Posted By: December 05, 2018

CAPITOL HILL. December 10, 2018— Forty years ago, on December 10, 1978, Fr. Sean Mc Manus opened the office of the Irish National Caucus on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

The date, December 10, was not accidental but carefully selected and planned because it is International Human Rights Day.

However, apart from the significance of the date, the mission itself was solidly founded on the teaching of the Catholic Church: “Action on behalf of justice … [is] a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel … and [a constitutive of dimension] of the Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation.” (Justice in the World. Synod of Bishops. 1971).

Fr. Mc Manus, president of the Irish National Caucus, which he founded on February 6, 1974, said: “For those with eyes to see —friendly and unfriendly— the symbolism of International Human Rights Day was clear. It was the first, and still, the only, Irish office ever opened on Capitol Hill to make Human Rights in Ireland an American issue within the United States Congress. And, to defiantly proclaim, in the motto of the Irish National Caucus: ‘Ireland, too, has the right to be One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'”

Fr. Mc Manus explained: “The ‘friendly eyes’ of authentic Irish-Americans saw it as a wonderful development. The decidedly ‘unfriendly eyes’ of both the British Embassy and Irish Embassy saw it as a most unwelcome, indeed, even dangerous development— and both set out to put us out of business.

The last thing the Irish Embassy, of that sad time, wanted was a young Fermanagh-born priest—whose Kinawley parish is actually also divided by the damn Border—exposing in the Congress, England’s ongoing violation of human rights, because that would simultaneously raise the question by Members of Congress, ‘Well, what is the Irish government doing about it; why didn’t the Irish Embassy tell us about it?’ … Hence, a classic ‘conflict of interest’-case: I wanted to shout it from the rooftops that Catholics in Fermanagh and the other five Counties in The North/Northern Ireland were being brutalized by the British government while the Irish government continued its policy of abandoning The North.”

Fr. Mc Manus ruefully observed: “Now, inevitably,’revisionism’ (the rewriting of history to make those in power not look too bad) is in full swing! Some are, hilariously, trying to claim that the Irish Embassy rallied Teddy Kennedy to the cause! Teddy did not have to be rallied. As an official in the Irish Embassy of that time admitted in one of the famous articles of the late  Mary Holland,  the Irish Embassy’s mission was not to prod Teddy on but to hold him back. And the Irish Embassy did so with the help of a few designated Catholics from The North, whose absolute policy was never to criticize the Irish government—no matter how bad, and no matter whether it was Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Thus, the Irish Embassy and the British Embassy both opposed every single campaign we ever launched: fair employment by American firms in Northern Ireland, later personified by our Mac Bride Principles campaign, which I launched on November 5, 1984; the campaigns for the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven,etc.,etc; the whole issue of collusion, which an Irish Embassy spokesperson described as ‘McManus’ attempt to help the IRA.’ Therefore, because the British and Irish Embassies had forced Big Name Irish Catholics in Congress to be virtually silent, we had to turn to Italians, like the fearless Mario Biaggi (D-NY), Jewish-Americans like the great Ben Gilman (R-NY), Hamilton Fish (R-NY), he of the quintessential English-Episcopalian background. And many, many others, including, of course, lower-ranking Irish Members of Congress who could not be pressurized by the Irish Embassy of that time.

Summing up his reminisces of his 40-year struggle on Capitol Hill, Fr. Mc Manus said:”But —thank God and good, caring Irish-Americans—despite it all, we persevered and prevailed. Today, we are busier than ever with the work of the Irish National Caucus and the World Peace Prize —due in great measure to the co-leadership of my colleague Barbara Flaherty.

Now, it is nice to see the Irish government performing very well regarding The North and the implications of Brexit. And now there is a united front by Members of Congress regarding justice, unity and peace in Ireland. 

I believe the fulfillment of our motto, ‘ Ireland, too, has the right to be One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’ is more clearly  inevitable. In the meantime, all of us must help to build up in Northern Ireland ‘The Beloved Community’—  the term that was first coined in the early 20th Century by Josiah Royce but made world famous by the preaching of Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. … A community based on non-violence, non-discrimination, equality, respect, and solidarity. As Saint Pope John Paul II said: ‘Peace is the fruit of solidarity.’
God bless America and God save Ireland.” END.