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1 March 2019 Edition

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Support for McGuinness Principles continues to grow

The McGuinness Principles were launched simultaneously in New York and Washington DC on April 18, 2018 to mark the 20th anniversary of the GFA. The project grew out of a series of discussions among representatives of Brehon Law, AOH, and IAUC addressing ways to both mark the twentieth anniversary of the GFA, and call attention to those critical aspects of the agreement which have not been met by the signatories, particularly the United Kingdom.

This effort resulted in some 15 American organisations endorsing the principles immediately upon their launch, as well as endorsement by several members of Congress, led by US Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. 

Other lawmakers welcoming the project included Representatives Richie Neal (D-MA), Peter King (R-NY), Dan Kildee (D-ILL), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), John Lewis (D-GA), and Joe Kennedy (D-MA).

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April 2018 saw the launch of the McGuinness Principles in Washington and New York. The principles of Equality, Respect, Truth and Self Determination were formulated as a collaborative initiative by several Irish-American organizations including the Brehon Law Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Irish American Unity Conference.

The aim of the McGuinness Principles is to secure fulfillment of the fundamental commitments of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement (GFA). The Principles highlight key unmet legal obligations of not just the Good Friday Agreement but also the St Andrews, Stormont House, and Fresh Start agreements. 

Critically the principles encompass the thrust and tone of the work undertaken by the late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

McGuinness Principles poster Irish

Equality, the first principle, calls for the enactment of a Bill of Rights for the North of Ireland, as provided by the GFA. The British Government has failed to meet this obligation for 20 years. The need is ever more urgent at the present time, with Brexiteers having targeted for elimination the four pillars of rights protections: the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the 1998 Human Rights Act, and even the Good Friday Agreement itself.

Respect demands full statutory equivalence for the Irish Language. In the GFA, the British Government committed to “take resolute action” to promote the Irish Language, and the 2006 St Andrews Agreement expressly provides that “the Government will introduce an Irish Language Act”. The UK’s refusal to do so is the principal reason why the Stormont Executive is not functioning.

McGuinness Principles poster English

Truth encompasses the right of victims of the conflict and their families to know the truth about what happened to their loved ones. It envisions full funding of legacy inquests, which the British Government also signed up to in the Stormont House Agreement and the Fresh Start Agreement. The whole truth of State collusion and cover-ups of murders and other atrocities must be told. 

Self-Determination emphasizes the obligation of the UK to hold a referendum on Irish Unity, as provided for in the GFA. This Principle also recognizes that the UK’s Brexit approach violates its commitment to not “make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people”. 56% of the people in the North voted to remain in the EU, yet are being dragged out of the EU against their express will.

The American effort to ensure widespread acceptance of the Martin McGuinness Principles continues to grow. The principles have been endorsed by numerous Irish American organizations, US elected officials, labour unions, politicians of both major parties, non-aligned groups, and individuals. Its American sponsors are determined to see that this initiative forces fulfillment of the signatories’ GFA obligations. 

Peter Kissel  is National President of the IAUC and was involved in the development of the McGuinness Principles.

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