My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland

Posted By: April 19, 2014

Shelia Langan. Irish America. June/July, 2012.

In My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland, Fr. Sean McManus tells an
important and highly personal account of his years of lobbying and non-violent
protest on Capitol Hill in his mission to achieve justice in Northern Ireland.
McManus, who founded the National Irish Caucus in 1974 and played a crucial role in
seeing the MacBride Principles passed in Northern Ireland,  gives insight into how
his upbringing, family and early years as a Redemptionist priest set him on his
journey to the U.S., and provides a detailed look at his work, the allegiances he
made and the obstacles he faced in American politics and in the Irish-American

McManus was born in 1944, the tenth of twelve children, and was raised on a farm
near the village of Kinawley, two miles from the border. As he explains, “The
historic parish of Kinawley is actually divided by the British-imposed border. So I
grew up extremely conscious that the British government had not only partitioned my
country, but also my own ancient parish.” In 1958, at fourteen years of age, he lost
his older brother Patrick, who died transporting an IRA bomb that exploded
prematurely. Ultimately, the full force of McManus’ outspokenness gained attention
and saw him pushed out of Britain by the Church. McManus tells how, once in the
U.S., inspired by leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, he
developed his philosophy of non-violent protest: “Unless you resist, you are not
practicing non-violence,” he writes. “If you close your eyes to injustice and
violence – as so many Churchmen do – you are not being non-violent: you are being
cowardly, lazy and indifferent to human suffering.” He takes the reader through the
ways in which this philosophy served him throughout the late ’70s, the ’80s and the

For those who know McManus’s story, his thorough account will give new details and
new angles from which to consider this important time in Irish and Irish-American
history – particularly the inter-personal conflicts between the different parties
involved, which Fr. McManus does not shy away from discussing. For those who aren’t
as familiar, it will provide a thorough entrée into his remarkable struggle and

 – Sheila Langan 
(280 pages / The Collins Press $30.00.