Message to Arnold – Don’t Touch MacBride!

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Irish Voice. August 27, 2003
By Sean O’Driscoll

An Irish priest and campaigner has vowed to “kick Arnold Schwarzenegger’s butt” if he tries to interfere with Californian legislation designed to guard against anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland.

Legislation to enforce the MacBride Principles, which prohibit the investment of billions of dollars of state funds in companies that discriminate in Northern Ireland, was signed into law by embattled Governor Gray Davis, four years ago.

Two previous Republican governors, including Pete Wilson, the chairman of the Schwarzenegger election campaign, had vetoed MacBride legislation.

Many Californian media commentators have said Schwarzenegger’s political manifesto was created by Wilson.

Fr. Sean McManus, the president of the Irish National Caucus, said that he would travel out to California to deal with Schwarzenegger if he tried to interfere with the legislation.

McManus, who is based in Washington, D.C. said, “If Ah-nold opposes it, I’m going to go out there and kick his butt, and you can quote me on that.”

He said he hoped Schwarzenegger would be wise enough not to oppose the legislation.

“I can’t imagine why he would take the position of opposing it. Of course, it’s law now so it would have to be overturned. I can’t see him trying that, even if he became governor. He would be unnecessarily taking on a lot of grief,” McManus said.

“It would be nice to say that his wife, Maria Shriver, as a Kennedy, would persuade him not to, but the sad reality is that Ted Kennedy was totally opposed to the MacBride Principles,” he added.

The legislation stops state pension funds from being invested in companies that discriminate in Northern Ireland and is a major incentive for companies not to discriminate, especially as the California Public Employees Retirement System was valued at $137.8 billion in April 30, 2003.

California is one of 13 states to sign McBride legislation, and is by far the most significant financially.

An examination of voting records reveals that Democratic favorite, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante, repeatedly voted in favor of the McBride bills while a member of the Californian legislature.

McManus had testified before the California Senate in an effort to get the legislation passed, along with campaigner and later State Senator Tom Hayden.

Senator John Burton introduced three MacBride bills, but all were vetoed until Davis was elected.

In the 1980s, the SDLP, the Irish government and the ATGWU union in Ireland opposed the principles, saying that they would discourage investment in Northern Ireland.

However, support eventually grew for the legislation, leading to Davis’s decision to sign the bill into law. The legislation mandated the State Teachers, and the State Public Employees Retirement Funds, to ensure the companies in which they invest adhere to anti-discrimination practices in Northern Ireland.

However, campaigners fear that if Schwarzenegger wins the election, it could increase the demands of some Republicans, including Pete Wilson, to repeal the law.

In a September, 1991 letter, the then Governor Wilson wrote to the members of the Californian Assembly explaining why he had vetoed bill 1330, which would have brought the MacBride Principles into law.

“Whatever the good intentions of its sponsors in seeking to combat discrimination, this legislation is redundant and unnecessary at best,” he said.

When Senator Burton reintroduced McBride legislation in 1994, Governor Wilson again used his veto to block it.

McManus said that the Irish National Caucus had done everything it could to persuade Governor Wilson not to veto the legislation.

“We lobbied him and lobbied him hard. I had written a lot of letters to him and to no avail. He was a serious, serious disappointment,” he said.