Browsed by
Author: Don Mullan

Susan G. Hackley, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School, Harvard University

Susan G. Hackley, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School, Harvard University

Susan G Hackley, PON, Harvard Law School, Harvard University

Don Mullan visited the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School in 2004 for a discussion on the film “Bloody Sunday” and the event of that day in 1972 in Derry, which he had witnessed as a schoolboy.

Don was extremely generous with his time, and our faculty and students learned a great deal from his personal accounts of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the subsequent investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday. His discussions about his book, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday, helped explain the roots of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and his personal quest for justice was an inspirational story of how one individual can make a difference.

Many of us felt that Don’s talks were highlights of the spring semester, and we would highly recommend him to others looking for a knowledgeable speaker on the Irish conflict and human rights.

We also encouraged Don to apply for the prestigious Nieman fellowship offered by Harvard University. The fellowships are awarded to working journalists of accomplishment and promise for an academic year of study in any part of the university.

We also encouraged Don to stay in touch with his future plans and any ways we can be of assistance. Indeed, we have been delighted to welcome Don back on other occasions.

 

A Gift of Roses

A Gift of Roses

On Easter Sunday 2001 the relics of St. Therese – a small casket containing a thighbone and foot bone – at the start of an eleven-week pilgrimage. Among those who turned out for the event was Don Mullan, a bestselling Irish author and media producer. Mullan had mixed feelings about the whole affair. Advanced publicity for the relic tour had promised the arrival of an anonymous “she” who would be bigger than U2 and draw larger crowds than Madonna. When the “she” turned out to be the bones of a nineteenth-century saint, Mullan and others wondered if the organisers had lost their minds. They were predicting that a million people might come out to see the reliquary as it made its way across the country.

As it turned out, the reliquary drew nearly three million people. And Mullan, who from childhood had a deep interest in St. Therese, was so impressed that he decided to do a book about those who came to pray before her earthly remains. The tour attracted devotees, of course, but also doubters and cynics, many of whom found themselves nevertheless strangely and profoundly moved. More than one hundred of them submitted their personal accounts and reflections. The resulting book, A Gift of Roses, disoriented Mullan’s previous readers. “I was gaining a reputation of a hard-nosed and impactful investigative journalist. Then I do a respectful book about a box of bones, and some saw me as losing my marbles,” he said.

What struck Mullan was not only the size of the crowds who came to see the relics but also the atmosphere of prayerful reverence. There was no triumphalism about this relic tour, he explained, no “bishop bandwagons” to proclaim victory over secularism – only thousands of people, whether the elderly, middle-aged couples, teenagers or young children, lining up to pay their quiet respect. They would wait for hours, often in pouring rain or cold wind, in order to stand in front of Therese’s reliquary for a few seconds. For many of them, St. Therese was a figure planted in their spiritual memory by their mothers.

From ‘The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions, and miracles in the Modern Age’, by John Thavis (New York Times bestselling author of ‘The Vatican Diaries’); Viking, New York, 2015.

Ireland – USA: Race Amity Project

Ireland – USA: Race Amity Project

Don Mullan is the co-founder of the Frederick Douglass Ireland Project.

In 2015 Mullan, along with Professor Christine Kinealy, was interviewed by Dr. William (Smitty) Smith for a US public television series: An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition.

Dr. William ‘Smitty’ Smith

Dr Smith had learned of Mullan’s work to highlight the connection between Frederick Douglass – the man whom many African Americans consider the father of the US Civil Rights Movement – and the ‘Irish Liberator’, Daniel O’Connell.

Mullan had first come across Frederick Douglass while developing the Great ‘Famine’ Project (1984-1996) and included reference to Douglass’s 1845 visit to Ireland in his presentation: ‘Ireland: 5000 Year in 20 Minutes’ which he co-produced with artist Robert Ballagh in 1996.

Following the publication of his memoir ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – an American Slave’ in 1845, Douglass was encouraged by the abolitionist movement to leave the USA for his safety. He travelled to Ireland and Britain for two years, during which he promoted his book and the cause of ending slavery in America.

