A senior figure in the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), Sean Pender, head of their Freedom for All Ireland Committee, has criticized this week's state visit to Britain by Irish President Michael D. Higgins on the grounds that so much remains undone on issues relating to the Good Friday Agreement.
Pender said that it is time the British and Irish governments “stopped arranging photo ops” and addressed issues such as the Finucane murder case, the conduct of the PSNI, the truth behind the Dublin/Monaghan bombing and other related issues.
The AOH is America’s largest Irish group and the criticism comes after Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, agreed to take part in the visit, including attending the state dinner banquet at Windsor Castle hosted by Queen Elizabeth.
Pender also criticized the recent decision to allow the PSNI, the Northern Ireland police force, to march in the 2014 St.Patricks Day parade in New York.
In a letter to Irish Central Pender stated, “It seems events like the Queen visiting Ireland, the PSNI marching in New York and now Michael D Higgin visiting England all want to promote a changed relationship between Ireland and England and that is fine.
“But what is not fine in this rush to display improved relations is the absolute overlooking of legacy issues that have not been addressed. Shortly after the Queen’s Irish visit the British government once again reneged on providing information on the Dublin/Monaghan bombing and they continue to block the promised independent inquiry into the Finucane murder.
“While PSNI members stroll on 5th Avenue and Enda Kenny appears in a photo with Garda and PSNI members extolling how far they have come, young Irish hurlers in the north are harassed by the same PSNI, a man is held for terrorist threats for giving his personal information in Irish at a traffic stop, and finally the head of this new PSNI Matt Baggott does nothing about the recent Unionist paramilitary build up in the North.
“It is time for the British and Irish governments to stop arranging photo ops and get down to the hard work that they committed to in the Good Friday Agreement.
“Instead of a state dinner frank talks should be held with the objective of implementing the Haas-O'Sullivan proposals. Let Michael D and the Queen go to an early bird dinner somewhere and take advantage of their senior discount; it’s time for truth not tea.”