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McManus unveils his book in Ireland

Protestant politicians in America did more to advance the cause of Irish human rights than their Irish-Catholic counterparts, according to a new book by the founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Irish National Caucus. McManus has been in Ireland in recent days launching his book, " My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland." The book was initially launched in Dublin Castle and from there the Fermanagh-born McManus traveled north to Belfast for the Belfast unveiling which took place in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road. the event was sponsored by Relatives for Justice and supported by the Ballymurphy Massacre families, who took Fr. McManus on a tour of the spots where their 11 loved ones were gunned down by the British army in 1971. McManus first came to the U.S. in 1972 and founded the Irish National Caucus the following year to help advance the cause of Irish human rights at the heart of American government. One of the major achievements of the caucus was the introduction into U.S. law of the MacBride Principles. "I've always felt that the only thing that the British government really would be concerned about when it came to human rights violations in Northern Ireland would be public opinion on Capitol Hill," said Fr. McManus in Belfast. "So that is why I've spent so much of my life pushing the issue there. We started off without a penny, we had no big money behind us, we were never supported by rich Irish Americans and yet we somehow succeeded against huge odds." McManus spoke of how obstacles to their lobbying came from the most unlikely quarters. "From 1974 to 1995 U.S. congressional hearings on British violations of human rights in Northern Ireland were banned, mostly by Irish Catholic speakers of the House of Representatives," he said. "Tip O'Neill, Tom Foley and others absolutely banned them. We pushed and pushed, but they were banned. The Dublin government and London government had convinced these speakers that anything that would embarrass the British would help the IRA, ergo that's a bad thing. "The great irony is that it took a right-wing, conservative Protestant Speaker of the House of Representatives to allow these human rights' hearings – Newt Gingrich – whereas Irish Catholic speakers of the House had banned hearings." McManus explained how the biggest fight came with the campaign for the implementation of the MacBride Principles. "We launched that campaign in November 1984 and it was studiously and vigorously opposed by the British government, the Dublin government and even by John Hume (the former leader of the SDLP), God bless him," McManus said. "At one stage it was opposed by nearly every political interest in Ireland, North and South. Yet thank God we got it passed into 18 U.S. states and it made U.S. law. When people read this book they will be surprised by the opposition we were up against, and very powerful opposition it was too." On the Ballymurphy families' ongoing campaign for justice, McManus said they had made a "powerful impact" during their March address to the Helsinki Commission on Capitol Hill. "It's very important that they get justice, and that's why I was so pleased to see them in Washington," he said. "They did an excellent job and made a powerful impact." Despite expressing his satisfaction at how far human rights issues have come in the North since the dark days of the Troubles, Fr. McManus said the killing of Catholic PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr showed that there were still very serious issues to address. "My book ends on a positive note," he said. "In it I conclude that I am hopeful for the future of Ireland – the whole island of Ireland. Even though, I think, we have still a long way to go. I believe the Union will die on the vine. The only way it can be saved is if the IRA came back into business. One of the great Irish ironies. "But it is an irony I hope that patriotic young Irish men and women take heed of: no young Irish person need be killed - or kill - for full Irish freedom. "But I'm very grieved by the killing of Ronan Kerr. It should never have happened, it was a terrible act - the wrongness of it, the horror of it. A totally useless, totally futile, totally absurd act. I appeal to those who did the killing to quit their campaign and to embrace the peace process, as the only way forward," he said. "My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland" is available in the U.S. from Amazon.com.

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