Douglass was aware of Daniel O’Connell and had the opportunity to encounter him on one occasion in 1845 at Conciliation Hall, Dublin. While the encounter was cordial and O’Connell invited Douglass to address the crowd, there is no evidence that both men ever met again. However, the encounter was to considerably alter the trajectory of Douglass’s future commitment.

In 2011, in advance of the visit to Ireland of the USA’s first African-American President, Barack Obama, Mullan re-published the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – an American Slave to mark the historic occasion, in both softback and as a limited edition hardback. The foreword to this edition was written by the President of Ireland, Her Excellency, Mary McAleese, with an epilogue by the Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide, Tom Arnold.

Mullan’s introduction charts key correspondence between Douglass and the head of the American Abolitionist Movement, William Lloyd Garrison, following his encounter with O’Connell. Mullan demonstrates how Douglass’s thinking was influenced by O’Connell’s address that fateful evening. Mullan argues that the greatest gift Ireland gave to Douglass wasn’t simply welcoming him as an equal human being, but the fact that having arrived as a single issue campaigner, Douglass departed a determined internationalist. For the rest of his life, Douglass fought, not just for the ending of slavery in America, but, like O’Connell and Ireland, for the oppressed worldwide.

Race Amity Medal of Honor Recipients 2015. Dr William ‘Smitty’ Smith, is far left.

Mullan’s 2011 edition of the Douglass Narrative was awarded a 2012 Nautilus Book Awards Silver Medal. Mullan’s introduction to the edition may be accessed by clicking here.

On 13 June 2015, the National Centre for Race Amity and the Museum of African American History, Boston, invited Don Mullan to give a lecture entitled: “Following the North Star: the impact of Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell on Liberation”. The lecture was delivered from a podium from where Frederick Douglass had also address a Bostonian gathering during his lifetime. It was, for Mullan, a singular honor. Later in 2015, in recognition of his work in combatting racism throughout the world, the National Centre for Race Amity awarded Mullan the Race Amity Medal of Honor, the first non-American to receive the Award. At the award ceremony in Boston, Irish Historian, Dr Christine Kinealy, was asked to present Mullan to the predominantly African-American audience.

Two Men Meet Project

Dr. Smith and the National Center for Race Amity later invited Mullan and Hope Initiatives International to partner in an ambitious project with the working title: ‘Two Men Meet Project’. It is a multi-disciplined race amity project inspired also by the unique relationship between Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell. The Two Men Meet Project aims, in four key areas, to build on the transformative hope with which a young Frederick Douglass left Ireland in 1846, greatly inspired by Daniel O’Connell. The Project aims to:

  1. Renew the fight for Civil and Human Rights at a time of growing neo-nationalism;
  2. Emphasize our common humanity through stories of race amity and ‘The Other Tradition’, especially through the story of the O’Connell and Douglass encounter in Ireland;
  3. To make the future wellbeing and recovery of Haiti a special cause, in keeping with Frederick Douglass’s love and respect for the Haitian people, in particular, the founder of the 1st Black Republic, Toussaint Louverture.
  4. To gather the elements of the project around a major piece of public art, entitled ‘Two Men Meet’, depicting the encounter of Frederick Douglass with Daniel O’Connell in Dublin in 1845, for the cities of Boston and Dublin. When accomplished, the monument will, simultaneously, be the first monument depicting Frederick Douglass in Europe, and Daniel O’Connell in the Americas.

 

The Narrative of Frederick Douglass – An American Slave

The Narrative of Frederick Douglass – An American Slave

In 2011, in advance of the visit to Ireland of the USA’s first African-American President, Barack Obama, Don Mullan re-published the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – an American Slave to mark the historic occasion, in both softback and as a limited edition hardback.

The foreword to this edition was written by the President of Ireland, Her Excellency, Mary McAleese, with an epilogue by the Chief Executive of Concern Worldwide, Tom Arnold.

