Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA), Chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, returned to the US on November 14 after leading a congressional delegation that included Congressmen Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) to Dublin and Belfast.

“This trip has left me feeling hopeful for the future of Northern Ireland," Representative Keating said in a statement after the delegation returned to the US.

“Without question, there has been an acknowledged change in the mood of all the participants involved on the ground. And in fact, it’s clear the sentiment of the people has advanced further than political negotiations to resolve issues related to the Northern Ireland Protocol, government formation within the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and legacy issues included in the Good Friday Agreement.

"But one area where both officials and citizens, business leaders, and other local stakeholders agree is that the economic prosperity that Northern Ireland is already experiencing has the potential for even greater growth with a resolution.

"The delayed elections provide a window of urgency needed for all sides to move forward. And the general feeling is that there is opportunity for substantive, positive negotiations, and a pathway forward – seen by the leaders I met with in both Ireland and the UK. This is opportunity is reinforced by last week’s British Irish Council meeting between the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister. 

“While in Belfast, we visited a trauma center where we met with victims and family members of victims of the Troubles. It is my great hope that the legacy issues will not be sidetracked by the recent legislation in the UK.

"Additionally, this trip has solidified my determination to encourage the President to appoint a US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.”

Chairman Keating has already held two congressional hearings and one congressional briefing on the subject of legacy issues in Northern Ireland.

Congressman Higgins said: “The US government, and the United States Congress in particular, have played a pivotal role in promoting peace in Northern Ireland.

"Our meetings reaffirmed the importance of the 1998 Belfast agreement, which ended 30 years of violence, with a commitment to continue and protect it for the future.”

Congressman Vargas said: “It was an honor to join my colleagues as we work together to strengthen the US-Ireland relationship.

"We listened to Irish leaders from all walks of life and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to supporting peace in Ireland.

"The United States values its longstanding relationship with Ireland, and we look forward to continuing our binational partnership for years to come.”

The US delegation's visit to Dublin included engagements with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and US Ambassador Claire Cronin where the delegation says they reaffirmed the strong relationship between the US and Ireland, and the positive role the US has played in the development of peace in Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as discussed the current state of the continued implementation of the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement.

The delegation also visited the Glencree Center for Peace and Reconciliation in Co Wicklow.

Glencree's Community and Political Dialogue Team was privileged to host a delegation of US Congressmen including @USRepKeating, Juan Vargas and Brian Higgins. Topics included US commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, Protocol and Legacy.#glencree4peace

— Glencree Centre for Peace & Reconciliation (@GlencreeCentre) November 15, 2022

In Belfast, the US delegation met with the five main political parties in Northern Ireland and urged all parties to come together and seek a solution to current disputes related to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The delegation also voiced their concerns related to the UK's proposed legacy/amnesty legislation.

At Stormont, the delegation met with Speaker Alex Maskey to discuss the current status of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Meeting with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris, the delegation reaffirmed the strong US-UK relationship, US-UK efforts to support a free and independent Ukraine, the energy crisis affecting Europe, as well as current negotiations related to the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the delegation’s serious concerns with the UK government’s proposed legacy/amnesty legislation.

Members of the delegation and Secretary Heaton-Harris agreed that there is a current window of opportunity and that a solution to the situation related to the Northern Ireland Protocol would provide significant economic benefits in Northern Ireland.

The US and the UK share a commitment to protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement. Good to meet US government representatives today to discuss this, and my plans to get the NI Executive back up and running.

— Chris Heaton-Harris MP (@chhcalling) November 12, 2022

Elsewhere in Belfast, the delegation engaged with representatives from Lagan Integrated College, the first integrated college, met with members from WAVE Trauma Center and toured Belfast's Peace Walls.

The peace walls in Belfast are a stark representation of Northern Ireland’s past and the work that needs to be done in the future. As the work continues to take these walls down, we are reminded of the continued work to implement the GFA and bring communities in NI together.

— Congressman Bill Keating (@USRepKeating) November 12, 2022