Accuracy of British Spying Papers

Posted By: October 19, 2016

How they got the Mac Bride Principles right


By Fr. Sean McManus, President, Irish National Caucus.

September 11, 2016


Say what you like about the Brits, but their spying is always accurate.

Their propaganda is reckless, distorted, libelous and outrageous. But when the British spies report to their political masters and to Her Majesty’s Government, you can believe it. It is done without spin— “just the facts, Your Majesty, just the facts.”


This is very clearly illustrated by the recently released British/Northern Ireland Office (NIO) State Papers, and by what they say about our Mac Bride Principles campaign.

The Papers were released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), and cover the period 1980 to 1989. The Papers were released under the “30/20 rule”— the phased release of official documents that were previously secret for 30 years, but are to be released after 20 years. (Google PRONI CAIN for the released Papers).


The British Government in its propaganda efforts against our Mac Bride Principles campaign would often claim the campaign was launched by the Irish National Caucus and by Irish Northern Aid. Of course, Irish Northern Aid had nothing to do with the launching of the campaign. But this was the Brits’ way of trying to smear the campaign by falsely linking it with the organization that the British Government claimed was a front for the IRA.Even though the Brits knew full well that initially Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Movement opposed the Mac Bride Principles, likening them to Reagan’s ‘constructive engagement with South Africa.’ A fact that Martin Galvin, former Publicity Director of Irish Northern Aid, publicly acknowledged (maybe for the first time) on Radio Free Eireann on Saturday, September 3, 2016. Galvin said the the Republican Movement’s position was that the Mac Bride Principles were “too reformist.” Therefore, of course, that meant that Irish Northern Aid was, to put it mildly, cool on the Mac Bride Principles. It was only much later, when our Mac Bride campaign was driving the British Embassy up the wall,  that Sinn Fein and the Republican Movement were forced to change their position, thereby allowing Irish Northern Aid to support, at least in some measure, the Mac Bride Principles.


However, when the British Embassy confidentially reports — as distinct from its public propaganda — to the British Government and the Northern Ireland Office, it is in no doubt as to whom is behind the Mac Bride Principles. Their Spying-Reports explain that the Mac Bride campaign is “instigated,” “canvassed” “incredibly well organized,” etc., etc., by the Irish National Caucus.

Amazingly,  one Irish-American organization, now defunct, once described itself as the “primary sponsor of the Mac Bride Principles”— even though it had only a minor role. One of its leaders, the late and great Al Doyle, personally called me to apologize for the “effrontery and hutzpah” of that organization.

But as JFK liked to say, “Success has many fathers; failure is always an orphan.”

In that regard, it is revealing (for the uninformed) to note another Report by the British Embassy in their “Spying Papers” (February 26, 1987): “The main proponent of the campaign is the Irish National Caucus which has a strong ally in Comptroller Goldin of New York…”


Again, strictly accurate, just the facts Your Majesty.

However, some political apparatchiks have even tried to invert this order—turn it on its head— outrageously trying to suggest that it was the Irish National Caucus that joined a Goldin campaign to stop U.S. dollars subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland. In fact, of course, our campaign predated Goldin’s involvement by many years. Nonetheless, we greatly welcomed Comptroller Goldin to our campaign, and we have abundantly acknowledged his important contribution. Indeed, I wanted Goldin to join me in my Press Release that officially launched the Mac Bride Campaign on November 5, 1984, but he backed out. Then he further backed off by opposing Mac Bride laws, just wanting Resolutions by cities and states, whereas we insisted,  “there had to be a law.” All this was well documented at the time by the New York Times, and Daily News. It is also recounted, chapter and verse, in my Memoirs: My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland. And that is why today there are Mac Bride laws (as distinct from Resolutions) in 18 States, and many cities and why Mac Bride is enshrined in US law—because the Irish National Caucus insisted, “there had to be law.”


Even a few Irish-Americans have also tried to “invert the order,” to take away credit from the Irish National Caucus. It always saddens me when I see our noble cause becoming the source of petty jealousy. These jealous souls even try to give the impression that it was Goldin’s office that organized the national Mac Bride campaign —as if the city of New York would be allowed to underwrite and fund  an Irish campaign. It also ignores the fact that the Irish National Caucus even had to organize and pay for Goldin’s trip to Ireland in June 1985— to the tune of $12,000. It was then Goldin, and his aide Pat Doherty, met Sean Mac Bride for the very first time—eight months after the Irish National Caucus had launched the Mac Bride Principles.

Petty jealousy should have no place in the great Mac Bride campaign.

Or— and this is more disturbing— will future British Spying Papers also reveal that such attempts to denigrate the central role of the Irish National Caucus was also part of British propaganda (as distinct from their confidential, factual Reports based on intelligence)?  That is not petty jealousy at all, but rather the work of   provocateurs? After all, the current batch of released State Papers show beyond doubt that the British had their spies in Irish-American organizations.

One final note on the British Papers. They state that the Irish National Caucus “espouses nonviolence” (May 22, 1986).That is the first time in 44 years that I’ve ever seen the the British Embassy acknowledging we were committed to non-violence. For all these years, they had nonetheless falsely briefed the media and the Congress that I was a front for the IRA.