Mullan’s introduction charts key correspondence between Douglass and the head of the American Abolitionist Movement, William Lloyd Garrison, following his encounter with O’Connell one evening in September 1845.

Mullan demonstrates how Douglass’s thinking was influenced by O’Connell’s address that fateful evening. He argues that the greatest gift Ireland gave to Douglass wasn’t simply welcoming him as an equal human being, but the fact that having arrived as a single issue campaigner, Douglass departed a determined internationalist. For the rest of his life, Douglass fought, not just for the ending of slavery in America, but, like O’Connell and Ireland, for the oppressed worldwide.

Mullan’s 2011 edition of the Douglass Narrative was awarded a 2012 Nautilus Book Awards Silver Medal.

Mullan’s introduction to the edition may be accessed by clicking here.

Contacted

Contacted

This intriguing book explores the question of whether there is life after death, not through scientific or academic methodology, but by allowing people from around Ireland and the world to tell their stories of having been contacted by the living dead.

Such first-hand accounts are both compelling to those who already believe and challenging to those who are sceptics.

Contacted does not set out to prove or to proselytize. Each story is presented on its own, without commentary, thus allowing readers to make up their own minds. Such an approach gives breathing space to the reader who might wish to sit and reflect on a particular story.

1984: Wedding Day – AFrI HQ burned down

1984: Wedding Day – AFrI HQ burned down

On 6 October 1984, Don Mullan and Margaret Beatty were married. As well as families and friends, all of Mullan’s AFrI colleagues and Executive Committee attended, as did the AFrI special adviser, Sean MacBride SC. Many AFrI supporters also attended, including the Derry boys who had inspired the St. Brigid’s Peace Cross Campaign. AFrI’s patron, Fr Robert Nash SJ, officiated, assisted by, amongst others, Fr. Niall O’Brien. Mullan’s AFrI colleague, Joe Murray, was groomsman.

On the evening of their wedding AFrI’s headquarter’s, The Third World Centre, Summerhill, Dublin, was attacked and set on fire. It was the third attack in as many months, but on this occasion it was to end AFrI’s very positive engagement with the local Summerhill and Sean MacDermott Street community. The newly weds spent the afternoon of their first day of marriage sifting through the rubble of AFrI before leaving on their honeymoon around Ireland.

Irish Independent, Monday 8 October 1984

AFrI moved temporarily to nearby Buckingham Street where they were welcomed by the Prisoners Rights Organisation (PRO). Following discussions with Mullan and his colleagues, the PRO made discreet enquiries locally to determine whether the attack had been carried out locally or by outsiders. Originally, when AFrI suffered its first attack, its premises had been ransacked in a manner that could have been the work of petty thieves from the locality looking to see if money was kept on the premises. They got nothing. The second attack and finally third attack in which its premises were set on fire, showed a degree of intent and intimidation that seemed beyond the motivation of petty thieves. Furthermore, Mullan and his colleagues had developed a very good relationship with the local community, the highlights of which were the 1982 international conference on world peace and poverty; the stop-off by Fr Niall O’Brien upon his return to Ireland following his imprisonment in the Philippines; and the visit by Bishop Desmond Tutu in the summer of 1984.

Karen Gearon, Dunne’s Stores Striker, with AFrI Special Adviser, Sean MacBride SC

AFrI suspicions that the attack may have been my outsiders was heightened by the opinion of the organization’s Special Adviser, Sean MacBride SC. All three attacks happened in the aftermath of the visit to Ireland by Bishop Desmond Tutu, hosted by AFrI, during which he again called for economic sanctions against the apartheid regime. And, more recently, Mullan had persuaded Tutu to publicly declare his support for the Dunne’s Stores Strikers.

MacBride was of the opinion that the attacks may have been politically motivated by agents of the apartheid state whom, he said, were active throughout the world; and who were tasked with disrupting the work of groups and organizations who were running effective campaigns against the regime.

