Hearings on Colombia Three: A Test for Irish-Americans

Posted By: March 29, 2013


Father Sean Mc Manus

President, Irish National Caucus

April 5, 2002

The puzzling proposal by the House International Relations Committee (HIRC) to hold Hearings on the case of the three Irishmen jailed in Colombia will, in my opinion, prove to be a test-case for Irish-Americans as to their participation in the development of U.S foreign policy on Northern Ireland.

Just as all Americans have a right and a duty to be involved in the formulation of foreign policy, it is only natural that African-Americans be particularly involved in foreign policy regarding Africa; that Jewish-Americans be especially involved in foreign policy regarding Israel; and that Irish-Americans have special input to policy regarding Ireland. That is a grand American tradition.

The Irish National Caucus is opposed to the proposed HIRC Hearings –- as are all Irish-American organizations worth their salt –- for the following reasons:

Hearings will do no good to the United States and a lot of harm to Ireland.

Hearings will be seen as an attempt to embarrass Sinn Fein and undermine the Irish peace process.

Hearings – especially the irresponsible way they are being promoted – will endanger due process and the very lives of the Colombian Three.

Hogg — Hyde

We all know what happened when Douglas Hogg, British Home Office Minister, made a statement in the House of Commons that some attorneys in Northern Ireland were sympathetic to the IRA. Three weeks later right-wing extremists assassinated Pat Finucane. There is danger the same thing could happen in Colombia because of an equally irresponsible and reckless statement by Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Il.), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

In his invitation to Gerry Adams to testify (mischievously given to the hostile British Press a week before it was given to Adams himself) Chairman Hyde stated the title of the Hearing thus: ” The IRA in Colombia: Links to Global Terrorism”. There is real danger that right-wing extremists in Colombia will see this reckless statement as an open invitation to assassinate the Colombian Three.

All Americans must be concerned that the US Congress is being used to jeopardize the due process, and the very lives, of three Irishmen. Surely we don’t want the U.S. Congress to be used the same way the House of Commons has been used?

The Test- Case

The proposed Hearings are being promoted knowingly and consciously in opposition to the expressed wishes of Irish-Americans. This is the first time that has happened in 30 years. Previously the Congress had a policy of not allowing Hearings on Northern Ireland so as not to offend the British Government. That was bad enough; but at least it was a ” sin of omission “. When the great Ben Gilman ( R-NY) became HIRC Chairman in 1995 all that changed. We had many really important Hearings, which lead to legislation being passed on the Mac Bride Principles and on restrictions on FBI training of the Northern Ireland police

Now the focus is threatened again, but this time by a ” sin of commission”. Hearings that will do harm to Ireland (and no good to the U.S.) are being pushed in opposition to the will of Irish-Americans. The test is clear: Will we allow ourselves to be pushed back to the bad old days? Would African-Americans? Would Jewish-Americans? We know, to their credit, that they would not. And they would not allow any Member of Congress dare imply that he/she were more patriotic than they were.

Irish-Americans have given as much as any ethnic group to the well- being and safety of the United States. We must now have the confidence and self-esteem to tell Congress that it will not exclude Irish-Americans from the development of U.S. foreign policy on Ireland. And shame on those Irish-Americans too scared to stand up for Ireland in the ridiculous belief that in doing so they are being loyal to the United States. That false dichotomy went out with The Know-Nothings. We serve the U.S best when we make sure it does the right and honorable thing in its foreign policy. And just as it was wrong for the Congress in the past not to hold Hearings that would have helped the Irish peace-process, it is now equally wrong to hold Hearings that will hurt the Irish peace-process — and that will jeopardize the lives and due process of thee Irishmen.

Let us make sure that other HIRC Members follow the inspiring example of Congressman Gilman by publicly calling for the Hearings to be suspended. It is our right and our duty.