Posted By: February 11, 2010

MacBride Principles Honoree Fr. Sean McManus

December 9, 2009 Irish Echo

Father Sean Mc Manus was born February 6, 1944 in the townland of Clonliff, in the parish of Kinawley, County Fermanagh. The parish of Kinawley is divided by the Border and is partly in Fermanagh and partly in Swanlinbar, County Cavan.

Fr. Mc Manus has stated: “England not only divided my country, but my parish as well, for Heaven’s sake, you don’t have to be a political genius to figure out why I have such an abhorrence for the injustice and absurdity of partition”.

Fr. McManus joined the London Province of the Redemptorist Order and was ordained in 1968. When the Troubles erupted, McManus, in his own words, felt he could not be silent lest he be complicit with British government injustices.

He began to publicly speak out. The British government put pressure on the English Hierarchy and The Redemptorists to silence him. When he refused to be silent, he was shipped off to America on October 2, 1972.

From 1972 to 1978 he carried out parish work in Baltimore and Boston.

On February 6, 1974, Fr. McManus founded the Irish National Caucus. In 1977 he played a key role in the formation of the Ad Hoc Congressional Committee for Irish Affairs, chaired the press conference on Capitol Hill that launched the committee, and outlined the reasons why Congressman Mario Biaggi was selected the chairman. Biaggi and other representatives participated in that ground breaking press conference.

In 1978, Fr. McManus was given church permission to enter a “Special Ministry of Justice and Peace.” On December 10, 1978, he opened the office of the Irish National Caucus, the first ever on Capitol Hill to lobby for justice in Ireland.

In November, 1984, Fr. McManus announced the launching of the MacBride Principles, named after his good friend, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Sean MacBride.

Fr. Mc Manus Honored On 25 Th. Anniversary Of Mac Bride Principles

On December 8, 2009 the Irish Echo held a 25
th, Anniversary celebration of the Mac Bride Principles.

The event was all the more prestigious in that it took place in New York City Hall, and presided over by Christine Quinn, Speaker of the City Council.

Fr. Mc Manus – along with his colleague in the Mac Bride struggle, Pat Doherty – was honored.

Here is Fr. Mc Manus’s acceptance speech, plus articles from the Irish Echo.

Acceptance Speech At New York City Hall Fr. Sean Mc Manus. December 8, 2009

In 1795 Thomas Paine wrote: “An Army of Principles Will Penetrate Where an Army of Soldiers Cannot” (Agrarian Justice. Pamphlet was written in 1975, published in 1797).

I think that perfectly applies to the Mac Bride Principles.

The Principles penetrated the previously UNPENETRATABLE bastion of anti-Catholic discrimination — the Northern Ireland State.

In the early years of our campaign, our opponents used to tell us to mind our own business – they clearly did not subscribe to Martin Luther King’s dictum: “ Injustice anywhere is an affront to justice everywhere”. But when our campaign began to take effect, they stopped telling us to mind our own business – because when Americans make sure that U.S. dollars are not subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland, they are minding their own business.

It is generally accepted that Martin Luther King’s movement would not have succeeded without Jewish-American support. And the Mac Bride Principles would not have succeeded without Jewish-American support.

Just look at the record:

In July 1979, Congressman Ben Gilman (R-NY commissioned the Irish National Caucus to conduct an investigation of the U.S. companies in Northern Ireland.

We then planned to have our principle, “United States dollars should not subsidize anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland”, enshrined into law. In 1983, Congressman Dick Ottinger introduced Bill HR 3465: “Requiring United States persons who conduct business or control enterprises in Northern Ireland to comply with certain fair employment principles.” We had, of course, modeled the Ottinger Bill on the Sullivan Principles.

Our activity got a lot of attention and soon many State and City officials who wanted to join our campaign contacted us: most notably, New York City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin and Council Member Sal Albanese (who introduced the very first Mac Bride Bill in the entire United States).

Comptroller Goldin went on to provide magnificent support and economic muscle for the Mac Bride Principles until he left office in 1989. His successors, Liz Holtzman (1990- 1993) and Alan Hevesi (1994-2001), continued to provide indispensable support for the Mac Bride Principles.

My dear friend, Congressman Ben Gilman, Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, championed our campaign in the Congress and the Mac Bride Principles (despite very powerful opposition) became US law in 1998.

So you can easily see the importance of Jewish-American support.

Since 2002, Comptroller Thompson has provided magnificent leadership on the Mac Bride Principles. And here, again, is something that has touched me deeply: the support of African-Americans, who know a thing or two about discrimination. Along with Comptroller Thompson, the other names that immediately come to mind are Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York, one of our very earliest supporters, and Congressman Don Payne of New Jersey.

I have already mentioned Sal Albanese and the key role he played in our campaign. But one cannot mention American activity on behalf of Ireland without mentioning that other great Italian, Congressman Mario Biaggi, who for many ears was our key ally in Congress.

Isn’t it very striking? The elected officials who led the campaign to end anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland were not Irish- Americans, but Jewish-Americans, African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Hispanic Americans and others! To me, that is the great moral lesson of the Mac Bride Campaign.

God bless America and God save Ireland.