Irish American political leaders have been loud in their praise of Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey, who died last week aged 77 after losing his battle with cancer.
The co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs and the Congressional Friends of Ireland hailed Payne as an standout supporter of the Northern Ireland peace process.
“Don was a longstanding member of the committee and an ardent supporter of the Irish peace process. An early supporter of the MacBride principles and the author of numerous pieces of legislation on Ireland, Don spent over two decades in Congress working to bring peace and justice to the island.
“For Don, these issues were not just matters of passing interest, he jumped into them first hand and studied the details. In his role as a key member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, he participated in a series of critical hearings on peace and justice in the north and policing reform. He also traveled to Ireland on numerous occasions to meet directly with people from both traditions, and he was always a welcome guest,” the two congressional groupings said in their joint statement.
And they added: “He was also focused on the need for change. Don was one of the first members of Congress to travel to Garvaghy Road in Portadown during some of the most difficult and tenuous periods of the conflict. His willingness to address the contentious issue of parades was an example of the extraordinary leadership he demonstrated for many years. Don was a treasure for the people of New Jersey, the United States and Ireland. He will be sorely missed by the Ad Hoc Committee and all those interested in peace and reconciliation around the world.”
The statement was signed by Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Eliot Engel (D-NY) ) for the Ad Hoc Committee, along with the Friends of Ireland chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) and ranking member, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA).
“We join together today in sorrow at the passing of Congressman Donald M. Payne,” the joint statement said.