Statement of the Friends of Ireland and the ad hoc committee on Irish affairs
March 6, 2010
The Friends of Ireland in the United States House of Representatives and the ad hoc committee on Irish affairs released the following statement today after the Ulster Unionist party announced it would not be supporting the formal devolution of policing and justice powers when a resolution comes before the Northern Ireland assembly for a vote on Tuesday.
Both the Friends of Ireland and the ad hoc committee are bipartisan organizations in the US Congress that have been active supporters of the peace process in Northern Ireland for more than 20 years.
As bipartisan members of the United [States] House of Representatives with a longstanding interest in the peace process, we were deeply disappointed to learn last night that the Ulster Unionist party (UUP) does not plan to vote for the formal devolution of policing and justice powers when a resolution comes before the Northern Ireland assembly on Tuesday. The people of Northern Ireland on a cross-community basis want to see these important powers transferred now and have confidence that the local power-sharing government is working effectively on their behalf. A no vote by the UUP is a direct rejection of their hopes for peace and stability.
At this crucial and defining moment in the peace process, we urge Sir Reg Empey [the UUP leader] and the UUP to reconsider their position and vote yes on Tuesday. As one of the architects of the Good Friday agreement, we can’t understand why Sir Reg would not support a deal that promises a better and more secure future for the people he represents.
We also call on Conservative party leader David Cameron to use his considerable influence with his election partners in the UUP and convince them to take a risk for peace. As a supporter of the Hillsborough agreement, he should aggressively be seeking unanimous cross-community support for the landmark accord.
The first minister, Peter Robinson, and the deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, have shown great courage and leadership in negotiating the agreement on the devolution of policing and justice powers reached last month at Hillsborough Castle.
Because of their efforts, the new dispensation of partnership and equality promised in the Good Friday agreement and the St Andrews agreement is one step closer to reality. Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the accord and pledged their continued engagement in the region. As members of the US House of Representatives, we remain deeply involved in the peace process, and our support for the people of the island of Ireland will not waiver.
The murder [of] Kieran Doherty is a stark reminder that anti-peace process elements in Northern Ireland remain determined to turn the clock back. These dissidents will continue to be emboldened if they sense there is no political unanimity on the way forward. They must be sent a clear and unambiguous message that the future of Northern Ireland is in the crucible of politics.
On Tuesday, the eyes of the world will be on Belfast and the Ulster Unionist party. The choice they make will have significant and lasting consequences. They can vote yes for a more peaceful and prosperous future. Or they can be on the wrong side of history and vote for the past.
Congressman Richard E. Neal (Democrat, Massachusetts)
Congressman Peter King (Republican, New York)
Congressman Joseph Crowley (Democrat, New York)
Congressman Tim Murphy (Republican, Pennsylvania)