Friends of Sinn Féin placed advertisements in US publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Irish Voice on Wednesday, March 15 calling for support of the Good Friday Agreement and Irish unity referendums.
"Twenty-five years ago the Good Friday Agreement changed the course of Irish history. A generation has grown up in peace. All made possible by the ongoing support of Irish America," the advertisement, which also features the logos of the AOH, the LAOH, the Brehon Law Society, the Irish American Unity Conference, and the James Connolly Irish-American Labor Coalition, says.
"The Agreement endures, as relevant and necessary today as it was in 1998. It provides for Unity Referendums; a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish Unity.
"This British Government continues to break its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement. The Agreement must be honored in full.
"We call on the U.S. Government to hold the British Government fully accountable to its Good Friday Agreement commitments.
"We call on the Irish Government to establish a Citizens Assembly and to plan, prepare and advocate for Irish Unity.
"The next chapter in Ireland's history is being written. Together we can be the generation to build a new Ireland. A home for all. United, peaceful, and prosperous.
"The future is in the hands of the people. It is time to agree on a date for the Unity Referendums.
"Let the people have their say."
25 years on, Irish America stands united in its support for the Good Friday Agreement and for Unity Referendums. This collaboration ran in newspapers all over the country, making it clear: it's time to let the people have their say. #GFA25 #Time4Unity pic.twitter.com/bkcYABMFRG— Friends of Sinn Féin USA (@FOSFUSA) March 15, 2023
The advert was met with some criticism, most notably from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the head of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, both of whom are in Washington, DC this week for St. Patrick's Day engagements.
Varadkar, who will meet US President Joe Biden in the White House on Friday, St. Patrick's Day, described the adverts as "unhelpful" at a "sensitive moment."
"We’re trying to get everyone on board for the Windsor Framework," Varadkar told reporters in Washington, according to the Irish Times.
"And we shouldn’t forget what the Good Friday Agreement says – that there can only be a border poll when it’s clear that the majority of people in Northern Ireland would vote for it. And that’s not clear at all at the moment.
"So I think we need to focus on what’s important in the meantime. Now what’s most important is getting everyone on board for the Windsor Framework."
Donaldson, speaking at an event at the National Press Club in Washington on Wednesday, described the advertisements as "incredible" and "divisive" and said there was "no evidence" of growing support for Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom.
"Over the last few days in the United States, I have focused on growing our economy and boosting jobs in Northern Ireland and bringing stability," Donaldson said.
"Therefore I find it incredible that in newspapers across the USA this morning there is a full-page advert from Sinn Féin calling for a referendum on Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom.
"Whilst I am using my time in the US to impress upon decision-makers and investors the potential of Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin is drumming up hundreds of thousands of dollars for a divisive border poll campaign.
"Northern Ireland’s future is with unionists and nationalists working together. A border poll would pitch unionists and nationalists against each other and lead to further divisions."
Donaldson added that there was "no place" for unionism or those with a British identity in a Northern Ireland that voted to leave the United Kingdom.
President of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald, who is also in the US this week for St. Patrick's Day engagements, told the PA news agency on Wednesday: "They're ads from Irish American organizations whose view on reunification is well known and held for a very long time and they take out ads every year.
"So, the focus now needs to be on getting back to work (at Stormont), whatever your political persuasion, whatever your view on the constitutional issue, we need the Assembly and we need government back up and running."
Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane defended the advertisements, adding that any work that the party does in the US is in Ireland's best interest.
"I think that Sinn Féin has used its influence in the US very positively, so any criticism that is levelled at Sinn Féin is obviously political... coming from political opponents," Cullinane told Newstalk.
"Most reasonable people see that the work Sinn Féin does in the US is about advancing the peace process and about advancing Irish interests."