Damien Walsh Lecture
Sean Mc Manus, President, Irish National Caucus
Belfast, 2 August 2005
I first went to America on October 2, 1972, it was
my hope that I would be able to help inform Americans
about the problem in Northern Ireland. Little did
I realize that living in America would actually
help me to better understand the problem in Northern
Ireland. I learned to understand the importance
of a written constitution, a Bill of Rights, separation
of Church and State, freedom of speech, freedom
of assembly, etc., etc. But I learned, too, that
a good Constitution doesn't matter much if the State
has a double standard, systematic discrimination
and a racist/sectarian police force.
The Black Freedom Struggle
it was really in studying the Black Freedom Struggle
in America that I really came to better understand
the problem back home in the wee North (and, of
course, because I was a Catholic from Northern Ireland
I intuitively understood the oppression of Blacks
keep telling Irish-Americans that while it may be
important to understand the Fenian Rising of 1867
and Easter Rising of 1916, if they really want to
understand the problem in Northern Ireland they
must also understand the history of their own country.
To understand the wisdom of Blessed Martin Luther
King when he said things like:
we must say that this struggle for freedom will
not come to an automatic halt, for history reveals
to us that once oppressed people rise up against
that oppression, there is no stopping short of full
freedom." (MLK in "Love, Law and Civil
Disobedience, page 3).
to understand Frederick Douglas (1818-1895) the
former slave and one of the first great African-American
leaders when he said in 1857 (the year before the
Fenian Brotherhood was launched in America):
whole history of the progress of human liberty shows
that all concessions yet made to her august claims
have been born of earnest struggle. If there is
no struggle, there is no progress; those who profess
to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are
men who want crops without ploughing ."
Luther King, of course, was committed to a nonviolent
struggle, whereas Douglas was not so committed).
of you may have seen the movie Mississippi Burning
with Gene Hackman, about the assassination of the
three Civil Rights workers in 1964 -- James Chaney,
a young African-American from Mississippi, and Andrew
Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two young white Jewish-Americans
from New York.
young martyrs for The Cause were set up by the police
and turned over to the Klu Klux Klan. One of the
killers, Edgar Ray Killen was just sentenced in
June 2005, 41 years after the murder. On January
10, 2005, the Washington Post mentioned that
the former Secretary of State for Mississippi had
lost the election for governor because back in 1989
he had pressed for an investigation into the assassination.
("Reopened Civil Rights Cases Evoke Painful
would have shocked American readers, but not someone
from Kinawley. Would all British and Unionist leaders
have won elections had they kept pressing for investigations
into State-collusion in the assassinations of Damien
Walsh, Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson,
and so many others? In Mississippi, as in Northern
Ireland, there was a hierarchy of victims.
The Original Securocrat
want you to reflect on this: In 1964 the Civil Rights
Act was passed in America, and in 1965 the voting
Rights Act was passed. I keep telling Irish-Americans
that those two Acts, morally speaking, did for African-Americans
what the Good Friday Agreement did for Catholics
in NI. Yet at that very same time, the awful J.
Edgar Hoover -- the original SECUROCRAT -- decided
to use the full force of the FBI to destroy Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and his Movement. Many Americans
today find that fact hard to believe but no Catholic
from NI would have difficulty in believing it.
to 1964, J. Edgar Hoover had not bothered too much
about Martin Luther King; after all, he didn't need
to.. African-Americans were a true minority, voiceless
and without power, like the Catholics in the North
in the 60's. When President Johnson left The White
House in 1969, the FBI had 3,300 Black informants.
By the end of Nixon's first term (1972), Hoover's
FBI had 7,500 Black informants. Kenneth O'Reilly,
who has written a key book on Hoover's campaign
of harassment against African-Americans, says it
well: "When the FBI stood against the Black
people, so did the government." (Racial
Matters: The FBI's Secret File on Black Americans,
1960-1972, page 357, The Free Press, 1989).
famous journalist, I.F. Stone said in reference
to the assassination of Medgar Evers in Jackson,
Mississippi, June 12, 1963, "The FBI lives
in cordial fraternity with cops that enforce white
supremacy." His assassin, Byron De La Beckwith,
although tried twice in the 1960's was not imprisoned
till 1994 --- 31 years after the murder. Does any
of that sound familiar?
of the three main Senate Office Buildings on Capitol
Hill is called the Russell Building in honor of
U.S. Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, who served
in the Senate for almost 40 years, from 1932 to
1971. On Sunday morning, September 15, 1963, one
of the worst atrocities of the American Civil Rights
Movement happened in Birmingham, Alabama. The Klu
Klux Klan bombed the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church,
killing four young girls, aged between eleven to
fourteen. In advising the FBI about the bombing,
Senator Russell mentioned "the possibility
that Negroes might have perpetrated this incident
to keep emotions at fever pitch." (Racial
Matters, page 111). Does any of that sound familiar?
