17 October 2002 Edition
Members of Congress back Agreement
A number of US Members of Congress have spoken out expressing concern at this latest turn in the pace process. New Jersey Democrat Congressman Donald Payne said he was "deeply disturbed that an unfortunate series of events over the past few weeks has put the Irish peace process at risk. In order to retain the momentum of the peace process, I believe it essential that the British government observe the terms and conditions of the Good Friday Agreement. Along with other friends of Ireland and supporters of the peace process, I call upon the British Government to end their practice of maintaining the Unionist veto over the affairs of the Six Counties.
"As the first member of Congress in U.S. history to witness an Orange Order Parade, I have observed first-hand the harassment of Catholics in their own neighborhoods in Northern Ireland. During one of my four visits to Northern Ireland, I had the opportunity to stand with President Clinton in the border town of Dundalk as he expressed the commitment of the United States to protect and build on the progress that has been made. Over the past four years, the Good Friday Agreement has done much to reduce violence and tension associated with the social and political situation in Northern Ireland. The process has seen its ups and down, witnessed by three previous occasions when the Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended. I applaud the tenacity of Sinn Féin in remaining committed to the peace process despite enormous challenges.
I urge the parties to the Good Friday Agreement to continue working towards the goals and ideals contained in the agreement. As a member of the House International Relations Committee in the US Congress, I stand ready to be of assistance in any way possible in ensuring that the British and Irish governments honour the Good Friday Agreement and move the peace process forward."
New York Republican Congressman Peter King also expressed his deep concern and urged all of the parties to the Agreement to "use all resources at their disposal to end this impasse and fully implement the Agreement's provisions.
"We cannot allow David Trimble to undermine a process that has been approved by the overwhelming majority of the people of both the North and South of Ireland."
New Jersey Democrat Congressman Frank Pallone Jr described the PSNI raid on Sinn Féin's Stormont offices as "unprofessional and haphazard" raid that "appears to be politically motivated - with those involved hoping to unravel the power-sharing government established under the Good Friday Agreement...
"It is quite obvious to me that the only way a lasting peace can occur in Northern Ireland is by protecting the power sharing institutions and fully implementing the Patten Commission's recommendations... Northern Ireland is in dire need of a police service that is more representative of the community and is responsive to the needs of all the citizens of Northern Ireland."
New Jersey Republican Congressman Chris Smith said that although "prospects for a just and lasting peace is again in crisis in Northern Ireland - as in the past, the only way forward is through a steadfast commitment to the Good Friday Agreement - as it was originally adopted: unamended and fully implemented...
"I respectfully urge the British government to resist the knee-jerk proposal of suspension and stand in firm support of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Executive, the North-South Ministerial Councils and the Patten Commission's Policing Reforms. The parties have put their names on the dotted line and it is up to the British government to secure full, fair, and timely implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Peace depends upon it."
Protest in New York
New York Irish Northern Aid organised a picket outside the British Consulate on Thursday 10 October to protest the RUC/PSNI raids on Sinn Féin's Stormont Offices and the impending return to direct rule. Among the other groups joining Irish Northern Aid were members of the Irish American Unity Conference, the Brehon Law Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and Clan na Gael.
Frank Durkan, the prominent New York attorney and a leader with Americans for a New Irish Agenda, addressed the crowd.
Several New York and New Jersey Congressional representatives sent messages of support, which were read to the gathering.
Irish America lobbies Haass
In a joint letter sent last Thursday to Ambassador Richard Haass, America's special envoy with responsibility for the Irish peace process, representatives of a wide range of Irish American and justice groups expressed their concern at the threat posed to the Good Friday Agreement by the British government's imminent suspension of the institutions.
The letter was signed by Paul Doris, Chairman of Irish Northern Aid; Ned McGinley, President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians; Brian O'Dwyer and Frank Durkan of Americans for a New Irish Agenda; Stella O'Leary, President of Irish American Democrats; James Gallagher, President of the Irish American Unity Conference; Fr Sean McManus, President of the Irish National Caucus; Joseph Jamison, President of the Irish American Labor Coalition; Kelly O'Neill, President of the Brehon Law Society; Edmund Lynch, National Coordinator of the Lawyers Alliance for Justice; and Vicky Curtin, President of the Irish Emigration Society.
The letter accused the British governmeny of not living up to its responsibilities under the Agreement and of "pandering to unionist demands throughout the period since Good Friday 10 April 1998 thereby encouraging the UUP to stall and dilute implementation of the Agreement...
"Implementation of the Agreement, even if unionist opposition pulls down the Assembly, must proceed. Political, democratic, peace process, and legal imperatives, not to mention good common sense, require this approach.
We call on this Administration to express its opposition to the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and its continued support for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The democratic will of the overwhelming majority of the Irish electorate, north and south, was expressed in their support of the Agreement. The democratic rights and entitlements of the electorate cannot be thwarted or denied."
Australian leaders lobby Blair
In a statement sent to Tony Blair last week from the Maritime Union of Australia's national office, leading Australian figures last week called on the British prime minister to stand by the Good Friday Agreement and the institutions. The letter was endorsed by 14 Australian MPs; seven Trade Union leaders, including the national leaders of the building, mining, maritime, and energy unions, representing around 500,000 workers; and leaders from the Aboriginal and Irish communities in Australia.
The leaders urged Blair "to stand firmly by the power sharing terms of the Good Friday Agreement and the institutions established under it. We believe that the present crisis has been deliberately contrived by the Unionist leadership to undermine and destroy political reform and power sharing. We urge your government to honour all the commitments made in the Good Friday Agreement and not allow the Unionists to exercise a veto on political reform that they have no right to...
"We urge you to reject Unionist pressure to exclude Irish republicans from power sharing and we urge you not to suspend the democratic institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement."