Cumann Na Saoirse Náisiúnta
The 12th Annual Michael Flannery Testimonial Awards Dinner
The theme for the
Testimonial was the significance of ‘Ruairi Ó Brádaigh
autobiography 'The Life and Politics of an Irish
Revolutionary’ by Robert W. White of Indiana University.
bitter cold, people from the tri-State area, Pennsylvania and
the Midwest were present. The attendance was up from previous
Brian Mor Ó
Baoighill and John Mc Donagh, co-hosts of the New York based
Radio Free Éireann (RFE) a weekly show on WBAI, served as
masters of ceremonies.
the evening’s program by informing those who are asking ‘what
is the alt2007
Awards Dinner Report.htmernative to joining the British police in the six
counties’ that there is and has been an answer and it
is the ÉIRE NUA program coupled with a British withdrawal
He continued by
paying tribute to Fergal Ó hAnluain of Co. Mhuimneacháın agus
Seán Sabhat as Co Luimnigh on the 50th anniversary of
their death in 1957 while attacking a British colonial Police
(RUC) barracks in occupied six Irish counties. Brian spoke of
the high regard that the people of the time had for these two
heroes and how their memory lives on through legend and song.
The band played
the two anthems from that period that refuses to die, The
Patriot Games and Sean Sabhat of Garryowen.
The three awards presented to the 2007
honorees consisted of a copy of Ruairi Ó Brádaigh
autobiography. Each copy featured a fitted leather cover
embossed with different silver and gold lettering and artwork by
Brian Mór Ó Baoighill. The inside title page of each copy was
adorned with an intricate full color Celtic design that Brian
personalized for each honoree. Each copy was signed by Ruairi Ó
Brádaigh, and included a personal note of congratulations to
Liam Murphy, a
long Irish republican activist introduced Michael Skeahan the
recipient of the Michael Flannery Spirit of Freedom Award.
It was only fitting that Liam should introduce Mike Skeahan, as
he is a long time friend of Mike’s. Liam was also the person
responsible for Mike’s biography. That was no mean task as the
Testimonial Committee spent a long time looking for material
before Liam took over and completed the task.
In his introduction Liam gave a good
account of Mike’s role in support of the Irish freedom struggle
in the US. Not surprisingly, Liam said that Mike was always the
quiet man who did very little talk but was there when the heavy
lifting had to be done. He said that Mike had an uncanny ability
to avoid the media especially photographers. Naturally, this
made it difficult to acquire a photo for his biography. He said
that Mike’s was always supportive of the struggle to end the
evil of the partition in Ireland. Liam said that around 1986,
when it was evident that another departure in the Republican
leadership was in the making he went to work with Mike Flannery
and others who remained faithful and formed Cumann Na Saoirse
Náisiúnta. Liam went on to say that Mike Skeahan was very wary
of a changing political climate and insisted that Cumann Na
Saoirse Náisiúnta become an independent American organization
with no foreign principal.
In his acceptance
Mike Skeahan who was genuinely moved, thanked the committee and
proceeded to tell the audience about his youth and why he joined
the Irish Republican struggle. He said that at times it was
difficult to explain, being a native born New Yorker, why be
became involved in a foreign cause. If anything, it would have
been more of a surprise if he remained indifferent to the
stories told to him his father, mother, uncle and others had
told him about their earlier experiences in British occupied
Mike who still
possesses a keen intellect and a good memory seldom referred to
his notes as he moved on from one story to the next. Later in
the evening Mike said that he would have to devote more time to
these short stories, which he considers to be more like the way
the Seanachie did to keep the truth alive in the old days.
a former honoree, was the program manager for the evening. She
introduces Karen Lewis last Year’s recipient of the Sr Sarah
Clarke Human Rights Award. Karen who is deeply involved with
programs that help the disenfranchised in New York is the wife
of the late great human rights activist and prison reformist Al
Kathleen Montague this year’s recipient of the Sr Sarah
Clarke Human Rights Award. Karen said that Kathleen
Montague had the same determination and drive that kept Sr.
Sarah Clarke going despite the incredible odds she faced while
dealing with hostile British prison regimes. She said that
Kathleen, who is by nature very modest of her past work on
behalf of political prisoners, has the same qualities that Sr
Sarah relied on when a particular task had to be done.
felt a kinship with Kathleen Montague’s work, especially as
Kathleen was the person that Sr Sarah relied upon most in the US
when she needed assistance on any number of issues including
assistance for a family that might be traveling to a British
prison for the first time.
the Sr Sarah Clarke Human Rights Award, Kathleen Montague said
that she very honored to receive the Award. She was most
gracious and thanked Cumann Na Saoirse for making the award
possible. Kathleen’s large family of supporters led the cheering
as she returned to her table displaying her well -deserved award
Republican Séamus Ó Dubhda and a former honoree,
introduced Patsy Ó Brádaigh the recipient of the Pearl
Flannery Humanities Award. Séamus who is a native of Co
Chıarraí spoke in Gaeilge and said that it was a privilege for
him to welcome Padraigin, Bean Chéile Ruaırí Ó Brádaigh,
Uachtarán Sinn Féin Poblachta, and to introduce her to the
Patsy with a personalized copy of ‘Ruaırí Ó Brádaigh The Life
and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary’, which is her
surprisingly, it was from the pages of this book that the Awards
Committee learned of extraordinary role Patsy played in the life
of her Irish Republican husband. The feeling was that her role
was much more that mere support and to a degree explained why
her husband remained such an incorruptible force in the struggle
for Irish freedom for half century.