the way, the lead bomber, Bob Chambliss, used to
describe himself as 100% percent Irish. He was not
imprisoned till 1977 -- fourteen years after the
1980 Justice Department report states Hoover blocked
prosecution of the KKK in 1965, and in 1968 shut
down the investigation without filing charges. One
of the reasons Hoover shut down the investigation
was that the FBI had an informant in the KKK who
worked directly under Bob Chambliss. His name was
Gary T. Rowe, and Hoover described him as the best
undercover agent "we've ever seen." Does
any of that sound familiar?
O'Reilly says in regards to the FBI record in Birmingham
in those days that the FBI could have stopped the
anti-Black violence and the assassination of Blacks
"if they had chosen to act on the extraordinary
intelligence they held on the collusion between
the Klu Klux Klan and the city's law enforcement
community. Aware of the planned violence weeks in
advance, the FBI did nothing to stop it and had
actually given the Birmingham police details knowing
full well that at least one law enforcement officer
relayed everything to the Klan." (page
any of that ring a bell?
Church and State
I arrived America, I naively thought that the obvious
constituency to lobby would be the Left Wing of
the Democratic Party and Catholic Bishops. While
I knew the English and Irish Bishops did not have
a great record in standing up for Irish justice,
I felt there was a chance the American Bishops might
show some guts. And, furthermore, you see, on November
30,1971, the World Synod of Bishops, meeting in
Rome, had issued a very important document "Justice
in the World" in which they declared: "Action
on behalf of justice is a CONSTITUTIVE DIMENSION
OF THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPELS".
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, Archbishop
Hickey of Washington and Bishop Thomas Kelly, Secretary
General of the US Catholic Conference, met in The
White House to urge President Reagan to continue
the ban on military aid to El Salvador.
wrote to them, urging them to also urge President
Reagan to continue the ban on the sale of US weapons
to the RUC.
February 6, 1981, Archbishop Hickey responded saying,
"Bishop Kelly and I will be in touch with our
counterparts in Northern Ireland to seek their advice
in this vexing question. Our intervention will depend
on their response."
Kelly responded on January 29, 1981 and said "We
have known of your position [on the RUC] for some
time. 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 attention."
waited, and waited to hear back from Cardinal Hickey,
about the response from the Irish Bishops but since
Cardinal Hickey died last October, I guess I will
not be hearing from him. So much for my hope that
the American Bishops would do the right thing.
on we had a number meetings with the Office of International
Justice and Peace, a section of the Department of
Social Development and World Peace, of the US Catholic
Conference. The then Advisor on European Affairs
was Edward Doherty, a layman, and a Brit to his
fingertips. He was lecturing us on violence and
when it was pointed out that on his blazer he had
a badge of the American War College, and that that
could hardly be described as a nonviolent organization
he simply said it was "a very professional
on he wrote in 1979,
is the Provos who are mainly responsible for the
violence in Northern Ireland and this is recognized
by every careful and impartial observer. After due
consultation with the Irish bishops, and in recognition
of the efforts being made by the governments and
church bodies directly concerned, we [the US Catholic
Conference] had concluded that there is no appropriate
basis for public intervention in the problems of
Northern Ireland, either by this conference, or
any branch of the United States government."
(Letter, to Caucus member, dated October 17, 1979,
on the official stationery of the United States
you think for a moment that he would have made such
a statement without checking with the Irish Embassy,
and probably with the British Embassy?
that, too, was essentially the position of big-name
Irish-American politicians, like Teddy Kennedy,
Tip O'Neill, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Hugh Carey.
And it WAS the position of the Dublin Government,
no matter what some would now try to tell you.
was one of the most exasperating aspects of our
work in the early years. We had to fight not only
the British Embassy, but also the Irish Embassy
(especially when Sean Donlon was Ambassador, 1978-1981),
the leadership Catholic Church and big name Irish-American
October 27, 1976 -- just six days before the Presidential
election -- the Irish National Caucus organized
a meeting with Jimmy Carter in Pittsburgh, Pa. and
got him to say "it is a mistake for our country's
government to stand quiet on the struggle of the
Irish for peace for the respect of human rights
and for unifying Ireland..."
is now well known that Garret FitzGerald, who was
then Irish Foreign Minister, instead of welcoming
Carter's statement, spent a lot of time forcing
Jimmy Carter to back off his commitment. The
Boston Globe reported: "Irish embassy officials
protested vehemently to Carter aides. Carter, under
pressure, agreed to send a telegram of clarification.
