A Bill of Rights, equal status for the Irish language, and self-determination are some of the aims of the principles named after former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness.
After meeting with the two sons of the late Martin McGuinness, the U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today endorsed the McGuinness Principles. The principles are a set of guidelines for the British and Irish governments, and all key stakeholders in the north of Ireland, to fully realize several major commitments made in the Agreement. He is the highest-elected official in the US to sign in.
“The torch of Martin McGuinness is being carried forward by his two sons, Fiachra and Emmett, who have courageously and correctly called on all parties to the Good Friday Agreement, including the British government, to uphold critical, yet unfulfilled elements of the Agreement, so that full equality, mutual respect, lasting peace and a shared prosperity can be fully realized in the North – and throughout all of Ireland,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
“I had a productive and very informative meeting with the McGuiness brothers, Laborers International President Terry O’Sullivan, the AOH and Brehon Law Society, and am pleased to throw my full support behind the ‘McGuiness Principles’ and the worthy effort to energize the forward momentum to fully realize the promise of all critical parts of the historic Good Friday Agreement.
"That historic agreement, now 20-years old, did so much to bring the situation in the north from one of armed violence to peaceful coexistence and resolving conflict through politics – however slow and difficult that has proved. But more must be done now to fully realize its promises," Schumer added.
“I have a long and proud history of supporting efforts to achieve peace, justice, reconciliation and self-determination for all the people of Ireland. From the Scots Irish influx in the 1700’s to the waves of immigrants that shaped the physical landscape and very future of this nation, the people of Ireland have a deep and enduring bond with America and with the State of New York, and this meeting is a continuation of that abiding relationship. I am hopeful and confident that all parties working together can achieve these vital goals."
The McGuinness Principles, which were drafted collectively by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Brehon Law Societies, and the Office of New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, include four basic tenets:
1. THE ENACTMENT OF A BILL OF RIGHTS
Per the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was tasked with putting forward recommendations for an Irish Bill of Rights. In 2008, the Commission proposed official recognition of a broad range of social and economic rights in Northern Ireland, but successive British governments have failed to act on these recommendations. The McGuiness Principles affirm the urgent necessity that the rights of Ireland’s citizens in the North be protected in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement.
2. FULL STATUTORY EQUALITY FOR THE IRISH LANGUAGE
The McGuinness Principles call for the British Government to honor its commitments in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent St. Andrews Agreement of 2006 to “take resolute action to promote the [Irish] language; facilitate and encourage the use of the language in speech and writing in public and private life where there is appropriate demand” by establishing full statutory equality for the Irish language.
3. EQUAL JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF THE CONFLICT AND THEIR FAMILIES
Many victims of the conflict in the North and their families have waited decades to learn the full truth about what happened to them and their loved ones. The McGuinness Principles call for funding so that formal inquests into accusations by all parties be allowed to move forward.
4. A REFERENDUM ON UNITY TO AFFIRM IRISH SELF-DETERMINATION
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the British government committed to formally “recognize that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent.” The Good Friday Agreement committed the British government to not making “any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.” In light of Brexit, which was not supported by a majority of voters in Northern Ireland, the McGuinness Principles call for the British government to adhere to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement by allowing the Irish people to determine their future through a referendum on unity.
The McGuinness Principles are supported by more than a dozen Irish-American organizations: the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the New York City Brehon Law Society, Nassau Brehons, Suffolk Brehons, Westchester Brehons, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, American Irish Historical Society, the James Connolly Irish-American Labor Coalition, Irish National Caucus, International Transport Workers Union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, the Institute of Irish Studies at Molloy College, Laborers’ International Union of North America, and the Hudson Valley Irish Center.