In response to last week’s article “Dissident IRA supporter picked as St. Patrick’s Day aide to Grand Marshal Cardinal Dolan”
New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a symbol of Irish achievement and traditions when such symbols were few. It was a beacon of hope for Irish freedom when such hopes seemed unattainable. As one who cherishes this parade, I was grateful and honored to be nominated as Aide to the Grand Marshal by Bronx County Ancient Order of Hibernians. Cardinal Dolan being Grand Marshal made it more special. It is therefore disappointing that anyone should hype controversy by misrepresenting my beliefs and background.
It is certainly true that I support freedom for all of Ireland and have marched with banners and badges proclaiming “England out of Ireland!” These are fundamental principles of the AOH and St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The reporter need not have gone back years to get speeches in Ireland or America. Two weeks ago I spoke for Irish freedom in Tyrone remembering close friend and former Bronx resident Liam Ryan, one of the hundreds of British collusion murder victims. Why is it ‘controversial’ to want freedom for all Ireland?
It is also true that for almost 20 years I was one of the leaders of Irish Northern Aid and for 15 years editor of the "Irish People" newspaper. Those who flooded the streets in front of British Consulates, filled legislatures for the MacBride Principles, and packed Irish-American Candidates Forums never got due credit. They made Ireland an American issue until leaders like President Clinton were willing to take the groundbreaking question from me about a visa for Gerry Adams.
I take pride in what was accomplished working with the AOH and many Irish-American organizations. During those years the same pro-British propagandists that claimed top Republicans in Ireland were ‘mindless godfathers,’ claimed that money we gave families of political prisoners was funding the IRA. Why should discredited British claims from so many years ago matter now?
It is finally true that after I led a 1983 American fact-finding tour which embarrassed the British, the Thatcher government tried to ban me from returning with a second tour in 1984. Sinn Fein leaders said we must not allow this censorship ban to succeed and be used to silence other Americans. When I was called upon by Gerry Adams, the Royal Ulster Constabulary opened fire with plastic bullets.
They murdered one man and wounded scores more. Britain was condemned and put one man on trial for murder. After I was arrested alongside Martin McGuinness at Free Derry Corner in 1989 and shipped back under military guard, the British sent me a letter saying it had all been a mistake. Why should British murders or admitted mistakes be resurrected against my nomination today?
It is categorically untrue that I support armed actions today by any IRA or as your writer puts it, “denounce the Sinn Fein leadership as traitors.” IrishCentral’s own Nuzhound on December 14th reprinted an interview I gave the "Derry Journal" in Ireland. The headline, “Conditions do not exist for a return to violence” could not be clearer. That reporter bothered to speak to me before publishing. Readers of the Irish Voice may also recall seeing a full page of photographs of the October 26th Woodlawn AOH Awards Event, which was attended by some prominent American supporters of Sinn Fein. Why can Irish Republicans not respectfully disagree on some issues while working together where there is common ground?
I personally believe that the British did not intend the Good Friday deal as an open door to freedom for the six counties but as their chance to nail the door shut. Why is it wrong or controversial to point out British injustices and speak for new political strategies to overcome proven British bad faith?
As noted, I cherish the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and what it means to the Irish. I am grateful to Bronx County AOH for nominating me. I do not understand why my presence as one of the Aides to Cardinal Dolan should cause any controversy. Indeed it would only be controversial if we forgot there will be six counties represented in this parade who are still denied freedom in Ireland!