The Old Colonial Cringe

Posted By: February 20, 2006

That Old Colonial Cringe

The Irish Echo is to be congratulated for it’s Editorial, “
Celebrating the Rising” (February 15 -21) in which it, oh so
refreshingly, stated: “One of the best things about Irish
Americans is their self-confidenceŠ Irish-Americans rarely suffer
from the inferiority complex that still exists in Ireland. The
“post-colonial cringe” is a stranger here. Š That is why the
current debate in Ireland about whether it is appropriate for the
Irish government to celebrate the 1916 Easter Rising seems almost
amusing from this side of the Atlantic.”

I love that phrase ” post-colonial cringe”.

Some years ago, the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in an
article in the NY Daily News reminded us that theorists of
colonialism point out that it can take up to three hundred years
for oppressed people to shake off what the oppressor had brain-
washed them with — the oppressed can subconsciously
internalize the demeaning lies of the oppressor (which may be
the worst part of oppression).

I just thought it was rather ironic for Moynihan to be pointing
this out, as I always saw him as a perfect example of the ” post-
colonial cringe”. That is why, while essentially agreeing with
your statement, “Irish-Americans rarely suffer from the
inferiority complex that still exists in Ireland”, I would ,
based on my experience, have to add, ‘ except for some Irish
Members of the Congress and some Irish members of the U.S.
Catholic Hierarchy, especially at the beginnings of The

Cringing Members of Congress

When I came to the United States in October 1972 and started
lobbying Irish Members of Congress and Irish members of the U.S.
Catholic Hierarchy (which I naively thought would be the two most
obvious ” constituencies”). I was stopped in my tracks, set back
on my heels, by the ” colonial cringe”. Apart from some honorable
exceptions, many of these folks did not want to know. They were
fearless on many other international issues, but when it came to
“Mother England” they were silent. Now admittedly the shameful
stance of the Dublin governments in those early years made it
easier for them to be silent.”Father Sean, how can I be more
patriotic than the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic” was Tip
O’Neill’s favorite dodge. ” That wouldn’t be hard”, was always
my response to him. However, it must be said that Tip was never
as bad as Moynihan. Some of the obvious Irish names in Congress
were blackmailed into silence lest in criticizing the British
they would be cast as IRA supporters

That is why in the early days we had to reach out to the non-
Irish Members of Congress — to Biaggi, Fish, Gilman, etc. God
bless them. And of the three named here, only Biaggi was
Catholic.Thank God for the Black, Jewish and Protestant Members
of Congress.

Cringing Bishops

And the U.S. Catholic Hierarchy might as well have been a bunch
of heretics because they simply, in practice, ignored the
teaching of the Catholic Church regarding justice and peace, when
it came to Northern Ireland. To remind you, the Church teaches:
” Action on behalf of justice Š is a CONSTITUTIVE DIMENSION OF
THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL’. (Justice in the World. World Synod
of Bishops. November 30, 1971).

There were, however, honorable exceptions: the late Bishop
Thomas Drury of Corpus Christi, Texas; Bishop Mark Hurly, Santa
Rosa, Ca.; and Cardinal O’Connor of New York, to name some.
(Cardinal O’Connor famously refused to be silenced by the pro-
British lobbying of Garret FitzGerald).

Here, too, it must be admitted, the shameful position of the
Irish Hierarchy ( Cardinal O’Fiaich excepted)regarding British
injustice in Northern Ireland made it easier for the U.S. Bishops
to dodge the issue.
Let me give an example that perfectly illustrates this point:

In August 1979, the Irish National Caucus led a successful
campaign to have a ban put on the sale of U.S. weapons to the
RUC. Later on in January 1981 a delegation of top Bishops met
President Reagan to urge him to continue the ban on military aid
to El Salvador.

I wrote to them, urging them to also urge President Reagan to
continue the ban on the sale of US weapons to the RUC. They
responded: “Š We have known of your position [on the RUC] for
some timeŠ In the case of El Salvador, we have been encouraged to
take what action we have taken by the local hierarchy. We have
not, at this time, received such encouragement from the Irish
hierarchy on the subject you have brought to our attentionŠ”

Needless to say, the Bishops took no action… It was enough to
make a man become Protestant!

Father Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
P.O. Box 15128
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. 20003-0849