MacBride Principles

MacBride Principles – Genesis and History

Posted By: March 28, 2013

By Fr. Sean McManus

June 1993

Now that the MacBride Principles have become a well- established and powerful campaign in the United States, it is appropriate to recount how the Irish National Caucus initiated, proposed, and launched these Principles. Furthermore, it is important to set the record straight as some are attempting “revisionism” — trying to rewrite the history of the Principles. Therefore, I will be forced to give an abundance of quotes from the press and other sources to document the history and to substantiate our position.

The MacBride Principles did not suddenly appear from the sky like the Ten Commandments. They were the result of many years of hard and unremitting work by the Irish National Caucus. The Principles were “conceived” in August,1979; “born” in June, 1983; and “christened” in November, 1984.

First Ever Irish Office on Capitol Hill

On December 10, 1978 (International Human Rights Day), the Irish National Caucus opened its National Office on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC. It was the first and only office ever established on Capitol Hill to lobby for Irish justice and peace. That in itself was an historic achievement. (The Friends of Irish Freedom opened an office in 1919, not on Capitol Hill but downtown. It only lasted a few years.)

One of the first objectives of the newly opened office of the Irish National Caucus was to “stop United States dollars subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland.” And besides, to have impact on foreign policy you have to find the foreign policy nexus — that which connects Northern Ireland and the United States. The obvious “nexus” was the United States companies doing business in Northern Ireland. These companies could also be the “fulcrum” through which we could exercise leverage to oppose discrimination in Northern Ireland.

So these companies had to be held accountable to American legislators and investors. In July, 1979, Congressman Ben Gilman (R-NY), a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and a member of the Subcommittee on International Economic Policy and Trade, commissioned the Irish National Caucus to conduct an investigation of the U.S. companies in Northern Ireland.

Investigations of U.S. Companies

We traveled to Ireland at the end of July, 1979. The Sunday News (Northern Ireland) announced our fact finding mission with the following headline: “Caucus in Jobs Blacklist Move: Americans probe workers’ religions.” The story went on to state:

29, 1979“American firms with production plants in Ulster are to be asked for a religious breakdown of local workers in a move to tighten up on United States equal opportunity laws.

And some companies located in “sensitive” areas of the Province which do not have balanced Protestant- Catholic worker ratios could have a black mark against them in a report to an influential congressman in Washington.

Later this week leading members of the Irish National Caucus from the federal capital will be touring Northern Ireland knocking on the doors of American firms for details of their employment registers.

The most significant of the credentials the team will present is a letter from New York Republican Congressman Ben Gilman, who sits on an international trade sub-committee with powerful controls on US corporations operating overseas.

Fr. Sean McManus said the letter from Congressman Gilman gave their visit to American firms in the North a semi-official status. He added that the INC delegation would almost certainly be visiting the Ford-owned Autolite components factory at Finaghy and the management of the new DeLorean car assembly plant.” [July]

The Irish Times said:

“While in Northern Ireland the members of the caucus will visit some American owned-companies to ascertain whether any discriminatory employment practices operate. The investigation is being carried out at the request of Congressman Benjamin Gilman, who is a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Sub-Committee on International Economic Policy and Trade. US corporations which are found not to reflect American respect for and protection of equal opportunities for all could face withdrawal of tax concessions and trading licenses.

One of the caucus’s recent achievements, concerns the suspension of US arms sales to the RUC, pending an investigation into the human rights situation in the north. They are also speaking of their determination to make Ireland an issue in the coming Presidential campaign.”

The Irish Press reported it this way:

. . .” leaders of the Caucus, are in Ireland at present to investigate the behavior of American firms in the North.

They are undertaking this mission on behalf of Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman, who is a member of the Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Sub-Committee on International Economic Policy and Trade.

This committee controls overseas aid and if American firms locating outside the country are found to be discriminating against anyone on the basis of race, creed or colour, their U.S. tax concessions may be cut off.” [July 28, 1979]

The Belfast Telegraph said that:

“The Irish National Caucus is investigating alleged discrimination at Goodyear’s Craigavon factory.

The Caucus has asked for a breakdown of religious affiliations of the 1,400 people employed at the Silverwood plant.

Goodyear was one of many firms which signed the Fair Employment Declaration.

. . . prominent members of the Caucus are involved in the investigation – including Fr. Sean McManus”.

We made contact with most of the U.S. companies and asked them to submit a detailed breakdown of the religious composition of their work force [in doing so we were years ahead of the English Government Fair Employment Laws which did not make this demand until 1989.]

Sean MacBride, INC Liaison

But the launching of the investigation into U.S. companies in Northern Ireland was not the only important initiative the Caucus took on its August mission to Ireland. There was another equally important initiative which would be full of significance and symbolism for the MacBride Principles later on.

The Caucus established, in Dublin, a “liaison group” chaired by Doctor Sean MacBride himself. The inaugural meeting was held in Sean’s famous home, Roebuck House. The Irish Times, under the headline “MacBride to head new Irish Caucus group,” reported:

“Mr. Sean MacBride, the Nobel Prize and Lenin Peace Prize winner, has become chairman of a new group in Ireland which aims to put forward the views of the Irish National Caucus, a United States-based organization.

Mr. Michael Mullen, general secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, is another member of the new group.

The Rev. Seán McManus, a leader of the Irish National Caucus, said last night in Dublin that the new group in Dublin would be called Irish National Caucus Associates. It would be based in the Republic and, besides Mr. MacBride, it would include Mr. Mullen and Mr. Kevin Boland, a former Fianna Fail Minister.

