20 Years on Capitol Hill Campaigning for Justice and Peace

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Washington, D.C., December 2, 1998 — Twenty years ago on December 10, 1978 — International Human Rights Day — the Irish National Caucus opened its Headquarters on Capitol Hill — making the Caucus the first Irish-American organization in history to have an office on Capitol Hill. (The Friends of Irish Freedom had an office in 1919, not on Capitol Hill, but downtown. It only lasted a few years).

“It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago,” said Fr. Sean McManus, who came to the United States on October 2, 1972. “At first I was based in Baltimore, Maryland,” he explained. “Any chance I had I would go to Washington to talk to Members of Congress about the Troubles, which were at their very height then. Walking the Halls of Congress I would meet all sorts of lobbies — Jewish-American, African-American, etc., but no Irish lobby. I couldn’t believe that Irish-Americans did not have an office on Capitol Hill to lobby for Irish justice and peace. I knew that something had to be done.” So he founded the Irish National Caucus on February 6, 1974.

Reflecting on the past 20 years, Fr. McManus replied, “My basic feeling is one of profound gratitude that there has been so much progress. I’m profoundly grateful to God and to the brave men and women in Ireland who made the peace-process possible. And I’m profoundly grateful to Irish-Americans who have made my work possible on Capitol Hill. And I’m deeply grateful to Members of Congress like Mario Biaggi (D-NY), now retired, to Hamilton Fish (R-NY), now deceased, and Ben Gilman (R-NY), now Chairman of the House International

Relations Committee — and to many, many others, both Republicans and Democrats. And I’m especially grateful to President Clinton, who has played such an outstanding and magnificent role in bringing peace to Ireland.”

Fr. McManus concluded by stressing that there is still much work to be done: “The Peace Baby is walking, but it is still very much a Baby. It needs to be nurtured and protected. Irish-Americans still have a lot of work to do. But now we can do it with a lighter heart and greater hope.”

“Now that we have the MacBride Principles passed into law,” Fr. McManus said, “one of our top priorities is the creation of an acceptable police service in Northern Ireland. There has never been such a police service in Northern Ireland. We will be working closely with Chairman Gilman on this issue. Chairman Gilman will be holding Hearings on this in the Spring. Both he and I agree that this is one of the most important issues. Nothing is more central or more pressing.”