17 February 2005 Edition

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Congressman takes governments to task

US Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr (D-NJ) made a statement on the House floor last Thursday urging the British Government to recommit to the Irish Peace Process and implement the recommendations of the Patten Commission in reforming the police service.

"The recent statement by the Irish Republican Army that they are taking their proposals to fully and finally decommission their weapons off the table is a direct result of the culture of hypocrisy and humiliation that plagues the Unionist parties and the British Government," he said.

"It troubles me that we have arrived at this point after the significant strides that have been made by Sinn Féin and the republican movement in the North in persuading the IRA to pursue a peaceful end to their struggle for a free and united Ireland.

"The fact that the Chief Constable of the PSNI Hugh Orde, along with the Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, have publicly accused the IRA of masterminding the recent bank robbery in Belfast without showing one piece of evidence is anathema to the core principle of due process that we hold so dear here in the United States.

"These statements made to the press by the Chief Constable and repeated by the Prime Minister and Taoiseach are politically motivated and have no place in the criminal justice system.

"Sinn Féin has stated unequivocally that it is committed to the peace process and are opposed to any return to violence. It is essential that we get back to devolved authority for the people of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant alike."

And the Irish American Unity in Action Committee, an umbrella group for Irish-American organisations, including Irish Northern Aid, the Brehon Law Society, the Irish American Unity Conference, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish American Labor Coalition and the Lawyers' Alliance for Justice in Ireland, has written to Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern to express their "deep concern" about recent events.

The letter states: "The present breakdown in the peace process is based upon official and unofficial speculation and bears all of the marks of managed impasse and political manipulation that have plagued past negotiations.

"For the third time in as many years, those opposed to sharing power with the Catholic/nationalist population have made unsubstantiated charges against Sinn Féin aimed at causing a reversal in the Peace Process and preventing the seating of the Northern Ireland Assembly."

"We urge the Irish and British governments to follow international principles of jurisprudence regarding investigations, set their minds to moving the peace process forward free of partisan politics, and implement the Good Friday Agreement."


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