US Senator Charles Schumer met with Irish and Irish American representatives in Washington, DC today, June 15, on matters related to the Northern Ireland Protocol and British proposals on legacy issues.
Schumer said in a statement that he was pleased to meet with the Irish and Irish American leaders, which included Sinn Féin MP for North Belfast John Finucane, Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd, as well as representatives from the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and Relatives for Justice.
In his statement, Schumer described the UK's amnesty legislation and the recently proposed legislation on the Northern Ireland Protocol as "unwelcome and unjustified."
He said: “The proposed amnesty legislation would severely undermine both the system of engagement and institutions of justice set forth in the Good Friday Agreement and the Stormont House Agreement, which gave victims access to pursue truth and justice.
"The proposed amnesty legislation is unilateral and unwelcome by virtually all parties, as well as unjustified by the facts and history. I sincerely hope it will not gain support because it would serve to derail truth, reconciliation, and justice for so many victims and would hurt, not help, the ongoing intent of the Good Friday Agreement to promote and preserve peace, mutual respect, and shared prosperity."
His statement continued: “On the matter of the Northern Ireland Protocol, I urge our friends in the UK government to pursue a path of good-faith negotiation to resolve differences, rather than destabilizing, unilateral action that would undermine an already-negotiated international agreement.
"As I have said many times, a return to a hard border is not acceptable, nor is it wise economic policy for the people on the island of Ireland, who have benefitted mightily from the changed policies that were birthed after the Good Friday Agreement.
“As Majority Leader of the United States Senate, I join my partner in government, Speaker Pelosi, in saying that rash, unilateral actions that threaten international agreements will undermine support in the Congress for any bilateral trade proposal.
"Again, I urge a path of engagement and negotiation to mete out differences in a way that preserves the peace, stability, and shared progress fostered by the Good Friday Agreement.”
After Wednesday's meetings, Finucane noted Schumer's "unequivocal support for the Good Friday Agreement."
This afternoon I met with Senate Majority Leader @SenSchumer
He made his unequivocal support for the Good Friday Agreement clear, importance of respecting & honouring international agreements & expressed strong criticism of British govt legacy legislation
His support is welcome pic.twitter.com/0FDSIJk1Qb— John Finucane MP (@johnfinucane) June 15, 2022
O'Dowd described the meeting as an "excellent engagement."
In Washington today where I met with New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader alongside @johnfinucane MP, AOH & Relatives 4 Justice Reps
We had an excellent engagement & discussed at length the importance of the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement🙏 pic.twitter.com/s7fW1c5rlc— Fergus O'Dowd (@Fergusodowd) June 15, 2022
Mark Thompson, the CEO for Relatives for Justice, said Schumer's statement following the engagements was "very welcome."
"The US has always played a critical role in our peace process, they are needed now more than ever," Thompson said. "Senator Schumer has clearly understood the crisis we face and he has our backs. We thank him sincerely."
Sincere thanks to .@chuckschumer for his time today. We have him a copy of the Good Friday Agreement and he pledged his influence and support to its protection and his complete opposition to the British Government legacy #BillOfShame #NeverGivingUp pic.twitter.com/S2w7iw0gpk— Relatives 4 Justice #NeverGivingUp (@RelsForJustice) June 15, 2022
*Note: TD Fergus O'Dowd is brothers with Niall O'Dowd, founder of IrishCentral.