While it was the occasion of his wedding anniversary, Editor-in-Chief of the Irish Echo newspaper Ray O’Hanlon stood without his wife at the podium to accept the Ancient Order of Hibernians Sean MacBride Humanitarian Award. The award was presented in Philadelphia at the annual president’s dinner presided over by AOH National President Seamus Boyle.
The award is named for Dr. Sean MacBride, the Irish statesman and Nobel Peace Prize winner whose name is attached to the MacBride Principles on Fair Employment for Northern Ireland. MacBride, who died in 1988, had a long and distinguished life. He fought for Irish independence, was at one point chief of staff of the IRA, later became an Irish government minister, and helped found a number of international organizations, including Amnesty International.
Ray O’Hanlon had been selected as the MacBride recipient based on balloting conducted among National Board members and State presidents of both the AOH and LAOH. The purpose of the prestigious Sean MacBride Humanitarian Award is specifically stated in the AOH National Constitution: “To memorialize the human rights contributions made by Nobel Peace Laureate Dr. Sean MacBride and to recognize the efforts of others who make similar contributions in the cause of peace, justice, and the economic well-being of the Irish people…” (Article XXVII).
Ray O’Hanlon has been a most significant force in reporting on the many generations of the Irish Diaspora in the United States, the experiences of the new Irish who have recently immigrated to America, and the ongoing challenges of transforming the North of Ireland.
Having immigrated to the United States in 1987 from his native Ireland, he immediately became recognized as a major voice of the Irish-American press. In 1988 Ray began working as a journalist at the Irish Echo and, coincidentally, was immediately assigned to work on the MacBride Principles campaign. As a direct result of his careful research, Ray quickly became a major promoter for the passage of MacBride legislation in many states. The MacBride Principles gave Irish-American advocates for the North, such as the AOH and LAOH, a solid opportunity to educate legislators regarding the real reasons for conflict in the Six Counties.
Ray became associate editor at the Irish Echo in 2007 and has since risen to the post of editor-in-chief. Over the course of his career in journalism, Ray has reported from three continents, has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows on both sides of the Atlantic, and has found the time to author a book on a subject dear to his heart, The New Irish Americans, which was published in 1998 and subsequently received the Washington Irving Book Award. Amazingly, on the very day that The New Irish Americans was published, May 1, 1998, Ray was sworn in as a United States citizen.
Ray’s writing has consistently reflected the ideals and cultural concerns of Hibernians, always assuring that both the AOH and LAOH have received proper recognition and that our viewpoint has been clearly and fairly represented in the Irish Echo. On more than one occasion O’Hanlon has described the Hibernians as, “The bricks and mortar of Irish America.”
O’Hanlon spoke of MacBride as a man who spoke “Truth” which is important to all of us in the Irish community. Speaking about the Irish-American media O’Hanlon pointed out that “we exist because our (Irish Americans) stories continue to be told. And he concluded by telling a well impressed audience that when it comes to the Irish-American community “The story is still not fulfilled.”