Reflections and Renewal

Madigan Muses: Reflections and Renewal

As I look back on the past year, I am very grateful for the opportunities that came my way. The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians participated in a Book Club with Sober Saint Patrick’s Day on the Confession of St. Patrick. Partnered with Herstory to Celebrate St. Brigid as Ireland recognized St. Brigid’s Day as a Bank Holiday for the first time.

In February, I was honored to present the Irish Echo 40 under 40 Awards to three of our members: Maggie Brogan of New York, Maura Flynn of Indiana, and the Empowering Women Award to Brianna Curran of Pennsylvania. Another LAOH member, Bridget Harrison, of Ohio was also recognized.

On April 3, the LAOH was one of seven sponsoring Organizations of the Reflections on the Good Friday Agreement 25 Years of Peace and Progress with President Bill Clinton and Gerry Adams, participated on a panel with representatives from the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Brehan Law Society, Friends of Sinn Fein, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Long Island, James Connolly Labour Coalition, and the Irish American Unity Conference. Many of our members were in attendance.

"We have accomplished so much but we still need to continue to move forward."

The titles of the panels were “Irish arts and cultural organizations as connections to the Irish diaspora and international audiences” and “Passing on the torch to future generations of the Irish diaspora.” The day concluded with open discussions from the delegations and closing remarks from Joe Hackett, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The delegates will be returning to their home countries with stronger ties to Ireland and Irish diaspora communities around the world. I was so honored and privilege to represent the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and Irish America.

National Vice President Mary Ann Lubinsky and I attended many events in Washington DC this past St. Patrick’s Day. The LAOH was represented at many events, starting with the Northern Ireland Bureau Breakfast. At the breakfast, I was honored to present the FFAI 25th Anniversary Pin to Mary Lou McDonald, Michelle O’Neill and Ciaran Quinn of Sinn Fein. I also attended the conference sponsored by Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security: Women at the Helm: The Unfinished Business of the Good Friday Agreement.

Ambassador Melanne Verveer was the moderator of the conference that commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, focusing on the important role that women played in bringing and sustaining peace in Northern Ireland. The event featured leading women who participated in the historic peace agreement with current political leaders.

Madigan Muses Columnist and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians National President Marilyn Madigan with Ambassador Byrne Nason

Madigan Muses Columnist and Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians National President Marilyn Madigan with Ireland's Ambassador to the United States H.E. Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason.

25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement

Speakers participating were the Hon. Hillary Clinton, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar; H.E. Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland; Monica McWilliams, signatory to the Good Friday Agreement and Co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition; H.E. Dame Karen Pierce, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the United States; Paul Narain, U.S. Consul General in Belfast; Hon. Joseph Kennedy III, U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland; Michelle O’Neill, First Minister (elect) of Northern Ireland; Jayne Brady, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service; Liz O’Donnell, Former Minister of State of Ireland; Emma Little-Pengelly, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland; Patricia O’Lynn, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Northern Ireland; Emma DeSouza, writer, campaigner and next generation peacemaker; Avila Kilmurray, Founding Member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition; and Sandra Peake, Director of WAVE Trauma Center. At the reception following the Conference, I was honored to present the FFAI 25th Anniversary Pin to both Mary Robinson and Monica McWilliams.

We attended the Washington Ireland Program, whose vision and mission is, “for a peaceful Northern Ireland and Ireland, mutually supportive and constructive relationships between and within all communities, and to develop, support and engage generations of leaders who can build and sustain these relationships. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is an alumnus of this program and spoke of the importance of it.

The highlight was the Ambassador’s St. Patrick’s Day Reception at her residence. I was privileged and honored to present pins to Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nasson, Special Envoy Joseph Kennedy III, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and the new Honorary Consul for Ohio and friend Mark Owen.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is assisting us to develop a submission to recognize the role of the late Ambassador Jean Kennedy in the peace process. Unfortunately, I was not able to personally present a pin to the Taoiseach, I was able to give a pin to his assistant to present on our behalf.

In April, I was honored and privileged to travel to Ireland with members of the LAOH FFAI Committee to distribute our donations to groups that encourage cross-community cooperation, economic development, social change, cross-border collaborations, Irish history and language education, nationalist infrastructure maintenance and construction efforts, and Irish unification initiatives based on peace and justice for all throughout Ireland. I also attended the conference at Queens University on Good Friday Agreement at Twenty-Five. What an experience to honor this important milestone and hear from the active participants who signed or had a role in this important document, including Senator George Mitchell.

