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Diverse Industries where Irish Immigrants found work (New York City)


The diverse industries where Irish immigrants found work in during the 19th and early 20th centuries speak volumes about their resilience, adaptability, and willingness to contribute to their adopted communities.

Construction: Irish laborers played a crucial role in building the infrastructure of America, from laying the transcontinental railroad tracks to subway lines. Their hard work and skill in stonework, bricklaying, and carpentry left an enduring mark on the nation's landscape.

Domestic Service: Irish women, particularly those arriving in the mid-19th century, often found employment as domestic servants in middle-class and wealthy households. This challenging work provided them with a means of survival while facing societal prejudices and limited opportunities. Their contributions to household management and childcare helped shape the domestic sphere of the time.

Garment Industry: Irish immigrants, especially women and children, flocked to garment factories in major cities like New York and Boston. These jobs were often tedious, poorly paid, and marked by unsafe working conditions. However, they provided a crucial source of income for families and fueled the growth of the American garment industry.

Police and Fire: Irish immigrants faced discrimination in many sectors, but some found opportunities in public service roles like police officers and firefighters. Their bravery and dedication in protecting communities helped earn them respect and pave the way for future generations of Irish Americans in law enforcement and emergency services.

Sanitation: Irish immigrants often took on the challenging and thankless task of sanitation work, cleaning streets, collecting waste, and maintaining public hygiene. Their contributions were essential to public health and sanitation infrastructure in rapidly growing cities, but they also faced prejudice and unfair working conditions.


Transportation: Irish immigrants played a vital role in developing America's transportation network. They worked on building canals, railroads, and streetcar systems, connecting people and goods across the country. Their labor helped shape the nation's economic growth and mobility.

In conclusion, the diverse industries Irish immigrants entered showcase their adaptability, resourcefulness, and willingness to contribute to their new communities. They faced discrimination and hardship, but their hard work and dedication helped build America's infrastructure, shape its workforce, and leave a lasting legacy on the nation's social fabric. It's important to remember that the Irish immigrant experience was not monolithic. Individuals and families faced varying circumstances and opportunities depending on factors like gender, age, skills, and arrival date.

However, by exploring the industries they entered, we gain a deeper understanding of their collective contributions and the challenges they overcame.

Tom O’Reilly, Ph.D. Irish Historian & Storyteller, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Kevin Barry, Division 3, Smithtown.

The Story (in part) of the Quakers in Famine Ireland

The Quakers in famine Ireland were a group of religious dissenters who played a significant role in providing relief to the Irish people during the Great Famine of the 1840s. The Quakers were a small minority in Ireland, numbering only around 3,000 at the time of the famine. However, they were well-organized and had a strong tradition of social activism. They were also motivated by their religious beliefs, which emphasize the importance of helping others in need. As the famine began to take hold in Ireland, the Quakers quickly mobilized to provide relief. They set up soup kitchens, distributed food and clothing, and helped to build schools and hospitals. They also worked to improve sanitation and hygiene in order to prevent the spread of disease. The Quakers' relief efforts were not without their challenges. They were often met with hostility from the British government, which was reluctant to provide assistance to the Irish people. They also faced opposition from the Catholic Church, which feared that the Quakers were trying to convert the Irish people to their faith. Despite these challenges, the Quakers continued to provide relief to the Irish people throughout the famine. Their efforts helped to save countless lives and made a lasting contribution to the Irish community.

Here are some of the specific things that the Quakers did to help the Irish during the famine:

  • They set up soup kitchens in towns and villages across Ireland.

  • They distributed food and clothing to the poor and destitute.

  • They helped to build schools and hospitals.

  • They worked to improve sanitation and hygiene in order to prevent the spread of disease.

  • They lobbied the British government for more assistance for the Irish people.

  • They raised money and supplies from Quakers around the world.

The Quakers' relief efforts were not without their critics. Some people accused them of being too focused on converting the Irish people to Quakerism. Others argued that their relief efforts were not enough to address the scale of the problem.

Despite these criticisms, the Quakers' relief efforts were widely praised by the Irish people. They were seen as a beacon of hope during a time of great suffering. The Quakers' legacy continues to be felt in Ireland today. They are remembered for their compassion, their commitment to social justice, and their willingness to help those in need.

NOTE: Ireland's History, Culture and Traditions lectures, Kings Park Library, September, 21, 28 October 5, 12, 19, 26. Thursdays12:30 to 2:30 pm. Call Library to register @ (631) 360 – 2480.

Tom O’Reilly, Irish History Historian, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Kevin Barry Division 3, Smithtown.

Cumann na mBan-"league of women"

Remember in our prayers, this Easter, the women that fought gallantly for Ireland’s freedom.

Cumann na mBan—literally, "league of women"—was founded in Dublin in April 1914 as a women's auxiliary to the Irish Volunteers. The founders were Agnes O'Farrelly (one of the first women professors in the National University of Ireland), Agnes MacNeill, Nancy O'Rahilly, Louise Gavan Duffy, Mary Colum, and Mary McSwiney. Cumann na mBan members were to train in signals and first aid, and their role was envisaged as a noncombatant one. Although it had its own command structures, the Cumann as a whole was subordinate to the Volunteers' organization. Leading Irish suffragists of the day criticized it, claiming that these "slave-women" would become nothing more than "animated collecting boxes." Prominent Cumann member Helena Molony spoke for many members when she responded that there could be no free women in an enslaved nation. Initially the membership was drawn from the leisured middle class, but gradually, more and more lower-middle-class and working-class women came to be represented in the organization. Typical was the trained hospital midwife Elizabeth O'Farrell, who delivered the surrender at the end of the 1916 Rising.