The initial meeting, which was attended by 20 people, was held on Thursday, and another one would be held later this month.” [August 4, 1979]

Back in the U.S., the Irish World would tell Irish-Americans of this initiative in the following way:

“Sean MacBride, recipient of both the Nobel Peace Prize and Lenin Peace Prize, has announced his agreement to act as chairman of a new organization in the Republic of Ireland which aims to act as a liaison between the U.S. – based Irish National Caucus and the people of Ireland… “The idea of our organization,” MacBride said, “is to get across to the Irish public the truth about the United States organization and to emphasize the significance of the Irish-American dimension. The success of the Irish National Caucus was seen in the U.S. State Department policy review on supplying arms to the RUC.” MacBride added that, in his opinion, the work of the I.N.C. had been somewhat misrepresented by a number of individuals in Ireland and that it is his hope that the work of the new organization will present a clearer picture of Caucus activities. “The Irish National Caucus is not a ‘front’ for any group in Ireland. It is undoubtedly the most effective and widely-respected Irish American Organization in the States and we hope to contribute to its goal of a just and lasting peace in the North of Ireland.” [September 15, 1979]

It should be obvious to all that in these two Caucus initiatives (investigation of U.S. companies in Northern Ireland and Sean MacBride becoming Chairman of our Liaison Group in the Republic of Ireland) were sown the seeds of the MacBride Principles.

Since he had left the Irish Parliament in 1958, Sean MacBride had established a policy of not belonging to any party or group dealing specifically with Northern Ireland. But he broke this policy to identify with the Irish National Caucus. Sean MacBride was attracted to the Irish National Caucus for the following reasons:

(1) It is nonviolent.
(2) It has no foreign principal— that is, it is neither controlled nor directed by any organization, party or government in Ireland.
(3) It does not send funds to Ireland.

Sean MacBride* particularly admired the Caucus’ focus on stopping U.S. dollars subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland.

Paddy Harte T.D. (Member of Irish Parliament) for Donegal launched an appalling personal attack in the press on Sean MacBride, calling him senile and other abusive things. Harte has still to apologize for that inexcusable attack. The other Donegal TD, Neil Blaney, congratulated Sean MacBride, joined the Liaison Group, and announced he was going to the U.S. to speak for the Irish National Caucus. Neil has had a life-long record of concern for the North of Ireland.

Paddy Harte would later become the founder of Irish American Partnership which was launched by Prime Minister Garrett FitzGerald in 1984. I must say that each time I see the name of this organization, I wince at the painful memory of Harte’s attack on the great Sean MacBride.

R.U.C. Gun Ban

In some of the press quotes just given there is, also, mention of the role of the Caucus in initiating a ban on the sale of United States weapons to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) of Northern Ireland.

It was the Caucus that announced the ban in Ireland. So you can see it was an extremely important period for the Irish National Caucus.

The Irish Press said, under the headline “RUC ‘put on US arms blacklist’”:

“The RUC has been blacklisted by the U.S. State Department for the supply of arms from America on the grounds that it is a “faction force,” it was claimed in Belfast yesterday by Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus.” [August 2, 1979]

The Cork Examiner carried the headline “US bans arms sales to RUC”:

“The United States State Department has imposed an indefinite ban on the sale of arms to security forces in Northern Ireland. The move has been hailed as a victory by one of the key Irish-American lobbyists who is presently visiting the North.

Fr. Sean McManus, one of the key members of the Irish-American Caucus in Belfast last night described the State Department’s action in America as a “victory.”

“We have clearly orchestrated the Irish issue to the top level of American Government. It has caused the United States to change its foreign policy toward Northern Ireland.

They are now questioning the shipment of arms to the R.U.C. and that shows that there is a big question in the minds of the State Department and the American Congress about the record and behaviour of the R.U.C.”

Fr. McManus went on to say: “The State Department action shows that the United States now sees the R.U.C. as a police force which has violated human rights and that the human rights criteria which is written in to American foreign policy.” [August 2, 1979].

And the U.S. News and World Report would record:

“High among the concerns of the Irish National Caucus is human rights in Northern Ireland. When members protested the issuance of a license to ship machine guns and magnum pistols to Ulster police, the shipments ceased.” [February 4, 1980].

The New York Times would devote an Editorial,“What’s a Boycott Between Friends?” to the Caucus’ achievement:

“What should have been a routine transaction aroused the opposition of the Irish National Caucus, whose leader, [is] Rev. Sean McManus . . . The Caucus has its ardent partisans in Congress, and House Speaker O’Neill was moved to oppose granting an export license for the guns. For more than a year, an obliging Carter Administration has kept the British order under “review.” [May 28, 1980]

First Hearing on U.S. Companies

In September, 1977, the Irish National Caucus had initiated, with the support of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the formation of the Ad Hoc Congressional Committee for Irish Affairs. There were soon over 100 Members of Congress on this Committee. In a major front page story on the Irish National Caucus, The New York Times said:

“ Perhaps the Caucus’ boldest success has been its effort … to create an informal Congressional body known as the Ad Hoc Committee For Irish Affairs.” [September 21, 1979]

We decided that a good way to “frame the issue” of U.S. dollars subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland, would be to have the Committee hold a Hearing and bring Fr. Brian Brady over from Belfast to testify about the hiring practices of U.S. companies in Northern Ireland.

The Hearing took place on July 22, 1981. It was the first time ever that discrimination by U.S. companies in Northern Ireland was raised in the United States Congress.

