The Ancient Order of Hibernians completed a highly publicized nine-day fact-finding mission to Northern Ireland
The Ancient Order of Hibernians; (AOH) fact-finding mission included a Ballymurphy massacre inquest session, receptions by Belfast and Derry mayors, questioning Derry's Unionist deputy mayor and eight councilors, briefings on collusion, legacy justice, Brexit, Pat Finucane, Bloody Sunday and the Dalraidian environmental threat, as well as meetings and presentations to community groups.
The Freedom for All Ireland (FFAI) delegation led by AOH President Jim McKay and LAOH President Carol Sheyer included leading Hibernians from 13 states. They concluded in Dublin with a briefing of Irish Foreign Service officials and a making a commitment to bring the facts back to AOH and LAOH members across the U.S.
The 37 member Hibernian delegation stopped at the border, where Border Communities Against Brexit members Damien McGinnity, Declan Fearon and John Sheridan cataloged the catastrophic threat of Brexit. McKay presented a copy of Congressman Brendan Boyle's Resolution and outlined the ongoing American efforts to support these communities.
The tour then moved to Belfast, escorted by Mark Thompson of Relatives for Justice, to join the Finucane family for a vigil outside Pat Finucane's home.
The next morning, the delegation joined Ballymurphy Massacre victims' families outside Laganside Court, where McKay told reporters, "Hibernians across the United States had their eyes on that courtroom and were behind these families in their long fight for justice.”
FFAI Chair Martin Galvin added, "If nationalists cannot get justice in a case where 11 victims included a priest and a grandmother, how could they expect justice in any case of British Army or collusion murder?"
The FFAI delegation was welcomed at a City Hall reception hosted by Mayor Deidre Hargey, where she spoke about the role of nationalists in the city. Here McKay made a surprise announcement that the prestigious AOH-LAOH MacBride Award would be presented to Father Gary Donegan for his work in the Ardoyne Houben Centre.
The FFAI group returned the next day to Ballymurphy where campaign leader John Teggart, Carmel Quinn and other family members pointed out locations where loved ones were murdered.
The group then toured the Republican graves at historic Milltown Cemetery escorted by Joe Austin and Brendan McFarlane of National Graves.
The delegation then moved to Derry. At the George McBrearty Mural in Creggan, Kevin Hasson of the Bogside Artists explained the impact of political murals and art in the city. With members of the McBrearty family hosting, Galvin spoke about McBrearty's life as an example of what Republican commemorations and murals represent people across the North.
The FFAI group then had a spirited session with eight Derry councilors, led by Unionist Deputy Mayor Derek Hussey presiding joined by six Sinn Fein members and an independent Republican.
Galvin began the questions by noting that last time he "accompanied an American delegation requesting a meeting with the British or Unionists he got an exclusion order in reply." The FFAI raised the question about Bloody Sunday cover-up posed by McCann, and what the councilors thought about meeting an American FFAI delegation. The session had been scheduled to last 30 minutes but continued for 90.
In Tyrone, the group, escorted by county president Gerry McGeough, climbed the historic Mass Rock and controversial Dalraidian gold mine site in the Sperrin Mountains. They visited the Republican Garden of Remembrance at Carrickmore with special mention of AOH member Ed Walsh who was killed in the 1916 Easter Rising and was affiliated with the American AOH Alliance and Hibernian Rifles.
At the Battery Bar Ardboe, the delegation saw the site where American citizen and tour member Galvin's close friend, Liam Ryan, was murdered by off duty members of the British Army's Ulster Defense Regiment in 1989, got a report about the investigation conducted into the case by Relatives for Justice and heard from Martin Mallon about the murder of his aunt Roseann Mallon with the same weapons.
The second day in Tyrone began with a tour of the historic Hill of O'Neill, stops at the Dungannon offices of the Republican ex-prisoner support group EALU and Relatives for Justice, and a discussion of legacy justice at Galbally Community Centre where relatives outlined a British strategy of "deny, delay and die."
The FFAI spent its final two days in Dublin, participating in a 1916 Easter Rising walking tour with Lorcan Collins, and a talk on 1916 evening with author and historian Ruan O'Donnell at Pearse House.
Independent TD Peadar Toibin spoke to delegates on his newly formed political party. The AOH-LAOH members were then hosted at Leinster House by Senator Billy Lawless before giving a full briefing at Iveagh House to Irish Foreign Affairs officials in meetings organized by National Director Dan Dennehy and Treasurer Sean Pender.
Galvin noted, “As many delegates said, the end of this tour is just the beginning of a greater national campaign. Members of this delegation from across the United States saw just how much American help is needed by those still denied freedom from British rule and injustice. We were told again and again across the north that they count on Irish America and see the AOH-LAOH as their voice, in America.
"It is crucial now more than ever that we bring the facts we have seen back across America and do more nationally to support those still denied justice and freedom."