Strong US support for IRA move

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Jack Flynn

Irish Voice

SINN Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness was in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday as news of the IRA’s decision to begin the decommissioning process became public.

He was meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Bush administration’s Irish envoy Richard Haass.

Both Powell and Haass expressed their pleasure at the IRA’s decision and promised that the role the U.S. has played in the peace process will remain as strong as it has been in the past.

President Bush issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the move. “This is an historic step by the IRA. The people of Northern Ireland are now measurably closer to the lasting peace which they richly deserve.

“This act of decommissioning will, I hope, lead to the full functioning of the political institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.” In all it was a busy and rewarding day for McGuinness, who also met with Senators Chris Dodd and Teddy Kennedy as well as Friends of Ireland chairman Jim Walsh, Sinn Fein’s U.S. representative Rita O’Hare told the Irish Voice.

All three men expressed their support for the IRA statement and spent much of their time with McGuinness discussing what future role America will play in the peace process.

There was also hope that this would be the last roadblock in the process and that there would be no further delays in the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Meanwhile, the IRA’s historic declaration was greeted in Irish American activist circles with surprise, relief and the hope that the move may finally jump-start the eternally struggling peace process.

Richard Neal, a Massachusetts congressman long active on the Irish peace process, told the Irish Voice he spoke to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams several weeks ago and came away with the notion that something was afoot.

Now that IRA decommissioning is a reality, Neal believes, the British government has a responsibility to fulfill its obligations on demilitarization and police reform.

The congressman also said that “loyalist paramilitaries should accept this as a show of good faith” and begin to decommission themselves.

Congressman Peter King of Long Island said that Tuesday’s announcement was not only a historic one but also one that “everyone thought we’d never see in our lifetime.” Like Neal, King noted the British government1s responsibility to accelerate demilitarization and police reform.

“Unionists have to realize that the game is over and the government has to make this work,” he added.

“If there1s one criticism I’ve always had of Unionist politicians it’s that they don’t condition their people for the changes that come. Instead they try to delay when change is coming.” Bill Flynn, the chairman of Mutual of America and a key player on the American side of the peace process, returned to New York from Washington on Tuesday, where he had a meeting with the Bush administration’s special Irish envoy Richard Haass.

Haass, like Flynn, was excited about the latest developments and Flynn has special praise for the Sinn Fein leaders who helped facilitate the movement.

“I believe it took a tremendous amount of courage on the part of Adams and (Martin) McGuinness to ask the IRA to step forward and to take the first step,” he added.

Fr. Sean McManus, a Fermanagh native and the president of the Irish National Caucus in Washington, D.C., said he was “delighted” by the movement and had high hopes that both the British government and unionist politicians would respond in kind.

“I was never under any doubts that the (IRA) would keep their promises,” Fr. McManus said. “Now it is incumbent on unionists to react with generosity and with good faith.”