After the Ad Hoc Congressional Hearing, the Irish National Caucus planned to have our principle “United States dollars should not subsidize anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland” enshrined into law. We worked assiduously on this. In 1983, we succeeded, at last, in having a Bill introduced into Congress, HR 3465: “Requiring United States persons who conduct business or control enterprises in Northern Ireland to comply with certain fair employment principles.” It was modeled on the Sullivan Principles and became known as the “Ottinger Bill,” after its chief sponsor, Congressman Dick Ottinger (D-NY), since retired. The Bill was not passed, but nonetheless, as will be seen, was of crucial significance. And now we had in place all the essential elements of what we would later call the MacBride Principles:

1) The ongoing investigation of the United States companies in Northern Ireland.

2) The high profile involvement of Sean MacBride in our campaign.

3) A set of fair employment principles for those companies to serve as a corporate code of conduct.

The very first lobbyists against the Ottinger Bill were the Dublin Embassy in Washington, DC, and John Hume. (See our Press Release in Appendix C.)

The MacBride Principles Born

The Ottinger Bill contained in essence the principles we would later call the MacBride Principles. That is why we say that the MacBride Principles were born in 1983.

To promote the Ottinger Bill, the Irish National Caucus sponsored a visit to Northern Ireland by Congressman Ottinger in 1983. We hosted the Congressman’s appearances at meetings and Press Conferences in Belfast. The visit received considerable press coverage in the Irish and British media. Bob Blancato, the Staff Director of the Ad Hoc Congressional Committee for Irish Affairs, was also part of the delegation. He was representing the Chairman of the Committee, Congressman Mario Biaggi (D-NY), a magnificent champion of the Irish cause.

We could tell we were on to something very important by the way the press reacted . The Daily Telegraph (London) under the headline, “Americans in Ulster Maelstrom” said:

“ Mr. Ottinger’s mission is regarded with far more suspicion in the Protestant camp. At the moment, he is steering legislation through Congress to force American companies investing in Northern Ireland to employ more Roman Catholics.

In June, he introduced a Bill called the Northern Ireland Fair Employment Practices Act, which would require American firms with branches or other enterprises in Ulster to desegregate employees of different religions and eliminate religious discrimination in jobs.

The spotlight is being put on Short Brothers, the Belfast plane-makers, who are bidding to sell aircraft to the United States Air Force. The contract would mean an extra 600 jobs . . .

Advising the Congressman, and helping him in the talks, was Fr. Sean McManus, the Washington based Redemptorist priest ordained in England and now a scourge of the British Government.

The lime-and-soda drinking cleric is not liked by British diplomats in the American capital, where he leads the Irish national caucus, a lobbying group aimed at influencing American foreign policy with the target of Irish unity, freedom and peace”. [August 18, 1983]

The News Letter (Belfast) screamed the headline, “Anti-British to the hilt,” and said:

“The leading light in the delegation, Fr. Sean McManus, is a well-known republican sympathiser who rarely disguises his anti-British stance… this fiery advocate of Irish republicanism did his utmost to embarrass British diplomats in Washington with a brief hunger strike outside the Embassy in support of Bobby Sands’ death fast.

He was instrumental in persuading the Carter administration to impose an embargo on American gun sales to the RUC in Belfast. And his latest campaign aimed at undermining the attempt by Shorts to secure a multi-million pound order to sell its SD-330 Sherpa freighters to the United States Air Force.

It was back in 1979 that Fr. McManus told reporters: The British thought they were getting rid of me in 1972, when they had me packed off to America. Little did they know I would be far more vocal on Capitol Hill”. [August 16, 1983]

The London Express, however, really outdid itself. It devoted an Editorial to our visit:

“Sean McManus, a rancid bigot loosely described as a ‘priest’, is campaigning to stop a £33 million order from the United States Air Force going to Shorts, the Belfast plane-makers.

McManus — born in Northern Ireland but now in Washington heading an anti-British pressure group — alleges there is discrimination against Catholics at Shorts: though the firm denies it.

Doubtless he is delirious at the calls from other pip-squeak Irish-American politicians urging President Reagan to appoint a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

Indeed, he probably has a hand in the setting up of the “Irish-American Presidential Committee” to push the issue of a unified Ireland into the 1984 presidential campaign” [August 18, 1983]


While in Belfast we took the occasion to pursue the other very hot issue— the question of the United States Air Force doing business with Short Brothers (“Shorts” has a notorious record of anti-Catholic discrimination). The Caucus had been raising this issue for quite some time. This was really one of our pivotal campaigns because it dramatically raised the whole issue of U.S. dollars subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland. We met with Short’s Executives at the Office of the Fair Employment Agency. Again, this meeting received considerable press coverage. Our Shorts Campaign would eventually lead to Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) getting an Amendment passed (1988, 1989, 1990) in Congress to the U.S. Defense Bill. The Amendment requires Shorts to submit an annual statistical report to the Defence Department on its subcontracting and recruiting practices.

At the meeting, I remember the Short’s spokesman — with barely concealed hostility — telling me, “Shorts does not have to give any explanations to the Irish National Caucus or anybody in America.” How their tune has changed. That same spokesperson, not so long ago, went cap-in-hand to meet with the current Comptroller of New York City, Elizabeth Holtzman, to assure her that Shorts was making attempts to hire more Catholics.

The Empire Strikes Back

Just before one main Press Conference was due to take place, Father Brian Brady called and told us that a high ranking Catholic Church official in Belfast asked him to ask us to meet with someone who had a special interest in the Shorts issue. We agreed.

