Irish National Caucus

Working for justice and praying for peace in Ireland... WELCOME TO THE IRISH NATIONAL CAUCUS BLOG Ceade Mile Failte -- hundred thousand welcomes! We believe the U.S. has a vital role to play by applying a single -- not a double-standard in its foreign policies towards human rights in Ireland. In particular, we believe the U.S. must not subsidize anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland. That is why the Irish National Caucus in 1984 initiated the MacBride Principles.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ireland's Pulling Power in the USA

Ireland’s pulling power in the USA

Andersonstown News Thursday 20th of March 2009

By Máirtín ó Muilleoir in the White House

When you enter the White House, the security guards advise you to watch the step outside the east entrance.

Good advice for all of us who entered the Obama homestead on Tuesday evening for the St Patrick’s Day reception, but especially useful to those of the unionist persuasion who find themselves stepping into another universe.

For in Washington D.C. on St Patrick’s Day, there is only one Ireland. Diverse, certainly, modern, definitely, but also fiercely Irish. First Minister Peter Robinson couldn’t rise to wear the green this special day, eschewing the Kelly Green ties for a more sober red variety, but even a colourblind man galloping past on a horse would have seen the pulling power of Ireland in the capital of the world’s most powerful country.

And now they’re talking Irish in the White House too. Taoiseach Brian Cowen said Barack Obama had made a good fist of his first Irish lesson, learning to say “Is féidir linn” – “Yes, we can” — over lunch. And yes, Obama’s first Irish words are on tape; he’s a fast student. In the White House, Vice-President Joe Biden recited the old Irish proverb “Unity is strength” (“Ní neart go cur le chéile”).

It’s not that the Americans aren’t aware of the ‘special relationship’ with Britain. It’s just that on St Patrick’s Day, everyone with Irish heritage enjoys beating up on the Brits a little. Vice-President Biden got into the mood. He told the White House audience that “St Patrick” was the password used by Washington’s men when they forced the British to evacuate Washington on our Patron Saint’s Day in 1776!

President Obama was clearly revelling in his new-found status as Ireland’s favourite son. He only discovered last year that his great-great-grandfather was from Co Offaly — pity I didn’t know that when I was standing in Chicago’s famously Irish southside, he lamented — but his effusive demeanour spoke of a man who saw only benefits in forging closer links with Ireland. He will not only stand with the peacemakers as we face our latest assault on the peace process, but he wants to take the Irish experience of moving from war-war to jaw-jaw and use it elsewhere.

Be sure that the experience of the Irish peace process will be factored into all America’s foreign forays from here on. And this is an engaged White House, back in the control of the traditionally pro-Irish unity Democrats, which plans to build the peace process after eight years of ennui under George W. Expect a Special Envoy on Northern Ireland to be appointed next week, working to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but watch out also for the selection of a Business Envoy to the North, someone who will have have learnt from the Irish experience in the USA — one which sees discrimination as the enemy of progress. Or as President Obama put it: “Through tragedy and triumph, despite bigotry and hostility, and against all odds, the Irish created a place for themselves in the American story.”

That’s a message which resonates with the A-list of politicians who raised a glass to St Patrick in the White House and who now find themselves back on the equality and justice beat and raring to go. And, of course, whatever Irish issues Obama gets, he gets equal opportunity.

At times, the reception was like Madame Tussauds. In one corner Senator John Kerry stood talking to Hillary Clinton, in another Barack Obama was signing autographs, at the banquet table Congressman Donald Payne — a frequent visitor to Garvaghy Road — was stabbing the corned beef and cabbage rolls with a fork, while posing for photos with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness was the most powerful union leader in Irish America, John Sweeney. And blessing the entire congregation was that lion of Irish America, Fr Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus.

Heady stuff. In fact, mesmerising for someone like me who believes Irish America can unlock the true potential of our peace process to ensure dividends flow to those who suffered the most during the years of warfare.

Which is probably why, as I left the White House chatting with Congressman Peter King, who first came to West Belfast to attend the funeral of Kieran Doherty, that I almost slipped on the step. Until the guards reminded me to watch my step, just as they reminded everyone else.

Finucane case central on Capitol Hill

Finucane case central on Capitol Hill

I had breakfast this morning with the legendary civil rights campaigner Fr Sean McManus and was heartened to hear that he is continuing to raise the case of Raymond McCord, shot dead by loyalist paramilitaries working for the state.

Fr McManus met with President Obama yesterday and was at the White House last night for the raucous St Patrick's Day reception. When President Obama joked he wanted to take "a pleasure trip" to Ireland — apparently when JFK's advisors told him he would be accused of taking a pleasure trip to his ancestral homeland, he retorted, "That's exactly what I want" — he got lots of cheers. He said he wanted to enjoy a pint there before noting that Guinness tasted better in Ireland. "You guys are keeping the good stuff for yoursleves," he said. "This could lead to a trade dispute."

It was great to see Geraldine Finucane at many of the events in Washington over St Patrick's. Fr Sean McManus tells me that last year, at the Speaker's Lunch on Capitol Hill, she was only one of two people President Bush spoke to on the way to his table. And most members of Congress are now on first-name terms.

With her son John, she ensured the Finucane case can't be brushed under the table as the Obama Presidency kicks off.

Geraldine (right) is pictured at the Ireland Fund gala with Taoiseach Brian Cowen, her son John and West Belfast Partnership ceo Geraldine McAteer.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Soldier's Killing Terrible Development

Soldier's Killing Terrible Development

Capitol Hill Sunday, March 8, 2009 ---

The killing of the two British soldiers at Massereene Barracks in Antrim on Saturday, March 8, 2009, was a “ terrible development”.

That is how the president of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus reacted to the news.“

I was so hopeful that Stephen Restorick, whose parents have shown such fortitude and dignity, would have been the last British soldier to be killed on Irish soil”.(Lance Bombardier Restorick was killed by an IRA sniper in Bessbrook, County Armagh on 12th February 1997).“

It is so wrong and so crazy to have that happen now, as if there were no peace-process. There is certainly no support among Irish-Americans for this terrible development.”

Fr. Sean Mc Manus
President Irish National Caucus
Capitol Hill
PO BOX 151
28Washington, DC 20003-0849
Tel. 202-544-0568
Fax 202-488-7537