My personal highlight of the trip was being invited to speak at the Relatives for Justice event, “It is Different for Mothers.”  The event was the public display of portraits of mothers who lost their children during the Troubles.

Many of the mothers featured in the portraits were present at the event; I was so humbled to be able to address them. I quoted from the poem, “Mother” by Patrick Pearse, and a friend, Mary Monty, from Belfast, went home that evening and wrote out the entire poem on a wooden plaque in the shape of a heart for me. What a special gift and memory.

I was honored to participate in the Global Irish Forum that was held on April 19, 20 and 21 at Dublin Castle. The forum was hosted by the Department of Irish Affairs: Irish Abroad Unit. Irish organizations from Australia to the United Kingdom were present.

North America was well represented by groups from Canada, Mexico and the United States. The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians were well represented as well, with me as the National President, National Secretary Sandi Swift, National FFAI Chair Dolores Desch, National Immigration Chair Siobhan Denney, National Webmaster Brianna Curran, Special Advisor Dan Dennehy, Ohio FFAI Chair Rita O’Hara, President of American Woman’s Organization/Connecticut LAOH member Monica Welch and Special Guest Matt Morrison.

The theme of the forum was “Le Cheile Aris-Together Again” The forum was opened with an address from Michael Martin, TD, Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defense. Sean Fleming, TD, Minister of State for International Development and Diaspora also addressed the delegation.

The first day included three panel discussions on the topics: “Responding to the needs of and staying relevant to, an evolving diaspora;” “Inclusively, diversity and belonging amongst Irish diaspora communities;” and “Building networks to promote economic, cultural and social connections between diaspora communities, their host countries and Ireland.” Also on the first day, the delegates met in small groups to share their ideas and concerns that are important to the worldwide Irish Community.

There was a special presentation on Consular Services and Passport Services, Citizen Services of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The first day concluded with a wonderful reception in the State Apartments of Dublin Castle. New friendships and networks were started during the first day.

I was privileged to be interviewed as the National President of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians; part of the interview was showed at the forum, which was livestreamed, and can also be seen on the Department of Foreign Affairs website. The final day included more panel discussions on our culture and influence.

We commemorated the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement with our participation in an event held at the Cooper Union in New York, our 25th Anniversary Pin and the collaboration with Relatives for Justice with the publication of Trasna na nTonnta Across the Waves

Women’s Reflection on the Good Friday Agreement

I was an honored to meet Bertie Ahern, the Sean McBride Humanitarian Award Recipient. Bertie Ahern served as the Taoiseach from 1997-2008. He was very instrumental in the Good Friday Agreement, working closely with Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom. I was honored to present him with a Proclamation from the National Board, our Good Friday FFAI pin and a copy to the book Trasna na nTonnta.

The LAOH was honored that Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason attended the Testimonial Dinner and the Inaugural Presentation of the Constance Markievicz Award in Cleveland. What an honor for Kathleen Savage and I.

I am excited that in the remaining portion of my term that our order will be planning two great commemorations: Brigid 1500, and the Centennial of the Nuns of the Battlefield. This St. Brigid’s Day marks 1,500 years since the death of St. Brigid. We are planning how we will be marking this special year for our Patron Saint. The Wayside Marker for the Nuns of the Battlefield Monument is at the second draft portion and hopefully will be a reality by the September 2024 centennial of the monument itself.

We have accomplished so much but we still need to continue to move forward.

In the new year, I will be attending Nollaig na mBan (Women’s Christmas) Leadership Celebration. Claire Cronin, United States Ambassador to Ireland, will be the honoree at this event.

The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians will be participating in an Irish Unity Summit in New York City on March 1. “This is a historic time as the people of Ireland look towards a new Ireland. Irish Unity can be made a reality with the democratic will of the people of Ireland both North and South. As an Irish American Organization, we believe this would be the true legacy of 1916 and the Good Friday Agreement.”      

For more columns from the January 2024 issue click here!

Marilyn Madigan

Marilyn Madigan

*Marilyn Madigan is the National President of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and a Deputy Director of the United Irish Societies of Cleveland. She received a Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing from St. John College and retired from nursing at University Hospitals of Cleveland

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