The Volunteers split in the autumn of 1914 when the majority of its members voted to answer Britain's call to arms. In Cumann na mBan, however, the majority voted to stay with the minority of the Volunteers who served "neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland." The Cumann played an important role in the 1916 Rising, performing vital life-maintenance work in the garrisons and carrying messages. From 1916 to 1918 it was women who were largely in charge of revolutionary nationalism, campaigning for prisoners' dependents' relief, upholding the cult of the dead 1916 leaders, sustaining the anticonscription movement, and electioneering for Sinn Féin's landslide victory in the 1918 election. The number of branches of Cumann na mBan soared from 100 in 1917 to 600 in 1918. During the War of Independence the women played vital yet hidden roles as keepers of safe houses, dispatch riders, and firstaid workers. The truce and the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty saw the country bitterly divided, but Cumann na mBan was the first nationalist organization to publicly reject the treaty. The Cumann were active during the Civil War, during which many of its members were imprisoned, and it continued to be the most politically radical (usually left-wing) political organization in Ireland until the revolutionary generation died out.

Tom O’Reilly, PhD. Kevin Barry, Division 3 Historian, Smithtown.

Source: Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture -Margaret Ward.

631. 335. 9382

An Old Woman of the Roads

Tom O’Reilly, Historian


This is a story about a woman who died during the Great Hunger (Potato Famine).  Her story represents thousands of Irish Famine people.


Cottiers depended on the potato for their food supply and to pay rent to the estate owners. Consequently, they could not pay their rent and were evicted from their hovels.  The estate owners sent tumblers to the hovels, which they demolished and burned, sometimes with the starved, diseased occupants inside. During the famine some people awoke in the morning and walked around the fields and lanes talking to themselves, delirious from disease and starvation.


O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods upon the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!

To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!

I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!

I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!

Och! but I'm weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there's never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!

And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house - house of my own -
Out of the wind's and the rain's way.



Martin McGuinness Principles

Article provided by Tom O’Reilly, Irish History Historian, Division 3

Irish Americans in Support of the Martin McGuinness Principles

During the darkest days of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ireland’s conflict in the North seemed unsolvable. Twenty years ago, the Good Friday Agreement brought an end to decades of armed conflict.  The most critical skeptics of that time would be hard pressed to deny the many unexpected dividends of the Good Friday Agreement.  Men and women who could not, or would not, look past the historical divide saw a way forward.  However, a number of crucial commitments provided by the Good Friday Agreement unfortunately have never been fully implemented.  Failure to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement hinders further progress in the North of Ireland and the possible unification of the island of Ireland.

Ireland’s people made outstanding contributions to the founding of our own great Nation and its principles of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At this 20 year mark, we proudly recognize America’s contribution to the Good Friday Agreement and reaffirm its fundamental Principles of:





in Ireland.

Martin McGuinness’s legacy, through his own words, is commemorated in each Principle.  As a respected statesman, Martin McGuinness reached across the political, socio-economic and religious divide, stood by the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and committed the remainder of his life to working towards the fulfillment of its goals.  In memory of all who brought us this far, we pledge support for the Martin McGuinness Principles.


“I believe we stand on the threshold of great change. Previous generations have struggled for a United Ireland. But our generation has the best opportunity to achieve it.” -Martin McGuinness



“We have pressed consistently for the establishment of a Bill of Rights in the North and an all-Ireland Charter of Rights” -Martin McGuinness

The terms of the Good Friday Agreement called for the adoption of a Bill of Rights in the North of Ireland. Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement was ratified by more than 70% of the voters in the North of Ireland and 94% of the people in the Republic there is still no Bill of Rights. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was mandated to put forward recommendations.  In 2008, the Commission made proposals to the UK government recommending the recognition of a broad range of social and economic rights.  Successive British governments have failed to affirmatively act on these recommendations. Now, with significant opposition from within the British government to continuing to accept the jurisdiction of European human rights conventions, and a determination to scrap the Human rights Act, it becomes even more important that the rights of Ireland’s citizens in the North be protected when it comes to critical human rights issues.



“Successive British Governments…have totally failed to meet their obligations…to protect the rights of the Irish language community” -Martin McGuinness

The Good Friday Agreement affirmed “the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, including in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, Ulster-Scots and the languages of the various ethnic communities, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland… the British Government will, in particular in relation to the Irish language, where appropriate and where people so desire it: take resolute action to promote the language; facilitate and encourage the use of the language in speech and writing in public and private life where there is appropriate demand …”

Eight years later, under the terms of the St. Andrews Agreement of 2006, the British Government committed to introduce an Act to give the Irish language official status equal to that accorded the Scots Gaelic and Welsh languages.  They failed to honor this obligation, and the Democratic Unionist Party explicitly repudiated it. Subsequent DUP moves in government to defund Irish language study were a major contributing factor to the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister in 2017, when he cited that party’s lack of “respect” for the rights and cultural traditions of the Irish nationalist community in the North.

(3)   TRUTH


“Dealing with the legacy of the past remains one of the key outstanding challenges of our peace process. Unless it is dealt with in a comprehensive manner then the essential process of healing and reconciliation cannot gain momentum”

“Instead of working constructively to address the hurt and pain caused by the legacy of our recent conflict, the British Government has, at every turn, blocked and frustrated all efforts to reach a solution” -Martin McGuinness

Many victims of the conflict in the North and their families have waited decades to learn the full truth about what happened to them and their loved ones.  Funding must be provided for proper inquests to move forward.  The full story of collusion and cover-ups must be told, and those responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice.



“There is a democratic imperative to provide Irish citizens with the right to vote in a border poll on Irish unity to end partition and retain a role in the EU.”

“A border poll on Irish unity is part of the process of building a modern and dynamic New Republic on this island – an agreed Ireland achieved by peaceful and democratic means.” -Martin McGuinness

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the British Government committed to formally “recognize that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent…” Provisions were included for referenda on Irish unity, whose results would be given effect by the governmental parties to the Agreement.  The Agreement went on to commit that the signatory parties (including the British Government) should not “make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people”.

Despite the fact that Brexit clearly represents a “change in status” of Northern Ireland, and despite the fact that the people of the north voted by a large majority to reject Brexit and remain inside the European Union, the British government is determined to impose this very significant change (having potentially profound consequences for Ireland), on the people of Ireland north and south, against their democratically expressed wishes.

If the Good Friday Agreement’s commitments to self-determination are to have any meaning, the British Government must allow the Irish people the opportunity to determine their future.

We support:

  • A Bill of Rights.

  • Full statutory equality for the Irish Language.

  • Funding for legacy inquests as part of the process of healing and reconciliation.

