By Ray O’Hanlon
They will marching behind the same banner, but the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization are unlikely to join hands this weekend in Derry.
Both groups are planning to take part in the annual Bloody Sunday commemoration. But the Hibernians will be walking under the cloud of a missive from the commemoration organizers that takes them to task over ILGO’s annual exclusion from the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The AOH delegation is an unofficial one but will be led by National President Tom Gilligan, the organization’s national press secretary, Mike Cummings, told the Echo.
He said that the AOH was concerned that it never received a copy of the critical statement from the Bloody Sunday Weekend Committee, despite the fact that the numbers of leading AOH officers are known to committee members.
Cummings said that Gilligan and his colleagues would be meeting with Bloody Sunday commemoration organizers on Saturday in an effort to clear up the matter.
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In the statement, the Bloody Sunday committee condemned what it called "the policy of discrimination" against gays and lesbians practiced by the AOH in the context of the New York parade.
ILGO spokeswoman Anne Maguire said that one member of ILGO was definitely traveling to Derry along with several other activists from sympathetic gay groups in New York. They would be linking up in Derry with a local gay group, Foyle Friends.
Maguire said that ILGO members were staying in New York because the group’s civil rights-based court case against New York City and the NYPD is expected to begin on Monday, Jan. 29.
More for IFI?
Twenty-eight members of Congress from both parties have signed a letter to the Clinton administration asking that the annual U.S. contribution to the International Fund for Ireland be more than doubled in fiscal year 2001.
At present, the annual U.S. contribution to the IFI is $19.6 million. The representatives want it raised to $40 million.
The letter was initiated by Queens Democrat Joe Crowley and sent to Jacob Lew, director of the Office of Management and Budget.
"With the peace process now firmly in place, we expect additional foreign investment in the region. One of the best ways to stimulate this money and ensure its effective use is through an increase in the U.S. contribution to the IFI," the letter states.
During a recent visit to New York, First Lady and U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said she favored increasing the annual U.S. contribution to $40 million.
Irish bookstore closes
The Irish Book Shop in Manhattan has closed its doors. The popular venue for readers with an Irish interest had been operating for several years at 580 Broadway, between Prince and Houston Streets in lower Manhattan.
However, the store was forced to close on Wednesday, Jan. 19, according to a taped message.
The message tells callers that the shop’s owner, Angela Carter, and staff regretted that the closure took place. The lease had expired and could not be renewed. The message thanked callers for their support over the years and went on to recommend other outlets for Irish publications.
Leitrim native Carter previously ran the Keshkerrigan bookstore on the lower West Side before moving to Broadway.
New York City Council member Walter McCaffrey, a Queens Democrat, is concerned over the appointment of a Protestant chaplain to the U.S. House of Representatives — despite the decision of the 18-member congressional selection committee to recommend a Catholic priest, Fr. Timothy O’Brien.
O’Brien was ultimately turned down by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Richard Armey and Minority Leader Richard Gephardt. Gephardt had initially dissented but agreed to go along with the choice of the two Republicans.
"In this day and age we cannot turn our heads and allow actions, particularly by our elected officials, that evoke such auras of discrimination," McCaffrey said in a statement. "It is clear that anti-Catholicism still exists in modern society, even at the highest levels of public service. We must not ignore this."
McCaffrey has written a letter protesting the decision to the House leaders. It has been signed by 32 City Council members and Public Advocate Mark Green. City Council Speaker Peter Vallone is sending a similar letter.
Fr. O’Brien, a political science professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, previously told the New York Times that he believed if he were not a Catholic priest he would now be House chaplain. The 435-member House is due to vote soon on the speaker’s choice, one which, in the past, has generally marked the end of the selection process.