#OTD in 1920 – The American Committee for Relief in Ireland is founded in New York to provide support for those affected by the War of Independence.

The American Committee for Relief in Ireland (ACRI) was formed through the initiative of Dr. William J. Maloney and others in 1920, with the intention of giving financial assistance to civilians in Ireland who had been injured or suffered severe financial hardship due to the ongoing Irish War of Independence. Apart from the ACRI, bodies such as the American Commission on Irish Independence and the American Commission on Conditions in Ireland raised money and attempted to influence US foreign policy in a manner sympathetic to the goal of Irish secession from the United Kingdom.

Following the burning of parts of Cork city on 11 December 1920 by elements of the British security forces known as the Black and Tans, approaches were made by the city’s Lord Mayor, Donal O’Callaghan to the American Red Cross for humanitarian assistance. The society, having taken advice from President Woodrow Wilson, the British embassy, the Foreign Office and the British Red Cross, declined at this time to act on his appeal. Numerous organisations and committees across the United States, operating independently in raising humanitarian aid money for Ireland realised that their funds would not be channelled through the U.S. Committee of the Red Cross and so another distribution channel was needed. Five days after the inferno at Cork, a widely publicised meeting took place at the Banker’s Club in New York. It was organised by William Maloney with the intention of establishing a single nationwide organisation. It would have as its goal, explicitly and solely for the purpose of humanitarian relief, the raising and distribution in Ireland of $10 million. The body which soon emerged styled itself ‘The American Committee for Relief in Ireland’. One of its founding members, Levi Hollingsworth Wood, approached a Dublin-based businessman and fellow Quaker, James Douglas, requesting his assistance in the local distribution of the funds on a non-partisan basis. In Ireland, Douglas spoke with Laurence O’Neill, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who in turn contacted senior members of Sinn Féin to inform them of the wishes of the American Committee. These meetings culminated in the establishment of the Irish White Cross, for the purpose of local distribution of the Committee’s funds.

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