was more an idea than a reality.  Today our country is at peace and our fortunes greatly improved, but the work of this Order goes on, particular on this side of the Atlantic.

We salute you for your commitment and support of Ireland.  I particularly applaud the solidarity of the AOH with the Bloody Sunday families.  You have long supported the families and survivors of Bloody Sunday and rightfully share in their joy that those who died and were injured were innocent. The Saville Report on 15 June makes clear that the shootings by the British Army that day were “unjustified and unjustifiable”. Thus, for the families and after 38 years, the gaping wound of the injustice wrought by the Widgery Report was healed.

AOH involvement in education programs to ensure a greater appreciation of Ireland’s National heritage is a welcome priority. I was delighted to present at the awards last year at the National History Day.

The Good Friday Agreement is the bedrock of the precious peace that Ireland enjoys today.  Its great strength derives from its endorsement by the people North and South.  The recent election results in Northern Ireland were a ringing endorsement for those wanting to work together in the devolved institutions for the benefit of all the people.  We now have a unique opportunity to build sustained peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland. Today, Northern Ireland enjoys partnership Government and the various institutional structures of the Agreement are all in effect.

There has been a transformation of relations on the island of Ireland and also between Britain and Ireland.  The Taoiseach met with Prime Minister Cameron on 23 June at which the PM confirmed that the British Government was fully committed to the Good Friday Agreement.  Just last Monday there was a meeting in Dublin of the North South Ministerial Council chaired by the Taoiseach and the First and deputy First Minister. The Council is a vital part of the Good Friday Agreement architecture and provides the forum for Ministerial colleagues from North and South to address the key issues of the moment. And on Monday obviously the economic challenges that we all face were centre stage.

The devolution of Policing and Justice earlier this year marks an important milestone in fulfilling the full vision of the Good Friday Agreement. Ten years on from the Patten Report the responsibility and authority for policing and justice are now where they ought to be – at local level, accountable to and operating for the benefit of all the community.

There remain those who refuse to accept the will of the people. We deplore the acts of these dissidents and we are committed North and South to defeating them.  The work of reconciliation is a generational task. I welcome the ongoing support of the U.S. in helping us to underpin peace in Ireland, including through the International Fund for Ireland.

It will come as no surprise to many of you that Ireland has challenges of its own right now. Ireland, like most countries, has gone through a period of economic turbulence. However, the Government has taken the hard decisions necessary to deal with the effects of the global economic and financial crisis by stabilising our public finances, repairing our banking system and cutting costs to boost competitiveness. We are pursuing a detailed and well-planned strategy to ensure our economic recovery into the future.  It is evident that we are living through tough and difficult times, but we are meeting challenges head on and we will emerge stronger than before.  The U.S. is a key economic partner and foreign direct investment from here is vital to our economy.  But our economic relationship is also now a two way one reflecting the increasing investment by Irish companies in the U.S.  The Farmleigh Global Irish Economic Forum last September was an important initiative of the Irish Government to engage with our global family in a new and modern way. It has proven to be very successful.  We have also been engaged in a strategic review of our relationship and last year published the result of that review entitled “Ireland and America – Challenges and Opportunities in a new context”.

We say this is the year to come home to Ireland.  Tourism from the U.S. is very important to us.  I welcome the comments made by President Obama last Thursday in which he called for renewed efforts in establishing comprehensive immigration reform. The President stated it was time to “squarely confront our challenges with honesty and determination”. I would like to acknowledge the work and support of the AOH in this area. It is very important for our undocumented that this issue is resolved.  It is also important for us that we secure future flows through what we call the E3 programme.

I want to thank the Ancient Order of Hibernians for their work and their friendship. In you we have a formidable partner, and with you at our side we know that Ireland, and its people, will continue to flourish both at home and abroad.

Thank you.

Martin McGuinness

We share the same objectives of Irish Reunification by Peaceful and Democratic means. We know that it is not enough to hold the aspiration; it is about what we do to make our objective real. I am proud that the AOH, LAOH and the bulk of Irish America has worked to make our shared objective of reunification a job under way.

