Tributes paid to Brigadier General James Cullen

Posted By: December 12, 2017


The Irish Echo



NEWS & VIEWS  /  December 11, 2017  /  By Ray O’Hanlon


Jim Cullen



Jim Cullen’s passing has prompted tributes on both sides of the Atlantic. Photo by Simon Carswell, Irish Time


Tributes on both sides of the Atlantic are being paid today to General James P. Cullen, the President of Friends of Sinn Féin USA and a human rights advocate who forged two distinguished careers in his lifetime: one in the United States Army, the other as a leading civil attorney.

Brigadier General Cullen, who served in the U.S. Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, died at his home at the weekend following an illness.

The National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Judge James F. McKay, said in a statement that it was with deep sadness that the AOH had learned of General Cullen’s passing.

“His passing is a loss to both America and Ireland,” said Judge McKay.

Judge McKay continued: “The story of General Cullen is in miniature the story of Irish America.  He severed his country honorably in the United States Army.

“Starting from the rank of private soldier, by his diligence he attained the rank of Brigadier General, serving in the prestigious Judge Advocate General’s Corp as Chief Judge of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

“Simultaneously, General Cullen never forgot his Irish origins tracing back to County Offaly.   General Cullen was a constant American voice for freedom and justice for those whose voice was suppressed in Northern Ireland.

“As past President of the Brehon Law Society and President of Friends of Sinn Féin, he was to the end a powerful advocate for a lasting peace built on justice and respect in Ireland.

“Those who met General Cullen will remember an imposing and dignified military bearing which gave way in an instant with his warm smile.

“Like the mythical Irish Fianna, he was a constant warrior in the most noble of causes: justice for his fellow man.

“Legend records that the motto of the Fianna was Beart de réir ár mbriathar (Action to match our speech).  General Cullen was the personification of that motto, and his memory is a challenge to all of us to continue his work.

“Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.  May he rest in peace.”

In Ireland, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams also paid warm tribute.

“We learn with great regret that Jim Cullen, President of Friends of Sinn Féin in America has passed away. Jim was a distinguished human rights lawyer and a former General in the United States Army having been drafted as a young man,” said Adams.

“He was born in New York, but his heart was in Offaly, where his mother came from and that bond remained until his death.

“Jim Cullen defended many Irish republicans in landmark cases in America. He was the first President of the Brehon Law Society formed by Paul O’Dwyer.

“He became the President of Friends of Sinn Féin in 2012, carrying on the work of support for Sinn Féin and the cause of Irish reunification. Jim is a great loss to his partner Catherine and his family.

“He has made a huge contribution to the promotion of human and civil rights in America, Ireland and indeed around the world. He will be sadly missed and mourned by his many friends in America and Ireland.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.”

The Irish American Unity Conference, in a statement, said it mourned the death of a great advocate of Irish freedom, peace, and justice.

Said the statement: “Jim was a partner in the law firm Anderson Kill and was a former Chief Judge of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

“He was Past President of the Brehon Law Society and served as Sinn Féin’s legal representative in the United States and President of Friends of Sinn Fein.  It is fitting that his passing as a boundless champion of human rights coincides with International Human Rights Day, December 10.

“Jim was a friend to all who knew him and a mentor to many in the Irish American and broader human rights communities.

“He was a powerful and effective advocate before Congress and other branches of the United States government.

“Among his many endeavors, Jim provided compelling testimony to a 2013 Congressional hearing investigating the murder of Human Rights Attorney Pat Finucane, pointedly asking how high up collusion in the British government went in covering up numerous murders.

“Jim Cullen was a righteous man of rare integrity who worked ceaselessly to make the world a better place for all.  He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. His legacy will continue to inspire the IAUC and others as we carry on his work.”

Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus said: “I am deeply sorry to hear of the death of Jim Cullen. May God rest his noble Irish soul.

“Jim was a good American and a good Irishman. He was a generous and steadfast supporter of the Irish National Caucus. He is a great loss to the struggle for equality, justice, and freedom in Ireland.”

Attorney Mike Carroll, of the law firm O’Dwyer and Bernstein, said that Cullen’s passing was a great loss for the Irish American community.

“His military title prevented opponents from characterizing the republican struggle as a fringe movement,” Carroll noted.

General Cullen’s activism and advocacy in an Irish context were rooted in his own observations on a visit to Northern Ireland in the early days of the Troubles.

He told the Irish Times in an interview that the manner in which Catholics were treated by the RUC had reminded him of the treatment of African Americans he had witnessed when based in America’s South in the early days of his military service.

General Cullen’s advocacy also extended to the military in which he had served.

In 2004, Cullen and seven other retired officers wrote an open letter to President George W Bush expressing their concern over the number of allegations of abuse of prisoners in U.S. military custody.

General Cullen, according to an online profile, was of counsel in the New York office of Anderson Kill.

“Mr. Cullen has practiced in the real estate and construction law fields for over 40 years. Prior to joining Anderson Kill, Mr. Cullen headed the construction and real estate department for Deforest & Duer and was the Assistant Counsel to the New York City Educational Construction Fund.

“Mr. Cullen is a partner or director of numerous real estate entities. He is a retired brigadier general in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps and last served as the Chief Judge of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. He has also served as Secretary/Treasurer of the New York Construction Industry Disaster Relief Fund, Inc.”

General Cullen was an alumnus of Iona College and St. John’s University.