On the 23rd Anniversary of the historic Good Friday Agreement, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), America’s largest Irish American Organization, have written President Biden asking for the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy to Northern Ireland. The Hibernians expressed their concern that increasing violence and inflammatory rhetoric by senior leaders of the Unionist community are a threat to the over two decades of peace the Good Friday Agreement has delivered. The letter states:
April 10, 2021, makes the twenty-third anniversary of the historic Good Friday Agreement, an anniversary Americans can take just pride for their role in facilitating this landmark accord and its promise that consensus can triumph over conflict. Sadly, Mr. President, this year’s anniversary is marked by images of violence in Northern Ireland which we had hoped that the Good Friday Agreement had consigned to history and growing fears that we are slipping back into the dark abyss of sectarian conflict. In light of these events, and to protect and reaffirm America’s legacy in the cause of peace in Northern Ireland, the Hibernians respectfully ask that you appoint a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland.
The British government has repeatedly squandered the opportunity to cement the foundations of peace that the Good Friday Agreement laid by failing to fulfill its obligations under the Agreement and subsequent accords. Two decades on, there is still no bill of rights for Northern Ireland; the promised parity of esteem for all traditions remains elusive for those who wish to express their identity through the medium of the Irish language. Most egregiously, the advance towards peace by the Northern Ireland community is still encumbered by being shackled to the far too numerous corpses of the past, shackles that can only be opened by the keys of transparency and full disclosure, which Britain still refuses to provide.
The folly of Britain’s refusal to permanently cement the peace of the Good Friday Agreement has now been made clear by the seismic events of Brexit which has shaken the Good Friday Agreement’s fragile foundation. Brexit violated the fundamental Good Friday principle of consent when it ignored the will of the people of Northern Ireland, who rejected the referendum by 56%. Among the most ardent supporters of Brexit was the DUP, the only major Northern Irish party to rejected the Good Friday Agreement. Hypocritically, this same DUP now claims that the “Irish Protocol,” solely necessitated to achieve the Brexit they campaigned for, is a violation of the same Good Friday Agreement they opposed. Several loyalist paramilitaries have publicly withdrawn support for the Good Friday Agreement, and Mr. Sammy Wilson MP, a senior member of the DUP, has stated, “We will fight guerrilla warfare against [the “Irish Protocol”] until the big battle opportunity comes.” We have recently seen in our own country the effects such reckless and inflammatory speech can have.
The Hibernians respectfully ask Mr. President that you appoint a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland who can re-energize the peace process and complete the job Senator Mitchell started two decades ago. The Good Friday Agreement is a shining example of the U.S. role in the cause of peace and a beacon of hope not only to the Irish but to people around the world mired in their own sectarian conflicts. We can not let that flickering candle of hope lit 23 years ago be extinguished.
Daniel J. O’Connell, Neil F. Cosgrove
Nation President, Ancient Order of Hibernians Political Action Chair
CC: The British Ambassador to the U.S., The Irish Ambassador to the U.S., The Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus