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Supreme Court ruling could affect MacBride

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty

WASHINGTON D.C. — The United States Supreme Court this week struck down a state law that mirrors the effects and intent of the MacBride Principles.

In a unanimous decision, the court declared unconstitutional a Massachusetts law that limited commerce between the state and companies that did business with Myanmar, formerly called Burma.

Proponents of the law were concerned over allegations of the Southeast Asia country’s sanctioning of drug trafficking, torture, and slavery.

The MacBride Principles are a set of fair-employment guidelines for Northern Ireland that were prompted by concern over employment discrimination against Catholics.

In an initial reaction to the court ruling, Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus said that his organization, long a proponent of the MacBride Principles, was studying the implications of the court’s decision.

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However, McManus said he did not believe the ruling would be the death knell for MacBride.

"It’s an unfortunate development and it may have a chilling effect, but eventually it should not affect MacBride," McManus said.

"The Massachusetts law said that companies needed to leave Burma and MacBride never said that companies needed to pull out of Northern Ireland," he said.

The White House is pleased with Monday’s ruling. The Clinton administration argued before the court that the Massachusetts law interfered with the federal government’s right to set foreign policy and regulate foreign commerce.

Clinton has never been a strong supporter of the MacBride campaign, although he did sign a federal bill that included a version of the principles.

The Massachusetts law automatically added 10 percent to any bid offered on work for Massachusetts from a company that did business with Myanmar.

"There is a definite danger that some will try and apply this decision to MacBride," McManus said. "But I think it will be possible to organize successfully against any such effort."

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