A call to Action: What every AOH Division and Board needs to do to support a United Ireland by Sean Pender National FFAI chairman
In December I attended an event organized by the Irish Echo and co-sponsored by the AOH and the NYC law firm of O Dwyer and Bernstein. Held in the historic City Hall of New York City it recognized the 25th anniversary of the passage of the MacBride Principles.
Our order was represented by National Vice President Brendan Moore who during his introduction of Fr Sean McManus highlighted the importance of the MacBride principals. There were many at the event that were instrumental in the passage of the historic legislation a quarter century ago. In his talk Father Sean McManus recapped the landscape and circumstances that were prevalent at the time and how the historic principals were implemented. McManus reminded those in attendance that while the need for the MacBride principals was brought to the forefront by Irish-America they would not have been successful if not for the support of many elected officials from across many different nationalities. Attending the event in New York were Italian American, Jewish American and African American elected officials who passed the legislation twenty-five years ago despite pressure from the British government not to. The simplicity of what the principals called for “the basic civil right of fair employment practices for the Catholic minority” put those who supported the principals on the right side of history.
Today our order is presented with a similar challenge a challenge that we as the country’s largest Irish group are uniquely suited for, the challenge is to promote “One Island, One Ireland with justice for all”. AOH National President Seamus Boyle has drawn the correlation between the MacBride principals and a united Ireland; Seamus stated: “One of the most important pieces of legislation passed in many areas over the past 30 years was the MacBride Principles and now these United Ireland resolutions can be just as important to help bring us to a final resolution of a United Ireland, free and with equality for all citizens.”
Just as those that supported the MacBride principals were on the right side of history so are we. For 2010 a primary goal of our organization will be to replicate the strategy of the MacBride principals and work to get as many towns, cities, counties, states, unions and organizations to pass resolutions in support of a united Ireland. The first of these resolutions was passed by the Cleveland city council in 2006; it was the result of the hard work of the local Irish Northern Aid. The Cleveland resolution has served as a template for other resolutions that have been passed in 2009 in Hamilton NJ; Rockland County New York; Syracuse and Philadelphia. Members Kevin Meara, Vincent Tyner, Frank Corcoran and Pears Kerr have been instrumental in getting these resolutions passed.
In 2010 on behalf of National President Seamus Boyle and the National Board we are asking that ALL divisions and boards approach their local municipalities, counties and states to ask them to pass a resolution to support a united Ireland. I will be working with PEC chairs Ned McGinley and Joe Roche and we will work to collect as many of these resolutions as possible by the convention in Cincinnati. Additionally we should leverage the St. Patrick’s Day Season for the fact that often elected officials look for something positive to do around St Patrick’s Day to recognize the Irish community.
We have set up the following steps for all divisions and boards to follow:
FFAI and PEC chairs should take ownership of the project.
From the AOH national website, click on National programs; choose Freedom for all Ireland and download the resolution template. The template allows divisions to just add the name of the municipality, county or state to the resolution. Additional background information will also be available on the site…
Joint ventures with other Irish organizations are encouraged.
Develop a contact in the targeted municipality, county or state to meet with and describe our request. Follow through until commitment is given to get resolution. Have members present when the resolution is passed and issue a thank you for the resolution.
Leverage the fact that the Good Friday agreement has provisions for achieving a United Ireland through purely democratic and peaceful means also worth mentioning is the 25th anniversary of the McBride Principals.
Copies of resolutions should be sent to Sean Pender via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The FFAI link of the National Site will serve as a repository for all resolutions and copies will be forwarded to Irish, English, US and Northern Ireland governments.
Reasons That United Ireland Resolutions Are Appropriate And Needed
- To encourage greater economic rationality. The artificial border that was imposed on Ireland in 1922 is an unnecessary impediment to the free flow of goods and people, even with both sides in the E.U. Its elimination would benefit both parts of Ireland and both communities.
- To encourage bypassing the divisive legacy of Ireland’s colonial past. The border is a manifestation of policies that were meant to divide Irish people and make it difficult or impossible for them to effectively rule themselves.
- To encourage Irish people to overcome the social and psychological effects of the border. The border has sewn division, distrust, and conflict along social, economic, and regional lines as well as the often cited religious ones, the ultimate manifestation of these being the “Troubles.”
- Because America can play a positive role in Ireland’s being able to move forward. American involvement and leadership were critical in bringing the Troubles to an end, through getting negotiations jump-started, and through our good offices in furthering the process. Without it, the Troubles might still be going on.
- Because American encouragement to move beyond the legacy of division can be uniquely effective. America is recognized as a friend by all parties, in part because of historical connections, but also because of America’s role in bringing the Troubles to an end.
- Because America’s example is uniquely relevant to the Irish situation. America offers a shining example of people of different religious backgrounds and traditions living in harmony, as Americans, and it can serve as an example of that for Ireland.
- Because Ireland needs to address these issues to move forward. The Troubles are over but the north of Ireland especially remains a divided and distrustful society, with different groups remaining uneasy with each other and uncertain about their future relations.
- Because the United Ireland resolutions can encourage people to see that people of different religious traditions and traditional loyalties can come under one roof, and have a future together.
- Because it matters to America. Ireland is a rather close neighbor in today’s small world, and tens of millions of Americans have a close attachment to it that takes many forms. A peaceful, democratic Ireland based on the principles that the patriots of both countries have fought and died for is in America’s interest, both for the North Atlantic region and globally. Further division, distrust, and conflict are against everyone’s interest, and should be relegated to the past forever.