An influential Irish-American lobby group in Washington D.C founded by a Co Fermanagh priest has marked its 50th anniversary.
The Irish National Caucus began its work in February 6 1974, started by its president Fr Sean McManus, an outspoken critic of Britain’s role in the north.
The caucus claims Fr McManus, was “exiled” to the US as he “refused to be silent about injustice in Northern Ireland”, and since its founding, the group has consistently lobbied for the interests of Irish nationalists in the north at the heart of American government.
One of the most significant acts of the group was the promotion in Congress of the MacBride Principles, which was a set of guidelines for US firms operating in Northern Ireland that were written in the early 1980s and designed to prevent anti-Catholic discrimination in hiring practices and in the workplace.
The MacBride Principles were eventually signed into US federal law by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
Two years after its founding, the caucus also backed successful Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in the 1976 race for the White House, after he spoke out in favour of Washington having a louder voice in the “struggle of the Irish for peace, for the respect of human rights, and for unifying Ireland”.
In recent years, the group has spoken out against the UK’s controversial Troubles legacy legislation that will end prosecutions related to the conflict in the north.
Fr McManus celebrated his 80th birthday on the same day the caucus marked 50 years of work.
“I thank God for the grace to be able to have done this work for so many years—and I thank all those who made my work possible, especially (caucus executive vice president) Barbara Flaherty. It has been said that working for justice is a deeply spiritual experience—and that has certainly been my own experience.”
He added: “Love of neighbour,’ in effect, means we all must, to the best of our ability, do justice and want justice established on this earth. And the wonderful thing about placing social and economic justice at the heart and soul of everything is that people of no faith, but of goodwill, also believe that justice must be front and centre in any decent society.”