The McManus family lived on a small farm in Clonliff in Kinawley County Fermanagh. There were ten children in the family. Frank McManus’s oldest brother Patrick was killed while transporting a bomb in the early hours of 15th July 1958 which was the same day on which his sister Cecelia got married. While Patrick had been on the run the family home was targeted by the security forces on an almost weekly basis. Frank was lucky to have passed the 11 plus examination which had been established as a result of the Education Act and was therefore able to go to second level and third level education. He was in fact the first Catholic from Kinawley Parish to graduate from a Northern Ireland university. He began his teaching career in Omagh, County Tyrone and later in St Joseph’s School in Enniskillen. He was instrumental in the formation of the Fermanagh Civil Rights Committee and served as its Vice Chairman and later its Chairman.
He recalls many of the Civil Rights activities. Jack Murphy from Derrylin was always there to drive the lorry provided by Jim Cassidy to provide the platforms for civil rights demonstrations and marches in Enniskillen and elsewhere. He also fondly remembers Jack’s brother Jim who was assassinated and who had been very active in the Civil Rights movement. Jim’s principal contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was to transport and help distribute the small newspaper which was published for some time by the Civil Rights movement and by the political movement later because they felt it necessary to publish this newspaper because the local nationalist newspaper was strictly controlled by the old nationalist party which was in decline and not very well disposed to the new people on the scene.
Frank was elected a member of Parliament for Fermanagh South Tyrone on 18th June 1970 and served until the Conservative government fell in February 1974. After Stormont was prorogued he and others met with members of the Army Council of the IRA in Dublin to suggest that they might now, at this point, consider a ceasefire and commence political activity. However, no attention was paid to the argument put forward by the Delegation.
During his time as a Member of Parliament, Frank and his wife Carmel received many threats including dramatically one morning opening the post to discover a very large bullet with the message that the next one was for him. Unfortunately, Carmel was present at that time and obviously was very shocked. On one evening in 1973, Frank was shot and slightly wounded when driving home from a political meeting in Enniskillen.
When he lost his Parliamentary seat, he tried to go back to his teaching career but the Bishop of Clogher, who had been his former headmaster, decreed that he was too controversial to be employed as a teacher in the Catholic School system. He obviously had no hope of being employed in the state of Protestant School System, and therefore had no choice but to seek an alternative occupation. Prior to the IRA ceasefire, he like many others represented many IRA prisoners who were charged with serious offences. He explains that it was regular practice for the Police to pass on to the defendant’s threats against him allegedly coming from the UDF or the UDA. Fortunately, none of these threats were carried out but of course in the case of Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson, the threats were all too real.
Recordings available via Cavan Co. Library Service