Cumann na Saoirse Náisiúnta

National Irish Freedom Committee

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.

Despite the bitter cold, people from the tri-State area, Pennsylvania and the Midwest were present. The attendance was up from previous years.

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.

 Brian started 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 from Ireland.

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 Awards presentation followed.

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 each honoree.

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 Ireland.

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.

Maggie Trainor, 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 Lewis

Karen introduced 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.

Karen obviously 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.

Upon accepting 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

 Veteran Irish 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 audience

Séamus presented Patsy with a personalized copy of ‘Ruaırí Ó Brádaigh The Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary’, which is her husband’s autobiography.

 Not 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.

Upon receiving the Pearl Flannery Humanities Award, Patsy made the following speech

“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 beliefs.

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 sometimes, unsung.

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.

 I sincerely 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.

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.

 

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