Category: Archive

Editorial MacBride’s triumph

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The recent congressional vote in favor of federal MacBride Principles legislation, and President Clinton’s signing of a spending bill that includes this MacBride measure, are both events worthy of warm welcome. For 14 years, Irish Americans, both individuals and organizations, have worked hard to see the day when the United States, global champion of individual liberty as it is, lends its immense moral and financial weight to the cause of changing the economic landscape of Northern Ireland to the point where a job is offered on merit — not on the basis of which community the applicant hails from.

It would be tempting to describe passage of the MacBride legislation as more symbolic than practical, given the rapidly changing political circumstances in the North. That would be a mistake. Much work remains to be done in the crucial area of fair employment in a community that desperately needs more jobs, for Catholics and Protestants alike.

The new law mandates that any firm or entity in Northern Ireland wishing to avail of money from the U.S. contribution to the International Fund for Ireland must adhere to the nine fair-employment guidelines named after the late Sean MacBride or, as they are termed in federal law — in language largely penned by Rep. Eliot Engel — the "Principles of Economic Justice."

Obviously, any firm in Northern Ireland that does not want to tackle the long running sore of religious-based discrimination can simply ignore the U.S. as a funding source and look elsewhere for assistance. Evolving British government fair-employment legislation would make this a more difficult task, but many familiar with the daily application of such legislation are not yet entirely convinced that it is producing solid results. Catholics are still more than twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants. This, sadly, is much the same as the situation that prevailed back in 1984, when the MacBride campaign was born.

Still, there is cause now for some celebration. We congratulate all who have supported the MacBride campaign from the beginning: the individuals, municipalities, states and organizations, not least the Irish National Caucus, Ancient Order of Hibernians and American Irish Political Education Committee. The job had been well done, and done fairly. We continue to accept that some might legitimately be concerned that MacBride will scare away much-needed investment from the North. But by their actions, Congress and the president have now gone a long way in assuaging such heartfelt concern.

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