Two leading Irish American congressmen have slammed Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s recent comments on CNN comparing the IRA to ISIS and saying both misused religion for their own ends.

The strongly worded statement by the two congressmen, who are leaders of the Congressional Friends of Ireland group, was released Tuesday.

The comments by Reps. Richie Neal from Massachusetts and Joe Crowley from Queens came after a flood of protest from Irish groups including the AOH, America’s largest Irish organization.

“The IRA claimed to be Catholic," Cardinal Dolan told anchor Chris Cuomo. “They were baptized. They had a Catholic identity.” But, he continued, “what they were doing was a perversion of everything the church stood for.”

Dolan said that, like the IRA, the Islamic State extremists “do not represent genuine Islamic thought” but are “a particularly perverted form of Islam.”

“The analogy (to the IRA) is somewhat accurate,” said Dolan, who will lead the St. Patrick’s Parade as Grand Marshal in New York.

The statement from the congressmen points out many Irish patriots were Protestant and that the IRA had laid down their arms over ten years ago. They stated the conflict was about identity not religion.

The statement in full reads:

“As longtime leaders in the United States Congress on issues relating to Ireland, we strongly disagree with recent comments comparing the IRA to ISIS.

"While the claim is not factual on a number of counts, it’s important to note that historians credit Irish republicans like Theobald Wolfe Tone, Robert Emmet and Thomas Russell as founders of the Society of United Irishmen, an organization that believed that Ireland should be a free and independent republic.

"They were Irish rebels who were resisting British rule, were inspired by the American Revolution, and died for their beliefs. Simply put, they were key architects of modern Irish republicanism. And they were Protestants.

“Further, the IRA never claimed to be Catholic, even though many Catholics of course filled their ranks and leadership. Historians also know that, despite common misconceptions, the conflict in Ireland was never about religion, nor did it originate out of a desire to overthrow the British government.

"It was about identity and the willingness and desire of the Irish people to live in an independent and sovereign state where human rights were respected. That is why people like Charles Stewart Parnell and Robert Erskine Childers, both Protestants, are regarded as heroes for their efforts to secure a free Ireland.

It was why the IRA was initially formed under Michael Collins and others in the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising. They were not fighting for religion, but rather for their love and dedication to their country. And, they were fighting to help bring an end to human suffering that took place, not least through the then-British role in refusing to fully address the Great Hunger that killed one million Irish, including Catholic and Protestant, and forced millions more to flee the country.

“Can anyone make the same claim about ISIS whose campaign of terror is beginning to spread across the globe?

“Just last week, Nigeria’s Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIS. Jihadists from the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa have also developed close ties with the militant group. These brutal extremists have beheaded innocent people, conducted mass killings including women and children, kidnapped religious minorities, and forbid western education.

They are fighting wars in Syria and Iraq and have the potential to destabilize the Middle East. The recent terror spree in France and Denmark was carried out by their supporters. In the name of religion, ISIS has become a dangerous and menacing threat. History proves that you could never make the same claims of the IRA.

“In 2011, Queen Elizabeth paid a historic visit to Dublin’s national garden of remembrance where she laid a wreath to those who died fighting the British for Irish independence. Acknowledging Britain’s role in Ireland’s troubled past she said, ‘there were things we wish had been done differently or not at all.’ It was a speech that demonstrated how far the relationship between Ireland and Great Britain has come since the days of Wolfe Tone.

"There is still a long, long way to go and much important work to be done. But, the Queen’s state visit was another milestone on the path toward peace and reconciliation. And it would never have happened if armed organizations from both traditions had not agreed to put their weapons beyond use and decided to pursue their political goals through exclusively peaceful means.

"It’s been nearly ten years since the IRA decommissioned its arms and left the stage. Does anyone think that ISIS is prepared to do that anytime soon?"

 

Reps Joe Crowley and Richard Neal: Conflict in Northern Ireland was about identity not religion, say US congressmen.