War & Peace

Somewhere in the border area between the Republic of Ireland and the 6 counties of Northern Ireland lies Kinawley parish in the townland of Clonliff. There lies the border that divides the north and south of Ireland. And there lived the McManus family with their ten children.

I do not know the McManus family. I have read that from 1970 to 1974, Frank McManus ran for political office and ended up representing the constituency Fermanagh and south Tyrone. And I know of Father Sean McManus who founded the Irish National Caucus on February 6, 1974. Under his leadership, the Irish National Caucus opened its headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 10, 1978.

It was in May of 1977 that I had made a trip to Ireland where I witnessed a few of the injustices that long had been sung about by Celtic singers. I saw what life was like for two sides in a war of terror. And my leanings went toward the underdog, in a struggle not all that different than the civil rights battle which had gone on in the United States 10 years before, or then going on in South Africa. With my passions inflamed, I sent Father McManus’ organization a check for $500. Then he started calling me asking asking for more. I don’t think that he had any idea that I was at an age in which shaving was still more an exercise of grooming than one of need.

The Irish National Caucus emphasized non-violence in the struggle for peace and justice in Northern Ireland, and sent out newsletters highlighting the works of people like Mario Biaggi (D-NY), Hamilton Fish (R-NY), and Ben Gilman (R-NY). Father McManus helped equate the MacBride Principles being used by Congress to pressure the South African government to the cause for justice in the North of Ireland. I recall in particular learning of the Ford Motor Company being a participant in the discrimination practices in their plant in Belfast at the time.

The British government always insisted that the American Congress was interfering with internal British matters, a lot like the Russian view about their involvement in the Eastern Bloc, or in oppression of minorities within the Soviet Union.

The Ireland of the 1970s was a complicated place. It was the provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army that was mostly in the news. I saw the supporters of Sinn Fein on the streets of Dublin in 1977, and from my reading, Sinn Fein seemed to be adherents of Karl Marx. Gerry Adams never fit my idea of a noble politician.

This morning I read a BBC news account of Ted Kennedy’s passing. It is noteworthy that the BBC news, I had heard through Irish Republican sentiment, would never report a story about the north of Ireland without supporting the political presence of the British there.

The BBC this weekend reported: “’Ted Kennedy was the key that unlocked the Clinton White House door over and over again. That’s not just once, but many times,’ said Eamonn Mallie, co-author of The Fight for Peace. While it was the president who granted the Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams a critical visa to the US in the run-up to the IRA ceasefire of 1994, it was the senator who helped persuade the president.”

I think a few accolades should go to Father McManus. I never knew much about the motivations of the man who speaks with an Irish brogue. Somewhere in the border region in the townland of Clonliff on July 15, 1958, on the day the oldest sister was married, Patrick McManus was killed in a premature explosion a few miles outside of Swanlinbarin, County Cavan. Patrick McManus had been on the run since the beginning of the the 1956-1962 IRA campaign. It was said that he was the commanding officer for South Fermanagh and a leading IRA man appointed to the IRA Army Council. When he died before the age of fifteen.

That Desmon Tutu Truth and Reconciliation Commission seems to come out of the ideals of the McManus Family, as to what could be accomplished working for justice and peace. Overlooking the injustice, working and praying only for peace, helps reinforces the injustice. When reconciliation was a long ongoing process.


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1 comment so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    Father Sean McManus was a Redemptorist priest, who had been arrested in the North of Ireland during an anti-internment demonstration, in 1971. According to memoir, he was exiled to the United States by his superiors in the Redemptorist order, where in 1974 he founded the Irish National Caucus. MY AMERICAN STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE IN NORTHERN IRELAND is the memoir of Father McManus.

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