Last May I arranged to meet with Mark Thompson, of Relatives for Justice, a Christmas Appeal recipient. A dozen victims’ families arrived. They wanted the AOH to know how much they appreciate our AOH donations, but also how much they need American moral, political and public pressure on the British, to win justice. They are counting on the AOH, as the voice of the Irish in America, to rally that American pressure.
Following our National Convention, I have been directed by our National President, to work with brothers across the country, in putting the British under American pressure, while maintaining contributions for our FFAI donations. I want to thank our Worthy President and national officers, our New York State President and leaders for successful programs that we can be built on nationally and Paul Gowdy for his help.
FFAI ISSUES UPDATE
A- Paisley Jr. suspended for misconduct faces Westminster recall
Ian Paisley Jr. will be suspended 30 days for taking free luxury vacations in Sri Lanka, then lobbying against a UN resolution to investigate human rights violations in the former British colony. The suspension means a new election if 10% of North Antrim voters sign petitions over a six week period. The Democratic Unionist Party, founded by his late father, also suspended him. His absence will cost the British Prime Minister a crucial vote on Brexit and other close issues. Paisley Jr. became North Antrim MP in 2010. His father Reverend Ian Paisley, the arch-bigot and opponent of civil rights who became Stormont First Minister, held the seat from 1970.Pundits predict enough backing to force a new election but doubtful anyone would beat Paisley in the heavily Orange district,even as an independent. Paisley did not declare two lavish family vacations funded by Sri Lanka in 2013.The English tabloid which broke the story put the value, including family air fares, luxury hotels, multiple helicopter trips etc. at near one hundred thousand pounds. In March 2014,he lobbied the British Prime Minister to oppose a UN Resolution to investigate torture and sectarian killings under Sri Lanka’s Prevention of Terrorism Act. (Copying British anti-Irish legislation)Westminster requires disclosure of gifts more than six hundred and sixty pounds.
B- May Brexit tour more about DUP than border
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s two day Brexit inspection visit to the north was less about Brexit issues, than cementing DUP support. She held a 2 1/2 hours private dinner with DUP heads Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds, while slotting 15 minutes each to the Ulster Unionists, Sinn Fein, SDLP and Alliance parties. During her keynote speech, May said she wanted British rule “to endure for generations to come” and that her government “would never be neutral in support for the Union.” This contradicted the neutrality believed to underpin the Good Friday Agreement. May offered nothing new on Brexit, blaming Ireland and the European Community if customs posts and border regulations follow Britain’s withdrawal from the EC. Europe would allow the north to stay within the EU customs area and single market, avoiding any hard border across Ireland. The DUP see any special deal for border regulations to begin in the Irish Sea, as a symbolic weakening of the Union, even though it would benefit people across Ireland including DUP voters. May depends on 10 DUP votes for her majority at Westminster.
C- Rioting in Derry and East Belfast sparked by July 12th
Six days of rioting on a scale unseen in years occurred in Derry, as the city was the site of its first July 12th parade in 5 years. In the build-up to the 12th, flags of the Paratroop Regiment of Bloody Sunday infamy were hung, along with Union Jacks, Ulster Volunteer flags and sectarian banners. Huge bonfires were again built across the north where Irish flags, photos of the Pope or of nationalist politicians and other symbols were burned. Petrol bombs, seen for the first time in years last April when Constabulary attempted to block a Republican Easter Commemoration, were thrown at the PSNI. Plastic bullets were fired and a number of arrests were made. Meanwhile there were no arrests or searches in east Belfast and Down where loyalists hijacked a bus at gunpoint, set 16 vehicles on fire, rioted and shut down Belfast City Airport for hours. Loyalists rioted after a Court ordered removal of bonfire materials from two dangerous publicly owned sites.
