New Information Video By The Irish National Caucus Sparks Unionist Anger

I’m somewhat lukewarm on the Irish National Caucus (INC), the Irish-American human rights organisation which has campaigned on equality and justice issues for Irish citizens in the UK-administered north-east of Ireland since the early 1970s. Admittedly it has done stirling work on those contentious matters, despite decades of opposition lobbying by British diplomats in the United States and the hostility of officials in the traditionally anglophile State Department and Pentagon. Indeed it was not so long ago that activists in the INC regularly faced harassment from agents of the FBI, as well as the NYPD. Despite those challenges the Caucus, led by the indefatigable Father Seán McManus, managed to establish itself as one of the principal lobbyist bodies on Capitol Hill in Washington, winning cross-party support from Democrat and Republican members of Congress. For a period in the 1970s President Jimmy Carter was one of its more prominent supporters while in recent years it has been close to the Clinton family, in particular Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The INC’s lobbying gained it one of the more globally visible measures to tackle sectarian discrimination in the north of Ireland, the so-called McBride Principles. Named after Seán McBride, the Noble Peace Prize winner and founding member of Amnesty International, the measures required American companies investing in “Northern Ireland” to operate fair employment regulations in their businesses to prevent anti-Catholic bigotry in local workplaces. From 1984 to 1998 the INC successfully campaigned to get eighteen state legislatures, and eventually the US House of Representatives and Senate, to pass the principles into state and federal law, to the chagrin of senior British ministers, and the fury of unionist politicians (Margaret Thatcher was a venomous critic of the anti-discrimination laws).

However, I have always been somewhat ambivalent about the Irish National Caucus, while acknowledging its undoubted good works. That sentiment is almost wholly based on my reaction to its very traditional Irish-American – and Roman Catholic – culture, in part attributable to its association with the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a 180 year old fraternity organisation in the United States. The emphasis on “Catholics” and “Protestants” in its information campaigns on the conflict in the north-east of Ireland, rather than referring to Irish nationalists and British unionists, though aimed at the terminology and understanding of American readers and audiences, was in my view a mistake. One that fed into the “two warring tribes” propaganda spewing out of the UK embassy in Washington and the consulates in New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. All that said, it’s good to know that it can still infuriate unionist leaders in the Six Counties, reminding them of some contemporary and historical facts they’d rather the world forgotThough, please, let’s leave gods and other supernatural beings out of it.

The Tuatha Dé Danann excluded, of course.

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4 comments

  1. nice article Séamas . But i have a little or maybe a big caveat. No offence meant to you personally of course – no one could do more than you do with this blog to promote republicanism.
    I think we have to get over being lukewarm towards this or that Republican grouping of whatever persuasion and embrace what each strand of republicanism can offer our people.
    If our aim is to achieve a republic in a re-united ireland all republicans/nationalists should be focussing on that – not the ideological/political differences about what that republic should look like and what form/shape it should take.
    Given the Brexit vote in the UK, unity of purpose becomes imperative – otherwise we pass into an historical backwater, full of what might have beens, had the ideological/political differences not prevailed.
    Once the republic is gained, every strand in republicanism can set out its stall and canvas its votes and we’ll see what develops.
    If however the ideological/political differences are more important than achieving that republic, – there’s nothing more to be said.
    i know this may read like the usual “we’ll deal with the labour issue once the republic has been achieved” – but today’s circumstances suggest it is our only way forward- strength in unity and all that!

    1. Ben, if Brexit has focused Irish minds then all well and good, but my feeling is that action on the referendum result will be delayed and delayed until it can finally be kicked into the long grass. Already the ¨Scottish Problem¨ has been raised as an obstacle that needs to be first overcome, an obstacle that is in essence insurmountable. Good, thinks HMG, that means we don´t even have to start thinking about the ¨Irish Problem¨, a horrendous can of worms no one wants to open.

  2. I must say that I am a big fan of Father McManus and the Irish National Caucus. Ireland and Irish matters are frequently trivialized, ignored, or outright mocked in the U.S. People assume that since we’re such a big ethnic group and, you know, European (gasp! like that proves something!), we don’t really have any problems. Sometimes it’s self-hating corporate sellouts like Bill O’Reilly doing the trivializing, ignoring, and mocking. Other times it’s so-called “liberals” on Tumblr who scream stuff like “Irish aren’t oppressed because WHITENESS!” In a hostile climate like that, Father McManus’s group is like an oasis in the Sahara.

    I don’t know if Irish-American Catholic culture is “conservative,” really. My family has been Democratic since we got off the coffin ship, through the Progressives, FDR/New Deal, Great Society, up to Obama, and my staunchly Catholic grandfather (going on 90, the stalwart old man! 🙂 ) voted for Bernie Sanders. Irish Catholics were at the forefront of the labor movement at the turn of the century, usually with Church backing. If you’re thinking of things like opposition to gay marriage among some U.S. Catholics, that’s not strictly an Irish thing; I think Latinos are actually the most conservative group (or at least close to it) on that issue.

    Anyway, just my two cents as an Irish-American Catholic myself…not trying to be an obnoxious prick or anything. Keep blogging, it does me a world of good to read this site, the INC’s companion oasis in the desert of Hibernophobia! 🙂

    1. When I lived in Chicago I saw a lot of racism from Irish Americans. Not all but it was quite shocking to me, coming from Ireland and radicalised by the treatment of Nationalists in the north. I couldn’t understand how anyone sympathetic to the plight of those in the six counties could then turn around set up as bad or worse for minorities in their city. But they did.

      Which why it was no shock when Rahm won in the run off against Garcia.

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