Fr. Mc Manus’ Speech in Dublin Castle

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Fr. Mc Manus’ Speech in Dublin Castle on the Launching of his Memoirs
My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When I first went to America on October 2, 1972, I assumed that there were two basic constituencies I could appeal to: The left wing of the Democratic Party (especially the prominent Irish-American members) and the Social Gospel wing of the Catholic Bishops Conference.

I knew I had my work cut out for me when Tip O’Neill—in response to my pressurizing—would put his big hand on my shoulder and say with evident glee, “Now Fr. Sean, how can you expect me to be more patriotic than Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave or Taoiseach Jack Lynch?”

But as Speaker (1977 – 1987 )Tip’s collusion with the British Government would go to extraordinary and appalling lengths.

We got the famed Jack Anderson Column – nationally syndicated and carried in nearly 1, 000 papers – to expose Tip’s collusion three times within one year, 1977-1978.

(1) “ Speaker Thomas (Tip) O’ Neill, the big beloved boss of the House, is as Irish as anyone who ever kissed the Blarney stone. But he quietly squashed a congressional hearing on alleged British outrages against the Irish…To dig up atrocities, the speaker pleaded, would only inflame the already emotional issue. It would be an “inappropriate” time to stir up trouble over Irish rights, he said”. (“ Irish Politics”. Jack Anderson and Les Whitten. New York Daily News. October 21, 1977).

(2) “ Under pressure from two foreign governments, President Carter is betraying a campaign promise to speak out against human rights violation committed by British authorities in Northern Ireland. He made the pledge to…[the Irish National Caucus] in Pittsburgh six days before the 1976 election, in exchange for their endorsement. Shortly after Carter took office… the Irish National Caucus… supplied the White House with 10 documented cases of alleged torture perpetrated by British security forces against suspected IRA members or sympathizers… A move to air the charges on Capitol Hill is being thwarted by House Speaker Tip O’Neill at the behest of the Irish government…An aide told us that the Speaker, a Carter confidant, was told by prominent members if the Irish government that an investigation would be counterproductive. In Dublin’s view, the Irish National Caucus is pro-I.R.A., and a congressional hearing would signal U.S. support of the terrorist IRA gunmen”. (“White House Policy”. Jack Anderson. Washington Post, June 17, 1978).

(3) “ Human rights violations, reported to us by a number of reliable sources, have put Northern Ireland on an unenviable par with some of the most barbarous regimes of communist commissars or tinhorn Latin American dictators. The British are trampling on the rights of Irish citizen in a manner reminiscent of Oliver Cromwell’s iron-fisted rule more than three centuries ago…An Ad Hoc Committee of 119 members has been formed in congress. But the committee’s attempts to publicize the outrages being committed in Northern Ireland, along with the efforts of the Irish National Caucus, have been blocked by House Speaker Tip O’ Neill and other congressional leaders who are reluctant to offend our British ally”. (“Carter Pressured on Northern Ireland”. Jack Anderson. Detroit Free Press. October 29, 1978).

Congressional Hearings on British violations of human rights were banned from 1974 to 1995. If that is not collusion, what is? However, we must not fail to mention here that that Garret FitzGerald has also proudly claimed credit for the ban on the Congressional Hearings.

How do you think history is going to judge that collusion?

Now, to my second parable: the collusion of the American Catholic Bishops

The Office of International Justice and Peace is the department of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops that would deal with the Northern Ireland issue.

On January 6,1978, I met with that office. Afterwards I said, “ It was just like being at the British Embassy. The Office of Justice and Peace has become the ecclesiastical arm of British propaganda”. As if to prove my point, that Office would release the following letter:“ It is the Provos who are mainly responsible for the violence in Northern Ireland and this is recognized by every careful and impartial observer… after due consultation with the Irish bishops, and in recognition of the efforts being made by the governments and church bodies directly concerned, we [the US Catholic Conference] had concluded that there is no appropriate basis for public intervention in the problems of Northern Ireland, either by this conference, or any branch of the United States government…” (October 17, 1979).

Do you think for a moment the Office of Justice and Peace would have made such a statement without checking with the Irish Embassy, and probably with the British Embassy too? Although Irish diplomats may deny it, I regard that statement as the clearest, most accurate expression of the policy of the Dublin governments of that time :there no basis for United States intervention.

In August 1979 the Irish National Caucus led a successful campaign to have a ban put on the sale of U.S. weapons to the RUC. Well, later on, in January 1981, Archbishop Hickey of Washington and Bishop Thomas Kelly, Secretary General of the US Catholic Conference, visited The White House to urge President Reagan to continue the ban on military aid to El Salvador.

I wrote to them, urging them to also urge President Reagan to continue the ban on the sale of US weapons to the RUC.

Archbishop Hickey responded to me saying, “… Bishop Kelly and I will be in touch with our counterparts in Northern Ireland to seek their advice in this vexing question. Our intervention will depend on their response”. And Bishop Kelly replied “… We have known of your position [on the RUC] for some time… In the case of El Salvador, we have been encouraged to take what action we have taken by the local hierarchy. We have not, at this time, received such encouragement from the Irish hierarchy on the subject you have brought to our attention…” (Hickey’s letter, February 6, 1981; Kelly’s letter, January 29, 1981).

How do you think history will judge that ecclesiastical collusion?

The thing that has made the biggest personal impression on me regarding my work with the U.S. Congress is that – at least in the early years — those who helped me most were not Irish and often not Catholic. They were Jewish-Americans, Italian-Americans and African-Americans.

Congressman Mario Biaggi ( D-NY) is the great Italian example. And Congressman Don Payne( R-NJ) is the prime African-American example

Many Irish-American Members of Congress were blackmailed into silence by the London and Dublin governments! “Thou shall not condemn the Brits, lest you be seen as helping the IRA.”

Here is a simple statement of fact. Big name Irish-Americans did not lead the charge in pressurizing the British government on injustice in Northern Ireland.

· Not on the torture of political prisoners

· Not on the shoot-to-kill policy

· Not on anti-Catholic discrimination

· Not on the Birmingham Six or Guilford Four

· Not on the State assassination of Pat Finucane

Indeed, big name Irish-American politicians tried to block our efforts on these campaigns and tried to sabotage the Mac Bride Principles.

That is a simple statement of fact. The compliant media never challenged those in Ireland—North and South—who advised those American politicians to oppose our non-violent campaigns.

And yet, despite this huge opposition, we prevailed. Once the House of Representatives was no longer controlled by Irish-Catholic Speakers we got our Hearings and we got the Mac Bride Principles passed, not only into State law, but also U.S. law. It took a Protestant Speaker, the conservative Newt Gingrich, to lift the ban on Hearings; and it took a Jewish-American — the great Congressman Ben Gilman as Chairman of the House International Relations Committee — to schedule many Hearings. And it took a good Baptist from The Bible Belt, Bill Clinton, to end the immoral policy of, “ hands off Northern Ireland lest we offend jolly old England”.

Here is another thing about my American struggle: I was never supported by big money. No big foundations helped us. No famous Irish -American rich people helped us significantly. My support came from the ordinary working class people. That makes me feel good because with big money comes big strings. And I had no big political or ecclesiastical strings to hold me down.

God bless America, and God save Ireland.

Donal Donnely and Fr. McManus

Frank McManus

Frank Mc Manus, Chairman of the Committee for the Dublin Book Launch and older brother of Fr. Sean, calls the Meeting to order.