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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Towards Justice
Damien Walsh Lecture

Father Sean Mc Manus, President, Irish National Caucus • Belfast, 2 August 2005

When 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

Thus 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 in America).

I 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:

"Now 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).

And 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):

"The 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 ."

(Martin Luther King, of course, was committed to a nonviolent struggle, whereas Douglas was not so committed).

Some 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.

Those 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 Past".)

That 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

I 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.

Previous 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).

The 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?

One 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?

By 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 murder.

A 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?

Kenneth 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 86).

Does any of that ring a bell?

Church and State

WHEN 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".

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, 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.

I wrote to them, urging them to also urge President Reagan to continue the ban on the sale of US weapons to the RUC.

On 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."

Bishop 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."

I 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.

Earlier 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 organization."

Later on he wrote in 1979,

"It 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 Catholic Conference).

Do 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?

And 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.

This 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 Catholic politicians.

On 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..."

It 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).

On 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?

Since 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 peace-process.

Now, 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.

Now 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).


It 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.

One 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".

I believe that arc is bending towards justice in Ireland, and that there is no going back.

Now let me conclude by giving you one of my own favorite quotes, from Walter Brueggemann, an American Protestant and a distinguished Old Testament scholar:

"In Biblical faith, the doing of justice is the primary expectation of God."

As 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 without forgiveness.

In 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 are.

So let us work for justice and pray for peace in Ireland, and let us all dedicate ourselves to forgiveness. Thank you.



Then 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:

"Dear Taoiseach:
You 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).

Geraldine 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)

Back 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.

Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs

So 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.

And 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.

In 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."

We 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.

In 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.

Congressman Fish

The 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).

But 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

As 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 letter:

"Dear Mr. Fish,
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."

The "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?

Donlon has yet to apologize for his behavior and has always defended it by saying he was only following orders.

Ben Gilman

The 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 Fish's.

Ben 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 ally." (Jack Anderson, "Carter Pressured on N. Ireland," Detroit Free Press, Oct. 29, 1978)

Congressman 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.

Gilman 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 on
May 15, 1995. There are 41 Members of the Committee. Thirty-two voted for
Mac Bride Principles, only 8 voted against.

And 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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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

10 August 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Failed Entity
Anthony McIntyre

Towards Justice: Damien Walsh Lecture
Fr Sean Mc Manus

Where Terror Reigns
Fred A Wilcox

Lack of Trust — Or Courage?
Mick Hall

Process of Consulting Loses Sway
David Adams

Unionism Can't Run on Empey
Anthony McIntyre

Another Side to the Surrender
Brian Mór

Provisional Surrender A Sell-Out
Joe Dillon

The Greatest Betrayal of All
Proinsias O'Loinsaigh

Censorship at the Irish Echo
John McDonagh & Brian Mór

Take Ireland Out of the War: Irish Anti War Movement News
Michael Youlton

Venezuela: Factories Without Bosses
Tomas Gorman

1 August 2005

An Open Letter to Gerry Adams
Dolours Price

The Inevitable
Anthony McIntyre

PIRA Statement 'Neither Surprising nor Historic'
32 County Sovereignty Movement

'Provisional IRA Should Disband Completely'
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

A Momentous, Historic, Courageous and Confident Statement
Jimmy Sands

When History Was Made
Brian Mór

Roundup on the IRA Statement
Liam O Ruairc

The Way of the Apache and Lakota
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Strange Bedfellows?
Eamonn McCann

Rewriting the Past to Suit the Present
Mick Hall

Shoot to Kill: Getting Away with State Murder
Eamonn McCann

Parents of the World Unite
Fred A Wilcox



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