Tom Paulin in his poem, ‘The Wild Birds Act of 1931’, likened the experience of nationalists and republicans in the northern state as being like tapping through granite with a spoon. We have always recognized that our struggle would not be easy. No grand gesture by a few would win freedom. Change comes from the small steps, and the resolute actions of the many.

38 years ago the British Army shot 27 innocent people on the streets of Derry. 14 of them died. These were people who were on a march for civil rights. A march which was banned from entering the centre of their own city!  The British compounded that tragedy by setting up the Widgery Tribunal and claiming that those killed were in some way guilty and complicit in their own deaths. They maintained that lie for 38 years.  But Bloody Sunday cannot be taken in isolation from the many acts that led up to it. The actions of the same troops in Ballymurphy left 11 innocent people dead. The same army enforced the Falls Curfew and internment without trial! It cannot be divorced from the countless acts of collusion, shoot to kill and intimidation that was visited on the nationalist community.

I also recognize and sympathize with that loss endured by the unionists and other communities due to the actions of Irish Republicans. Over the most recent period of the conflict in Ireland we have all suffered grievous loss. No one was exempt.       But over that period we built a movement for peace, a movement for equality and a movement for reunification; we had many partners including the Irish Government and British Government led by Tony Blair. We have moved from conflict, through negotiations and towards an inclusive power-sharing administration in the North.

At times it did indeed feel like tapping through granite with a spoon.  But by working together with the Irish Government other political parties and the involvement of America we have achieved:

-          Ceasefires

-          British Army being taken off the streets and returned to barracks

-          The signing of the Good Friday Agreement

-          The ending of the IRA campaign

-          The establishment of the Executive and Assembly

-          The establishment of the North South Ministerial council. Only last Monday a crucial meeting with Taoiseach Brian Cowan and Cabinet sitting with Ministers from the north including Unionists to share ideas and solutions for economic recovery took place in Dublin.

-          The signing of St. Andrews agreement which led to the establishment of power sharing between Ian Paisleys ‘s party the DUP and ourselves in Sinn Féin

-          Most recently we have successfully negotiated for the return of policing and justice powers from London to our administration in the North. We have now a policing and court service which recognizes human rights and is accountable to the people it serves.

-          And over the last two elections Sinn Féin emerged as the largest party in the North.

At all these junctions we were told that no further progress could be made. But we continued. In all of this progress we have been accompanied by the AOH, LAOH and our friends in Irish America and the American political establishment. Clinton, Bush and Obama and Hilary Clinton

The recent release of the Saville Tribunal into Bloody Sunday demonstrates how far we have travelled together. A British Prime Minister recognized that those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday were innocent. He said that the actions of the British Parachute Regiment were unjustified and unjustifiable. Maybe now after nearly 4 decades the British media will call it what it was in the words of the coroner of the time, ‘Unadulterated Murder’. When David Cameron apologized on behalf of the British Governments and acknowledged the injustice of Widgery his words were beamed directly into the centre of Derry where the families were gathered. The very place to which the original march was barred!

This only came about because of the lobbying and campaigning by the families of those injured and murdered. It came about because of the pressure of those who marched every year in the biting wind of January to mark the anniversary of the original march.  The people of Derry and the north are grateful for the support of the AOH and LAOH who marched loyally with us in Derry and who were part of making the apology possible. For the past 38 years, the AOH and LAOH have marched in support of the families. When others thought that it was pointless you persevered. I was delighted to be invited here, because the families and the people of Derry owe the AOH and LAOH a debt of honor. You stood with the people of Derry and we never forget our friends.

Yes a thousand spoons tapping through granite long and hard enough can reduce a mountain to rubble. Yet we cannot rest on our laurels if we are to achieve our objective of a unified Ireland.  We support reunification because it is the right of the Irish people in the fullest sense to define our own destiny. We support reunification because it makes sense. It makes economic sense, it makes political sense and it is the way to heal the divisions in our society.

We need to continually build support here and at home for peaceful democratic change.  I thank the many legislative and other bodies across this great nation that has supported resolutions in favor of reunification.  We also have much to do to build support at home for reunification.  Partition had an impact not just along the border. It infested a mindset in the 26 counties that turned its back on the north and it entrenched community division and promoted sectarianism in the North.

