Addendum to the Irish American Unity Conference National Newsletter
Barely half-way through the year, 2018 has already been an extremely active year for the IAUC in the National Capital Region, and by extension, nationally and internationally.
From the beginning of the year, the DC-Baltimore Chapter has further increased its ongoing engagement with Congress to advocate for equality, justice, and unification in Ireland. In January and February, we assisted the AOH in arranging Relatives for Justice Director Mark Thompson’s schedule for his US visit, including in particular discussions with Congress, and in drafting a Congressional letter under Mark’s direction to UK Ambassador Kim Darroch about the lack of progress on legacy issues. We also worked with Congressman Christopher Smith’s office in reviewing and commenting on drafts of HR 777, a resolution re-affirming Congress’ strong support for the Good Friday Agreement, calling for a full inquiry into Pat Finucane’s murder, and urging the appointment of a Special Envoy.
In March, the Chapter hosted Belfast film producer Sean Murray during his visit to Washington to promote his upcoming documentary on the Glenane Gang, Unquiet Graves. Sean met with our Chapter to discuss the background of the film and provide us with a preview. During his visit, Sean and Peter Kissel met with Congressman Neal’s Chief of Staff, Congressman Boyle’s Chief of Staff, and Congressman Smith’s Deputy Director for the Helsinki Commission, all of whom expressed support for a screening of the film in
Washington in the fall of 2018.
Jack O’Brien continues to lobby effectively for renaming the small park in Washington where Robert Emmet’s statue is located as “Robert Emmet Park.” Jack’s efforts have succeeded in obtaining House passage of the legislation and gaining attention in the Senate, where passage is expected this year. Jack has also been instrumental in locating and honoring Irish patriot graves in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in DC.
The Chapter also worked closely with the AOH, Brehon Law Society and others in drafting and promoting the Martin McGuinness Principles. The McGuinness Principles call for implementation of four fundamental principles of the Good Friday Agreement, as espoused by Martin McGuinness: Equality, Respect, Truth, and Self-Determination for Ireland. The IAUC Board unanimously endorsed the McGuinness Principles and is a proud supporter of them. In April, Peter joined Sean Pender and Marty Glennon of AOH, along with Martin’s sons Fiachra and Emmet, in meetings with Congressional representatives to obtain their endorsements of the Principles.
Mike Mellett has agreed to serve another term as President of the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore, where Kathy Kelly also volunteers as a guide and enthusiastic promoter of the Museum’s mission. The Museum is a project of the Railroad Historical District Corporation, and is the centerpiece of a historical district that includes the B&O Railroad Museum, St. Peter the Apostle Church, the Hollins Street Market, and St. Peter the Apostle Cemetery. Under Mike’s leadership, the buildings have been designated a Baltimore City Historic District and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
On April 27, Jack and Mike were honored by the Irish Echo as “Irish Community Champions” at a gala Awards Dinner at Rosie O’Grady’s in New York. Their awards are in recognition of Jack’s and Mike’s long years of service on behalf of Irish and Irish-American causes.
On the first weekend of May, Jack O’Brien and Peter Kissel attended the dedication of two Fenian headstones in Philadelphia cemeteries. Robert Cranston and Thomas Darragh were two of the six political prisoners in the British penal colony in Fremantle, Australia, who were rescued in the daring Catalpa expedition in 1876. Robert’s and Thomas’ remains had lain in unmarked graves for over a century. After researching their story, Rhode Island Hibernians George McLaughlin and his son Tomas began a fundraising campaign in 2017 to commission headstones for both of the escaped prisoners, an effort supported by donations from the IAUC together with many other Irish American organizations and individuals. The dedication ceremonies featured readings from Padraig Pearse’s writings, prayers offered by priests at each gravesite, and remarks by politicians and Irish Americans. The AOH hosted a reception brunch following the dedications where Jack and Peter renewed old acquaintances and made new ones.
In May, National Secretary Kevin Barry joined Chapter members Peter and Sharon Kissel in traveling to Belfast to present the IAUC’s 2018 financial donations to Relatives for Justice, the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Border Communities Against Brexit, and Cairde Turas, and to meet with representatives of the nationalist and unionist communities. A separate report has been sent to our members describing the Belfast meetings, but it bears emphasizing that all four of the organizations are deeply grateful to the IAUC for our support. The tour furthered the IAUC’s relationships with the people of the North of Ireland and re-affirmed our advocacy for their freedom from England’s grip.
The Washington-Baltimore Chapter looks forward to our annual Robert Emmet Commemoration on September 30, and welcoming the National Conference and Convention starting October 1.