Marilyn Madigan
Marilyn Madigan
Columnist: Madigan Muses

Meet Madigan Muses Columnist Marilyn Madigan
By Ava Barton

Tell me about your Madigan Muses column?
My column is about any topic that pertains to the Irish in Cleveland, whether it’s my own organization, the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, in the greater Irish community, personal reflections on what it means to be Irish, what it means to participate in different activities as an Irish American, and kind of when we celebrate St. Bridget’s Day, when we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, the 4th of July, our Memorial Day, our Veterans Day activities such as that.

You mentioned the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. What was your pathway to becoming the national president the LAOH?
Yes, I’m the national president of the Ladies Ancient Order Hibernians. It is a nationwide organization with membership in 30 states. I have been a member since 1977.

My involvement in the Irish community really occurred when I was 13 years old, when I started marching with the Westside Irish American Club. And the members that I met in that organization were mentors to me of what it meant to be of service to your Irish community.

Then I had the opportunity, when I was a young nurse, a friend of mine, she recognized that I went to a great school at St. Patrick West Park. And she told me, I have a great organization for you, the Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians.

We’re an Irish Catholic organization. We do service to our community. We are very involved with Freedom for All Ireland. We help the groups in the North that do cross-community relationships and help the youth to find a new pathway, especially after the Good Friday Agreement.

We just worked with Relatives for Justice and did a little booklet called Trasnodotona, which is Across the Waves. It was the women that were involved in the United States, as well as the women in Ireland, who really were advocates for peace and social justice in the north of Ireland.

We also have an Irish history contest, it’s very dear to my heart. My first office on the national board was Irish Historian. During my term was when we were celebrating the centennial of the 1916 rising and the women of 1916.

They were really airbrushed out of history. It was one of my goals to bring them to the forefront. I wrote iIrish articles about them. I did a little newsletter. I spoke at different festivals in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Michigan, to bring out the women and the importance of the women in 1916.

It sounds like you’ve been very active in that community. How did you first connect with iIrish?
I’ve known John O’Brien since he was a youth when he was playing Gaelic football. I know his family, I know his sisters. I was just talking to him about what great work he was doing. He asked me if I’d be interested in writing. And I said, yes, I’ll give it a try.

What do you like about writing for iIrish?
I like sharing the opportunities that have come my way to be in the Irish community and make a difference. As you can see, I am very proud to be a Hibernian. That takes up a lot of my writing. We recently had a testimonial during my midterm of my presidency, and we honored a woman from Massachusetts, Kathleen Savage.

We presented our first ever Constance Markievicz Award, to show how involved women are in peace and social justice issues. I was very proud of that.
We had a wonderful testimonial weekend here in Cleveland.

It was at the West Side Irish American Club. We had members from at least 15 to 16 different states. We were blessed and honored that the Honorary Consul General of Ireland for Ohio, Mark Owens, was there.  His office was opened up at same weekend.

Ambassador Geraldine Byrne-Nason was present at our event. We were truly honored to be able to have somebody of that prestige at our testimonial weekend.

Could you tell me a little bit about your own Irish background?
Well, I am 100% Irish. My maternal ancestors came over during the great famine or great hunger. My paternal, my grandmother Madigan was born in Tipperary, and my grandfather, John Madigan, he was born in County Clare. I’m second generation American because of my grandparents.

I am an Irish citizen. My birth was registered in the foreign birth book and I’m very proud of that. As of now, I do not have my Irish passport, but I still consider myself an Irish citizen, which I am. I hope to have my passport one day.

I’ve gone back to Ireland about 10, 11 times. Most recently as the national president, where I was involved in activities that I never thought I would be able to participate in.

I was a representative for the United States in the Global Irish Forum, which was the diaspora from throughout the world that was gathered in Dublin this past April. It was a very honored and privileged for me to attend and speak for the Irish in America.

What would you say it means to be Irish?
To me, to be Irish is you are a very giving person; you are a faithful person; you are very proud of your place of birth. You are also proud of your heritage; you want to share your heritage with others.

You also want to be exposed to other people’s heritage. One thing the Irish are, we unfortunately had to flee our own country due to the hunger. So, we are representative in every aspect of the world. We make a difference in our communities.

I am proud that we have a strong Irish community here in Cleveland, and that I’m a member of it, and that I’m a proud Irish American. We make a difference in our local communities.

As I said, my organization, we’ve never forgotten where we came from. We help with education of women. We have an Irish lecture series at the University of Notre Dame. We participate in Irish American history at National History Day, where we sponsor an award. We’ve worked with an Irish missionary group that has missions throughout the world.

We also have a project, St. Patrick, where we help our men and women in religious formation, help them with their studies. We recently developed a humanitarian fund that when Hurricane Ian was hitting Florida, a lot of members were reactive of how we could help; we’re being proactive and having this humanitarian fund continue.

We helped with the Ukrainians with to the Catholic Relief Services; we help with Maui after the fires; we have an appeal out now to help with those in Gaza that are suffering, need humanitarian help. We want help them. We’re going through the Catholic Relief Services there as well.

So, we’ve never forgotten the trauma that our people went through. And we help those that are experiencing difficult in their own lives.

And what would you say is the most important part, or your favorite part about being in the Irish community?
It’s the number of people that I meet. I have friends now in the Irish community throughout the United States. We’ve developed relationships with people in Ireland with Her Story, which was one of the groups that made St. Bridgett stay a national holiday in Ireland.

We work closely with the Relatives for Justice in the North of Ireland. Even though my organization is non-political, we do take stands when we see that there’s injustice, like The Legacy Bill that’s going on in the United Kingdom right now. The people in the North of Ireland need to know what really happened during the period that was known as The Troubles, of why some of their members lost their lives. They deserve that.

I was able to participate with Relatives for Justice when they said it was different for mothers. I’m not a mother myself, but I did work in a pediatric intensive care unit where mothers and fathers entrusted their children in my care. They knew their child was terminal. I can’t imagine what the men and women in the north of Ireland, when they lost their loved ones and to this day, do.

So, we do speak out when we see injustice like that. The truth is needed, so that people can see injustice served.

Do you have any additional comments or things that you wanted to mention?
No, I am so proud of being part of iIrish. I think John has done a wonderful thing for the Irish community in Cleveland, as well as Ohio. I know he’s tried to branch out to Pennsylvania, Western New York, Kentucky and lower Michigan.  I think he’s doing a phenomenal job and I’m proud to be part of his staff.