During the darkest days of the 1970’s and 1980’s, Ireland’s conflict in the North seemed unsolvable. Twenty years ago, the Good Friday Agreement brought an end to decades of armed conflict. The most critical skeptics of that time would be hard pressed to deny the many unexpected dividends of the Good Friday Agreement. Men and women who could not, or would not, look past the historical divide saw a way forward. However, a number of crucial commitments provided by the Good Friday Agreement unfortunately have never been fully implemented. Failure to fully implement the Good Friday Agreement hinders further progress in the North of Ireland and the possible unification of the island of Ireland.
Ireland’s people made outstanding contributions to the founding of our own great Nation and its principles of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At this 20 year mark, we proudly recognize America’s contribution to the Good Friday Agreement and reaffirm its fundamental Principles of:
Martin McGuinness’s legacy, through his own words, is commemorated in each Principle. As a respected statesman, Martin McGuinness reached across the political, socio-economic and religious divide, stood by the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and committed the remainder of his life to working towards the fulfillment of its goals. In memory of all who brought us this far, we pledge support for the Martin McGuinness Principles.
“I believe we stand on the threshold of great change. Previous generations have struggled for a United Ireland. But our generation has the best opportunity to achieve it.” -Martin McGuinness
“We have pressed consistently for the establishment of a Bill of Rights in the North and an all-Ireland Charter of Rights” -Martin McGuinness
The terms of the Good Friday Agreement called for the adoption of a Bill of Rights in the North of Ireland. Twenty years after the Good Friday Agreement was ratified by more than 70% of the voters in the North of Ireland and 94% of the people in the Republic there is still no Bill of Rights. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission was mandated to put forward recommendations. In 2008, the Commission made proposals to the UK government recommending the recognition of a broad range of social and economic rights. Successive British governments have failed to affirmatively act on these recommendations. Now, with significant opposition from within the British government to continuing to accept the jurisdiction of European human rights conventions, and a determination to scrap the Human rights Act, it becomes even more important that the rights of Ireland’s citizens in the North be protected when it comes to critical human rights issues.
“Successive British Governments…have totally failed to meet their obligations…to protect the rights of the Irish language community” -Martin McGuinness
The Good Friday Agreement affirmed “the importance of respect, understanding and tolerance in relation to linguistic diversity, including in Northern Ireland, the Irish language, Ulster-Scots and the languages of the various ethnic communities, all of which are part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland… the British Government will, in particular in relation to the Irish language, where appropriate and where people so desire it: take resolute action to promote the language; facilitate and encourage the use of the language in speech and writing in public and private life where there is appropriate demand …”
Eight years later, under the terms of the St. Andrews Agreement of 2006, the British Government committed to introduce an Act to give the Irish language official status equal to that accorded the Scots Gaelic and Welsh languages. They failed to honor this obligation, and the Democratic Unionist Party explicitly repudiated it. Subsequent DUP moves in government to defund Irish language study were a major contributing factor to the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister in 2017, when he cited that party’s lack of “respect” for the rights and cultural traditions of the Irish nationalist community in the North.
“Dealing with the legacy of the past remains one of the key outstanding challenges of our peace process. Unless it is dealt with in a comprehensive manner then the essential process of healing and reconciliation cannot gain momentum”
“Instead of working constructively to address the hurt and pain caused by the legacy of our recent conflict, the British Government has, at every turn, blocked and frustrated all efforts to reach a solution” -Martin McGuinness
Many victims of the conflict in the North and their families have waited decades to learn the full truth about what happened to them and their loved ones. Funding must be provided for proper inquests to move forward. The full story of collusion and cover-ups must be told, and those responsible for human rights abuses must be brought to justice.
“There is a democratic imperative to provide Irish citizens with the right to vote in a border poll on Irish unity to end partition and retain a role in the EU.”
“A border poll on Irish unity is part of the process of building a modern and dynamic New Republic on this island – an agreed Ireland achieved by peaceful and democratic means.” -Martin McGuinness
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the British Government committed to formally “recognize that it is for the people of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent…” Provisions were included for referenda on Irish unity, whose results would be given effect by the governmental parties to the Agreement. The Agreement went on to commit that the signatory parties (including the British Government) should not “make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people”.
Despite the fact that Brexit clearly represents a “change in status” of Northern Ireland, and despite the fact that the people of the north voted by a large majority to reject Brexit and remain inside the European Union, the British government is determined to impose this very significant change (having potentially profound consequences for Ireland), on the people of Ireland north and south, against their democratically expressed wishes.
If the Good Friday Agreement’s commitments to self-determination are to have any meaning, the British Government must allow the Irish people the opportunity to determine their future.
“Irish America has been absolutely critical to the peace process from the very beginning” -Martin McGuinness
Since the appointment of Senator George Mitchell in the 1990’s, American Special Envoys sent by successive US administrators to assist in the Irish Peace Process have often played indispensable roles in helping to promote and maintain the peace process. In addition, they have been instrumental in promoting both cross-border and cross-community co-operation. Today, with the prospect of a hard border on the island of Ireland, the appointment of a qualified, high ranking US Special Envoy having direct access to the US Secretary of State is of critical importance.