The person arrived and asked to meet with us behind a big curtain in the room where the Press Conference would take place, in the Europa Hotel in Belfast. He didn’t want to be seen by the press. His name was James Eccles — a former Head of the Knights of Columbanus, a lay Catholic organization in Ireland. It is quite powerful and very “respectable.” Eccles’ pitch was that the Knights had done a lot of investigation into anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland. We asked him to give the results of the alleged investigation. He was completely taken aback. We knew the guy had an angle, to say the least. He said he agreed that Shorts was guilty of very bad discrimination, but… “But,” I cut in, “you still think they should get the contract with the U.S.. Air Force?” Eccles said yes. He then promised if Shorts got the contract, the Knights would put pressure on them to end discrimination. We politely told him that we would keep up the pressure on Shorts — and showed him the door, or rather, the curtain.

While he was giving us this unbelievably disingenuous pitch, I couldn’t help remembering that it was the Catholic Bishop of Belfast, Cathal Daly, who was among the very first to voice public opposition to our campaign against Shorts. There is a morning radio program in Northern Ireland called “Thought For the Day” on B.B.C. Ulster. Bishop Daly instructed Father Gerry Patton — the media person for the diocese — to use the program to attack our campaign. Patton deplored the fact that there was a campaign in the U.S. to oppose Shorts getting an Air Force contract and wanted to make sure the people realized that the priest (myself) who was leading it had no connection with the Diocese of Down and Conor.

Mr. Eccles, about a year later, sent us an unsigned note identifying himself as the person who had met with us prior to the Press Conference and he wanted us to know that we had been dead right about Shorts — that they had only made promises to get the contract with the U.S. Air Force, and then it was business as usual.

The same Mr. Eccles would surface again in the U.S. as the main lobbyist against the MacBride Principles — assuring legislators that discrimination was a thing of the past, that the MacBride Principles would only hurt Catholics, etc. Eccles travelled all across the U.S. preaching the English Government line.

At one MacBride Hearing in Nebraska, on March 13, 1989, this was one of Eccles’ prize statements: “I was knighted by the Pope and I’m very close to the workings of the Catholic Church in Ireland.” I hung my head in shame and thought to myself, “Once again the Catholic Church is being used for English interests in Ireland.”

I had many reports that while lobbying in the U.S. against the MacBride Principles, Mr. Eccles allegedly gave the impression that he was doing so with the blessing of the late Cardinal Thomas O’Fiaich, Archbishop of Armagh and Catholic Primate of Ireland. I made a statement in the Irish Times that I would be very surprised and deeply disappointed if Cardinal O’Fiaich was allowing his name to be used by the English Government’s anti-MacBride campaign in the U.S. The next day, I received a mail-a-gram stating, “No one authorized to use my name in any way to oppose MacBride Principles. Northern Catholic Bishops have never made any statement on the MacBride Principles.” It was signed: Cardinal O’Fiaich, Ara Coeli, Armagh, 22 April 1987.

The Sunday News (Belfast) reported:

“… Mr. Eccles’ son Jim said: “My father does speak out against the MacBride Principles because he firmly believes that they will do more harm than good. But he has never received money for it, not even travelling expenses . . . He visits America frequently. While he is there, he makes his views known on the MacBride Principles . . . He sees it as an extension of the charity work he has been heavily engaged in for nearly 30 years.” [April 2, 1989].

What a guy!

Mr. Eccles, also, was a member of the board of the Fair Employment Agency (FEA) from 1985 to the fall of 1989, when the Agency was replaced by the Fair Employment Commission (FEC). In May 1990, the FEC issued a report charging that the motor trade in which Mr. Eccles worked had a very serious imbalance — that Catholics were seriously under-represented. Indeed, the FEC said that the actual company for which Eccles worked — A.S. Baird LTD — was only 18% Catholic. The FEC 1991 figures are 67 Protestants (73.6%); 24 Catholics (26.4%); 34 “unknowns;” in all, a total of 125 employees.

What did Mr. Eccles say in response to this very embarrassing exposure? According to the Sunday World (Dublin) [June 3, 1990] he alleged he, “. . . had not come across any pattern of discrimination during his years in the trade. I was too busy trying to earn an honest pound.” Indeed.

Aer Lingus Cover-Up

By the way, the other very interesting champion that sprang to the defense of Shorts was Aer Lingus. One of our members had written to them complaining that they were using Shorts 330 aircraft. The Chief Executive Officer of Aer Lingus, David M. Kennedy, wrote back on June 23, 1983, saying, “We are satisfied there is no religious discrimination in recruitment or employment practices of Shorts.” At that time, Short’s percentage of Catholics was less than 5% out of a workforce of 6,300.

I was really outraged, and I issued the following Press Statement:

“I am totally amazed. I simply cannot believe that any responsible spokesperson for Aer Lingus — not to mention the chief executive — would make such an extraordinary statement. There is simply no other way to put it: This is a blatant cover-up. Whenever the British Government is in trouble it seems it can always get some gombeen man to do its dirty work. Mr. Kennedy is but the latest example in this dismal tradition”.

Aer Lingus is semi-state owned and it is unlikely Mr. Kennedy would have made that statement without the explicit approval of the Dublin Government. Garrett FitzGerald was Prime Minister at the time.

On May 3, 1983, I sent a letter to all 535 Members of the United States House of Reprensentatives and Senate, outlining the case against Shorts. The following week (May 10, 1983), the English Ambassador, Oliver Wright, sent letters to all the same people — with a glossy brochure, specifically written by Shorts to refute our charges of discrimination. Two black and white photos were enclosed with the brochure: one of Garrett FitzGerald standing beside a Shorts’ aircraft, and one of the head of Aer Lingus receiving a Shorts’ aircraft.