According to the Irish government, the Carter aides
agreed to send the telegram only on condition it
not on be released publicly in the United States."
("Hub priest denies he backs IRA", Monday
Morning, April 18, 1977).
the following St. Patrick's Day, 1977, the Four
Horsemen -- Kennedy, O'Neill, Moynihan and Carey
-- issued their first St. Patrick's Day statement
essentially saying the problem in Northern Ireland
was the IRA and the second problem was Irish-Americans
supporting the IRA. So we had gotten the new American
President Jimmy Carter, a devout Protestant from
the Deep South, stating the problem in terms of
human rights, and Garret FitzGerald got the Four
Horsemen, all good Catholics from the North East,
stating the problem in terms of terrorism. What's
wrong with that picture?
that time, I have been haunted by this thought:
What might have happened if FitzGerald had not been
so useless on the North? And yet, some elements
in the Irish media would still try to pretend that
FitzGerald was the real originator of the Irish
fast forward from Pittsburgh in 1976 to New York,
Sunday, April 12, 1992. Essentially the same type
of "usual suspects" that gathered to hear
Carter in Pittsburgh now gathered to hear Candidate
Bill Clinton make his Irish pledges. I remember
turning to Conor O'Clery of the Irish Times
and saying, jokingly, "The only one missing
is Garret FitzGerald." I said that because
I was deeply conscious that the thing that mattered
the most was whether Albert Reynolds would welcome
Clinton's statement or whether he would try to force
Clinton to back off, as FitzGerald forced Carter
to back off. Reynolds, God bless him, welcomed Clinton's
interest. And, as they say, the rest is history.
But one thing is certain. If Albert Reynolds had
joined British Prime Minister, John Major, in opposing
Clinton's involvement, President Clinton would have
had to back off. Albert Reynolds deserves enormous
credit. I shall be eternally grateful to him --
and to President Clinton.
I am happy to put on record that I believe the Irish
Embassy, ever since Albert Reynolds, is doing excellent
work on the Irish peace-process. And that truly
pleases me, as I really see it as the final ending
of the Irish Civil War. (Even though I fear that
could change if a crazy man like Michael Mc Dowell
ever came to power).
JUSTICE - PEACE - FORGIVENESS
has been said that Irish-Americans are too far removed
to understand the Irish problem. Well that may be
true to some degree. But it is also true that distance
can give perspective, whereas sometimes being too
close to something can actually distort perspective.
I see -- despite the problems -- huge and wonderful
improvements in the North, and it gives me great
joy. And I'm so grateful to the brave men and women
in Ireland and Britain who made it possible.
of Martin Luther King's favorite quotes was from
the Abolitionist preacher, Theodore Parker, who
said: "The arc of the moral universe is long,
but it bends toward justice".
believe that arc is bending towards justice in Ireland,
and that there is no going back.
let me conclude by giving you one of my own favorite
quotes, from Walter Brueggemann, an American Protestant
and a distinguished Old Testament scholar:
Biblical faith, the doing of justice is the primary
expectation of God."
we enter the post-conflict era, we must rededicate
ourselves. We must realize that while there is no
peace without justice, there is no justice without
peace -- and that there is neither justice nor peace
his "Message for World Peace Day", 1977,
Pope John Paul urged that, "The deadly cycle
of revenge must be replaced by the new-found liberty
of forgiveness". And this is what it means
when we say that, ultimately, peace is a gift from
God. Because without forgiveness no peace is possible,
no matter how good or just the political structures
let us work for justice and pray for peace in Ireland,
and let us all dedicate ourselves to forgiveness.
in 1980, FitzGerald made another attack on the Irish
National Caucus. This time his effort was to force
Charlie Haughey, who was then in his first term
as Taoiseach, to condemn the Irish National Caucus
publicly by name. Haughey caved in and condemned
us on July 27, 1980. The following day Geraldine
Kennedy, in the Irish Times, revealed that
FitszGerald had threatened to "end the bipartisan
policy on Northern Ireland" if Haughey did
not condemn the Irish National Caucus and Congressman
Mario Biaggi. The Irish Times also published
FitzGerald's letter to Haughey. FitzGerald wrote:
will have seen that John Hume, Frank Cluskey and
myself urged on 9th July that you clarify at once
your Government's position with respect specifically
to Congressman Biaggi, and to organizations such
as the Irish National Caucus. In the meantime
I shall postpone publication of this letter."