  • A referendum on Irish unity in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement.


“Irish America has been absolutely critical to the peace process from the very beginning”  -Martin McGuinness

Since the appointment of Senator George Mitchell in the 1990’s, American Special Envoys sent by successive US administrators to assist in the Irish Peace Process have often played indispensable roles in helping to promote and maintain the peace process.  In addition, they have been instrumental in promoting both cross-border and cross-community co-operation.  Today, with the prospect of a hard border on the island of Ireland, the appointment of a qualified, high ranking US Special Envoy having direct access to the US Secretary of State is of critical importance.

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The Dirty Protestors in Armagh Women’s Prison

Tom O’Reilly Irish History Historian Division 3

…In Northern Ireland, women had been engaged in fighting for civil liberties for Catholic nationalists since the sixties, both as peaceful protestors and in active roles in the IRA.

In 1980, the women imprisoned for terrorist (sic-tor) activity against Britain turned abuse by the guards into an act of political protest for thirteen months.

As told in a letter written on toilet paper and smuggled out to a London women’s lib newsletter, the male guards had brought all the prisoners into the common area, then trapped them there and raked through their cells in search of any contraband, tearing their personal possessions apart.

The women didn’t take this violation lightly, and because they protested, they were brutally punished. Not just by having visitation denied, or by being beaten, or having shitty food served, or being denied medical service (though those happened too, of course): they were banned from access to the toilets for a week and given chamber pots instead.

Those chamber pots were not collected, so they filled up and spilled over. When the women tried to dump their waste out the barred windows, boards were nailed over the openings. Instead of their spirits breaking, the women smeared their piss and shit over the walls in an organized act of “dirty protest.”

As women, they also had to deal with their period, and they were given only two sanitary napkins a day, which were thrown, unwrapped, into the cells. So up on the walls the blood went, totally disgusting the guards. For thirteen months the dirty protest went on in Armagh, as the initial horrendous situation turned into a stinky power that the women held over their guards.

This exposure of women’s bodies (girls poop! and bleed!) shocked the men of the IRA too, which, like many paramilitary organizations, was actually pretty conservative.

There had been similar dirty protests in the men’s prison, Long Kesh, but women weren’t seen as capable of such low tactics. Feminists rose up internationally to support the women and demand reform in the Northern Irish prisons. After the protest ended, the men of Sinn Fein (the political wing of Irish nationalism) and of the IRA recognized the important role of women in their organizations and, for the first time, included them in decision making. The protests in the Long Kesh and Armagh prisons led the nationalist movement away from violence into politics, too.

The Irish Wolfhound is the world's largest breed of dog. The name is quite a recent one but the hound itself goes back far into the mists of time. The name it was given in ancient Ireland was "Cu" (variously translated as hound, Irish hound, war dog, wolf dog, etc.) and it is mentioned in Irish laws, which predate Christianity, and in Irish literature which dates from the 5th century or, in the case of the Sagas, from the Old Irish period A.D. 600-900.

The Great Irish Hound was only permitted to be owned by kings and the nobility but there were plenty of them as there were 150 kingdoms (questionable?) in Ancient Ireland as the country was divided into Fifths, each with a king, and each Fifth comprised numerous kingdoms, each of which had a lesser king subject to the kings of the Fifths.)

The number of hounds each person was permitted to own depended on his position. For example, the Filid (the professional class of composers of Sagas and other tales, who were of the lesser nobility) were entitled to two hounds.

The hounds were used as war dogs to haul men off horseback and out of chariots and there are many tales in Irish mythology of their ferocity and bravery in battle. They were also used as guards of property and herds and for hunting Irish elk as well as deer, boar, and wolves and were held in such high esteem that battles were fought over them…


Tom O'Reilly Division 3, Irish History Historian

Hedge Schools

Article supplied by Tom O'Reilly 

Secret schools known as hedge schools were set up for Catholic children. These were called 'scoileanna scairte' in Irish. From about 1695, there were strict laws in Ireland which forbid Catholics from setting up schools or from sending their children abroad to school.

 Most of the teachers in hedge schools were men although there were women. However, the education in hedge schools varied from school to school. Most hedge schools taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Many schools taught Greek and Latin.

 In hedge schools, different age groups attended the same master. Some children were very young while others might be eighteen or nineteen years old. To overcome the difficulties of this, younger children were allowed to play with things like pebbles and straw while the master worked with the older children. Young children also learned the alphabet as well as reading and spellings. Children who did well at spellings were rewarded with such things as brass pins that they could display on their coats going home. Would you like to be awarded brass pins?

Children often learned by rote and by constant repetition which was called rehearsing . At other times, the master spent time with individual pupils because parents expected this. Children who worked on farms during the day often attended evening schools run by hedge school masters.

Brehon laws of Ireland: Summary Introduction

Article supplied by Tom O'Reilly

Prior to English rule, Ireland had its own indigenous system of law dating from Celtic times, which survived until the 17th century when it was finally supplanted by the English common law. This native system of law, known as the Brehon law, developed from customs which had been passed on orally from one generation to the next. In the 7th century AD the laws were written down for the first time. Brehon law was administered by Brehons (orbrithem). They were the successors to Celtic druids and while similar to judges; their role was closer to that of an arbitrator. Their task was to preserve and interpret the law rather than to expand it.

In many respects Brehon law was quite progressive. It recognized divorce and equal rights between the genders and also showed concern for the environment. In criminal law, offences and penalties were defined in great detail. Restitution rather than punishment was prescribed for wrongdoing. Cases of homicide or bodily injury were punishable by means of the Eric fine, the exact amount determined by a scale. Capital punishment was not among the range of penalties available to the Brehons. The absence of either a court system or a police force suggests that people had strong respect for the law.

The first encroachment on Brehon law came in 1155, when Pope Adrian IV issued the Bull Laudabiliter endorsing King Henry II's plan to conquer Ireland. This was followed by the Anglo-Norman invasion led by the Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare (Strongbow) in 1169. In 1171 King Henry II held a Council (known as the Curia Regis or King's Council) at Waterford. It declared that "the laws of England were by all freely received and confirmed." This declaration was more aspirational than realistic. English law was initially applied in most of the province of Leinster, where Henry II had granted feudal land rights to Strongbow. In 1172 Henry appointed Hugh de Lacy as the first Justiciar of Ireland (the king's representative).

