New City, New York – 6/9/2015– The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH)
The Ancient Order of Hibernians denounces Florida’s recent decision to rescind its commitment to the MacBride Principles and the continued pursuit of justice and peace for the people of Northern Ireland.
Per National AOH Political Education Chair Neil F. Cosgrove:
The Seventeen years of relative peace in Northern Ireland that have resulted from the Good Friday Agreement have lulled the state of Florida into complacency as indicated by the state’s renunciation of the MacBride Principles. Governor Scott and the legislature apparently fail to realize that the Good Friday Agreement that suspended one of history’s bloodiest conflicts was a direct byproduct of the MacBride Principles and the principles remain today one of the agreements chief safeguards. Florida’s premature repeal of the MacBride Principles only weakens the hope of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. As previously stated by Brendan Moore, National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians: “Irish America is shocked that the elected leaders of the State of Florida would now abandon Florida’s staunch support for fair employment practices in still-troubled Northern Ireland.”
The root causes of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland trace back to when the Catholic population of Northern Ireland, inspired by America’s civil rights struggle, sought to end institutionally sanctioned discrimination. It was when peaceful civil rights marchers, whose demands were only fair access to employment, housing and equal government representation, were attacked by Unionists supported by the police, military and intelligence organs of the British state that “the Troubles” began. The MacBride Principles were put forth in 1984 to address the causes of the violence at their social justice roots. The nine MacBride Principles call for fair labor practices that protect all residents of Northern Ireland irrespective of religion or political beliefs. Many states, including Florida in 1988, saw the MacBride Principles as articulating core American values of justice and made adherence to the MacBride Principles a precondition for any firm in Northern Ireland seeking business or investment. This moral commitment by America helped yield the historic Good Friday Agreement .
For the governor and the legislature of Florida to unilaterally declare that the promise of a lasting peace has been achieved in Northern Ireland making the need for the MacBride Principles moot is premature and shows a dangerous lack of knowledge of the fragility of the Northern Ireland peace. Unemployment in Northern Ireland for those between the ages of 18-24, the key demographic of “the Troubles”, is still 21% and issues of fairness in hiring remain. Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has recently said the situation for the current Northern Ireland devolved government “looks increasingly grim,” raising the specter of a collapse of the Northern Irish Government and a return to direct rule from England.
With peace so close and yet so fragile, this is the wrong time for America, any part of America, to signal that peace and justice in Northern Ireland is no longer a priority. The MacBride Principles encapsulate nothing more than the deeply held American values of justice and opportunity. When Florida adopted the MacBride Principles in 1988, they were making a clear and powerful statement of their belief in these fundamental values, values that were not for sale or to be compromised for the sake of financial gain. Certainly the peace and lives of Northern Ireland are a greater return than the monetary profits that may be realized on a non-MacBride compliant investment.