Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) National President Daniel O’Connell has written to Senators Portman (Ohio) and Coons (Delaware) to express the Hibernians' concerns over their sponsorship of S.4450, the “Special Relationship Act.”

The legislation, reported here on IrishCentral last week, seeks to grant new presidential authority to enact a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom for a period of five years (a period, which the AOH notes, spans the 2024 elections). 

The AOH says it is concerned that the agreement sets a very low bar for compliance with the Good Friday Agreement despite previous resolutions from Congress stating that any move by Britain which endangers the Good Friday Agreement, such as the creation of a British Brexit hard border, would preclude any possibility of a future US -UK trade deal. 

The letter from Daniel J. O'Connell, National President, Ancient Order of Hibernians, to US Senators Portman and Coons states:

While, as Americans, the AOH supports the economic benefits of increased trade, we cannot support this legislation as it currently stands as it is built on false premises and, we believe, undermines the US commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.

Article 9 of the bill states that "trade agreements with foreign trading partners that share the values and ambition of the United States offer an opportunity to build on the USMCA and set high international standards across many important policy areas."

Given that the United Kingdom is currently advancing legislation to grant an amnesty for the criminal actions of its military and security forces during the conflict in Northern Ireland, we challenge the assertion that the UK "shares the values" of the United States.

On the contrary, the United States has consistently maintained stringent standards for the actions of its military and security forces. To say that the US and UK share the same "values" as the United Kingdom attempts to grant a blanket amnesty for the criminal activity of its forces in Northern Ireland is an insult to the many American men and women who have honorably served our nation while maintaining the highest standards of professionalism.

Article 10 of the bill states, "any trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom must uphold the agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom signed on April 10, 1998 (commonly known as the "Good Friday Agreement"), and support continued peace and stability in Ireland and Northern Ireland." We respectfully point out that the United Kingdom currently is not upholding its Good Friday Agreement commitments. The UK is not dealing with the legacy issues of the conflict in Northern Ireland but seeking to evade them (as noted above). The UK has not established a bill of rights for the community of Northern Ireland as pledged in the Good Friday Agreement. The United Kingdom has even failed to make substantive progress on something as benign as implementing parity of esteem for those who wish to express their identity through the Irish language.

Respectfully Senator Coons, the phrase "uphold the Good Friday Agreement" is too ambiguous and subjective to have meaning; there must be clear metrics to determine compliance, not simply 'good intentions.'

The Good Friday Agreement is a landmark of US diplomacy in the cause of peace; we should not sell that noble legacy for the price of a trade deal. No relationship is so "special" that we should turn a blind eye to enabling murder by permitting the evisceration of justice.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians respectfully asks that the text of S.4450 be revised to set clear and unambiguous expectations as to what the UK's "upholding its Good Friday Agreement" means; specifically, that any British Brexit hard border in Ireland or amnesty for murders committed during the conflict in Northern Ireland, in contravention of all civilized norms of law, would be non-starters to any trade negotiations.