In 1204 King John authorized the issuing of writs, essentially directing the Irish courts to apply the common law. In 1226 King Henry III ordered the Justiciar to adhere to the laws and customs of England. A year later, a Register of Writs, containing copies of all the writs issued by the English courts, was sent to Dublin. The first recorded appointment of an Anglo-Norman judge came in 1221. English law declined in influence during the 14th and 15th centuries, during which time the Normans, through inter-marriage with the native Irish, were said to have become 'more Irish than the Irish themselves.'

England sought to re-assert the supremacy of its Parliament and of English law over any Irish Parliament or Irish legislation by enacting the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366. This was followed by the enactment of two statutes at a Parliament held in Drogheda in 1494, together known as Poyning's Law, which provided that the King's Privy Council must give prior assent to the assembly of an Irish Parliament and to the introduction of any specific legislation in the Irish Parliament, and that all laws passed in England applied to Ireland. Despite this, by 1500 English law was confined to an area known as the Pale, made up of Dublin and the east coast. Beyond the Pale, Brehon law continued to be applied.

It was not until the reign of King Henry VIII in the mid-16th century that English law extended further. He implemented a scheme of 'surrender and re-grant' of the land held by native noble families, which brought them within the feudal system of land tenure. Moreover, the King's break with the Roman Catholic Church led to the dissolution of the monasteries and the re-distribution of church land. English law gained a further foothold following the 'Flight of the Earls' from Ulster in 1607 and the consequent Plantation which saw the land being granted to Scottish and English settlers. The Flight of the Earls had an added significance in that it removed the Brehons' remaining source of patronage.

In the cases of Gavelkind (1605) Dav. 49 and Tanistry (1607) Dav. 28, the courts in Ireland rejected the Brehon rules of succession in favor of the English law of succession. In the latter case, the court, applying the rule of recognition, held that the native laws of a country survived if they were reasonable, certain, of immemorial usage and compatible with crown sovereignty. The court held that the native law failed to meet these requirements. The end of the Brehon Law's authority was signaled by the Proclamation of King James I in 1603, which received the Irish people into the King's protection. The country was subsequently divided into counties and English law was administered throughout the country.

The Lost Laws of Ireland Paperback – June 11, 2013 Amazon

by Catherine Duggan  (Author)

This Date in Irish History


Article supplied by Tom O'Reilly


May 12th, 1916, Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rebellion and Ireland’s fight for Independence are executed:


James Connolly (1868-1916): Born in Edinburgh in 1868, Connolly was first introduced to Ireland as a member of the British Army. Despite returning to Scotland, the strong Irish presence in Edinburgh stimulated Connolly’s growing interest in Irish politics in the mid-1890s, leading to his emigration to Dublin in 1896 where he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He spent much of the first decade of the twentieth century in America, he returned to Ireland to campaign for worker’s rights with James Larkin. A firm believer in the perils of sectarian division, Connolly campaigned tirelessly against religious bigotry. In 1913, Connolly was one of the founders of the Irish Citizen Army. During the Easter Rising he was appointed Commandant-General of the Dublin forces, leading the group that occupied the General Post Office. Unable to stand to during his execution due to wounds received during the Rising, Connolly was executed while sitting down on 12 May 1916. He was the last of the leaders to be executed.


Seán MacDiarmada: Born in 1884 in Leitrim, MacDiarmada immigrated to Glasgow in 1900, and from there to Belfast in 1902. A member of the Gaelic League, he was acquainted with Bulmer Hobson. He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1906 while still in Belfast, later transferring to Dublin in 1908 where he assumed managerial responsibility for the I. R. B. newspaper Irish Freedom in 1910. Although MacDiarmada was afflicted with polio in 1912, he was appointed as a member of the provisional committee of Irish Volunteers from 1913, and was subsequently drafted onto the military committee of the I. R. B. in 1915. During the Rising MacDiarmada served in the G. P. O. He was executed on 12 May 1916.

1916 Easter Rebellion & Ireland’s fight For Independance


Article supplied by Tom O'Reilly

With the leaders of the Rising having been executed, two men emerged from the ashes to lead Ireland to independence. Without the military aptitude of Michael Collins and the political resolve of Eamon de Valera, Ireland might not have secured its freedom.

Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera would prove to be crucial to the events that followed the revolutionary conversion until the attainment of freedom. At the end of 1916, hoping to improve Irish opinion, the British government released many of the prisoners from the Rising. This proved to be a terrible mistake, for two of those prisoners were the men that would damage the union the most – Collins and de Valera. Between the years of 1919 to 1921, Michael Collins pioneered 21st century guerilla warfare, aided by the sanctuary of a few sympathetic people, while Eamon de Valera commanded an illegal Irish government in order to stabilize the fight of the country. Collins called the period between 1918 and 1921 the “struggle between our determination to govern ourselves and to get rid of British government and the British determination to prevent us from doing either.” Sinn Fein was determined to make Ireland ungovernable for Britain. From 1917-1919, the British government authorized thousands of raids on private homes. Erratic fighting broke out between the Irish Republic Army and the British police. Labour arranged transportation strikes to impede British troops. Michael Collins led ‘The Squad,’ (the 12 apostales tor)which was a branch of the IRA that was liable for disabling British intelligence through murder, informants and double agents.

Important facts about the 1916 Easter Rebellion

By Tom O'Reilly

1. The seven members of Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council who planned the Rising were Thomas Clarke, Sean McDermott, Patrick Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, Joseph Plunkett, James Connolly, and Thomas MacDonagh. All were executed after the Rising.

2. MacDonagh and Plunkett were poets, Pearse was a poet and writer as well as a schoolteacher.

3. Connolly was born in Scotland but made Ireland his home. He lived for long stretches in the US.

4. Thomas Clarke also lived in the US for long periods. He was English-born.

5. Eamon de Valera, who participated in the Rising and later became the most prominent figure in Irish politics, was born in New York and therefore an American citizen. This fact that may have saved him from being executed with his brothers in arms, though historians disagree on this point.

