On Saturday, April 24th, Cumann Na Saoirse
Náisíunta (National Irish Freedom Committee) held its 15th
Annual Michael Flannery Testimonial Awards Dinner at
Connolly’s Restaurant and Pub, 121 W. 45th Street
in Manhattan. This annual event recognizes and honors
Irish-Americans and others for their contributions to the
promotion of Irish history, literature, human rights and the
cause of Irish freedom. Proceeds from the dinner and journal
ads go to Cabhair in Ireland, which helps support the
dependents of Republican prisoners.
A large crowd enjoyed a fine
evening of traditional Irish music, plentiful hot hors
d'oeuvres, open bar, a delicious buffet dinner and inspiring
speeches and lively conversation. The evening was enhanced
by the warm springtime weather and a midtown Manhattan
The event was a huge success.
The evening began with hors d'oeuvres enjoyed along with
lively traditional Irish music performed by Mary Courtney on
vocals and guitar, Bernadette Fee on fiddle and Gerry
Enright on bodhrán.
Master of Ceremonies Brian Mór
Ó Baoighill gave the official welcome to the crowd. Tiokasin
Ghosthorse, of the Lakota Nation, opened the dinner,
welcoming everyone to America. He spoke about the
commonality between Native Americans and the Irish, both of
whom have had their language, culture and way of life
forcefully impacted by outside forces. He expressed his
concerns about the need for all of us work together to
respect the land and the environment today.
The first honoree was
introduced by Liam Ó Murchadha, who presented Barney
Mulligan with the Michael Flannery Spirit of Freedom Award
in recognition of his long record of service to Republican
causes and steadfast commitment to Republican values.
Barney, a native of Cornacassa, Co. Monaghan, was a close
confidant of Mike Flannery. He always made the time to do
the big and little things that kept Noraid and The Irish
People in business. Barney has been active with the
Gaelic League and the GAA and has a long history of
involvement in Republican/Fenian circles in the New York
area. Barney has been a strong activist for the cause of
Irish freedom, has never lost faith in Republican ideals and
remains true to the Proclamation of 1916.
spoke of his many dear friends who have passed on, including
Mike Flannery. He thanked the NIFC for the award and said he
was glad to be reunited with old friends who were present at
the dinner, including Brian Mor, Martin Galvin and Pat
O'Connell among others. He spoke about the importance of
remaining steadfast to the cause of Irish freedom and
self-determination. Being 93 years old and having seen many
comrades pass on, he was encouraged to see many young people
at the dinner and active in the movement.
The Sister Sarah Clarke Human
Rights Award was presented to Msgr. Kevin Flanagan by
Micheál Ó Coisdealbha. Originally from Kilglass in Co.
Roscommon, Msgr. Flanagan came to prominence during the 1981
Hunger Strike, during which he was stalwart presence at
numerous protests and later at Masses and memorial services
for the ten H Block martyrs who died for political status.
He spent most of his ordained life tending to the spiritual
needs of the people of central New Jersey. He was much
sought after by his superiors because of his organizational
abilities and leadership skills. Despite his busy schedule
he was faithfully available to speak on matters of Irish
Freedom and the inalienable rights of all human beings.
Monsignor will always be remembered as a genuine patriot
because of his courageous leadership during the extremely
difficult times of the 1981 Hunger Strikes. He remains a
great friend to Republican prisoners and their families.
Msgr. Flanagan spoke of the
tremendous contribution that the victims of the Great
Hunger, who were forced to emigrate to the U.S. -- the Irish
diaspora -- made to the Irish freedom struggle. That support
led directly to the 1916 Easter Rising which was the
defining moment in modern Irish history. He spoke eloquently
of the noble women and men who declared the Irish republic
that Easter Monday. He emphasized the importance of
continuing activism in pursuit of the realization of the
republic by people like Michael Flannery and his generation
as well as those of future generations.
Next, Brian Mór Ó Baoighill
presented Timothy Myles with the first 2016 Centennial Award
- the James Connolly Labour Award. Timmy, as he is known
throughout the Ancient Order of Hibernians, has been a
supporter of Irish reunification all his life. He is
prominent in the National Freedom for All Ireland, the
Ancient Order of Hibernians and has visited Ireland on
numerous fact finding tours. Timmy is well known and
respected due to what he has done for those who become
victims of British injustice, including those in America,
most notably for Malachy McAllister.
After the presentations, the
band entertained the packed room with a mix of reels, jigs
and ballads during the dinner service. Connolly’s provided a
plentiful and superb hot buffet which was enjoyed by all.
