By Ray O’Hanlon
Hibernians from around the U.S. gathered in Baltimore this week for the 90th AOH Biennial Convention.
The convention, which opened on July 2 and concludes today, drew over a thousand members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, men and women. It was the first time since 1935 that the AOH National Convention was held in the Maryland city.
Among the honorees at the convention were Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. Flynn was presented with the AOH’s highest honor, the John F. Kennedy Medal. Sean O Huiginn, Irish ambassador to the U.S., was also honored.
In addition to social events and meetings to discuss the charitable work of the AOH, the convention included a number of briefings and resolutions dealing with Northern Ireland and the peace process.
Matters discussed included the Patten Commission on reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the present status of the group of men from Northern Ireland living in the U.S., and their families, who are facing potential deportation.
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In a statement coinciding with the convention, AOH President Tom Gilligan praised the progress being made in the peace process.
"In our 164 years of existence there have been Irish men and women in arms resisting the oppression of English occupation and now an all-party dialogue is working to finally bring equality and justice to the partitioned six counties of Ireland," Gilligan said.
Gilligan warned that the anti-Catholic bigotry in the U.S. which gave rise to the founding of the AOH in the first place was still evident today in a number of ways. As a result, the organization had to maintain its vigilance.
Gilligan lavished praise on JFK medal winner Ray Flynn. Flynn, he said, was a champion of the poor, the vulnerable — particularly the unborn — and the oppressed.
"It doesn’t get much better than that," he said.