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Report of Annual Republican Dinner which held is in New York the proceeds of which go to CABHAIR. CABHAIR are the charitable organisation based in Dublin who alleviate the financial burden of the dependents of Irish Republican political prisoners A statement was sent by the Republican prisoners in Maghaberry who are currently on protest for political status. Geraldine Taylor also spoke.
2010 Annual Testimonial Dinner Report
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 location.
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.
Barney 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 U.S.
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 regime.
Maghaberry 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.
We found 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.
At present 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 prisoners.
The RUC/PSNI 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.
The support 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 respect.
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.
Go raibh 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!
(Click here to view video)
photos and video available for viewing on www.irishfreedom.net
Cumann Na Saoirse Náısıúnta
National Irish Freedom Committee