Freedom For All Ireland

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Brothers,

It is that time of the year again to begin our campaign for the 2016-17 Annual Christmas Appeal. I am enclosing this year’s package which includes,

Last year matched the total dollar amount for the previous year which makes me believe that we are becoming routine with our donations and because of circumstances we really need to think of ways to up our donations.

The funding that the organizations in Ireland receive is being drastically cut, some initiatives by 100%. Without our help some of these organizations will close their doors. We can help keep those doors open.

Relatives for Justice and the Pat Finucane Centre, had to lay off some of their staff last year due to funding cuts from Northern Ireland and British governments; funding that was once promised in the Good Friday Agreement. Both organizations have a mountain of expenses as they fight in England and European Capitals for revealing the Truth and Injustice surrounding British Military collusion with loyalist paramilitary forces in the murders of mostly innocent Catholics in N Ireland. Every dollar we donate will help them, and us, win against State collusion. I ask that every Hibernian get behind the FFAI efforts to help us win in N. Ireland.

An Cumann, Cubrach Dublin, Cairde Strabane, Coiste na nlarchimi, Conway Mill Trust Belfast, National Graves of Ireland, Tar Anall Belfast – these organizations all provide a range of support to Republican ex-Prisoners and their families in Ireland. They believe that every human being is equal in dignity. Their goals promote an ethos of self-help, personal achievement and self-empowerment and support Republican Ex-Prisoners and their families in making their human rights a reality. The AOH in America wants to help them achieve those goals.

Holy Cross Ardoyne, Downpatrick Centre and both the Omagh Choir and Basketball Groups – these groups are embroiled in the difficult task of cross community projects bringing nationalist and loyalist together. Fr. Gary Donegan of the Holy Cross parish, has constant met with loyalist community leaders in the most difficult task of bringing them together in meetings with their nationalist neighbors. He hoped to bring an end to the constant clashes and riots especially around the Orange bonfire nights and 12th July parades, which go through the catholic areas in North Belfast’s Ardoyne.

After 15 years in the Holy Cross parish, Fr Gary has been transferred to Tobar Mhuire retreat in Crossgar, Co. Down. We wish him good luck in his new assignment. It is tremendously important that we support the work he has started and must continue.

The Downpatrick St. Patrick’s Centre, besides hosting visitor tours, provides a cross community Education Program all year around for school groups of all ages and adult community groups based on the life of St Patrick. The twin Omagh projects promoting a cross community school basketball league and a choir made up of kids of different religions, are doing stellar work that we support.

The Brexit Impact – what a fix the English government have gotten themselves into with their referendum to exit the European Union. They went into this vote thinking the voters would opt to stay in Europe. They never put together a plan for any “what ifs”. What if the voters say yes? What if Scotland and N. Ireland and Wales say No? Now they are scrambling to work out how to get out of Europe without dismantling the areas that make up Britain as they want it. Europe want England to act soon to begin the exit strategy with as little fuss as possible. Some Brits say it may take more than two years to complete the exit. We are praying that a United Ireland is on the horizon. If it happens we will see a backlash from the northern loyalists. Will Dublin want either of these possibilities? We will wait and see what evolves.

In conclusion, I am appealing to all Hibernians to continue to support the Christmas Appeal and or to begin to support the Appeal if your Division or membership has not done so in the past. These organizations included here are crucial to building and maintaining the Peace in the North of Ireland while building towards the “complete and absolute independence, promoting peace and unity for all Ireland” as called for in our esteemed AOH Constitution’s preamble. The funds raised for these groups continue to provide hands on evidence that the conflict and its ultimate resolution still commands great meaning, empathy and importance to the Irish American diaspora. We cannot underestimate what our giving means to the people on the ground in this still very fragile time there.

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Yours in Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity

Paul A. Gowdy

AOH National FFAI Chairman