27 May 1999 Edition
US politicians urge Blair to implement Agreement
Five United States Congress members have written to the British Prime Minister Tony Blair urging him to implement the Good Friday Agreement before the political vacuum is filled by those who want to destroy the peace process. A copy was also sent to President Clinton.
Ben Gilman, Richard Neal, Peter King and Joseph Crowley are members of the US Congress's Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs while James Walsh is Chairperson of the Friends of Ireland.
In the letter, the Congress members told Blair: ``We are once again approaching a critical stage in the Northern Ireland Peace Process. All of us greatly appreciate the substantial time and effort you have given in an effort to resolve the difficult arms decommissioning issue, which has long been a critical roadblock to progress.
``The Good Friday accord is the best road map to resolving the arms impasse. However the issue has once again created a grave political vacuum in the North, which many of us fear can too readily be filled by the anti-Agreement forces. There are some who would want to go backward, not forward, in finding lasting peace and justice in Northern Ireland.
``Accordingly, we respectfully urge that you redouble your efforts in this critical period, to fully implement the terms of the Good Friday accord's power sharing arrangement in creating a new cabinet level executive now, as envisioned by this Agreement and fully endorsed by the Irish people. Any effort to rewrite the Good Friday accord will only lead to more delays and an even greater loss of confidence on all sides in the political process.
``In addition, we urge that all involved work to reach a fair and reasonable agreement on the Drumcree Orange Order march this year before it is too late and this becomes a divisve event, igniting the flames of hatred and violence in Northern Ireland.
``We stand ready to be of assistance and to provide support in any way we can to make our common goal of lasting peace and justice in Northern Ireland a reality.''
U.S. honour for fallen lawyer
Assassinated human rights laywer Rosemary Nelson has been honoured by a United States university. Seton Hall University in New Jersey awarded a posthumous honorary doctorate to Nelson and flew in seven members of her family, including her three young children, to watch her husband accept the degree. The event took place during graduation ceremonies at Seton Hall on Monday 24 March and before an attendance of 10,000 people.
Rosemary Nelson was killed by a bomb placed under her car as she left her home in Lurgan on 15 March 1999. The attack was claimed by a shady organisation styling itself the `Red Hand Defenders', but the involvement of the British secret services and the RUC is widely suspected. The so-called Red Hand Defenders have never before nor since used a device such as that which killed Rosemary Nelson, nor have they shown the technological or operational capability deployed in the attack.
A few months before her murder, Rosemary Nelson had travelled to the United States to testify before the U.S. Congress about human rights abuses in the Six Counties and the threats made against lawyers, including herself, by the RUC.
``I know it is your hope and and ours that her voice will continue to be heard,'' said Rosemary's husband, Paul Nelson, accepting the degree 10 weeks to the day after his wife's death. He added that ``Rosemary would have been surprised at the esteem in which was held.''
California backs MacBride
The State Senate of California approved the MacBride Principles on Fair Employment on Thursday, 20 May. The bill would require the retirement systems of California, which have huge amounts of money invested in companies that do business in the Six Counties, to annually investigate if these companies were in compliance with the MacBride Principles. The California Constitution allows the legislature to stop such investments if it so decides. The bill now goes before the State Assembly, where it is also expected to be successful.
The MacBride Principles were previously approved by both California houses only to be vetoed by previous governors, but the newly elected governor, Gray davis, is on record as suporting the Principles and is expected to sign them into law.
In another development, Father Seán McManus, president of the Washington-based Irish National Caucus, has claimed that a British intelligence agent used his embassy job to oppose the MacBride Principles. The man accused by Fr McManus is one of 150 alleged MI5 agents said to have been identified on the Internet by former MI6 agent Richard Tomlinson. The Irish-American human rights activist said that the man had been involved in directing a campaign against the MacBride Principles in the U.S.