April 2021 - Message to Clans of Ireland Members from our new Cathaoirleach (Chairman)

A dhuine uisle,

I have been surprised and greatly honoured to have been again elected as Cathaoirleach (Chairman) of the Board of Clans of Ireland. My initial reaction is that I have been asked to lead a great team into what beckons as a bright future for the increasingly popular clan revival movement.

I would like to begin by congratulating my immediate predecessor, Nora Keohane-Hickey, on her guidance through the Pandemic. During this awful period, your Board has continued to meet and work virtually. I would also like to thank Dr Joe Mannion for his significant contribution during his terms as Chair and Vice-Chair.

I take this opportunity to publicly thank Dr. Michael Egan for his many years of dedication to Clans of Ireland and particularly his guidance of the Board during his term as Chairman. During his term, a link was established with our Gaelic brethren in Scotland when a Memorandum of Understanding was effected between the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs and Clans of Ireland, in which it was agreed that both would respect and promote the others’ objectives. Michael, with James O’Higgins Norman as Vice-Chair, was also inseparably linked with the promotion of the Order of Merit. While he was Chairman both our Patron, President Michael D Higgins and our former President, Mary McAleese were appointed as Companions of the Clans of Ireland Order of Merit.

Further links that have subsequently been developed include the descendants of the Wild Geese and The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains. Board Member, Michael O’Crowley, who lives in France, brought about the visit of a group of Wild Geese descendants in 2015. Subsequently, in 2018, Conor, The O’Brien, direct descendant of Brian Boru, endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding with Clans of Ireland, on behalf of The Standing Council of Irish Chiefs and Chieftains. The SCoICC have consequently been provided with a permanent seat on the Board of Clans of Ireland, ensuring that the voices of the hereditary chiefs will continue to be heard. It is as a result of both organisations’ objective to promote and encourage historical research that we agreed to jointly sponsor the annual Chiefs’ and Clans’ Essay Prize, which has been adjudicated on by a panel led by Dr. Katharine Simms of the History Department of Trinity College Dublin. An Anthology of the outstanding essays during the past three years is currently being edited by Dr Simms and recently elected Board Member and published historian, Luke McInerney. It will be published at the end of 2021 and will be available through Clans of Ireland or the publisher Wordwell Press. We will keep you informed prior to the publication.

I would particularly like to thank Michael O’Crowley and Cathaoir O Tighearnaigh for their sterling work relating to the preservation and enhancement of the highest standards for members, which I hope will continue, until the ethos of Clans of Ireland is more clearly expressed within our own and our individual Members’ websites and publicly available promotional material. I would like to reflect on the fact that Clans of Ireland is an association of Irish clans and historical families, including, not just noble and chiefly families, but also the far more numerous families that are associated in history with a particular geographic region. It is the fundamental virtue of being an Irish clan or historical family that is, in fact, the essential characteristic of being a member of Clans of Ireland. Irish heritage does not include artificial, alien, or inappropriate influences and their adoption or usage is disparate or in some cases antithetical to our culture.

It is just coming up to eighteen months since we lost perhaps our most endearing Member of the Board, Dan McGrath, Ceann Fine of the McGrath Clan of Thomond. His death has not simply been of enormous consequence to me personally, but to Clans of Ireland as a whole. He, with our Webmaster, Brendan Lynch, formed a wonderful team as they developed a media platform that brought our communication system into the Twenty-first Century era of technology. Together, they were the engine that drove our public relations, with Dan on the stage while Brendan operated the backstage mechanics. The baton of Public Relations has now passed to another McGrath, the newly elected Board Member, Seán Alexander McGrath, who represents the McGrath of Ulster Clan.

It is unlikely that you will not have received correspondence from Michael Dixon over the years since he, so ably, took on the task of corresponding with the numerous people, both Members and non-Members, who need direction relating to their clan affairs. I would like to express my profound gratitude to him for the serene quality of understanding that flows from his quill.

Over the past three years, Dr Vincent O’Carroll has been instrumental in developing an alternative source of revenue, Friends of Clans of Ireland. This provides individuals or associations who wish to support our work, by becoming a Benefactor, with an opportunity to receive an impressive certificate of recognition. The Roll of Benefactors includes Dr Gary O’Sullivan, Patron of the O’Sullivan of Munster Clan, the Fitzpatrick Clan and the O’Dea Clan.

You will undoubtedly share with me in thanking Maura O’Gara O’Riordan and Cathaoir O Tighearnaigh for their outstanding contributions to Clans of Ireland in their respective roles as Registrar and Honorary Company Secretary. They have both served uninterruptedly and unstintingly in two of the most demanding roles within the Board for, not years, but decades. They both have our deepest gratitude.

I realise that it may be somewhat late to publicly acknowledge the work that Cathaoir’s daughter Orlaith did while on the Board. During her term on the Board, which I hope has only been interrupted by a requirement to concentrate for her professional exams, she served as Hon. Treasurer. Her work, like her father’s, was always so professionally prepared and presented precisely without vacillation. I would like to echo my predecessor’s expression of thankfulness with the additional wish that Orlaith make her return to the Board once she has successfully completed her studies.

The position of Hon. Treasurer, that Orlaith served in so well, has recently been taken up by Mary Carmody, with whom you were introduced, with her husband Dan, at the Annual General Meeting. Dan has taken on responsibility as the Press Officer. I would like to wish Mary and Dan every success in their respective roles.

I am delighted to be able to announce an infusion of further new blood, bringing new ideas and vitality to the Board. Luke McInerney, who dleivered on of the key-note lectures at this year’s Cultural Summit, Seán Alexander McGrath, Shane O’Dea and Laurie Joyce have all joined the Board.

Shane O’Dea has finally, to my delight, agreed to join the Board. He has, for many years, been attending and participating at all Clans of Ireland summits and conferences, as one of the representatives of the active O’Dea Clan. The most recent appointment to the Board occurred at the A.G.M. when Laurie Joyce was elected. I have had the particular pleasure of being able to spend time in Laurie’s company during the 2019 Cultural Summit when he travelled from Australia, where he lives.

I would like to congratulate Éamon Lankford CIOM and Jerry McKenna CIOM who were appointed as the 2021 Companions of the Clans of Ireland Order of Merit for their outstanding contributions to Irish clan culture. It is unfortunate that there was no ceremony to mark the occasion, but perhaps, we will soon overcome this awful pandemic and arrange to formally present the recipients with their distinguished honours.

Finally, and arguably most importantly, I would like to acknowledge the honour bestowed on Clans of Ireland through the longstanding Patronage of President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.

I have previously made the point that membership of Clans of Ireland involves not only conforming to, but also understanding the core principles of the organisation and vibrantly participating in promoting them. I intend that we should continue with even greater emphasis our focus on our core ideology, which I would like to think, would reflect the wishes of the majority of Members. I would also like to promote a greater degree of engagement by Members through any channel, including social media platforms.  

Is mise le meas,

Gearóid Ó Ceallaigh