Posted By: April 07, 2023

MI6 smear campaign against Fr. McManus

Kinawley priest Fr. Sean McManus with Former US Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

By Roisin Henderson. Fermanagh Herald. Thursday, April 6, 2023

IN THE week where a former MI5 agent has spoken out about how he defied orders by meeting with the IRA during the ‘90s to help broker peace, a somewhat less positive story has emerged of how MI6 had directed a campaign against a Fermanagh priest two decades earlier.

Writing in the Irish Echo last week, author and barrister David Burke has outlined how Sir Maurice Oldfield, former chief of MI6, had led a campaign to influence policy in the United States in the ‘70s, which he claimed included “menacing smears” against Charlie Haughey, John Hume, and Donegal politician Neil Blaney.

In the same article, Mr. Burke also outlined how “a parallel campaign” was also directed by “another important figure in US-Irish affairs, Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus.”

Fr. McManus, who hails from Clonliff in Kinawley, was based at a Redemptorist monastery in Liverpool in the early ‘70s before he moved to Washington DC. He is the brother of former MP Frank McManus.

Referring to a campaign of false information against future Taoiseach Mr. Haughey, Mr. Burke wrote in the US-based Echo, “The same people at Stormont Castle who dreamt up the smears about Haughey also had Fr Sean McManus, a priest from Kinawley, County Fermanagh, in their cross hairs.”

Mr. Burke noted that during Fr McManus’ time at the Liverpool monastery, one of his colleagues was Fr Douglas Brice, who the writer claimed had been supplying controversial Conservative MP Enoch Powell – famed for his “rivers of blood” speech – with information on the Fermanagh priest.

“In 1972, Fr Brice likened the Irishman and those who supported Irish independence to ‘fleas in the mattress’,” Mr. Burke wrote. “Powell relayed the information to a Detective Inspector Waller and, by 1973, Fr Brice became a police informant.

“Fr. McManus left Liverpool for the US in 1972. In 1974 he founded the Irish National Caucus (INC). Like Hume, he became a threat to the FCO’s stranglehold over the [US] State Department.

“What I would describe as a smear ‘bible’ attempted to portray the latter as an IRA gunrunner.”

Mr. Burke added, “These and other smears were deployed against Fr Manus for decades, especially when he was promoting the MacBride Principles on fair employment. Britain smeared the INC as a front for the Provisional IRA.”

However, the writer said “all these campaigns were hopeless failures, ” noting that Fr .McManus “drove the campaign to implement the MacBride Principles, ultimately with enormous success.”