We need to unpick 90 years of partition and knit our society back together. We are working with Unionists and the Irish government in this regard.  The visit to the Bogside of the leaders of the main Protestant Churches in the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday Report to meet with the relatives of those killed and injured was inspiring. It was an act of leadership born out of compassion and respect for the families and people of Derry. I know you will applaud them for it.   Everyone in the community needs to feel the benefits of peace and change. As we build our coalition to support reunification there are those that seek to take us back to conflict, whose actions seek to have the British Army returned to our streets. They offer no strategy or plan to achieve Irish reunification and have repeatedly been rejected by the community. They should now go away.

I am mindful that we are in the lead up to the 12th July at home. A tense time for many communities! A time when another fraternal organization celebrates its heritage! I am of course referring to the Orange Order. I think that the Orange Order has much to learn from the open, generous and pragmatic approach to marching and working with host communities demonstrated by the AOH at home.

We recognize that the Orange Order is part of our shared heritage. They are part of our diverse nation and history. There is no greater symbol of this than our national flag. A symbol of peace and equality between green and orange!

All communities want to move forward together with equality and respect. I look forward to the day when the leaders of the Orange Order are willing to engage positively with the political and civic representatives of the Nationalist people of the North in the process of creating a better future for all our people.  Recent attacks on Orange Halls, places of worship, GAA, Sinn Féin Offices and other premises are to be unreservedly condemned for the hate crimes they are and I know you will all wholeheartedly agree with me that sectarianism like racism has no place in the New Ireland which is under way.

In republican parlance we refer to the cause of reunification as ‘the struggle’. We use the term because it will only be achieved by hard work, commitment and sacrifice. I am confident that it will be achieved. I am confident it will be achieved when I look back at how far we have come working together. And I am confident because it is the way to secure prosperity, inclusion and peace for all in our diverse community across Ireland.

FFAI

Annual AOH Christmas Appeal

Helping to build One Island One Ireland with Justice for all.

In his address to the delegates of the National AOH – LAOH convention the Deputy First Minister of the North of Ireland quoted a poem by Tom Paulin. The poem likened the experience of nationalists and republicans in the northern state as tapping through granite with a spoon. Martin McGuinness added that “we have always recognised that our struggle would not be easy. No grand gesture by a few would win freedom. Change comes from the small steps, and the resolute actions of the many.” I can’t think of a better way to classify our yearly Christmas appeal – it has indeed been a series of continuous small steps and the resolute actions of our members over a very long period of time.  As we look to the North of Ireland today we can see the results of our work and we can see that tapping through granite with a spoon is indeed possible.

I came back from Cincinnati revitalized and invigorated but I came back also knowing we could do more and that our job is not finished. I heeded the words in Fr. Tom’s brilliant homily at the closing mass of the convention he stated: “We must remember that the dissidents will continue to fight to prevent and derail the unification process.  Therefore, it is of prime importance that we leave this convention with a new strength and purpose”.  We cannot give back what has taken so long to gain. We cannot be uninterested in the present of the North and risk going backward.  The work that our Christmas appeal and FFAI has accomplished has helped lay the foundation for a United Ireland for all the people of the North.  But that work continues. In order for a United Ireland to become a reality we must continue to support groups that are working for positive change for all communities in the North.

This year I hope we can once again count on all the divisions and boards that historically donate to the Christmas appeal. I hope that we continue to get great individual support through $10 club donations.  But to set this years appeal apart from all others, we need to increase the percentage of boards and divisions that donate to the appeal.  With all our successes we still have less than 55% of all divisions and boards donating to the appeal.  I ask that all State Presidents and National Directors make it a point this year to stress the importance of supporting the appeal to all those boards and divisions in their area of responsibility.  Every division and board should make a donation regardless of size.

Our appeal supports an array of groups; the vast majority of our donations will continue to support those who sacrificed so much for Irish freedom including those ex-prisoners in the U.S. seeking to regularize their status and organizations that work for truth and justice but we also support cross-community opportunities, and aid in reconciliation efforts. (For info on groups we support visit the FFAI page of the AOH national website).

