Posted By: November 27, 2010

Irish Echo
November 10, 2010

The American democratic system is undoubtedly the finest in the world.

However, every two years it causes the Irish National Caucus to “ reinvent the
wheel” – or at least the Caucus stationery.
You see, since 1980, we list on our letterhead the names of the “Congressional
Friends of the Irish National Caucus”– Members who, in writing, endorse our work and request to join. And there are so many that they cannot fit them on the front of the letterhead, so we have to also use the back.
Thus, every two years we have to update this list to reflect the changes wrought by the Congressional elections.
Because Republicans have won a majority in the House of Representatives, all
Committees will be Chaired by Republicans (and remember it is the Committees that really run the Congress).
This could really mean a huge change in policy – both domestic and foreign,
including Ireland.
For example, in the last twelve months the Irish National Caucus succeeded in ha two Congressional Hearings on Northern Ireland. That by any criterion is effective lobbying. (Just ask any of the big-money lobbying firms in Washington t give their right arm for such attention to their issues).

Needless to say, because the House of Representatives was controlled by the
Democrats, the Chairmen of those two Hearings were Democrats – the excellent Bill Delahunt (D-MA), now retiring, and the excellent Russ Carnahan (D-MO) who was re-elected but who will, of course, lose his Chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Oversight and Human rights.

So what does this mean for the Irish issue?

Well first of all, it must be remembered that Republicans have a good record wcomes to Congressional Hearings on Northern Ireland.

Indeed, one of the great shames of the Congress is that when Irish Catholic
Democratic Speakers controlled the House of Representatives, Human Rights Hearings
were banned from 1974 to 1995 so as not to embarrass the British Government.
Collusion by any other name!

It took a non-Irish, non-Catholic, Member of Congress, the great and beloved Ben
Gilman (R-NY), to break this disgraceful ban and restore the integrity of the House International Relations Committee (Foreign Affairs).

Chairman Gilman banished the “ no Irish need apply” policy and immediately scheduled Hearings before the Full Committee – leading to passage of the Mac Bride Principles and strictures on the police system in Northern Ireland.

Indeed, one of the most enduring ecumenical and spiritual lessons I take from my almost 40 years of dealing with the U.S. Congress is this: when some Irish Catholic Members of Congress conspired to cover up British torture and murder of Catholics in Northern Ireland, it was a Jewish Congressman who came to the rescue. This is a lesson Irish-Americans must never forget.
Once Chairman Gilman had cleared the way, allowing formerly banned Hearings, the admirable Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) would proceed to hold eleven

Hearings before his Subcommittee – on the British assassinations of Pat Finucane, Rose Mary Nelson, and on police collusion.

And now, gentle reader, you will clearly see the wisdom of the motto of the Irish National Caucus: “Neither Democrat or Republican, but dedicated to getting both parties to stand up for Ireland”.

So what will the new 112 th. Congress mean for Ireland?

We will have to wait and see… Well, hell no, we must not wait. We must be proactive.
All Irish-Americans must act to ensure the Republican- controlled House of
Representatives continues the Ben Gilman policy on Northern Ireland: active
involvement, principled concern for human rights and resolute opposition to all
anti-Catholic discrimination and sectarianism.

God bless America and God save Ireland.

Fr. Sean Mc Manus

The writer is the president of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus. His Memoirs will be published in March 2011

Fr. Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
P.O. BOX 15128
Capitol Hill
Washington, DC 20003-0849
Tel. 202-544-0568
Fax. 202-488-7537