("FitzGerald asked for condemnation,"
Irish Times, July 28, 1980).
Kennedy went on to say, "This was decided at
lengthy meetings of the Fine Gael front bench and
parliamentary party and after talks with the leader
of the SDLP, Mr. John Hume." ("FitzGerald
calls on Haughey to reject IRA front groups,"
Irish Times, July 28, 1980)
in the 1920's, my old Irish hero, John Devoy, in
a rather over-the-top statement described Eamonn
De Valera as "the most malignant man in all
of Irish history." I once told Sean Mac Bride
that I felt that description better applied to Garett
FitzGerald. Sean laughed heartedly. I have really
got to admit that it drives me crazy to see that
FitzGerald is still, without any shame, pontificating
about the North. To me, no man is history has less
credibility on the north than FitzGerald.
Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs
what do you do if your natural allies in the Congress
-- the Irish Catholics -- turn their back? You go
to the Italians, the Jews, the Blacks, the Protestants,
the Baptists, etc., And that's exactly what we did.
here I want to talk about three Members of Congress
who more than any one else deserve credit -- none
of them Irish, and only one of them Catholic: Mario
Biaggi, Hamilton Fish, and Ben Gilman.
1977 the Irish National Caucus initiated the formation
of the Ad Hoc Congressional for Irish Affairs. The
New York Times commentated: "Perhaps
the Caucus' boldest success has been its efforts
to create the Committee for Irish Affairs."
asked Congressman Mario Biaggi (now retired) from
New York City to head up the Congressional Committee,
knowing the British or Irish Embassies would not
intimidate him. The hostile press in Britain and
Ireland used to falsely dismiss Biaggi's motive
for being involved because he had a huge amount
of Irish in his District. Yet the Irish were only
about 6% of his District. I once ran into some inebriated
members of the Irish Embassy at one of their favorite
watering holes in Washington. I asked them what
they did at the Embassy, and one of them, while
convulsed with laughter roared, "We run dirty
tricks against the Irish National Caucus."
He was drunk, but he was not joking. He was laughing
but he was deadly serious.
February 1978, I was tipped off that the Irish Embassy
was planning something big against us for St Patrick's
Day. My informant heard one of the Irish Embassy
staff boast: "Come St. Patrick's Day, only
Mc Manus and Biaggi will be left standing."
So we braced ourselves for the gathering storm,
and it came on February 17, 1978. On
that date, Jack Lynch wrote to Congressman Mario
Biaggi, denouncing him and the Irish National Caucus.
But before sending it to Biaggi, Lynch made it public
to the New York Times, The Washington
Post and all the major American media. The intention
was clear: to put the Ad Hoc congressional Committee
for Irish Affairs and the Irish National Caucus
out of business. The Irish Embassy genuinely thought
the Members of Congress we had signed up for the
Committee would resign en masse. When Lynch made
his vicious, unprecedented attack, we had 93 Members
of Congress signed up for the Committee for Irish
Affairs. Only two resigned, and we went on to recruit
a total of 133 Members of Congress. Congressman
Biaggi should never be forgotten for his great service
for Irish justice and peace.
late Republican Congressman Hamilton Fish (1926-1996)
was from an old, distinguished and wealthy family
of WASPS -- White, Anglo, Saxon, Protestants. His
Congressional District was about an hour's drive
from New York City. Fish's great-grandfather, as
Secretary of State, locked up the Fenians for invading
Canada in 1870. My private joke with Hamilton Fish
was that he had to work extra hard for Ireland to
make up for his great-grandfather locking up the
Fenians. On Gerry Adam's first visit to Capitol
Hill we arranged for him to pay special tribute
to Congressman Fish, who was then retiring for health
reasons. After Adams praised him, Fish came up to
me and said, "Father Sean, does this mean that
the Fenians have now forgiven my great Grandfather?"
I responded, "Well, you heard it from the horse's
mouth." Now listen here, I am not alleging
that Gerry Adams was "a Member" of the
Fenian Brotherhood in New York in 1870 when the
Fenians invaded Canada! (That, by the way, was the
Fenian's third attempt to invade Canada. The first
attempt was on April 17, 1866, when the Fenians
tried to take over Campo Bello, a small island off
the coast of Maine that was claimed by England;
the second "invasion" was on May 31, 1866.
Colonel John O'Neill was in charge of the "invasion"
and he called his army the Irish Republican Army,
and that was the first time the term "IRA"
was ever used. And O'Neill even had "another
go at Canada" later on).
it is interesting to note here that in fact Secretary
of State Fish recommended that the Fenians be released.