D- Grieving mother ordered from Belfast home while Fermanagh funeral disrupted
A distraught nationalist mother preparing for her son’s wake and funeral was ordered out of her home by loyalist paramilitaries. The Ulster Freedom Fighters painted “All Taigs out”(meaning Catholics), on her garden wall, then smashed the windows of her home and told her to get out within 24 hours. When she pleaded that her son had just died, and asked to remain until after the funeral, they refused and cursed at her. She had lived in the house for 18 months but when loyalists saw facebook sympathy posts about the funeral they realized the family were Catholics. Meanwhile in Fermanagh, a Catholic priest spoke to mourners about the PSNI Constabulary disrupting prayers at the funeral of Michael McManus. McManus a well known Gaelic Athletic Association club president, had been a founding member of Republican Sinn Fein in 1986,and had run as an Independent Republican candidate more than a decade ago. He died at 78. A helicopter flew overhead throughout the procession to the graveyard then remained overhead drowning out the graveside prayers. The priest expressed regret to mourners for the disruption of the prayers.
BALLYMUPHY TOUR CALL TO ACTION
Newly appointed British Army Commander Nick Carter boasted that British Troops in the north had done a “remarkable job” and were being “chased by people making vexatious claims” but “that will not happen on his watch.” Carter’s words were hurtful and insulting to families who have been fighting for decades to get justice for murdered loved ones. This seems to reflect British policy under British Crown Secretary Karen Bradley.
The AOH is responding!
The Ballymurphy Massacre families have been making the “vexatious claim” that eleven innocent people, including a Catholic priest and mother of eight children, were shot down by British Army Paratroopers in August 1971. The British did a “remarkable job” of whitewashing these killings with made-up accounts to justify the murders. The inquest these families have been fighting for will begin in September.
The AOH has already arranged a speaking tour at the halfway point in November. Carmel Quinn, one of the Ballymurphy Massacre families, has agreed to come to America and give the AOH an up to the minute report on the inquest which will answer British claims. The AOH can expand this tour nationally or bring other legacy victims’ speakers to other areas.
Last April sixteen Members of Congress joined in a bipartisan letter sponsored by the AOH to the British Ambassador about the hundreds of families still waiting for legacy truth. We got 16 signatures, because AOH members called or visited local Congressional offices until they signed.
Both the British Ambassador and colonial British Secretary Karen Bradley had to reply. Our initiative was a major story in Ireland and the IRISH ECHO and VOICE. Working nationally, along with our PEC, we can build on that Congressional initiative and show the British that American Congressmen and Senators are watching. During the Ballymurphy Massacre Tour we will be circulating a draft sign -on letter for Congressmen expressing concerns of their constituents and notifying the British they will monitor the evidence and verdict.
IRELAND’S DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
Another key Resolution voted unanimously at our national convention recommended that we commemorate the centenary of Ireland’s Declaration of Independence. On January 21,1919, representatives elected in the 32-county election of 1918, assembled as a National Parliament, and voted Ireland’s Declaration of Independence. Like the signers of America’s Declaration of Independence, Irish patriots risked imprisonment or death at the hands of the colonial British government. We want to promote this proud event with state, city and local proclamations of Ireland’s Independence Day. It is also a reminder that Unionists will celebrate the creation of an artificial six county state, carved out by the British in violation of an all-Ireland vote for 32 county freedom and a Declaration of Independence.
REMEMBERING IRISH PATRIOTS WITH PRIDE
Recently there have been a number of great AOH sponsored events honoring Irish patriot graves in America. Tyrone AOH honored Suffolk County for its Tom Clarke-Kathleen Daly Clark Monument. There were ceremonies in Philadelphia for two Fenian heroes who escaped on the Catalpa, made possible with the help of the AOH led by Seamus Boyle. On July 22nd there was an impressive ceremony unveiling a monument to Robert Emmet and members of the Emmet family in New Rochelle. Congratulations to everyone involved!
Please send me your ideas, comments, and information about your FFAI related events. FFAI will also be working with the PEC and with Sean Pender on the McGuinness Principles.