Harping on gladly

Posted By: February 27, 2019






Fr. Sean McManus. Washington, D.C.

The Forum Letters from our readers

February 27-March 5, 2019

Harping on gladly



Ever since I came to the United States on October 2, 1972, I have raised the issue of injustice and oppression in Northern Ireland, the artificial area England (I say England, not Britain, because we cannot really blame Wales and Scotland) carved out in 1920.

This new political entity had never been heard of before in the three thousand years of Irish history. It was based solely on a sectarian, anti-Catholic headcount in order for England to keep a foothold on the island of Ireland. England did this by brute power exercised through Protestant/Loyalist/Unionist supremacy, Anti-Catholic discrimination and a sectarian, all-Protestant police militia. The RUC, The B-Specials, and the UDR were routinely condemned by every human rights body that has investigated them.

The Irish National Caucus knew that essential for any progress – pending the reunification of Ireland – would be the fundamental reform of the Northern Ireland police.

We lobbied the Congress relentlessly. When my good friend, the late and great Congressman Ben Gilman became chairman of the House International Relations Committee (now Foreign Affairs Committee, again) he kept his sacred promise to me: holding Congressional hearings on our MacBride Principles on March 15, 1995, and on creating a new and acceptable Police Service for Northern Ireland, April 22, 1999. In other words, congressional hearings on our two key issues, with Chairman Gilman insisting that I be the lead witness.

At the hearing on policing, I endorsed and quoted the fine words of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement: “They [the participants] believe that the agreement provides the opportunity for a new beginning to policing in Northern Ireland with a police service capable of attracting and sustaining support from the community as a whole . . . The participants believe it essential that policing structures and arrangements are such that the police service is professional, effective and efficient, fair and impartial, free from partisan political control; accountable, both under the law for its actions and to the community it serves; representative of the society it polices, and operates within a coherent and co-operative criminal justice system, which conforms with human rights norms.”

Yet, despite that Good Friday Agreement quote, an article in the Irish News of Belfast declares: “Just 8 senior PSNI officers from a Catholic background.”

Recently, there was an organized attempt by a few Irish Americans to get me to stop “harping about anti-Catholic injustice in Northern Ireland because it was counterproductive.”

Well, all my life the British government tried to stop my speaking out for equality, justice and peace in Ireland and a handful of misguided, ill-informed Irish Americans are unlikely to stop this Fermanagh man.

No more than Jewish Americans will be forced to stop denouncing anti-Semitism in America or that African Americans will hold their tongue about anti-black racism. And they have my total support.