Dublin Government Cover-up

But the plot thickens. In 1983, James Shannon was a Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts. He was very close to the Dublin Embassy in Washington, DC, and would not make a move on the Irish issue without the blessings of the Embassy. One of our members — a constituent of his — wrote to the Congressman asking him to support the Caucus’ campaign of opposing Shorts getting a U.S. Air Force contract. This was his response:

“The Irish Government recently reviewed the situation at Short Brothers in Belfast. It noted historical patterns of clear discrimination, and also noted recent efforts to correct that situation, including: the appointment of a Catholic personnel director, active recruitment in Catholic schools and in the Catholic press, and agreeing with the Fair Employment Agency to set up an affirmative action program. It also noted that the prevailing opinion in both communities in the North was that the proper approach is to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices and then to promote foreign investment and employment. The Irish Government recently contracted with Short Brothers for the production of aircraft for the national airline, Aer Lingus. This is the best evidence that progress is being made in correcting historical patterns of injustice”. [September 2, 1983]

So there you have it. The first opponents of our campaign to stop the U.S. subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination were John Hume, the Catholic Bishop of Belfast, the Knights of Columbanus, Aer Lingus, and the Dublin Government. And you thought the English Government ruled only through the Protestants of Northern Ireland! For more details on how the Dublin Embassy did the dirty work of the English Government, please see my “Response to Sean Donlon’s article in the Irish Times,” Appendix D. It would seem that the Dublin Embassy was a wholly owned subsidiary of the English Government. The architects of the Embassy’s policy were Sean Donlon, John Hume, and Michael Lillis (an embassy official).

The Mercurial Mr. Devlin

It is also interesting to note here that on our visit to Ireland in 1979, we met with Paddy Devlin, former Social Democratic and Labor Party (S.D.L.P.) leader. He was very excited about our idea of making an impact on discrimination through the leverage of American companies. He kept saying he couldn’t believe that he himself had not thought of this idea.

The next time I saw Paddy Devlin was in the U.S. at a Hearing testifying against the Principles. He became one of the team of Catholics the English Government (through its Department of Economic Development) recruited.

Devlin would write later in his column in the Sunday World (Dublin), “My personal view of the principles is that they will undermine our efforts to eliminate discrimination, deflect U.S. investment away and cause the withdrawal of U.S. companies by putting them into conflict with our labor laws.” [“MacBride Principles Spell Kiss of Death,” May 11, 1986].

The following year he said, “The MacBride Principles are a sham. It is time we identified the primary issue of the hidden agenda that is the destablishment of Northern Ireland society.” [The Sunday World, June 7, 1987].


The Caucus/Ottinger visit to Northern Ireland served as a watershed in our campaign. After this, a number of elected officials on the State level contacted us, wishing to become associated with our campaign. Chief among these were: New York City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin, Council Member Sal Albanese of the New York City Council, New York State Assemblyman John Dearie, New York State Senator John Flynn and Massachusetts State Senate President Bill Bulger.

The Caucus saw the need not only to involve United States legislators, but also institutional investors in our campaign. As New York City Comptroller, Mr. Goldin was one of the custodians of millions of dollars of New York City funds invested in a number of United States companies doing business in Northern Ireland. We eagerly welcomed him to the campaign.

MacBride Principles Christened

At this stage, the Irish National Caucus decided to give a name to the Principles we had been promoting for so many years. There was no question in either Rita’s or my mind as to whom these Principles should be named after: Our good friend and the I.N.C. Liaison in Ireland — the illustrious and legendary Sean MacBride.

We had talked to him on the phone a number of times about naming the Principles after him. On October 18, 1984, I formally wrote to Sean MacBride, proposing and enclosing, the Principles (see my letters in Appendix E). These Principles, as already explained, were devised by the Irish National Caucus for the Ottinger Bill in 1983. They were now revised by the Caucus, with input from some expert advisors and the Office of Comptroller Goldin.

It was a mark of the deep trust Sean MacBride had in the Irish National Caucus that he unhesitatingly consented to give his name to the Principles.

In the first week of November, 1984, the Irish National Caucus announced the launching of the MacBride Principles. Thus the Principles were “Christened.” The Irish Echo, [New York, November 10, 1984] captured the historic moment accurately with the headline: “Caucus Proposes New Initiative to Stop Discrimination in Northern Ireland.” The Sunday Tribune (Dublin) reported: “The nine-point employment code, which was drawn up by the Washington based Irish National Caucus (I.N.C.) is sponsored by Sean MacBride S.C., leading Northern Ireland trade unionist Inez McCormack and Northern surgeon Senator John Robb (and Father Brian Brady),” [November 4, 1984].

Thus, an historic initiative was conceived, born and christened.

We wanted to mention Comptroller Goldin’s name in our announcement, but at that stage he was not prepared to associate his name with the Principles. The first New York politician, in fact, to publicly associate himself with the MacBride Principles was City Councilmember Sal Albanese (D- Bay Ridge). I had been advising Goldin to publicly associate himself with the MacBride Principles otherwise other New York politicians would beat him to the punch. But he thought it was just a tactic to stampede him into supporting the Principles earlier than he wanted to.

Caucus Launches MacBride Campaign

The moment Councilmember Albanese read the Irish Echo’s report on the launching of the MacBride Principles, he contacted the Irish National Caucus with a view to introducing a Bill in the New York City Council. He and the Caucus worked on the drafting and on December 19, 1984, a Bill was introduced — #878. This was to be the very first MacBride Bill in the U.S.A.

