I HAVE the honor of being the chairperson of the Washington Irish Committee which was formed for the launching and signing of Father Sean McManus’s memoir, My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland, which is available on Amazon.com.
I also had the privilege of helping Father McManus with his memoirs. Although I have known him for 40 years, until I went through his massive Irish National Caucus files I never fully realized the depth and breadth of his work.
His memoirs could have been entitled Against All Odds because he succeeded despite all the obstacles placed in his way by powerful political figures like Tip O’Neill, governments and other vested interests.
Through all this opposition, Father McManus kept focused on his goal of achieving equality, justice and peace in Northern Ireland. He never wavered; he continued his struggle and never became embittered.
He forgave those who defamed him and those who attempted to crush his efforts. And while the book does not try to cover-up the pettiness of some of his detractors, he does not let this pettiness distract him.
Rather, he stayed focused by the thousands of devoted Irish Americans who remained energized by the non-partisan position of the Irish National Caucus, neither Democrat or Republican.
It is now impossible to find anyone who claims Father McManus was wrong. Nobody today questions his vision in opening the only and first Irish office on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress to stand up for justice in Ireland.
As Professor Joseph Thompson states in his authoritative study, “The imagination, courage and energy of an immigrant Northern Ireland Catholic priest made the dream of an Irish American lobby a reality.” (American Policy and Northern Ireland: A Saga of Peacebuilding, Joseph E. Thompson. P. 38.Praeger. Westport, Connecticut. London. 2001).
Even the Irish media had to admit his effectiveness. “Political observers in America say he was light years ahead of his time when he set up the Irish National Caucus to fight for justice and rights for Nationalists back home in Northern Ireland.” (“Banished priest who has ear of all America’s top politicians,” John Cassidy, the Sunday World, March 18, 2007).
Who can question Father McManus’s foresight in launching the MacBride Principles, or his fortitude in forcing President Clinton to sign MacBride into law?
Furthermore, who can defend the small number of individuals who allowed themselves to be manipulated into opposing him? I am confident that when those people read his book, they will reproach themselves.
Father McManus has always accomplished his goals in a non-violent way. His book is the perfect instrument for spreading the word and keeping the Irish issue alive for future generations.
In fact, this is precisely what his book is all about, and the primary reason he wrote it. He wants to inform, enlighten and inspire Irish Americans about his 40-year struggle to get the U.S. Congress to stand-up for equality, justice and peace in Ireland.
Barbara J. Flaherty
Riverdale Park, Maryland
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”