“The British government threw everything, and millions of dollars, against our MacBride Principles campaign

Posted By: August 28, 2023


Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus

“The British government threw everything, and millions of dollars, against our MacBride Principles campaign, and we still prevailed.” Fr. Sean McManus.

Prominent US priest tried to sue BBC’s Seamus McKee after claiming he’d linked him to the IRA

Fr Sean McManus began the action in the late 1980s — but a decade later government officials were still dealing with the consequences.

Sam McBride. Belfast Telegraph. Monday, August 28, 2023.

A high-profile Irish American priest launched a libel action against BBC journalist Seamus McKee and others after being linked to the IRA — but abandoned it after several years, declassified files show.

A file on the matter was drawn up by Stormont’s Department of Economic Development because it had been named as one of the defendants in the action, along with the senior BBC figure, the BBC itself, and former Alliance leader John Cushnahan.

A government department then had to be chased repeatedly after failing to pay a legal bill to defend the claim.

A file declassified at the Public Record Office in Belfast under the 20-Year Rule contains an August 1989 Irish High Court writ on behalf of the Redemptorist priest Sean McManus who was then, as now, National Director of the Irish National Caucus.

Mr. Cushnahan was claimed in the writ to be a spokesman for the department.

The writ said that on December 16, 1988, the BBC’s News At One program involved the “false and malicious” broadcast of the words “because their agenda is not fair employment.

Their agenda is economic destabilization and that is best illustrated by the fact the chief witnesses who have been appearing across the United States are Sean McManus, of the Irish National Caucus, and Martin Galvin, of Noraid, organizations renowned for their sympathy and support for the IRA.”

The writ claimed these words meant that Mr. McManus supported the IRA, was well known for his support for the IRA, and associated himself with an organization well known for its support for the IRA.”

It claimed that Fr. McManus “has been greatly injured in his credit, character, and reputation and in the way of his said profession or occupation and has been brought into ridicule and contempt.”.

The writ made clear that Fr. McManus was looking for money as damages.

The claim ran for years without coming to trial. On February 28, 1997, Dublin solicitors Arthur Cox sent to the Department for Finance and Personnel a bill for 7,604 Irish pounds in relation to its work in defending the claim.

But three years later, it still hadn’t been paid. On March 1, 2000, the legal firm wrote to the NIO to say that “despite my numerous reminders, phone calls to your office, and your verbal promise of October 6th, 1999, that this bill would be settled, we have still not received your payment or any indication why this fee note still remains unpaid.”

Gerry Madden in the equality unit of the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) noted a few days later that “there has not been any mention of reactivation of the proceedings” and asked a colleague to pay the bill.

However, at this point someone has written in hand “Hold — Ann is opening a new confidential file for this.”

An April 11 memo asking for payment said that “the payment was delayed as we were awaiting the outcome to see if proceedings would be reactivated, hence creating more expense.”

On April 27, 2000, Arthur Cox wrote to say that the payment had been received.

But it appears this was sent in error. A ‘’file memo,” whose author’s name has been blacked out, stated that the finance branch had been asked to recall the check and insisted this had happened — but then Arthur Cox’s acknowledgment of payment made clear it had not happened and the money had in fact been paid.

Fr. McManus told the Belfast Telegraph that “on legal advice, I did not pursue the case — and I also thought it would take up too much of my time.”

He added: “Looking back at it all, I am amazed we prevailed because the anti-MacBride campaign was powerfully organized and funded — and supported by both the British and Irish governments, all the political parties in Ireland, John Hume, Cardinal Daly, etc.

“Sinn Fein initially opposed the Principles, but when they saw we were driving the British Embassy crazy, with sweeping victories all across the US, they changed their tune.”

[Note by Fr. McManus, which did not appear in the above article: “Regarding the above claim that Martin Galvin was (along with me) a “chief witness” at Hearings on the Mac Bride Principles, I had explained in an email the following to Sam McBride: “Regarding the mention of Martin Galvin: I testified at all the 18 State Hearings on our Mac Bride Bills (except two— Texas and NJ) I never saw Galvin attend any of them, least of all being a “chief witness.” Likewise, he did not attend or testify before Congress on the Federal MacBride Bill.
That was standard “felon setting” (as the Fenians called it back in the day) of the British and Irish Embassy, and the hostile media—if they wanted to demonize the INC, they would always slide in Irish Northern Aid.” (August 24, 2023).