On August 16, 1870, he wrote to President Grant
these wise words of advice: "I always supposed
that you would deem it wise to release the prisoners
convicted of participation in the Fenain raid. Purely
political prisoners are the worst kind of birds
to keep caged." (William Darcy, The Fenian
Movement in the United States 1858-1886, Catholic
University Press, 1947. page 364)
Donlon and Fish
I said, Sean Donlon was Irish Ambassador to Washington
from 1978 to 1981. He was an utter disgrace, and
now Irish embassy officials are embarrassed by the
very mention of his name. In 1978 the Irish National
Caucus launched a campaign in the US. Congress to
free the Birmingham Six. We asked Congressman Fish
to head up the campaign in Congress. Fish asked
the State Department to acquire a transcript of
the trial. The Caucus paid about $700 for the transcript.
In 1979 we brought Fr. Raymond Murray of Armagh
to Washington and introduced him to Congressman
Fish. Fish, being a very proper man and being used
to protocol (he had serve as Vice Counsel in Dublin
in the 50's) went to see Donlon at the Embassy to
inform him that he was going to work to free the
Birmingham Six. Fish later told me that Donlon went
berserk and screamed at him that his efforts would
only help the IRA. Fish told me that nobody had
ever treated him so discourteously as had Donlon.
On November 6, 1979, Donlon wrote Fish a follow-up
In view of our recent conversations and correspondence
I thought it might be useful to let you have the
attached recent reports from the Irish Times.
The report dated October 27 describes a recent interest
of yours in the Birmingham bombings case as the
'fruit of the work of Fr. Raymond Murray of Armagh.'
In the report of October 22, Fr. Murray is criticized
by leading elected representatives of both ['both'
is underlined for emphasis] sections of the community."
"two elected representatives" Donlon referred
to were Gerry Fit and Martin Smyth. Smyth was head
of the Orange Order, and was not even an MP yet.
So here was the Irish Ambassador to Washington,
using the Head of the Orange Order to discredit
an Irish priest of the caliber of Fr. Murray, in
order to stop a campaign to free the Birmingham
Six. What is wrong with that picture?
has yet to apologize for his behavior and has always
defended it by saying he was only following orders.
other Member of Congress that people in Ireland
should never forget is Ben Gilman. Ben, aged 83,
and Jewish-American, is now retired. He, like Hamilton
Fish, was a Republican and his District adjoined
served as a Member of Congress from 1973 to 2002.
From 1974 until 1995, the Irish National Caucus
had campaigned for Congressional Hearings on Northern
Ireland. But famous Irish-Catholic Speakers of the
House -- with names like O'Neill and Foley -- steadfastly
blocked all Hearings. They didn't want to offend
Her Majesty's Government. The famous Jack Anderson
column stated in 1978, "An ad hoc Irish Committee
of 119 members has been formed in Congress. But
the Committee's attempts to publicize the outrages
being committed in Northern Ireland, along with
the efforts of the Irish National Caucus, have been
blocked by House Speaker Tip O'Neill and other congressional
leaders who are reluctant to offend our British
Anderson, "Carter Pressured on N. Ireland,"
Detroit Free Press, Oct. 29, 1978)
Gilman has been a champion of every Irish issue:
the Birmingham Six, the Guilford Four, the rights
of political prisoners. And there were two key issues
with which he will always be associated: the Mac
Bride Principles and the attempts to create an acceptable
police service in Northern Ireland.
has been absolutely fearless on the Irish issue,
never allowing the State Department or any foreign
government to shut him up. One of the first things
Chairman Gilman did early on in the 104th Congress
was to hold a Hearing, the first on Northern Ireland
since 1972. Then, despite heavy lobbying and pressure,
he attached the Mac Bride Principles to the International
Fund for Ireland. The House International Relations
Committee, after spirited debate, voted on the issue
May 15, 1995. There are 41 Members of the Committee.
Thirty-two voted for
Mac Bride Principles, only 8 voted against.
yet for all those years I had to listen to Lee Hamilton
tell me there was no interest in the Committee on
Mac Bride! The Mac Bride legislation is part of
the Overseas Ireland-Act, H.R. 1561. The legislation
has now been passed twice by the House of Representatives.
It has also been endorsed by the House and Senate
Conference. And the entire Republican Leadership
-- from Senator Bob Dole to the Republican National
Committee to Senator Jesse Helms -- are all on record
of supporting the Mac Bride Principles while the
State Department opposes these efforts.
What an extraordinary political re-alignment. None
of which could
have happened without Ben Gilman.
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