I was gratified when recently both Martin McGuiness and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams passed along the following messages recognizing the work of FFAI and the Christmas Appeal. McGuiness sent the following: I wish to thank the National Freedom for All Ireland Committees of the AOH and LAOH for the invitation to me to speak at your Convention in Cincinnati in July. I welcomed the opportunity to thank your President Seamus Boyle and all the officers and members of the AOH and LAOH who have supported the Bloody Sunday families and attended the march in Derry throughout all these years. The continued progress in the peace process still needs your attention and support and I came away from your Convention confident of that. We appreciate your important work in America for Irish Unity which has so effectively raised the issue and informed the debate on achieving it. Finally let me thank you all for your support and help for republican prisoners through all the years of conflict and for your support now for former prisoners in rebuilding their lives.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams sent along these words:  Congratulations to the AOH and LAOH on your recent successful Convention. A special thank you to the National Freedom for All Ireland Committee for your work for Irish Unity. I wish to particularly commend you for your continuing support for former prisoners through Coiste and other bodies and for your efforts to encourage cross community interaction and reconciliation. This important outreach is building for a future free from the sectarian divisions of the past, a future of understanding and unity for all the Irish people. Your work is truly important to us and very much appreciated.

These are words that we can all be very proud of; to realize that our efforts are recognized by those that are doing so much for the cause of Irish Freedom. It is important that  Adams in his remarks above and McGuiness in his remarks at the convention recognized our  cross community efforts. It is important to note that WHEN there is a united Ireland, loyalists and unionists will be part of it.  They will not be herded off the streets and sent off the Island of Ireland.  It is why we believe in One Island, One Ireland with Justice for all. The Nationalists and Republican communities will not treat those that oppressed them the way they were treated; it is why we are on the RIGHT side of history

I am extremely proud of the work we have done thru the Christmas appeal; it has been a great honor to be able to visit all the groups and to learn about how our funds help them.  Our recent efforts to reach out to other communities promote TRUE CHRISTIAN CHARITY and it should be noted that the symbolism of the largest Irish Catholic organization in the USA reaching out to the poorest of the poor in Protestant communities who have been ignored by many in their own community speak volumes for the generosity of the AOH and LAOH.  For decades the young loyalists in East Belfast and other communities would hear from the likes of Paisley and others that the Catholics wanted to take their jobs and overrun their communities when, of course, that was never the case.  If we can help with a small donation to help break those stereotypes and promote the social interaction between young people in the North regardless of religion or political belief then we should be very proud of helping build a true United Ireland based on trust and respect.

There are strong people in all communities who are trying to live up to the opening words of the Good Friday agreement that states: “We believe that the Agreement we have negotiated offers a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning. The tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering. We must never forget those who have died or been injured and their families. But we can best honor them through a fresh start in which we firmly dedicate ourselves to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance and mutual trust and to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all.”  It is uplifting that in the twelve years since these words were written that so much progress has been made. Irish President Mary McAlese recently spoke of this progress in a speech in Italy. McAlese said: In the thirteen years since I became President of Ireland, I have been privileged to witness many changes of heart that bordered on the miraculous, none more so than the positive peace-building roles being played by former paramilitaries. They generally come from marginalized communities which suffered most during the violence and which feel a deep sense of exclusion and victimhood. Yet some of the most radical cross-community initiatives are coming from those very individuals as they work to ensure that their people feel the full benefit of peace. History books will rightly record the names of great leaders who helped promote change, but for me the most inspiring common thread is the power of ordinary people to affect change through their daily lives, through what they say and do, the people who did not leave to others the job of changing history

The efforts of our Christmas appeal help support a united Ireland, an effort Martin McGuiness called “one of the most noble causes on earth; peace in Ireland, reconciliation in Ireland and the peaceful and democratic reunification of Ireland. Who can argue with that?” At this point in time it is non militant in nature and it is a flag we can all rally to.  This year will you help support the appeal by rallying around the appeal or will you just wave as it goes by?