Irish Independent Report, 8 October 1984

Following their investigations, the Prisoners Rights Organisation informed AFrI that their contacts in the locality had reported back to them that locals had not been involved in the attack.

Those responsible were never identified.

Within a couple of months of the destruction of their premises, AFrI moved to premises on Mountjoy Square, Dublin. A major part of AFrI’s spirit – its relationship with the Sean MacDermott Street community – was lost.

The move, however, was to have a silver lining for Mullan. A floor above the new AFrI offices in Mountjoy Square housed the premises of Wolfhound Press, one of Ireland’s leading publishers, founded by Irish poet Seamus Cashman. Occasionally Mullan and Cashman met on the stairwell leading to their respective offices. The two men became friends, a friendship which remains strong to this day.

Poet and Publisher, Seamus Cashman

In 1996, when Mullan was working on Bloody Sunday, it was to Seamus Cashman and the Wolfhound Press he turned. Their partnership was to play a significant role in changing the course of history.

 

1985 – 1987: Fr Rudy Romano and the movie ‘Missing’

1985 – 1987: Fr Rudy Romano and the movie ‘Missing’

Campaigning for Fr Rudy and the disappeared

‘As a family, we were lucky to learn that Charles was dead. The torture of not knowing is the cruelest of all.’

  • – Joyce Horman

Fr Rudy Romano was a Filipino Redemptorist priest associated with the Irish province. He was committed to the work of social justice and joined the popular movement for political and economic change. On 11 July 1985 he disappeared and has not been seen since, presumed murdered by a pro-Marcos death squad. Amongst the campaigns Mullan spearheaded in AFrI was the sending of 1000 postcards to the head of the Filipino military who later complained about them to the head of the Redemptorist Fathers in the Philippines, and asked that the people of Ireland stop sending them. That news was a confirmation that we were on the right track and we intensified our efforts.

AFrI also funded a documentary film about the disappearance of Fr. Romano and the inconsistencies in the Filipino

Fr. Rudy Romano

State’s denials about his whereabouts. The documentary was featured on RTE’s main television news on the night it was publicly screened at Trinity College, Dublin, on 26 April 1987, the same day Mullan’s first child, Thérèse, was born.

To help highlight the campaign, Mullan and his AFrI colleagues organized a special screening of the 1982 Costa Gavras movie ‘Missing’, about the disappearance and murder of Harvard graduate, Charles Horman, following the US-backed overthrow of the Chilean President, Salvador Allende in 1973. Charles’ young widow, Joyce (played by Sissy Spacek), and his father and mother, Ed (played by Jack Lemmon) and Elizabeth, came for the screening at the Savoy Cinema, Dublin, and stayed with the Mullan family in their modest home in Clondalkin, Dublin.

Joyce Horman, left, and Terry Simon, right, who both feature in the movie ‘Missing’; during a reunion with the Mullans, New York, 2007

At the end of the screening Joyce addressed the packed cinema stating: ‘As a family, we were lucky to learn that Charles was dead. The torture of not knowing is the cruelest of all.’

The Mullan family on a visit to the home of Elizabeth and Joyce Horman, Manhattan, NY, in 1988.

Elizabeth Horman, a distinguished New York artist, returned to her home in Manhattan where she completed two paintings reflecting on her visit to Ireland. One, of children playing on a swing at a tree close to Mullan’s home; and the other portraying a young Don Mullan in a field, seeking a lost sheep. She told Mullan that it was how she thought of him.

Detail of Elizabeth Horman’s painting, depicting Don Mullan

Following the death of Ed Horman in 1991, Elizabeth presented the painting of the children to Don on a visit to New York later that year. She told him that it was Ed’s favorite painting and it hung on the wall of his nursing home room until he died. Elizabeth Horman passed away on May 10, 2001, aged 96.

The Mullan family and Joyce Horman remain good friends.

