Meanwhile in the real world…
A Letter From Ireland
I don’t tend to expend too much energy on online trolls. This week the warriors of extreme pro-British Unionism took to their keyboards, claiming that President Biden was not welcome in Belfast.
This was no surprise. In 1995 following the issuing of a visa to Gerry Adams and the subsequent ceasefires, the DUP voted against inviting President Clinton to switch on the Christmas lights in Belfast. Last year the same party attacked a Congressional delegation led by Rep. Richie Neal.
Meanwhile in the real world, the hottest tickets in town were for the President's speech at the University of Ulster. Selfies were taken and hands were offered in friendship. The President called for the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to be re-established.
The DUP has blocked government formation and refuses to respect the outcome of the election which returned Sinn Féin as the largest party and Michelle O’Neill as the First Minister Elect.
The call by the President to form a government and respect democracy is the position of the vast majority of the people and the political parties.
Therein lies the real opposition to the visits and the role of the US. The US was a facilitator of the Good Friday Agreement. The DUP never signed up for the Agreement.
The US stands on the side of the agreements. It acts as an independent arbitrator and a guarantor of agreements. In doing so, it challenges all parties and both governments to keep their commitments.
It was not always like this. The British never wanted an international focus on peacemaking in Ireland. It was their jurisdiction. Their rules and their policies were in play. Those policies included censorship, exclusion, and collusion. All sustained the longest period of conflict in Irish history.
When President Clinton granted a visa to Gerry Adams in 1994, it was in the face of opposition from this system and the British Government. In response the then British Prime Minister John Major refused to speak to President Clinton for a week.
The significance of 1994 cannot be overstated and should not be underplayed. It was the year that defined a new American approach to Ireland. Policy changed from passive to proactive, and peace was delivered.
The US has been and remains a player in our process. When there was an issue with the transfer of policing and justice powers, President Bush made the case for movement and agreement. President Biden made the same play with the British over Brexit. Protect the progress made. Protect the agreements and find a resolution.
The extremes of unionism are opposed to the Agreement, power-sharing, democracy, and equality. That position puts them at odds with the US.
The role of the US is welcome by the vast majority of people and long may that continue.
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.