Plaque in New York marking de Valera's place of birth

6. De Valera went on to break from Sinn Fein, form Fianna Fáil and serve as Prime Minister and later President of Ireland

7. Before his execution, McDermott wrote, "I feel happiness the like of which I have never experienced. I die that the Irish nation might live!”

8. WB Yeats wrote his famous poem “A Terrible Beauty” after he heard about the rising. “All changed, changed utterly a terrible beauty is born.”

9. The Easter Rising made the front page of The New York Times eight days in a row.

10. Joseph Plunkett married his fiance, Grace Gifford, at Kilmainham Gaol, eight hours before his execution.

11. She wore her widow’s mourning clothes the rest of her life.

12. The IRB Military Council declared themselves the ‘Provisional Government’ of the Irish Republic and signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

13. It is the only proclamation of its era that mentions women equally, beginning “Irishmen and Irishwomen.”

The 1916 Proclamation.

14. While Germany and England clashed in WWI, the IRB Military Council hoped to get German military backing during the insurrection through an American Irish Republican Group called Clan na Gael, whose members had already established a relationship with German officials.

15. The IRB Military Council initially planned to begin the insurrection on Good Friday, April 21, 1916, but eventually decided on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916.

16. After hearing the news that a ship carrying German weaponry was captured, the Military Council decided to carry out the insurrection on Monday, April 24, 1916 in an emergency meeting held on Sunday morning, the 23rd of April.

17. A countermanding order by Eoin MacNeill, head of the Irish Volunteers, after a German gunship bearing arms to Ireland was intercepted caused mass confusion and resulted in many volunteers missing the Rising.

18. IRB Military Council member and President of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, Patrick Pearse, read the newly drawn up Proclamation, which outlined the establishment of an independent Irish Republic, to a small crowd at the steps of Dublin’s General Post Office on Monday, April 24, 1916.

19. The Proclamation itself outlined who was responsible for igniting the rising and referenced the Irish Republic’s potential ally of Germany. These details of the proclamation, considered to be treason, ensured certain death by firing squad for the leaders of the Irish Republic if independence was not obtained.

20. The proclamation called for the Irish abroad to rally to the cause especially the “Exiled children in America.”

21. The Rising began when members of IRB, Irish Volunteer Force and Irish Citizen Army successfully took over the preselected buildings around Dublin with little resistance.

22. The buildings included the General Post Office, the Four Courts, Jacob’s Factory, Boland’s Mill, the South Dublin Union, St. Stephen’s Green, and the College of Surgeons. Both military strategy and position were the factors that came into play in choosing which buildings to occupy.

23. The General Post Office became the main headquarters of the rebellion, with five of the seven members of the Military Council/Provisional Government of the Irish Republic serving there.

24. The British authorities only had 400 troops to about 1,000 Irish rebels when the rising began and therefore couldn’t go on the offensive until reinforcements arrived.

25. By Friday, April 28, 1916 the number of British troops rose to about 19,000 while the Irish Republic groups had only amassed 1,600 fighters due to mass confusion over the date of the Rising.

26. The British troops were commanded by Brigadier-General William Lowe.

27. Ashbourne, Co. Meath was the only town other than Dublin to see significant fighting during the Easter Rising.

28. Among those in junior positions in the GOP was 24-year-old Michael Collins, who served by Connolly’s side.

29. Connolly, the commander of the Dublin Brigade, was injured early on in the fighting. The position of highest in command then passed on to Pearse.

30. Connolly was so badly injured that he was carried to his execution on a stretcher and then tied to a chair to face the firing squad.

31. The Rising's failure outside of Dublin was due to the capture of a ship loaded with Russian rifles acquired by Germany in the war.

32. British officials had intelligence about the ship coming from Germany and captured it before any guns reached the shore of Banna Strand outside Tralee.

33. In charge of the gun-running from Germany was Sir Roger Casement, a top British foreign service official, who was later executed.

34. Casement’s “black diaries,” purportedly from his time in the Belgian Congo and Peru, revealed he was gay and were used against him at trial. They were kept classified by the British government until 1959.

35. In Dublin, the deadliest battles took place at Mount Street Bridge.

36. A British strategic attack that included artillery strikes on the main rebel stronghold, The General Post Office, led to an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29 by Irish Republican leaders, who had escaped the burning building for nearby Moore Street.

37. The order to surrender, from Pearse, was carried by a nurse, Elizabeth O’Farrell, to the other strongholds, which were still under rebel control.

38. It read: “In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the City and County will order their commands to lay down arms.”

39. The Irish rebels suffered 64 casualties.

40. 132 British officers perished.

41. With battles primarily taking place in densely populated areas, the civilian death toll of the Rising was said to be as high as 254 people, and over 2,000 civilians were injured.

42. The Easter Rising was considered a betrayal at first by many of the Irish citizenry, and the 1916 leaders were spat at on their way to jail. It was only when the executions began that the national mood changed.

43. Sixteen leaders of the rising were executed while about 3,000 more were arrested in connection to the groups.

Kilmainham Gaol, place of execution of the leaders of the 1916 Rising

44. Many of the leaders believed in the effectiveness of a ‘blood sacrifice’ to inspire Irish nationalism. Blood sacrifice was a very common theme of the times from the First World War. The severe punishment of ‘death by being shot’ served to those leading the rising inspired both Irish nationalism and British resentment, just as the Military Council hoped.

45. Songs were sung for those who laid down their lives, funds were started for their families, more republican flags and badges began appearing, recruitment to the British Armed Forces dropped, and Irish nationalism as a whole was rejuvenated.

46. Women played a key role in the Rising, with over 200 members of Cumann na mBan, the women’s auxiliary branch of the Irish Volunteers, fighting for Irish independence. Countess Constance Markievicz,  15 year old Molly O’Reilly, who hoisted the flag over the GPO and many more.

47. Countess Constance Markievicz, who had been second in command to Michael Mallin in St. Stephen’s Green, was initially sentenced to death along with the other leaders of the Rising. Her sentence was changed to life in prison “on account of the prisoner’s sex.”

