A LOCAL priest who has been helping shape Irish American politics for decades is now using ‘people power’ to lobby the US Congress to support a united Ireland.
Fr Sean McManus hails from the townland of Clonliff in Kinawley, but has been working in the US for almost 50 years. In February 1974 he founded the Irish National Caucus, one of the most powerful lobby organisations in the States.
Fr McManus recently began a petition entitled “We the People”, calling on the United States House and Senate to support moves towards reunification here.
The petition on change.org states that “Ireland, too has the right to be one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It currently has almost 28,000 signatures, including from several local representatives here, such as MP Michelle Gildernew, and from “about 80 percent of Kinawley”, as Fr McManus proudly told the Herald.
Quoting Rev Martin Luther King Jr and stating self-determination was “the right of every nation”, it urges people to sign and urge their elected representatives in the US “to publicly endorse the spirit of this Irish National Caucus petition.”
“All 100 members of the US Senate and all 435 members of the House of Representatives have already received our letter urging them to stand in solidarity with us and support this petition.”
While promoting the petition, Fr McManus used his own parish of Kinawley, which is divided by the border, to explain to Americans how communities had been partitioned here. Speaking to the Herald about the petition Fr McManus, who is one of 12 children from a well-known Fermanagh family and whose siblings include former MP Frank McManus, said while he may not see a united Ireland in his lifetime, he was content knowing it was now “inevitable.”
“I am now more certain than ever that it will happen,” he said. “It’s no longer all that personally important to me if I see it or not.
“As a young man I used to hope I would die in a united Ireland, but I know it’s going to happen, so whether I’m there or not to see it doesn’t really matter, as long as it happens.”
Fr McManus, who tries to get home to Fermanagh once a year but has obviously not been able to recently, said there were a few “fundamental reasons” that “inevitably change everything” and were the reasons he believed a united Ireland would happen.
“One is Brexit, ironically,” he said. “Two, and this cannot be over emphasised, is the fact that Scotland, the spiritual home of 80 percent of Protestants in Northern Ireland is going to become independent before Ireland is fully independent. What does that do to the concept for the unionists to the concept of the union, if Scotland is not in the union?”
Demographics was the third reason he listed, and while he said he had never been a fan of the crude “count-the-Catholics” way of thinking, the fact was “the artificial majority no longer exists” in the North.
“When this year’s census results are revealed it will show definitely that the two sides are equal in number and probably that the Catholic majority is significant,” he said.
Fr McManus added he also believed “that instead of cooper-fastening the union in this 100th anniversary year, this centenary year, I think oddly it has had the very opposite affect” and said he felt there had been a change in outlook from many unionists.
“I do not believe for a moment that in the morning all the unionists will vote for a united Ireland, but there is a definite change in that attitude,” he said. “It’s certainly there with the younger people, I think.”
Overall, Fr McManus, pictured below, who has also been lobbying the US Congress in a bid to get justice for abuse victims from the Kincora Boys’ Home, said his life’s work had been to strive for justice.
“I want to make clear here, I have never been into party politics or partisanship of a particular party,” noting that applied to both politics in Ireland and the US. “My commitment is to the cause, however that is defined, and to justice.
“Justice makes me tick. I have never had an interest in party politics. However, the obvious point in all of this by some polls are the largest party in the Irish Republic, the largest in the North, so obviously that too has to have important significance.”
To view or sign the petition, or find out more about the Irish National Caucus, visit www.irishnationalcaucus.org.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition