By Ray O’Hanlon
Pennsylvanian Ned McGinley was unanimously elected 33rd national president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians last week.
McGinley, a native of Kingston, Pa., was chosen for the four-year presidential term by more than 600 voting delegates attending the order’s 91st national convention at the Foxwoods casino resort in Connecticut.
McGinley, in his acceptance address, said he had been privileged to serve the Hibernians and was grateful for the opportunity to show Americans from Scranton to Seattle how the AOH had become the premier Irish American organization.
McGinley, who had been national vice president during the term of outgoing AOH president Tom Gilligan, said he hoped to use skills acquired in his teaching career at Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre to educate the next generation of Americans about their role in the Irish peace process, the importance of learning about Irish culture, and the contribution of the Irish to freedom, justice and democracy in in the United States.
“As the nation’s oldest and largest Irish-American organization, the Hibernians are uniquely qualified for this mission,” McGinley said. “We will make sure that out fellow citizens and leaders hear the voice of the oppressed and victims in the conflict in Ireland and listen to us whenever anti-Catholic bigotry rears its head, here or in Ireland.”
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McGinley’s election is being viewed by observers as the precursor to stepped-up AOH involvement in domestic politics in the next few years. McGinley is a former chairman of the AOH Freedom for All Ireland Committee.
Pennsylvania, where the order has been heavily active in recruiting members, is also considered one of a handful of swing states in the context of the 2004 presidential race.
Additionally, delegates at Foxwoods decided to throw even more light on the order’s Pennsylvania activities by choosing Philadelphia as the site for the 2004 national convention.
The Foxwoods convention chose Jack Meehan of Brighton, Mass., as national vice president and Seamus Boyle, from Philadelphia, as national treasurer, the post that Meehan had occupied. Tom McNabb, from Auburn, N.Y., was reelected national secretary.
The convention, which was attended by roughly 1,200 AOH members (not all were voting delegates) was addressed by a number of guest speakers, including recently elected Sinn FTin TD Martin Ferris.
Ferris, fresh from a party fund-raiser in New York and a so-called “victory cruise” around Boston Harbor — during which the water was dyed green by a Boston fire department boat — told the gathering that the Irish people in general, and republicans in particular, owed a great debt to Irish Americans.
The convention was also addressed by Denis Haughey of the SDLP, Father Aidan Troy of the Holy Cross Monastery and Holy Cross girls school in North Belfast, and Jon Hallingsted, who recently published a collection of writings by the late Bishop Fulton Sheen.