48. The unrest became so bad after the Rising that the British sent in the Black and Tans, a dreadful group of former prisoners, misfits and felons to try and quiet the rebellion.

Crowds waiting to meet Easter Rising prisoners to be released under general amnesty, Westland Row, June 18, 1917.

Crowds waiting to meet Easter Rising prisoners to be released under general amnesty, Westland Row, June 18, 1917.

49. In 1917, the British government granted amnesty to those who had fought in the Rising and all remaining prisoners were released.

50. The Easter Rising was a major factor in Sinn Féin’s victory in the 1918 parliamentary elections and subsequent decision to not sit in the United Kingdom’s Parliament.


Article supplied by Tom O’Reilly


Proclamation: Read by Patrick H. PEARSE on the steps of The General Post Office (GPO) At four minutes past noon on Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916.

Irish Men and Irish Women:

In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.

Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.  The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. 

In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms.  Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State. 

And we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.

The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irish woman.  The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provision Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonor it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine.  In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valor and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.

Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government:



AOH History


In the Beginning
The Protestant Reformation that swept Europe in the 16th century was marked by Royal intrigues over control of the Roman Church’s wealth, and conflicts over which religion could be practiced. Violence erupted in many countries. Elizabeth I declared the Church of England to be the State religion, and considered Ireland part of her state. Most Irish did not agree. The Papacy launched a counter-reformation and Ireland became a battlefield between the two forces as the Irish, who embraced the Church introduced by St. Patrick, became the target of a campaign to reduce Rome’s power by converting the masses to Protestantism. The persistence with which the Irish clung to their religion drove the English to extremes in repression. Penal laws disenfranchised Irish Catholics from the political, social, and economic life of their own country, and with their religion outlawed and their clergy on the run, they became an underground society practicing their religion in secret.


Not surprisingly, secret societies were formed to protect the values under attack. In various locales, groups with names like Whiteboys, Ribbonmen, and Defenders were identified with attacks on landlords, but each society included in its avowed purpose the protection of the Roman Church and its clergy. As time and government prevailed, some societies were suppressed, but most reorganized under a new name for the same purpose – defense of faith and homeland. History provides us with the names of many of these organizations, and even limited details of some. We know, for example, that the motto of the Defenders in 1565 was Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity, but the secret manner in which these societies operated left few records for modern analysts. As a result, a true history of their times may never be written.


Secret Societies Exported
What history does tell us however, is that continued oppression and periodic crop failures forced many Irish to flee to other lands for survival. The inclination toward secret societies which had developed in Ireland by now became an Irish defense mechanism, especially among those emigrants committed to the ethnic slums of the lands to which they fled. Initially formed as fraternal associations to promote the welfare of its members and families, like the Hibernian Sick and Funeral Society in England, they soon found a militant dimension necessary to protect their church and clergy and defend members from bigoted opposition. In early nineteenth century America, the Ancient Order of Hibernians with its motto Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity became the most recent link in the evolution of those ancient societies. Organized with the same intention of defending Gaelic values under attack, it can claim continuity of purpose and motto unbroken back to the Defenders of 1565. The need for a defensive society in America was the same as it was in Ireland.


Colonial America was an extension of England in language, customs and traditions and though American historians claim religious freedom back to William Penn’s Pennsylvania, John Locke’s Carolina, Roger Williams’ Rhode Island, and many others, this freedom did not include Catholics. These were still English colonies and though the English were willing to accept other Protestant sects, they discriminated against Catholics because of a biased belief that Catholics owed their allegiance to a foreign prince – the Pope. By 1700, New York’s Catholic population was almost stamped out by drastic penal laws. Then came the Revolution, and in spite of the large number of Catholics who supported Washington, the spirit of the leading colonists was still intensely anti-Catholic. The first flag raised by the Sons of Liberty in New York was inscribed No Popery. Not much changed after independence either. At the Constitutional Convention in 1777, a strong anti-Catholic faction was led by John Jay, soon to be first Chief Justice of the United States, who denied civil rights to Catholics until they swore an oath renouncing the authority of the Pope. Thereafter, Catholics remained barred from public office unless they took that Test Oath. This was the America to which a steady flow of Irish Catholics emigrated after the failed rising of 1798 in Ireland.


The Early Irish in America
As the Irish population grew, anti-Catholic forces celebrated Pope Day, and carried straw effigies of St. Patrick on March 17 which were desecrated to taunt the Irish. The new Irish were quick to defend their honor; their reaction was swift, and violence was a normal result. The influence of the growing Irish population finally forced the city to ban such effigies in 1802. Then, in 1806, Francis Cooper became the first Catholic elected to the New York Assembly; he was told he would have to take the Test Oath. A petition signed by the parishioners of St. Peter’s – the city’s only Catholic parish – complained that the oath denied Catholics the opportunity of discharging their civic duties, and again, the large number of signatures prompted State Senator and city Mayor De Witt Clinton to sponsor a bill that abolished the Test Oath. But some forces were not happy, and a few months later, an anti-Catholic mob attacked St. Peter’s Church. They were held off by members of the Irish community who formed a guard around the building, but the confrontation sparked two days of rioting.


Anti-Catholic bigotry, cloaked in the guise of American patriotism, emerged in a nativist prejudice against immigrants –– especially the Irish, who began arriving in large numbers. A period of extreme intolerance was launched in the early 1800s that began with social segregation, resulted in discrimination in hiring, and reached its climax in the formation of nativist gangs such as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, the True Blue Americans and others bent on violence against the Irish Catholic immigrant population. These gangs would coalesce in 1854 into the American Party or ‘Know Nothings’. Reminiscent of the penal laws, they sought legislation against the immigrant population who, it was stated, diluted American principles. The growing number of Irish, fleeing conditions in their native land, had become a focus of that prejudice. They were driven to the most difficult and demanding forms of labor where even minimal safety and welfare standards were ignored. In Ireland, the bias of their colonial masters made it necessary to guard their activities from public scrutiny; in America the prejudice from nativists and abusive employers made similar secrecy necessary. Gradually, they came together in the same type of secret societies that had protected them in Ireland.

