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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

From a political treaty to the people’s agreement

A Letter from Ireland

a Chairde,

I’m from Belfast. Belfast people like a well-crafted insult offered in jest to get a reaction.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the company of two good friends and supporters. One from Canada and the other from the US.

I offered the opinion that Canada was my favorite part of America. Just as they began to turn on me, they noticed my smile and refused to be provoked. Thank god my friend from Quebec was not there as he would have agreed with me and it all would have kicked off.

This month Sinn Féin leaders will be in Ottawa, New England, and Montreal.

Conor Murphy, former prisoner, former Minister, and current Member of the Legislative Assembly in the North will have just returned from Ottawa. He was meeting with parties and speaking at an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Conor was part of the Sinn Féin team that negotiated the Good Friday Agreement.

This week, 25 years ago, the Good Friday Agreement was passed in concurrent referendums North and South. In the North, the vote was over 71% in favor. In the South, it was over 94%. It is at this point that the Agreement moved from being a “political” treaty to becoming the People’s Agreement. It remains the will of the vast majority of people across the island. It cannot be denied by a minority, north or south.

Canadians played a vital role in the peace process. General John De Chastelain co-chaired the Good Friday Agreement talks and worked to demilitarise society.

Judge William Hoyt of New Brunswick sat on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Ontario’s Judge Peter Cory investigated state collusion including recommending a full public inquiry into the killing of human rights attorney Pat Finucane. A recommendation that the British Government has yet to honor despite agreeing to it.

Clifford Shearing a South African Professor of Criminology from the University of Toronto was a member of the Patten Commission that led to the establishment of a new police service.

Former Solicitor General Warren Allman of Quebec led delegations to investigate human and civil rights abuses.

These were some of the most sensitive issues in our peace process. Canadians had the reputation of being impartial advocates for peace and justice.

Later in the month, John Finucane will travel to Montreal. He will meet with political and community leaders. His visit will culminate with a speech at a commemoration at the Black Rock. The Black Rock marks the spot where over 6000 thousand Irish immigrants died of fever having made their way from Ireland to escape an Gorta Mór.

This week Pat Sheehan MLA will visit New Bedford, Providence, Hartford, and Boston.

In Providence, he will speak at the unveiling of a monument to the 1981 Hunger Strikers. Pat survived 55 days on hunger strike, ending his fast when the prisoners called it to an end. He is now a leading member of the Sinn Féin team at Stormont.

In three weeks, two great nations will remember the bonds that join us all, our history, and our hopes for the future.

Have a great weekend.


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.

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