 

Scamming the Scammers

Scamming the Scammers

How many emails have you deleted recently offering you inherited millions from a mystery relative, or the uncollected winnings from an unheard of lottery? Rather than press delete, Don Mullan decided to take the Scammers on at their own game…

As a result, welcome to the fantasy world of the saintly Nod and Catherine Nallum and their associates, Bart Ahern, Biggles and Fr Jonathan Ross; of Pastor Patricio, Supreme Head of the Church of Serendipity and his Parisian friends, and of the 3rd Marquess of Miserly-Scholes of Stoke-on-Trent and his PA/lover, Lady Sarah Macbeth…

As well as highlighting a very serious issue a recent study showed one million residents in the UK have been defrauded by internet scams, Don Mullan begins his quest to scam the scammers, with very memorable results.

Radio broadcaster, Claire Crofton, made a programme for BBC Radio 4 in October 2015. Crofton’s programme featured on BBC Radio 4’s Pick of the Week!

You may listen to the broadcast, including extracts from the book and an interview with Don Mullan, by clicking here.

1988 – 93: The Annual Doolough Famine Walk

1988 – 93: The Annual Doolough Famine Walk

The 1988 Doolough Famine Walk was the first major initiative undertaken by Don Mullan for AFrI in the lead-up to the 150th anniversary of Ireland’s Great Famine.

The Doolough Valley, Co. Mayo

Mullan was not interested in history for the sake of history, nor was he interested in harnessing the memory of the Great ‘Famine’ as an anti-British bludgeoning weapon – though he was never shy of naming British colonial culpability. Rather, his focus was on the contemporary world. He argued that if the Irish, at home and abroad, believed that the Great ‘Famine’ was a seminal injustice, then we had a moral imperative to harness that memory in support of people struggling with the injustice of poverty and hunger today in a world of plenty.

Mullan was particularly taken by the story of the Doolough Tragedy which he first came across in 1987 in a book by Áine Ní Cheanainn, The Heritage of Mayo (first edition 1982). In her book Ní Cheanainn had a chapter about the impact of the Great Famine on her native County Mayo, and finished with a story headed ‘The Doolough Tragedy’.

Mullan first read the story in bed one night and was so taken by it that  the following day he read it to the AFrI staff.

Within a week, accompanied with his colleague Joe Murray, Mullan travelled to Mayo to explore the terrain. He recalls the impact of that journey as follows:

“I will never forget the feelings I had when, traveling south from the town of Louisburg, the Doolough Valley opened before us. We parked the car and went walking through the commonage. While a somber and tragic place, it is still one of the most beautiful and evocative valleys in Ireland, if not Europe. The long dark lake stretched for over a mile and a half towards a far shore, surrounded by the Mweelrea Mountains on either side, with Croagh Patrick to the east and the endless horizon of the North Atlantic Ocean hidden to the west. At that moment the possibility of re-creating the Doolough Walk, undertaken by 600 starving poor in March 1849, was born.”

The power of Mullan’s idea is illustrated by the fact that the Doolough Walk has been organized annually since 1988, apart from a couple of years, after his departure from AFrI in 1994, when it was dropped. However, popular demand encouraged AFrI to bring it back. While Mullan has nothing to do with the annual walk anymore, professionally it remains one of his most satisfying creations, allowing historical memory to act as a powerful catalyst in highlighting the plight of the world’s poor and dispossessed today.

The 1st Great Famine Walk in 1988

Logistically the walk is challenging to organize and required, and still does, the cooperation of the local Louisburgh community who work closely with AFrI.

The first walk was addressed by Fr Niall O’Brien, for whose freedom AFrI had campaigned in 1984. O’Brien’s speech eloquently linked the suffering of Ireland’s 19th Century dispossessed with the on-going suffering of the dispossessed of the Philippines and the majority world in the late 20th Century.

The power of the Doolough Walk should not be underestimated. For the first three years of the walk, Mullan was successful in attracting not just Irish television coverage, but also the three big US networks: NBC, CBS and ABC. For three years in a row, each of the broadcasters respectively carried a story about the Great ‘Famine’ coast to coast across the USA. There is little doubt that many of the subsequent Great ‘Famine’ initiatives that sprung up in the USA amongst Irish-American communities found their seed in those broadcasts.