Nativist prejudice grew from intolerance to violence. St. Mary’s RC Church in New York was burned to the ground in 1831; in 1832, 57 Irish railroad workers suffering from Cholera near Malvern, Pennsylvania were refused medical attention, died and were dumped in an unmarked mass grave; in 1834, the Ursaline Convent in Massachusetts was burned down; while in 1834 and 35, nativist gangs attacked the Irish neighborhood of Five Points in New York resulting in several major street brawls that lasted for days.


The AOH is Born
Then, in 1836, according to The Miner’s Journal, a newspaper in Pennsylvania’s Schuykill County anthracite coalfield region, and other newspapers, journals and verified sources of information, we have learned that a contingent of miners from a local group called the Hibernian Benevolent Society traveled to New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade. While there they met with a group of New York Activists from the St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society. The subject of the meeting is not recorded, but since nativist activity was becoming a national threat, it is not difficult to imagine the Irish seeking to coalesce several societies into one major defensive organization. Thus was born The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). In several versions of the their own history, written and expanded over its lifetime, reference is made to the founding of its first Division at New York’’s St James Church on May 4, 1836 –– less than two months after the historic meeting of the New York and Pennsylvania activists. Coincidentally, another Division was formed at the same time in the coal-fields of Pennsylvania. Local tradition notes that one Jeremiah Reilly of Cass Township, Hecksherville, Schuylkill County, PA started the first AOH division there, but no records have been found to authenticate this.


Know nothing activities spread across the country. In 1854, construction of the Washington Monument was halted when nativists stole and destroyed a granite block donated to the project by Pope Pius IX since they would tolerate no Catholic stone in that icon to America’’s first president. The following year, a nativist attack on an Irish neighborhood in Louisville, KY caused 22 deaths and considerable arson and looting. Although the secrecy surrounding the early operation of the AOH makes their origins and their reaction to such attacks difficult to define, it is not unlikely that those who had been members of secret societies in Ireland and England called on their collective experience, and banded together in this new land for the same or similar defensive purposes and dispensed home-grown justice. Soon, other societies like the Hibernian Friendship Society in Arlington Virginia, founded in 1831, joined the growing union of Irish societies that became known as the Ancient Order of Hibernians. As nativist bigotry spread across America, so too did the AOH. True to their purpose, they provided social welfare benefits to members and stood guard to defend Church property. After their formation, actual attacks were few and far between, but the long, cold, and lonely nights of vigil were many. At about this time, a society in Ireland adopted the name Ancient Order of Hibernians and the organization now had Irish links.


As the heroism of the Irish Brigade and other Irish units in the American Civil War had America cheering for the exploits of the sons of Erin in American uniform, the honesty, devotion, and natural charm of the Irish girls, who had found employment as domestic help, were winning admirers on the home front. The natural result of this new regard was a decrease in prejudice against the Irish, and the Know Nothing movement, recognized for the bigoted group it was, faded away. It would emerge again in organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, and other groups dedicated to ethnic hatred and anti-Catholic propaganda, but never again would America politically support a national army of zealots. The AOH, on the other hand, grew stronger. It followed Irish immigrants as they worked their way across the country.


The Early AOH
The early AOH in America remained a defensive, yet secret, society, and while little is known of its specific activities, it is known that it assisted Irish immigrants in obtaining jobs and social services. Membership was well-guarded and restricted to Irish-born. Even minutes books used member numbers instead of names to protect identities. The first national conventions of the Order were held in New York, but as the Order grew, other jurisdictions began seeking the honor, with Boston becoming the site of the first non-NY gathering. Other controversial issues of the early Order included opening membership to Irish Americans so that American-born sons of immigrants could join and the right of the AOH in Ireland to speak for the Order when they were still dominated by the Crown. At the same time, the militant Fenian Brotherhood began to infiltrate the AOH and run their people for top AOH offices. In the midst of all these issues the AOH split!


In 1883, the Land League called for a Philadelphia convention of all the Irish organizations in America to support Charles Stewart Parnell’s Irish Parliamentary Party in their fight for Home Rule. The Irish AOH endorsed Home Rule and Alexander Sullivan, a former member of AOH Div 8, Chicago, who had been suspended for non-payment of dues, aspired to Presidency of the new American branch of the Land League. Sullivan conspired with Henry Sheridan of Div 8, to have the Division financial secretary give him credentials as the Division representative to the convention instead of an officer named O’Malley, who had been elected by the membership. Sullivan was nominated for President of the American Land League, and Andy Brown, County delegate from St Louis, seconded the nomination guaranteeing a subscription of $60,000. if Sullivan were elected. Sullivan was elected. When asked where the money would come from, Brown replied,“from the AOH”. Sullivan went to AOH National Delegate (President) Jeremiah Crowley, asking that an assessment be levied on every member to honor the pledge he made at the Convention. The assessment was so ordered with no regard for the feelings of the members – many of whom vehemently objected to the Irish AOH position.


Division of the Order
Meanwhile, many of the rank and file of the American AOH refused to communicate further with Crowley, and appointed Francis Kiernan as National Delegate until the next National Convention in Cleveland on May 16, 1884. At that convention, Crowley appeared and, after a bitter credentials battle, was seated. At the end of a stormy convention, Henry Sheridan of Chicago, Sullivan’s co-conspirator was elected National Delegate by a slim majority, and Crowley was made Chairman of National Directory. Three months later, a notice in the New York Times announced that another National Convention of the Order had been held on August 13 in New York City during which the members of the National Board, who were elected in Cleveland, were tried and expelled on charges of conspiring to introduce Irish National Politics into the American Order and merge it with the fragmented Fenian Brotherhood. John Nolan (formerly of the Irish AOH) was elected National Delegate.