the Pearl Flannery Humanities Award, Patsy made the following
“Is mór an
onóir dom a bheit annseo chun ghlacadh leis an duais seo. Gabhim
búiochas om’ chroí do Chumann na Saoirse. Táim fíor bhródúil ar
mo shonsa agus ar son mo chlainne ar fad.
It is a great
honor for me to be here to accept the Pearl Flannery Humanities
Award. I wish to thank Cumann Na Saoirse for selecting me
to be the recipient. I am proud on my own and on my family’s
behalf to receive such an honor.
I accept this
award on behalf of the ordinary person who do no make headlines,
but quietly through their caring and attention to small things
bring about a difference to the life and ambitions of others.
I think that I
have fulfilled that role while at the same time not neglecting
my own personal interests which gives me satisfaction and
enables me to fulfill my potential as a person, who cares for
all human nature thus understanding other people’s problems and
Women who work
quietly behind the scenes in movements such as the Republican
movement are sometimes asked to give of themselves over and
above the norm. This I don’t deny but I feel that commitment to
others and a firm belief in the cause or causes compensates
somewhat for what follows
Why pick me
for this honor? I would to believe that it is not for myself but
for what I represent which is the many other women who do more
important work in the movement such as ours. All the support,
assistance, comfort and cooperation given by Irish women in
these times, however small, are always appreciated, though
I have great
admiration for such women as Pearl Flannery and Dr. Kathleen
Lynn and others who use their skills and education for
humanitarian purposes. Dr Lynn was one of the first women in
Ireland to achieve a degree in medicine. While she fought in
1916 she also found time to set up a hospital in Dublin for
children in deprived areas.
hope that I will continue to live up to this honor that you have
bestowed on me”.
John Mc Donagh
informed the audience that he had accepted an invitation to take
part in a discussion debate on joining the British police in
Occupied Ireland. That event is scheduled for Rocky Sullivan’s
in Manhattan on Tuesday Jan 30th at 8.30pm. John wondered out
loud what there was to discuss and then proceeded to paint out a
pretty bleak picture for those who might have been inclined to
even think of the idea. He questioned what would have happened
if the great Indian leader Ghandi had advised the Indian people
to join the British police force in India as a means of getting
rid of the British. He also queried about the reaction that
Nelson Mandela would have gotten if he had suggested to his
countrymen who had been
subjected to the most blatant sectarian laws on earth, that they
should join in the South African police force as a means of
getting rid of that brutal force.
He went on to
say that he was reasonably sure that Fergal Ó hAnluain and Seán
Sabhat were not going to join the police when they visited the
RUC police barracks in 1957.
He did however
have on hand an Application Form for the New Peelers and read
out some of the questions that Brian Mór imagined would appear
on the application.
is posted on this site and will also be available at Rocky’s on
Tuesday, Jan 30, 2007.
Brian Wardlow the NIFC’s Coordinator
addressed the attendees and informed them of the progress and
the many accomplishments made over the last year. Brian
described the Irish formulated Éire Nua federal proposals as a
viable alternative to British partition in Ireland and to the
many British schemes put forward as ‘peace solutions’. Brian
went on to tell the attendees of the many ways to support the
Eire Nua/Visa Denial Repeal Campaign. In closing he thanked the
many Irish Republicans who remained faithful over the years, and
through their dedication allowed succeeding generations to carry
on uninterrupted the struggle for true Irish freedom.
After Brian’s speech Patrick Williams gave
the audience a brief history of the current fight for political
status in Maghaberry prison in the six counties. Pat, who is
coordinator of the NIFC's IRPAS campaign, told of some of the
conditions faced by the prisoners and explained the important
work being done by the Republican Prisoners Action Group (RPAG)
and Cabhair in Ireland on behalf on the Republican political
prisoners. He then out-lined the IRPAS campaign, telling those
to use the NIFC website to make themselves more aware of what is
actually going on, and finished claiming it was important to get
behind the prisoners now, before conditions get worse and a
situation resembling 1981 occurs.
In concluding a most enjoyable evening,
Maggie Trainor and Brian Mór thanked the honorees and all those
who attended the event and everyone who subscribed to the
successful Ad Journal.
They also thanked
Bob Loughman, the ticket Chairman, and all the other members of
the Committee including the webmaster who kept the event
up-front and Radio Free Éireann for its regular coverage.
They asked for a
moment of cheering as opposed to a moment of silence in memory
of all of those who had passed away and were in some way
involved in support of Irish freedom.
They thanked the
Astoria World Manor for their excellent service and great food
and noted that the band and piper had excelled as usual.