Following dinner, Jane Enright
presented special honoree, Geraldine Taylor, with the Pearl
Flannery Humanities Award in recognition of her years of
service in the cause of Irish freedom. Geraldine was a
member of Cumann na mBan along side Pearl
Flannery. She is a native of Belfast and comes from a
staunchly Republican family. Geraldine and her husband
raised their 3 children in West Belfast during “The
Troubles.” The family endured much hardship due to the
parents’ political activity. Disruptions, harassment and
raids were ‘normal’ in their household.
Geraldine and other true
Republicans rejected the 1986 decision to end the Republican
policy of abstention from Leinster House. She was a key
participant in rebuilding the Republican Movement alongside
Frank Glynn, Daithi O Conaill, Ruairi O Bradaigh, Mary Ward,
Joe O'Neill and others. A long time member of RSF’s Ard
Chomhairle, Geraldine currently serves as one of two Vice
Presidents of Republican Sinn Féin.
Geraldine spoke from the heart
about the deteriorating conditions for Republican prisoners
in Maghaberry, their current protest and the resulting
stress on both the prisoners and their families. She talked
about the importance of emotional and financial assistance
to the prisoners and their families from supporters in the
Three short presentations ended
the formal portion of the program. First, Brian Wardlow
spoke about NIFC’s recent congressional visits in
Washington, DC at which they received positive interest and
support for the Eire Nua peace proposal advocated by the
National Irish Freedom Committee in the U.S. and by
Republican Sinn Féin in Ireland (a full report will be
available soon at
www.irishfreedom.net). Maggie Trainor spoke about the
Shell to Sea campaign which has been organized to protest
Shell's proposed offshore natural gas project in the Corrib
field in the northwest coastal area of Ireland over
environmental and other issues (see
www.shelltosea.com). Lastly, Pat Williams read a
statement from Republican prisoners in Maghaberry Jail about
the current situation in the prison written especially for
this dinner. Their full statement follows:
It is a
great honour for us Republican prisoners in the North’s
prison camp, to address you all here today. As I am sure you
are aware, we are currently on protest against an oppressive
prison has been attempting to break the will of Republican
prisoners from the year 2000. To date they have failed and
they will continue to fail. In 2003 and again in 2006
Republican Prisoners of War took the fight to the British
administration and WON. Segregation was granted and further
gains were made. However, in the past 2 years the prison
service, the POA, the NIO and the British securicrats who
sit in Stormont have been involved in deliberate attempts to
undo all that was achieved.
ourselves being denied association, phone calls, education
and hot meals. We were being assaulted by screws and a
number of men were attacked by members of the search team.
The restrictive regime and attacks were being covered up by
governors, the POA and the NIO. As a direct result of the
punitive regime forced upon us we found ourselves with no
other alternative than to protest.
we are being locked in our cells for 23 hours per day. We
are allowed only one phone call to our loved ones, and with
most of our men being husbands and fathers, the restrictions
are having an effect on our home lives. Our visits are not
guaranteed and indeed we would say that the system dictates
if we receive a visit at all. Family and friends are
subjected to a dog, which should be used to detect drugs,
but instead it is being used to deny visits to Republican
have also recently been introduced into the prison and have
subjected our family members to strip searches under the
threat of arrest. These attacks against not only ourselves
but our family and friends, cannot and will not be
tolerated. As Republican Prisoners of War, we can expect
that we have to endure searches but our wives, sons,
daughters, mothers and fathers are innocent and should not
be subjected to loss of dignity.
We call on
every one throughout the world to support, not only the
protesting Republican prisoners but to support our family
members through this harrowing period.
To you all
here today we thank you for giving us this chance to address
this function, by doing so you are giving us, the Republican
Prisoners of War a voice. You cannot imagine the
appreciation we feel, and for this we are grateful. Your
support is a great strength to us in Maghaberry.
that CABHAIR give must also be mentioned here
tonight, without the help and assistance of CABHAIR,
we and our families could not sustain this protest. The
members and supporters of CABHAIR have our deepest
To finish I
would again thank you all for you continued support
throughout the years for giving us a voice and for
supporting CABHAIR The republican Prisoners of War
remain unbowed, unbroken, and we will not give up the fight
until political status is won.
mile maith agaibh agus Tiocfaidh Ár Lá.
With the formal portion of the
program over, guests enjoyed dessert, more music and the
opportunity to catch up with old friends as well as to meet
new ones. It was particularly gratifying to see a number of
young people who were there for the first time.
Cumann Na Saoirse Náisíunta
thanks all individuals, businesses and organizations who
bought tickets and journal ads and made this event a great
success. Special thanks go to renowned artist Brian Mór Ó
Baoighill, who designed the superb one-of-a-kind awards, the
journal cover as well as the fabulous and witty cartoons on
the website; and to Tom Costello, who tirelessly maintains
the website and produces the journal along with his equally
tireless brother, Michael. Thanks also to the hard working
members of the dinner committee – you know who you are!