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Irish-American lobby body chief blames Belfast Telegraph after being snubbed by Brokenshire in US

By Allan Preston

Published 23/09/2016

Fr Sean McManus
Fr Sean McManus

A leading Irish-American lobby group has blamed this newspaper for being excluded from a meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary.

Fr Sean McManus, the Fermanagh-born leader of the Irish National Caucus (INC), spoke after he was not invited to a Washington meeting on September 7 with James Brokenshire and US officials.

In a statement, the cleric said he suspected his exclusion was down to reports by this paper on an educational video about Northern Ireland produced by the INC. First Minister Arlene Foster described the video as "misleading at best and downright sectarian at worst".

Fr McManus said: "The Belfast Telegraph took exception to the Irish National Caucus animated internet video, which is on our website, and that newspaper may have actually incited Mrs Foster to attack."

The animated video claimed anti-Catholic discrimination was still rife in Northern Ireland and that Protestants never accepted Catholics as equals. It also called for England to "finally terminate its long colonial experiment on the island of Ireland".

The video additionally featured a map of Northern Ireland that wrongly included Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan.

Fr McManus added: "Mrs Foster accused me of being sectarian. I deplored sectarianism, and the Belfast Telegraph ran headlines, 'Irish National Caucus lies must be challenged'."

Barbara Flaherty, the INC's executive vice-president, said that "hundreds of Irish-Americans are now very suspicious and angry about the whole thing."

"We don't know if any of this (the coverage in the Belfast Telegraph) played a part in Fr McManus being excluded," she added.

"However, had Fr McManus attended the meeting, you can be certain he would have raised the Pat Finucane case, the Raymond McCord Jr case, the Scappaticci-Stakeknife case and the Ballymurphy massacre."

Fr McManus said he believed the invitations had been sent out by Norman Houston of the Northern Ireland bureau in Washington. However, Mr Houston told this paper he had not been involved in the organisation of the Washington meeting and was not aware of any reason for a snub.

The NIO was also contacted for a comment from Mr Brokenshire, but no reply was received.

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