And so, the MacBride Campaign had formally began:

The Daily News reported:

“City Councilman Sal Albanese (D-Bay Ridge) will appear at City Hall tomorrow in a rally with Rev. Sean McManus, National Director of the Irish National Caucus, to seek support for the bill.” [January 2, 1985]

The Irish Echo announced:

“Fr. Sean McManus, national director of the Irish National Caucus, will hold a press conference with Councilman Albanese at City Hall on Jan. 3 at 10:30 am calling on Irish groups to support Intro. No. 878. “ [January 5, 1985]

The Chief Leader said:

“The Irish National Caucus has chosen New York City to be the first where pension fund investments will be used to increase pressure for equal rights for Catholics in Northern Ireland . . .” [January 11, 1985]

The newspaper Catholic New York said:

“Father McManus was present at City Hall recently to speak in favor of the [Albanese] legislation . . . Father McManus said that proposed legislation is “eminently reasonable . . . One of the most effective ways for us to combat the situation is to get the investors involved and make them aware they are supporting anti-Catholic discrimination,” he told Catholic New York.” [February 7, 1985]

The Sunday Times (London):

“The [MacBride] campaign . . . being run by the Irish National Caucus . . . is particularly well timed. For even if the law is never passed, it provides an opportunity to link, however, tenuously, the issues of South Africa and Northern Ireland. The MacBride Principles also call for the same kind of affirmative action programmes for Catholics which American companies already use in the employment of women and Blacks in the U.S.A.” [January 6, 1985].

This was the first mention of the Principles in the English Press.

In an interview with Niall O’Dowd in The Irish Press [January 4,1985], Comptroller Goldin said: “Moreover, having reviewed the MacBride Principles, I endorse this initiative.” (Notice: he speaks about “having reviewed” not having originated the Principles. It was only later that people associated with the Comptroller made the retroactive claim that he had developed the Principles. In these matters one can’t have it both ways: One can’t first refuse to allow one’s name to be associated with the launching of the Principles, then later speak of having reviewed the Principles, and then later on — when it is expedient politically — to claim that one originated the Principles. It just doesn’t work that way.)

But in New York papers, Comptroller Goldin, unfortunately, came out, very publicly, against the Bill. The New York Daily News under the Headline “Koch & Goldin oppose Ulster investment ban,” said:

“Mayor Koch and City Controller Harrison Goldin expressed opposition yesterday to a City bill that would prohibit city Pension fund investments in the U.S. owned businesses that discriminate against Northern Ireland. Their reaction came after the Rev. Sean McManus, national director of the Irish National Caucus Inc., a Northern Irish Catholic lobbying group based in Washington, appeared at City Hall to urge passage of the bill. The measure, sponsored by Councilman Sal Albanese (D-Brooklyn), is awaiting a hearing in the Council’s economic development committee . . . Goldin said the Council Bill was premature.” [January 4, 1985]

The Irish Echo stated:

“Mayor Koch and City Comptroller Harrison Golden are opposed to such tough measures on the grounds that the British have an official policy that is against discrimination, and the situation in Belfast is very different from South Africa where the government has an official policy of discrimination.

The “unofficial” nature of discrimination in Northern Ireland notwithstanding, it is still a fact that Catholics do not have equal opportunity in the North, and that New York City officials have every right to be concerned about it . . .

It is for this reason Councilman Albanese should be encouraged . . . and that Mr. Koch and Mr. Golden — who I am sure are acting in good faith — should be asked to take another look at their position. Mr. Koch has the strong support of the majority of the Irish community in New York and I am sure he would like to maintain that support.” [January 19, 1985]

The New York Times said:

“The Council measure is opposed by Mayor Koch, who sits on the boards of the four largest pension funds for city workers, and City Comptroller Harrison J. Goldin, the custodian for all five funds in the system and a trustee of the four largest funds. “ [January 4, 1985].

At this stage — and for a good while later — Goldin was opposed to legislation on the Principles. He felt that Shareholder Resolutions would have sufficient leverage and his office didn’t want anything to overshadow his role. His office fought Albanese’s office on this. So much so that Albanese and I had to call a meeting in New York to push the need for legislation.

About 400 Irish-Americans attended the meeting. I spoke very forcefully about the need for legislation — not just shareholder resolutions. Even at that meeting, Goldin’s office opposed the idea of legislation. But the mood of the meeting was clearly in our favor and soon afterwards Goldin’s office withdrew their opposition to legislation.

Goldin soon realized, however, that he had made a terrible mistake. The train was leaving the station and he was not on board! He was in a position to play a key role in our campaign, but his public opposition to the New York City legislation had hurt him badly.

Comptroller Goldin had lost the high ground. How could he re-claim it? The Caucus wanted Goldin to be prominently involved because as the custodian of millions of dollars, he represented the vitally important role of investors in the MacBride campaign.

Caucus-Goldin Visit

There is a well known technique whereby Americans stake claim to an interest in Irish issues— the highly publicized visit to Ireland. There is nothing wrong with this. Presidents Kennedy and Reagan did it, so why shouldn’t a non-Irish-American also do it? It is simply racist to say that an Irish-American can do it honorably, but a Jewish-American can not.

So Comptroller Goldin needed to visit Ireland. But how to go about it? Who would sponsor the visit? Who would set it up? And very importantly, who would have the resources to pay for it?

