By Irish Echo Staff
The death has taken place of Joe Roche, Pennsylvania native and former National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Mr. Roche was 84 and he died in Bel-Air, Maryland.
“We mourn the loss of our Past National President Joe Roche, said a statement on the AOH website.
“Joe was a dedicated Hibernian and held a variety of positions within the Order including National President (84-88). Joe was proud of his work as National Organizer, creating many new divisions across the U.S., including the first in Alaska. He spent much time before Congress, testifying on behalf of a variety of Irish causes, a tireless advocate for peace in the North. He was a recipient of the prestigious Sean MacBride Humanitarian Award,” the statement added.
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A separate statement from the Philadelphia-based American Brexit Committee noted that Roche, born in Lawrenceville, PA, had been twice elected National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, served as a President of the Irish American Unity Conference and President of the Council of Presidents of Irish American Organizations “in a time of heightened conflict in Ireland.”
Mike Cummings, Secretary of the American Brexit Committee, of which Roche was a member, said: “Joe was a natural leader whose decades of service to the nation’s oldest and largest Irish American organization saw him testifying before dozens of State legislatures and Congress in support of using the MacBride Fair Employment Principles laws to combat anti-Catholic bigotry and discrimination in Northern Ireland.”
“Joe’s quiet counsel was much sought after for many Hibernian initiatives including support of the lawsuit the AOH joined which challenged the U.S. ban on granting a visa to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams,” added former National AOH President Nick Murphy who launched the lawsuit.
Said former AOH National President Brendan Moore: “Joe was a tireless organizer of new Divisions including the first in Alaska and encouraged the Order to establish the Dr. Sean MacBride Humanitarian Award in recognition of the 1974 Irish Nobel Peace Laureate.”
Former National President Ned McGinley praised Roche for his pushing the AOH to increase support for the Green Cross/An Cuman Cabhrach Prisoners charity at a time when British Diplock Courts and internment were flooding British prisons with Catholics/Nationalists.
Seamus Boyle, also a former AOH National President and who worked with Roche on fundraising memorial projects like the restoration of the Great Hunger ship the Jeannie Johnston, the Commodore Barry Gate at Annapolis, and recognizing Irish Congressional Medal of Honor recipients at the Freedom Foundation Medal of Honor grove at Valley Forge, remembered Roche for his concern for many in Ireland, even in his final days.
“Although in declining health, Joe asked former national presidents from Pennsylvania Ned McGinley and myself to join him in an open Letter addressed to Pennsylvania Hibernians warning of the economic hardships and threats to peace Brexit could bring to Ireland,” said Boyle.