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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

Hope & optimism on both sides of the aisle

A Letter from Washington

a Chara,

It’s five in the morning. I am wide awake and jet-lagged, both tired and awake. I travel a lot so I have learned not to fight it. It is a privilege to do the work I do, and this trip has been exceptional.

Our delegation, led by the First Minister Elect Michelle O’Neill, met with the highest levels of the Administration engaged in Ireland. We met with the leaders of the Senate and the House, committee chairs, the Friends of Ireland Caucus, and Irish American & Labor leaders who support the Good Friday Agreement.

It was an opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. A special mention must go to Congressman Mike Lawler, who hosted us for an afternoon whirlwind of meetings, briefings, and introductions to the House Republican Leadership and to Vince, Bill, and Danny from the AOH.

The trip was not without its lighter moments. We were waiting in Speaker McCarthy’s Office in the Capitol Building, and he was running a little late. In politics this is common, and we are all used to it. Events happen, meetings run over, and sometimes they are even canceled at the last minute. I have been both the canceller and the canceled. There had been issues with votes in the House. The time ticked by and the window for the meeting was closing.

An official came in to let us know that the Speaker would be with us shortly and apologized for the delay as his meeting with the British Prime Minister was running over. While we waited in the Speaker’s Office, Rishi Sunak was in the room next door.

The same British Prime Minister who has so far failed to have a substantive meeting with the Sinn Féin. Rishi Sunak has no mandate in the North of Ireland. Sinn Féin is the largest party in the jurisdiction and Michelle O’Neill the First Minister Elect. The irony was lost on no one. We joked about walking in to say hello.

The Speaker met with us soon after, provided a quick update, and everyone got back on schedule.

The key takeaways from the trip were hope and optimism. Everyone we met wanted the government in the North up and running, wanted the Good Friday Agreement implemented, and in a world full of crises, they wanted Ireland to succeed.

The positivity was infectious. The challenges we face are not onerous and the opportunities are immense. We need the British Government to honor its commitments, end unilateral actions, and get back to a working partnership with the Irish government.

Have a great weekend and try not to wake me.

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America

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