The answer — the Irish National Caucus. That the Caucus attached great importance to the role Goldin could play is seen in the fact that it was prepared to spend so much money on the trip.

Furthermore, the Caucus had already “covered” the legislative dimension of the MacBride Principles — we now needed to “cover” the investment dimension.

The Daily News would give prominent coverage:

“A. U.S. based Irish lobbying group paid up to $12,000 so City Comptroller Harrison Goldin could visit Ireland — with his family and aide — to look into complaints of economic discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland . . . A spokesman for the controller said it was official city business.” [June 25, 1985].

The aide, by the way, was Pat Doherty, who would go on to feature prominently in the MacBride campaign (see page 32).

Some Irish-American groups shortsightedly criticized the Irish National Caucus for “wasting money.” But when they finally understood the significance of the Caucus strategy, they were very anxious to associate themselves with the MacBride campaign.

The Goldin visit received heavy coverage in the British and Irish media, thereby helping to establish the MacBride Principles firmly in the public mind. It was on this trip that Goldin met Sean MacBride for the first time . . . eight months after the Irish National Caucus had launched the MacBride Principles.

The Caucus arranged meetings with Charlie Haughey, the Fair Employment Agency, John Hume, and various U.S. companies.

It is ironic that the English Government attempts to make great play out of the fact that Sinn Fein is the only political party in Northern Ireland to support the MacBride Principles. In fact, when Sinn Fein met with the Goldin group in Belfast, they expressed strong opposition to the Principles. They said the Principles were not radical enough. But the real reason for their opposition was because the Principles were launched by the Irish National Caucus. (Sinn Fein opposes the Irish National Caucus because it is nonviolent, and because the Caucus will not allow itself to be controlled from Ireland.) But later, when Sinn Fein saw that the Principles were driving the English Government up the wall, they reversed their position and began to express public support for the Principles.

In the United States, the trip was also given considerable Press coverage. The New York Times, the New York Daily News and the New York Post — all devoted editorials to it. For example, the New York Daily News Editorial said:

““How did Goldin get involved with the so-called MacBride Principles? Although named for an aging Irish Nobel laureate Sean MacBride, they were actually drawn up in the U.S. by the Irish National Caucus. The caucus organized and paid for Goldin’s trip — at a cost of about $12,000.” [July 19, 1985].

The New York Times Editorial said:

“A lofty but misguided proposition for opposing discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland has reared its head in Congress, three state legislatures and the New York City Council. Based on what are called the ’MacBride Principles’… The principal sponsor is the Irish National Caucus, a Washington lobby intent on getting Americans to pressure Britain to withdraw from Northern Ireland . . . Comptroller Harrison Goldin, just back from Northern Ireland, is pressuring pension funds to act on their own.” [July 5, 1985].

The New York Post Editorial said:

“City Controller Harrison Goldin says he recently visited Northern Ireland as a trustee of the city’s $28 billion-plus pension fund. He wanted to see if employment discrimination exists, with an eye toward using the fund’s considerable muscle to end it. It was official business, says Goldin. The Irish National Caucus — a private organization which lobbies politicians on behalf of Ireland — paid. It wasn’t cheap, either. The caucus estimates it cost upwards of $12,000.” [June 27, 1985].

In a short time, the Irish National Caucus campaign would be featured in The Wall Street Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Boston Globe, and many other major newspapers.

MacBride Becomes State Law

Then, at our urging, our good friend State Senator Billy Bulger used his influence to have Massachusetts become the first State to pass the MacBride Principles. I launched the Massachusetts Campaign in Springfield with a speech before the John Boyle O’Reilly Club — a very appropriate place — in February 1985. The Sunday Republican reported:

“American businesses can have a profound effect,” (Fr. McManus) said. “You’re talking about millions of dollars . . . We’re not calling for disinvestment. We are not trying to end American investment in Northern Ireland,” he said. [February 3, 1985].

We worked closely with State Representative Tom Gallagher (D-18th Suffolk District). On October 1, 1985, he wrote to me:

“I expect the Massachusetts House will shortly take up legislation applying the MacBride Principles to state pension fund investment. I believe the measure will reach the Governor’s desk this session, and will make Massachusetts the first state to apply MacBride to its investments. I look forward to working with you in the future.”

The Massachusetts MacBride Bill was signed into law by Governor Michael Dukakis on November 21, 1985. It was first MacBride law in America. Dukakis still supported the MacBride Principles as a presidential candidate in 1988 (despite the strong lobbying of John Hume). New York Assemblyman John Dearie and New York State Senator John Flynn initiated Bills on the MacBride Principles.

Soon afterwards, New York became the second State to pass the MacBride Principles, in May of 1986. In 1992, New York State became the first State to pass a MacBride Principles Contract Compliance Bill (please see box on opposite page).

The Irish National Caucus then initiated Congressional legislation on the MacBride Principles (the Fish-D’Amato Bill, introduced on October 1, 1986), just as we had done on the seminal Ottinger Bill in 1983. And, as they say, the rest is history. Virtually all Irish-American organizations, the AFL-CIO, many religious groups (Catholics and Protestants) rallied behind the MacBride Principles, making them the most powerful American campaign on Northern Ireland since its creation in 1920.

Recap on Comptroller Goldin & the MacBride Principles

Comptroller Goldin, until he left office in January 1990, played a key and powerful role in the MacBride campaign. The Caucus is always the first to give him the credit he is due. Had we not seen him as a very important player, we would not have spent $12,000 on his trip to Ireland so that he could become more involved and identify with our campaign. Some, however, have tried to re-write history and have attempted to give the impression that the MacBride Principles originated in Comptroller Goldin’s office. That is manifestly untrue:

• It was the Caucus that brought up the whole issue of U.S. dollars subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland, years before Comptroller Goldin got involved.