Don Mullan addresses participants at the 1st Doolough Famine Walk in 1988

From a media perspective, the most successful Doolough Walk was in 1990, when AFrI invited representatives of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to lead the walk. The invitation was due to the fact that their forebears sent US$170 in famine relief to Ireland in 1847.

In addition to RTE and the American network, ABC, Mullan also attracted the interest of Worldwide Television News who went on to broadcast a news piece on the walk in 56 countries worldwide. The coverage clearly demonstrated that AFrI, while small, could impact globally.

Amongst many high profile leaders of the Doolough Walk was the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah. At a press conference prior to the walk, he was asked why he had travelled from South Africa to such a remote part of the western world. With characteristic wit and humour he looked at the journalist asking the question and responded: “Why Bethlehem?”

 

1989: The Choctaw-Ireland Great Famine Connection

1989: The Choctaw-Ireland Great Famine Connection

Famine Walk 1994, lead by, amongst other, Gabriel Byrne, John Pilger and Waylon Gary White Deer.

Choctaw/Ireland Connection: During a lecture in upstate New York, Mullan learned of a little known story of a donation of $170 by the Choctaw Nation to Ireland in 1847, all the more remarkable considering they had suffered their ‘Trail of Tears’ removal from Mississippi to Oklahoma beginning in 1831. This story was important as it demonstrated the humanity of indigenous people, often characterized as ‘uncivilized’ by European colonizers who were responsible for their suffering, oppression and in some instances, their genocide.

In 1989 Mullan was the first Irish person to travel to Oklahoma, accompanied by his father-in-law, Dermot Beatty, to thank the Choctaw for their humanity and invited the First Nation to lead the annual AFrI Famine walk in 1990.

The Choctaw’s participation in the AFrI walk in 1990 was broadcast in over 50 countries by Worldwide Television News (WTN). WTN, now part of the Associated Press, has the story listed in their archive, but it has not yet been digitised. Mullan was made an honorary Chief of the Choctaw Nation at the start of the walk, an honour he shares with former Irish President, Mary Robinson.

President Robinson followed Mullan’s lead in 1995, travelling to Oklahoma to thank the Choctaw for their humanity.

The Doolough Famine Walk has since been joined on several occasions by the distinguished Choctaw artist and author, Waylon Gary White Deer.

Initiatives which the Choctaw/Ireland connection inspired are, amongst others:

  1. A commemorative plaque in Dublin’s Mansion House;
  2. A National Geographic and Turner Broadcasting documentary, ‘When Ireland Starved’ (1994), presented by Irish actor, Gabriel Byrne and featuring Waylon Gary White Deer, Professor Christine Kinealy and Don Mullan;
  3. Professor Christine Kinealy’s book, “Charity and the Great Hunger in Ireland – The Kindness of Strangers,” highlighting global generosity during the Great Famine;
  4. The commissioning by the Irish State in 1997 of Choctaw artist, Waylon Gary White Deer, to produce a painting for the 150th anniversary, commemorating the Choctaw gesture. White Deer donated his $20,000 fee to Concern Worldwide;
  5. A monument in Middleton, Co. Cork, unveiled by a Choctaw delegation in June 2017;
  6. The connection has also inspired several poems, songs, artwork and radio and television documentaries. The most recent documentary was by RTE’s Nationwide on 7 March 2018.
  7. The Long March, a children’s illustrated book by the award-winning artist author,  Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
UNESCO: Professors Mark Brennan and Patrick Dolan

UNESCO: Professors Mark Brennan and Patrick Dolan

Don Mullan’s work on variety of levels has been remarkable and significant. Perhaps best known as an investigative journalist and documenter of history, he laid out in explicit detail the tragedy of Northern Ireland’s Bloody Sunday in Eyewitness Bloody Sunday. But far from a simple book, his work formed the basis for a nonpartisan acknowledgement by all sides of the conflict, of the wrongs done. The critical investigation of his book helped make all aware of the reality of events and served as a critical reference piece for politicians, judges, and tribunals who sought to understand what happened on that fateful day. His work was fundamental to the eventual establishment of rulings bringing justice and restoring honor to the families and victims. We all dream that our work could have such impacts. Don’s work did just this.

