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AIHS ousts its chairman, appoints new one

Brian McCabe


By Ray O’Hanlon

When leading figures in the American Irish Historical Society were shown the door in recent weeks the chairman of the society’s Executive Council, Brian McCabe, said he had no intention of resigning from what is effectively the society’s board of directors.

That position was made redundant Friday in every sense of the term.

McCabe was fired from his chairmanship.

This follows the recent dismissal of Sophie Colgan, the society’s Events and Marketing Coordinator.

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Prior to Colgan’s dismissal, the Director of Business and Development, David O’Sullivan, was shown the door and before that again, at the beginning of August, the President General of the AIHS, James S. Normile, was dismissed from his position atop the prestigious organization’s leadership board.

Normile, an attorney, had been President General of the society for two-and-a-half years. Normile’s exit followed requests by him for an investigation into the society’s finances.

The sidelining of McCabe would appear to round off a series of dismissals over the past few weeks that has resulted in the most significant shakeup in the society’s governance in years.

In a statement today, Maureen Bateman, now the society’s president general, addressed what the statement referred to as being “on the occasion of changes to society leadership.”

The statement said: “In recent weeks the AIHS has taken a number of steps to return the organization to its core mission of celebrating and bringing to life the Irish experience in America and the signal contributions of the Irish culture and Irish people and Irish-Americans around the world.

“Today the Executive Council of the AIHS continued that transformation with the appointment of John Harrington Interim Chairman of the American Irish Historical Society. The Executive Council extends its thanks and appreciation to outgoing Chairman Brian McCabe for his service to the Society. Mr. Harrington’s election as chair has immediate effect.”

The statement added that the Executive Council had also filled board positions “that had been left vacant with new and returning members.”

The statement continued: “The Council will continue to expand and strengthen the decades-long tradition of the deep cultural and historical work of the Society going forward. The AIHS is grateful to so many, both in the United States and Ireland, who have created such a world class institution and is committed to even greater accomplishments in the years ahead.”

The release from the society also carried a background profile of its new interim chairman.

It reads: “Dr. John P. Harrington, incoming Interim Chair Executive Council of the American Irish Historical Society, most recently served as Associate Vice President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Fordham University and also as Academic Dean of the new Fordham University London Centre. Previously he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at The Cooper Union and Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic University.

“He is the author of several books on modern Irish literature and theater including The Irish Beckett, The Irish Play on the New York Stage, The Life of the Neighborhood Playhouse on Grand Street, and the W. W. Norton widely-used anthology Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama.

“He is past President of the American Conference for Irish Studies. He has been a member of AIHS since 1979 and a member of its Executive Council since 2014. He is currently also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Mint Theater, a professional off-Broadway professional company in New York, and past Chairman of the Board of WMHT Educational Technology, the Capitol Region co-licensee public broadcasting station WMHT.”

When contacted by the Echo, Mr. McCabe, a former detective commander in the NYPD and author of the “Long Blue Line” column in the Echo, said: “I have been removed as chairman under questionable circumstances.

“I wasn’t fired, I was deposed. I was a pro bono employee doing it for the love of the community,” McCabe said of his chairmanship of the AIHS, which began in January, 2017.