Madigan Muses: Freedom for All Ireland
by Marilyn Madigan
The Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians work on many joint projects. One is the Annual Freedom for All Ireland Christmas Appeal. During the Annual Christmas Appeal, donations are collected to provide assistance to many groups in the North of Ireland. ” The defined categories of Hibernian support include (a) support for former Republican political prisoners, (b) truth and justice groups, (c) cross community groups, (d) Irish culture, heritage and language, (e) preserving Irish Republican history, and (f) cross border groups.”
The groups must submit an application. Some of the groups that have received support have included Cairde Strabane Republican Ex-Prisoner group, Conway Mill Trust, Duchad Oriall, Down Patriot Graves, Holy Cross Ardoyne Trust, National Graves Association in Belfast, Omagh Community a youth Choir, Tar Anall- Belfast, Pat Finucane Center in Derry, Relatives for Justice in Belfast, St. Patrick Centre, Green Cross, Greater New Lodge Republican Commemoration Committee and Bridges Beyond Boxing.
In addition to financial support, the Freedom for All Ireland (FFAI) Chairs on all levels of the organization educate our members on FFAI issues. This is a critical time with Brexit and its ramifications. The AOH and LAOH supports the McGuinness Principles, which deal with the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.
This past February, I was privileged to participate in the AOH FFAI Tour. The AOH and LAOH was well represented, with thirty-seven members from thirteen states, including both National Presidents. The first stop on the trip was at the Border to meet Damien McGinnerty, Declan Fearon and John Sheridan of BorderCommunities against Brexit. We were hosted at the local GAA Hall for a short presentation on how Brexit and the possibility of a hard border will hurt the community. The Panel included representatives from the Nationalist and Unionist Communities along with members of the AOH.
A No Deal Brexit and/or a Hard Border will have economic effects with companies shutting down true to lack of regulations and the Peace process with the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. AOH National President Jim McKay presented the Border Committee the resolution from Congressman Brendan Boyle on America’s efforts to support these communities. In the evening, we attended the 30thAnnual Virgil for Pat Finucane.
Pat Finucane was an Irish Human Rights lawyer. He was shot in his home witnessed by his family on Feb 12, 1989. His wife Geraldine was wounded. His family is still awaiting truth and justice of his murder by Loyalist in collusion with the British Government.
In November, Cleveland hosted Carmel Quinn to speak about the Ballymurphy Massacres. The Hibernian delegation met with Carmel Quinn and other Ballymurphy Families at the Laganside Court in Belfast to attend the Inquest. Outside the Court House, the delegation and the families were filmed. AOH National President and National FFAI Chair were interviewed.
Attending the Inquest, we experienced the stall techniques used and witnessed the patience of the families in their quest for truth and justice. National Director Denny Parks, who is a Summit County Court Official, stated: “if anyone refused to comply with court orders in America, the way the British had, the case would be dismissed and someone jailed for contempt; these families need our support in their quest for truth and justice.”
Belfast Mayor Deidre Hargey welcomed the delegation to a reception in Belfast City Hall. The AOH and LAOH were honored to announce the 2019 Sean McBride Award at this reception. This prestigious award will be presented in October in Washington D.C. to Fr. Gary Donegan for his heroic actions at Holy Cross and his work at the Ardoyne Houben Centre in Belfast. In the evening at the Felons Club check presentation to the local Belfast groups were made.
The next day, we had a very emotional schedule. First we met John Teggert, Carmel Quinn and other Ballymurphy family members at the site of the murder of their loved ones; Joe Austin and Brendan McFarlane of National Graves gave us a tour of Milltown Cemetery; we paid our respects at the graves of Winifred Carney, who participated in the Easter Rising, Bobby Sands and many other Republicans. National Presidents McKay and Sheyer placed a wreath at the Republican Monument.
At An Culturan, presentations from the author Richard O’Rawe on his book about his friend Gerry Conlin, and by Niall Murphy, who spoke on the recent Belfast Forum. As a member of the LAOH, I was very interested in the presentation by Andree Murphy and Mary McCallan of Relatives for Justice on the women’s perspective and the unique problems faced by women during the conflict. The day concluded with a special showing of the documentary Unquiet Graves.
In Derry, Kevin Hasson of the Bogside Artists spoke about the Murals and their impact. He spoke in particular about the mural of his friend George McBreaty and welcomed the family to the gathering at the mural. Tony O’Hara addressed the group at the Mickey Devine about the Hunger Strikers, in particular his brother Patsy, and Bobby Sands.
The Delegation met with the Mayor of Derry, John Boyle. Following the meeting with the Mayor, 8 City Counselors (6 Sinn Fein and 1 Independent Republican), led by Unionist Party Deputy Mayor Derek Hussey, answered questions in relation to Bloody Sunday and the Saville Report from the group.
While in Derry, the group had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Free Derry, a traveling exhibit on the Great Hunger. We then traveled to visit the Battery Bar, the site of the murder of Liam Ryan, a friend of Martin Galvin. We saw a presentation on the Hooded Men and the murder of Roseann Mallon.
The next day, the group visited the Hill of O’Neill, the offices of Relatives for Justice and presented our donation to Eula an Ex-Prisoners support group in Dungannon. We met relatives at the Galbally Community Center to discuss legacy issues and heard from them the British strategy to ” deny, delay and die.”
The Tyrone Hibernians hosted a wonderful evening at Quinn’s Corner of music and fellowship. They made some special presentations and gave each one of us a St. Brigid’s Cross made by our Tyrone Hibernian Sisters. We hated to leave but know that this trip strengthens the bonds between the American and Irish Hibernians.
This was a trip of a lifetime, and will hold a special place in my heart. A special thank you to Sean Pender, Dan Dennehy and Martin Galvin for planning this wonderful and educational trip.
In preparing this column, I read and shared some of the information that Jim Sullivan posted on Facebook. Thank you Jim.
I conclude with a statement from FFAI National Chair Martin Galvin, “As many delegates said, the end of this tour is just the beginning of a greater national campaign. Members of this delegation from across the United States saw just how much American help is needed by those still denied freedom from British rule and suffer injustice. We were told again and again across the north that they count on Irish America and see the AOH-LAOH as their voice in America.”
*Marilyn Madigan is a Registered Nurse, recently retired from University Hospital. She is an amateur Historian serving as National Irish Historian 2014-2016 for the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. She currently serves as National Secretary.