Professor Patrick Dolan
Professor Mark Brennan

Most people would be content with such an accomplishment, but that has certainly not been the case for Don. Despite its massive impact, Eyewitness Bloody Sunday is only a small part of Don Mullan’s contribution to human rights and social justice. From detailed studies of the Troubles in Ireland, to the documenting the impacts of former American slave Frederick Douglas in fighting for freedom globally, to his personal growth through cross-cultural dialogue via sport and interaction with the legendary Gordon Banks and Pelé, Don has continued to rigorously highlight not only the differences that have divided us, but far, far more importantly, the common aspects of humanity that unite us.

In closing, we have found Don to be not just a gifted investigative journalist, writer and commentator. On many occasions, we have witnessed him interact with everyone from famous celebrities to primary school children. In all settings, we have always found him to consistently speak from the heart (without prepared notes of PowerPoint presentations no less!) and demand that we all dedicate ourselves to peace, reconciliation, personal growth, and the advancement of the human condition. We’ve no doubt that his future involvement with all groups and organizations will continue this quest and result in high levels of success, and most importantly substantial social change for justice and equality.

Professor Mark Brennan, Penn State University and

Professor Patrick Dolan, National University of Ireland (Galway)

UNESCO Chairs for Community, Youth, and Leadership Development

Waylon Gary White Deer – Distinguished Choctaw Nation Artist, Author and Lecturer

Waylon Gary White Deer – Distinguished Choctaw Nation Artist, Author and Lecturer

Waylon Gary White Deer

Three decades ago, Don Mullan saw a spark within an obscure story. In 1847, Choctaw Indians donated monies to the victims of the Famine in Ireland. They had just survived a similar holocaust. Don was director of (AFrI) Action from Ireland, and he made sure that the small story made the rounds; interviews, lectures and media coverage. The story grew. Today that small story, of one poor and dispossessed people reaching out to another, has traveled the world.

The story also speaks to a greater, more compassionate common humanity; our better angels. Because that’s what Don does. He illuminates our shared sense of self, so that all may see. His genius is to discern true spirit and understanding in common places so often overlooked, in order to bring people together in common cause and within a common humanity. We have always been better for it.

Don’s rare gift of seeing and then unleasing the brightest potential in all of us has blossomed into government social justice investigations, the Frederick Douglass Initiative, the Christmas Truce Project, hope and reconciliation in Ireland, film and television documentaries, acclaimed literature, and ongoing inspiration for thousands worldwide, through ways almost too numerous to mention. He was the first to travel to the Choctaw Nation to thank my people for their 1847 gift to Famine Ireland. And Don’s influence is the reason I’m now living in Ireland.

Hope Initiatives International is the inevitable result of Don’s lifelong service to others, a full and beautiful devotion to true humanitarian and social justice causes. For we need hope now, more than ever in a world so often given over to darkness. Don is a sincere and gifted light bringer, and I can’t wait to see the glow; the many shining, lasting differences that Hope Initiatiatives International will accomplish.

Waylon Gary White Deer

1990: Famine Graves and Markers

1990: Famine Graves and Markers

Jose Carneiro, Brazil, visits the mass Famine grave, Swinford, Co. Mayo, marked by AFrI.

Mullan began to question the whereabouts of Ireland’s Famine dead. He discovered that there were, literally, hundreds of unmarked mass graves peppered throughout the island, containing the sacred remains of Ireland’s poorest and most vulnerable people. He sought to bring about a consciousness that would lead to their marking and respectful restoration. AFrI lead the way by initiating a number of monuments and memorials throughout the country. It is a process that continues.