On August 26, the `expelled’ Board sent a circular to all Divisions reporting, “a conspiracy has been unearthed in New York which has been in secret operation for 18 months, headed by Hugh Murray of New York County and aided by one Mr Nolan, ex-member of the Irish AOH.” They accused the `conspirators’ of holding a mock convention, electing officers, and seceding from the organization. They also revealed that they had come to New York to determine the state of affairs, and learned that before the Cleveland Convention had even met, the New Yorkers had raised $800. and sent Mr Nolan to Ireland with a message to the Irish AOH that he would be elected National Delegate for America if the Irish AOH would support them as the legal AOH. The circular reported that the Irish order agreed, and, by that agreement, had conspired with the `New York traitors’ and thereby demonstrated that they were “unfit to preside at the head of an organization of the magnitude of ours”. The Cleveland Board therefore announced that they had severed all links with the group that they had once “looked to as a faithful friend and father” adding, for good measure, that they were a drain on the Order in America, intellectually a disgrace, and had sacrificed the whole organization for a few New York favorites. It was signed by the Cleveland National Board including Henry Sheridan, National Delegate and Jeremiah Crowley, Chairman.


Law suits followed by both sides over Division and County property and the right to use the name `Ancient Order of Hibernians’. There were now two organizations in America: one took the name of the AOH, Board of Erin, and the other the AOH in America. American branch also changed the title of National Delegate to National President. Some of the Board of Erin members in Ireland continued to send correspondence and merchandise to the Board of Erin in America, while others recognized only the AOH in America. In 1886, National President Nolan of the American Board of Erin traveled to the Board of Erin Convention in Ireland to stop them from communicating with the AOH in America. He charged that some of the Board of Erin members had continued their support for the American faction, and the animosity which had split the Order in America was thereby exported to Ireland and they too split with expulsions and law suits resulting.


American Reconciliation
Thus did politics, personal greed, and petty jealousy bring to a shameful and disgraceful state, one of the noblest of the ancient Orders of Ireland. It would be many years, filled with accusations, lies, and treachery before saner heads prevailed and the two factions in America were brought to true brotherhood through the intervention of Antrim-born Bishop James McFaul of Trenton, NJ.  At an AOH national convention in Trenton, Bishop McFaul encouraged the warring factions of the AOH to come together and charter a merger. The American Branch, represented by its President, P.J. O’Connor of Savannah, GA and the Board of Erin Branch, represented by its National Delegate, Rev. E.S. Phillips of the diocese of Scranton agreed and the Board of Erin Branch was re-absorbed into the American Branch in July, 1898.


The sad part is that the bond between the American and Irish branches of this noble order were never officially reconciled. The intervening years have dimmed the recollection of the dispute, but the memory that one existed was never truly forgotten.


Years later, the apolitical and religious posture of the Irish organization dictated their decision to support Parnell’s struggle for an independent Ireland through Parliamentary reform and they became champions of Home Rule in Ireland. The appearance in the early 1900′s of a more militant faction never swayed the AOH Board of Erin from that commitment, and they were often criticized for not being outspoken disciples of the revolutionary action proposed by the heroes of Easter Week. They remained true to their principles, and gave neither support nor opposition to the militants during the 1916 insurrection, the War of Independence, and the Civil War that followed. This again strained relations with the American AOH who supported the militants although AOH divisions in Ireland who remained affiliated with the American Board did take part in the rising.


For years, the two Boards remained as distant cousins who never spoke. Few remembered, or even knew, the old animosities, and fewer still held grudges against the branch of the Order across blue highway home, yet the breach remained – in spite of the fact that the AOH in America proudly pointed to their Irish heritage and the fact that the Irish organization had a litany of proud accomplishments and opposition to the Crown.


International Reconciliation
Then, in 1981, Jack Connolly, President of the AOH in America, stopped into an AOH hall in Ireland. His historic gesture, opened dialogue between the two branches of the Order, and resulted in the visit of a group of Belfast Hibernians to Boston and New York to march in their St Patrick’s Day parades. Hospitality was provided to visiting Hibernian officials during the next few administrations, but little of significance occurred until 1992 when Board of Erin Secretary Frank Kieran visited America. Hibernian hospitality was extended by the American Board and, in conversations held during that visit, it was proposed that the two branches consider a joint project. At the 1994 American National Convention in Louisville Kentucky, it was announced that the joint project would be a memorial to the victims of the Great Hunger to be erected in Ireland in 1995.


On August 20 1995, the dream came true as the American and Irish National Boards gathered in Ennistymon, Co. Clare to dedicate that memorial. In unveiling the memorial, Dail Eireann’s Minister of State, Donal Carey, noted that this was the first national monument in all of Ireland to the victims of the Great Hunger, and it took the AOH to do it. It was a proud moment for the AOH, and a visible indication of what unity can achieve. More significant, but less publicized was an event that took place days earlier on August 12, just after the American Board had arrived in Ireland. It was the first joint meeting in history between the AOH National Boards of America, Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales. That meeting opened a new chapter in Hibernian history, which was confirmed by the hospitality extended in Hibernian Halls in Counties Louth, Down, Antrim, and Derry where the American Board was hosted and celebrated. The American Order also marched in solidarity with Board of Erin AOH in Co Derry in commemoration of the Feast of the Assumption and later, Bloody Sunday. As a result of those historic gatherings and marches, the prejudice of the past has been buried, and the AOH now stands, not only as the oldest Catholic Lay organization in America, but as the largest Irish Catholic society in the world with Divisions across the United States, and close ties with the AOH in Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales.


The AOH in America Today
In America, the Division is the basic unit of the Order. Divisions are combined into County Boards, which are in turn governed by State Boards, and an overall National Board elected every two years. Annual dances, concerts, and parades sponsored at all levels of the Order raise millions for charity while providing a showcase for the positive contributions the Irish have made in every walk of American life. Divisions and Hibernian Halls across the country have traditionally provided a welcome for new immigrants. Here, the unique art, dance, music, and other interests of the Irish are fostered and preserved, making the AOH a home away from home for many. They are at the forefront of support for issues concerning the Irish such as Immigration Reform, MacBride Legislation, and the Right to Life. They serve their Church well, yet, they never forget their ancestral homeland, and can always be found lobbying, praying, and working for the total independence of a united 32-county Ireland –– as their constitution avows: “by all means constitutional and lawful”.


The initials AOH may tell the story best. Those who say it means Add One Hour are describing the easygoing, no rush attitude of many of its members, while America’s Only Hope has been used to define the loyalty of the Irish to the principles of their adopted land. In any case, its members are best described by the statement, To be Irish is a Blessing, To be a Hibernian is an Honor.



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