In a letter to U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Conrad Tribble, the Ancient Order of Hibernians urged that the lack of progress in fully implementing the U.S. brokered Good Friday Agreement be raised as a U.S. priority with Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire during his visit to the State Department.
The letter authored by Political Education Chairman Neil F. Cosgrove stated:
“As you are aware Mr. Tribble, the peace process initiated by the U.S. brokered Good Friday Agreement (GFA) is currently under extreme duress with the collapse of the devolved Stormont government and the projected negative consequences of a hard Brexit disproportionately impacting Northern Ireland.
We note Mr. Tribble that peace and justice in Ireland has only advanced when America has shown an active interest in these concerns. It was U.S. outrage that ended the execution of the Irish patriots of 1916, it was U.S. revulsion at the deaths of Terence MacSwiney and Kevin Barry that brought the U.K to the bargain table to restore partial independence to Ireland, it was U.S. leadership that brokered the Good Friday Agreement that ended "the Troubles". We ask you now Mr. Tribble to again signal that peace with justice in the north of Ireland is still a U.S. priority when you meet with Mr. Brokenshire.
We share Secretary Brokenshire’s stated regret that his visit "takes place against a backdrop of political stalemate in the region”. However, Mr. Brokenshire’s “regrets” are late in coming and he himself has been a significant contributor to this regrettable situation. The current events in Northern Ireland are only the culmination of a twenty-year stalemate in the implementation of the commitments of the Good Friday Agreement to which the U.K. is a signatory.
Twenty years on, there has been little progress in dealing with the legacy of the past with justice. In fact, the government of the United Kingdom has actively thwarted investigations into atrocities, some over forty years old, under a specious claim of national security. There has still been no progress on the GFA commitment of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland; instead, Brexit represents a retrograde step in that the community of Northern Ireland loses the protection of the EU Convention of Human Rights.
We still see all too frequent examples that the axiomatic Good Friday principle of "equality of esteem" is still far from a reality when a Communities Minister funds Unionist Community Flute Bands to the tune of £200,000 while simultaneously cutting a meagerly £50,000 bursary to students who wish to express their Irish identity through the Irish language.
While the government of Ms. Theresa May has published a Brexit "Plan for Britain", there is still no "Plan for Northern Ireland. Brexit, which the communities of Northern Ireland rejected by 55.8%, threatens to partition again the isle of Ireland behind hard borders both physical and psychological. The free flow of people and goods between all the inhabitants of the isle of Ireland was again a fundamental GFA concept to help knit together the divided communities of Ireland.
We ask you Mr. Tribble to raise these issues with Mr. Brokenshire and ask how he and his government plan to not only safeguard the Good Friday Agreement but also end the twenty year stalemate in its full implementation and advance to a lasting peace. We ask you to remind Mr. Brokenshire of the words of Abraham Lincoln, himself no stranger to the challenges of divided communities. Lincoln observed, "You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today". American leadership ended three decades of "the Troubles" by brokering the Good Friday Agreement; we should not squander that legacy by a failure to hold the United Kingdom accountable as a signatory of that agreement and to to stop evading their responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland.”