AFrI Famine marker on the road to Doolough, Co. Mayo
1993: White Paper presented to Irish Government

1993: White Paper presented to Irish Government

“In 1993 representatives from AFrI met with Fianna Fail Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Tom Kitt, and offered recommendations for an official commemorative programme based on a five-point agenda: the similarity of the eventual plan adopted by the government to AFrI’s proposals leave no doubt as to its central influence on the eventual shape of the commemorations. Indeed, it was during AFrI’s seventh annual Famine walk in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, that Minister Kitt officially announced the establishment of the government’s National Famine Commemoration committee in May 1994, to be lead under his direction.”

Emily Mark-Fitzgerald

“Commemorating The Irish Famine – Memory and the Monument” (Liverpool University Press 2013)

National Famine Memorial, Murrisk, Co. Mayo

In early 1993 Don Mullan saw a letter published in both the Irish Times and the Irish-American newspaper, the Irish Voice, criticising the Irish Government for doing nothing to commemorate the approaching 150th anniversary of the Great Irish Famine. He considered the criticism unfair as most politicians find it hard to think beyond their four year term. Consequently, he initiated a White Paper on behalf of AFrI which was presented to the Minister for State at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Tom Kitt.

Minister Kitt acknowledged that the AFrI paper was the first presented by any organisation in Ireland or the Irish

The Jeanie Johnston crossing the Atlantic Ocean

world to the Government with concrete proposals concerning the anniversary. The White Paper included suggestions for a national memorial in Co. Mayo, an Atlantic crossing to commemorate those who perished as political and economic refugees; and linking an increase in Official Development Assistance to the 150th anniversary. The AFrI proposals were, variously, implemented.

Furthermore, the paper led to the then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, instructing Minister Kitt to establish an inter-departmental committee to plan for the 150th anniversary. The influence of this committee is still ongoing and eventually led to the establishment of an official Great Famine Commemoration Day in 2009.

In her book, “Commemorating The Irish Famine – Memory and the Monument” (Liverpool University Press 2013), Irish academic, Emily Mark-Fitzgerald, wrote: “In 1993 representatives from AFrI met with Fianna Fail Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Tom Kitt, and offered recommendations for an official commemorative programme based on a five-point agenda: the similarity of the eventual plan adopted by the government to AFrI’s proposals leave no doubt as to its central influence on the eventual shape of the commemorations. Indeed, it was during AFrI’s seventh annual Famine walk in Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, that Minister Kitt officially announced the establishment of the government’s National Famine Commemoration committee in May 1994, to be lead under his direction. “

1993-1994: The Grosse Ile Campaign, Canada

1993-1994: The Grosse Ile Campaign, Canada

Grosse Ile, Quebec. Each grave represents, not a single burial, but a mass grave of Irish immigrants who made it to America and expired.

Grosse Ile Campaign: Grosse Ile, a 19th Century quarantine Island on the St Lawrence Estuary, some 30 miles upstream from Quebec City, is the site of mass graves containing the remains of thousands of Irish immigrants who reached the shores of North America but who, due to disease and exhaustion, expired on the island.

In May 1993, Mullan was asked by Action Grosse Ile to assist in their campaign to ensure the island was preserved by Parks Canada as a sacred historic site of particular historic interest to Ireland and the Canadian-Irish community. Mullan addressed a public hearing in Montreal at which he told the assembled panel and public that he had come specifically “to ensure that the sanctity of Grosse Ile, as a place of profound Irish significance is protected and preserved. Outside of Ireland, Grosse Ile is recognised by us as the most important and evocative Great Famine site on earth.”.

Historian, Marianna O’Gallagher, speaks with President Robinson, during her visit to Grosse Ile in 1994.

In August 1994, by then working with Concern Worldwide, Mullan was invited to lead a walk from Quebec to Grosse Ile to coincide with a visit by President Mary Robinson to the Island.