To see Martin McGuiness complete comments at the AOH FFAI breakout meeting in Cincinnati visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ormHxhbLuo. Many thanks to Pat Jockel president of Cape May NJ Division 2 All Irish Martyrs for recording and his division for posting this video.

The date for this year’s Bloody Sunday remembrance march has been set for Sunday January 31st. This year we will be sponsoring a week long trip thru the North for the week of Bloody Sunday from Thursday January 27th thru Saturday February 5th details included in mailings to all divisions and on line.  Limited availability, be a part of history and walk with the people of Derry this January.

Christmas Appeal donations and Bloody Sunday trip down payments should be sent to Sean Pender 13 Scullin Dr. Yardville NJ 08620.  I can also be reached at paddyspeed@yahoo.com or by calling 609-462-7056.

Visit Ireland For the Bloody Sunday Tour. Click Here and Here For More Information.

President’s Message

Brothers, the convention in Cincinnati is over and what a great convention it was. Everyone there seemed to enjoy it and I received more compliments on how it was run and what a great job the committee did in setting it up and running the events. All the officers had their reports and that is one of the reasons it ran so smoothly.

The business sessions went extremely well and we got a lot accomplished in our three days. It seems that Martin McGuinness and Father O’Donnell were the highlights of the convention.

Some of the main things which we accomplished are that the LAOH situation was settled by a huge majority vote of the ladies and a unanimous vote of the men. We are back in the Notre Dame fund although a lot of discussion took place on this subject but when the vote was taken it was a clear decision to return to the previous way the fund was prior to our decision to temporarily suspend our participation.

I will be appointing a committee to examine ways to better serve our membership throughout the country which was a recommendation from the National Board, the constitution committee and the resolutions committee.

The state presidents met and we will be having a conference call later on in the fall and the per capita raise was well received and very little opposition to that. Beginning in February when the per capita is due the new per capita will be $12 per member. I imagine people realize that no increase since 1992 was a real reason to raise it as almost everything has gone up over the past 18 years especially printing and postage.

All the changes to the constitution are being made as we speak but it will still take some time as everything which has a reference to Canada, province or provincial must be removed as we have severed all legal ties to the AOH in Canada. As soon as the constitution is complete we will have it out to the jurisdictions and on the website. I want to thank all the committee chairs and their members for all the hard work and time they spent on these committees especially the credentials, constitution and resolutions committee.

Brothers I want to thank all of you for your tremendous support at the convention and I welcome the three new directors on board and I have been assured by them that they will work hard with the existing board for the betterment of our order. I would be remiss if I did not thank our outgoing directors, Joe Brady, Frank Kearney and Martin Kelly for their hard work over the past four years.  Please remember in your prayers our new director, Brother Bob Mott whose daughter was murdered a few days prior to the convention. I just got off the phone with Bob and he says it will be a few more days before they are done with the autopsy and he can finally lay her to rest.

Brothers over the past few years emails have been circulated throughout the order which were less than what our motto should stand for. I am asking that every member, especially National Board members, to cease this practice immediately. E-mails were for information to be passed on to our officers and members not to be used as tool to try to tear our organization apart. I am asking that in the future if the National Board continues to receive emails like we have been receiving in the past few years please just use your delete key and say a prayer for the people sending those types of emails. CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is always welcome but not DESTRUCTIVE.

Immigration

Martin McGuinness, Siobhan and Dan Dennehy (NY Immigration Chairman) all assisted in the Immigration / FFAI breakout session during the 2010 convention.

Brothers, I wish to thank everyone for your overwhelming support during our national convention. It has been an honor to serve you the past two years and I am looking forward to working for you for another two. Our Brothers and Sisters on the convention committee did an incredible job of organizing the convention as well as the hospitality surrounding the convention. All of the states hosting hospitality rooms demonstrated our motto as well throughout the convention. Thank you all.

Siobhan Dennehy gave an incredible speech accepting the John F. Kennedy memorial medal and I will yield my comments on immigration to her speech as it will be in this edition of the Digest in its entirety. I would be remiss however not mentioning the Immigration / FFAI break out session and those who made it a success. It began with words from Siobhan addressing the issues of the undocumented Irish in America for about 30 minutes including questions. Former Political Prisoner, Liam Boyle then spoke on the issues of the Prisoners of Peace living in the U.S. and looking for permanent status in the U.S. From there we went with a live video hook up with Kate and Linda Nash from Derry, Ireland. These sisters of Bloody Sunday victim William Nash addressed the impact on their family and their community as well. This was a great opportunity for our members to ask questions about this tragic day as well as their thoughts on the Saville Report.