• It was the Caucus that — unilaterally — decided that the Principles would be named after Sean MacBride. At that stage, Comptroller Goldin’s office was not fully aware of who Sean MacBride was.

• It was the Caucus that contacted Sean MacBride and proposed the Principles — after all, he had been our Liaison in Ireland from 1979 until his death in 1988.

• It was to the Caucus that Sean MacBride gave his consent, not to Comptroller Goldin nor to anyone else.

• It was the Caucus that selected the three other Sponsors of the Principles — the late Father Brian Brady, Doctor John Robb and Inez McCormack (again, Goldin’s office did not know about these individuals).

• It was the Caucus that announced the launching of the MacBride Principles. Goldin would not allow his name to be mentioned.

• It was the Caucus that brought Goldin to Ireland.

If the Principles originated in Goldin’s office, why didn’t Goldin — and not the Irish National Caucus — announce and launch the MacBride Principles Campaign? It is really too much to believe that an American politician would “originate” something and then “give” it to others to announce.

Furthermore, in the article quoted above by Niall O’Dowd in the Irish Press, Goldin talks about having “reviewed the Principles” — not having originated them — two months after the Caucus had launched them.

In fairness to Mr. Goldin, he himself never made the claim that the Principles originated in his office (except, maybe, when he was running for Mayor and one can understand that). In all of the documentation produced here, there is not the slightest evidence, not even in the New York press, that Goldin originated the MacBride Principles.

Furthermore, it was not until the MacBride campaign had become very successful that there were any claims that Goldin’s office originated the Principles. Goldin got involved in a campaign that the Caucus had been conducting for years. And he played an important role in that campaign. The Caucus never tries to diminish his role. We only deny the claim made by others, retroactively, that his office started the whole thing. It did not, as the facts show.

Ironically, it is those who want to make exaggerated claims for Goldin’s office that are running the risk of diminishing his role. Because by us having to deny their exorbitant claims, the impression may be given that we are negative towards Goldin. Not at all. We hold him in affection and in great respect.

We just have to refute the attempted revisionism. That’s all. We are prepared to give credit where credit is due. We are not, however, going to allow the genesis and history of the MacBride Principles to be distorted.

I believe I have proved the thesis proposed at the very beginning of this book, namely that it was THE IRISH NATIONAL CAUCUS THAT INITIATED, PROPOSED AND LAUNCHED THE MACBRIDE PRINCIPLES. Any other attempted version does great disservice to the truth and to the memory of Sean MacBride.

I hope I have not belabored the point, but it was, I think, necessary to set the record straight. And I owe it to Sean MacBride, who generously gave his permission for the Irish National Caucus to use his name for the Principles because he was in complete support of our work to stop U.S. dollars subsidizing anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland.

After Sean’s death on January 15, 1988, his son Tiernan — with typical MacBride generosity — wrote to me :

On behalf of the late Sean MacBride I would like to thank you most sincerely for travelling to Dublin to attend his funeral. He will never be forgotten while the Principles drawn up by the Irish National Caucus are named after him.

And on June 28, 1993, Caitriona Lawlor in Dublin wrote the following letter to Ken Bertsch, Investor Responsibility Research Center:
“I understand that you are preparing an updated version of “The MacBride Principles and US companies in Northern Ireland.” . . .

During the years 1976 to 1988, I worked as Personal Assistant to Sean MacBride and witnessed the attention he paid to the causes in which he believed, in days when such causes were neither popular nor profitable. It amused me, therefore, to see the reference contained on p. 60 of the current edition, “Doherty and McManus dispute exactly who should take credit for the idea of a fair employment code for recruiting Sean MacBride as Sponsor.” My understanding always was that the fair employment initiative for Northern Ireland lay squarely with Father Sean McManus and the Irish National Caucus in Washington, and it was to great advantage when the Comptroller of New York City, Harrison Goldin, and his office took up the cudgels. Indeed, Father McManus was adamant even in the initial stages of preparation, that MacBride should be involved and should lend his name to the Principles, based loosely on the Sullivan Principles for South Africa.

This is a very slight correction, but I feel in the interests of historical accuracy, due credit for initiating the code and recruiting Sean MacBride, should be given to Father McManus and the Irish National Caucus, and I hope you will feel able to do so. . . .”

Bill Clinton and the MacBride Principles

At the Irish-American Presidential Forum in New York City on Sunday, April 5, 1992, candidate Bill Clinton promised:

I like the Principles very much, I think they’re a good thing, and if I were President, I would ask all state governors to take a look at adopting them.

There’s always that argument [that the Principles discourage business] with this kind of thing, but I don’t buy it. I see the MacBride Principles as a way of helping investment because it would help stabilize the troubles in Northern Ireland.

On October 23, 1992, Bill Clinton made his second endorsement of the MacBride Principles:

We believe that the British Government must do more to oppose the job discrimination that has created unemployment levels two and a half times higher for Catholics workers than Protestant workers. There can be no lasting settlement in Northern Ireland until such discrimination is ended. The MacBride Principles set forth appropriate guidelines for investment to help achieve these goals.

And on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1993, in the White House, President Clinton at a Press Conference with the Dublin Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, made his third endorsement of the MacBride Principles. Conor O’Clery, Washington Correspondent for The Irish Times, asked Clinton if he still supported the MacBride Principles. President Clinton said, “Yes.”