By Ray O'Hanlon
The Ancient Order of Hibernians has voted to maintain its present course with national president Seamus Boyle again at the helm.
Boyle, who is based in Philadelphia and was that city's St. Patrick's Day parade grand marshal earlier this year, ran unopposed for a second term and received broad based backing from Hibernian delegates who gathered in Cincinnati last week for the order's biennial convention.
Also decided at the four day gathering in the Ohio city were the venues for the next two biennial conventions. In 2012 the AOH and Ladies AOH will convene at the Turning Stone Resort in upstate New York, while in 2014 the convention will be held in St. Louis, Missouri
In Cincinnati, members voted in a new national board while the order's highest honor, its John F Kennedy medal, was presented to Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York.
Immigration issues were among many discussed during the convention which was attended by Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform leader Ciaran Staunton.
Also in attendance was Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, and Ireland's ambassador to the United States, Michael Collins.
In his address to the convention, McGuinness said that all at the gathering shared the same objectives of Irish reunification by peaceful and democratic means.
"We know that it is not enough to hold the aspiration. It is about what we do to make our objective real. I am proud that the AOH, LAOH and the bulk of Irish America has worked to make our shared objective of reunification a job under way," McGuinness said in his address.
"In all of the progress of recent years," he said, "we have been accompanied by the AOH, LAOH and our friends in Irish America. The recent release of the Saville Tribunal into Bloody Sunday demonstrates how far we have traveled together," he said.
In reference to Bloody Sunday, McGuinness continued: "The people of Derry and the North are grateful for the support of the AOH and LAOH who marched loyally with us in Derry For the past 38 years the AOH and LAOH have marched in support of the families.
"When others thought that it was pointless you persevered. I was delighted to be invited here, because the families and the people of Derry owe the AOH and LAOH a debt of honor. You stood with the people of Derry and we never forget our friends.
"Yet we cannot rest on our laurels if we are to achieve our objective of a unified Ireland. We support reunification because it is the right of the Irish people in the fullest sense to define our own destiny. We support reunification because it makes sense. It makes economic sense, it makes political sense and it is the way to heal the divisions in our society.
"We need to continually build support here and at home for peaceful democratic change. I thank the many legislative and other bodies across this great nation that have supported resolutions in favor of reunification," he told the hundreds of delegates attending the convention.
"It was a very successful convention, and very well run," said Cleveland's JC Sullivan, who acted as press liaison for the AOH during the four days.
PHOTO: Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness and Ireland's ambassador to Washington, Michael Collins, pictured at the AOH National Convention in Cincinnati.