I would be remiss if I did not take the time to Thank Ciaran Staunton, AOH member and Vice Chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform. Some of you may not know Ciaran owns O’Neills on Third Street in Manhattan and when things got crazy during Friday’s dinner Ciaran became the maitre de of the AOH & LAOH assisting in getting everyone seated. He also participated in the immigration report, the immigration session and addressed the membership on behalf of the ILIR during the closing session.

In all, this convention will be a memorable one for me. Again, thanks to each of you for your support and assistance during the convention and throughout the last two years. My commitment to you for the next two years is service you will be proud of in whatever areas and whatever chairmanship President Boyle assigns to me. Remember working Together Everyone Achieves More. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance to you or your division, djoconnell@ysu.edu or 330-518-4450.

Director’s Report – Keith Carney

Martin McGuinness

The hard work of the convention and the election are now behind us and the new Board’s work must begin for the next term.  While I await my assignment from President Boyle I will strive to make a positive difference in the Order and to advance our efforts over the next two years in whatever capacity I am asked to serve.

I would like to congratulate Jim McGee and Judy Leddy and the entire team from the Ohio delegation on running a fine convention and being very amenable to all of the guests.  What a difficult job they took on and they should be commended for their efforts on behalf the Order.  I would like to especially thank JC Sullivan for his efforts as Press Officer for the convention.  He took hundreds of photographs which are available on the Digest website for viewing through www.AOH.com and did a great job in preparing press releases and articles including the front page article of this edition In Convention. One thing I am pushing for on the Board is to set up a convention committee of people who know the business of running this type of event and negotiating with hotels and vendors – let’s face it: we are not in the convention business and we go through a relearning process every two years with each new host committee.  It would make the job (for the host city committee) a lot easier if they had guidance from someone who has been there before and learned from their experience.

I spent a good amount of time listening to the concerns and suggestions of our members at the convention.  Many suggestions were regarding the Digest and others concerning the Order.  Suggestions for the Digest included expanding the online Digital Digest to include more breaking news; there were requests from many to send the Digest to them electronically as a way to save the Order money; many are seeking a way to correct and change mailing addresses online; and numerous members would like to see new features such as sports and book reviews in the paper and online.  In the upcoming months I will be working on addressing many of these fine suggestions to make sure we can effectively and efficiently manage each item.  I have several volunteers now helping on the new features items in the print and online edition and you will see much of that in upcoming editions.  Many of the members requested that we provide more online capabilities to help manage the Order in such ways as online forms to be able to process applications and Form 40 changes.  I will give any assistance and guidance I can to the Board to make this happen.  This will save our Order money and be a more efficient way of getting things done.  The discussions of regionalization were presented to me on numerous occasions at the Convention.  While some of those concerns have been addressed through the election process this time, I am seeking to work on or with the committee being created by President Boyle to examine ways to better serve our membership throughout the country.  As I expressed to all of the caucuses as I addressed them – there is a need to encourage younger leadership from throughout the country to run for National office and to get them more involved with activities on a National level.  Get your younger members to get their Major Degrees and get them involved – you will be amazed at what a difference that will make for us all.

Lastly, I want to say how impressed I was with the joint breakout session held at the Convention between Immigration and FFAI.  The use of the online video-teleconference system over Skype and broadcast in the room to the audience was a great success.  This was an interview with families of the Bloody Sunday victims live from Northern Ireland.  It was an impressive sight to see and with the addition of Martin McGuinness speaking to the group it was a fabulous event for all attendees.  It is unfortunate that the entire general session was not able to make it – I believe it was that impressive and that important of a presentation that we should consider this a must see for all attendees if we have a similar event next convention.  My hat is off to Danny O’Connell, Sean Pender and Dan Dennehy for their efforts to make this possible.