Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressing the Dáil earlier today. Photo by Maxwellsphotgraphy.ie.
By Irish Echo Staff
Nancy Pelosi firmly placed herself as a political shield between Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement today when she addressed Dáil Eireann.
Speaker Pelosi, whose speech was formally devoted to the centenary of the first Dáil, told the assembled politicians and onlookers in the public gallery – including Bono and his wife Ali Hewson, – that nothing must happen to imperil the agreement and the seamless border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
She said the Belfast Agreement should be treasured, not only because of what it has meant for Ireland and Northern Ireland, but because it had become a beacon of hope for all the world.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
A lengthy standing ovation greeted Speaker Pelosi when she entered the Dáil chamber to address TDs, Senators and former members of the Oireachtas, along with a large delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives, the Irish Times reported.
Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation on visits to London, Dublin, the North and the border area.
Pelosi, according to the Times report, repeated her warning that “if the Brexit deal undermines the accord there will be no chance of a U.S.-UK agreement” on trade.
“I say that hopefully, that we will not have to face that reality.”
She told a full Dáil chamber that “as you face the challenges posed by Brexit, know that the Democrats and Republicans in the House stand with you.”
To sustained applause, she said: “We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday Accord, including but not limited to the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.”
Pelosi, added the Times account, said children born in 1998, when the Belfast Agreement was signed, had grown up in peace.
“We cannot jeopardize that. We must not and will not allow that progress to be undermined.” Of Good Friday 1998, she said: “On that holy day the world saw the dawn of peace in Ireland.”
In her address she praised John Hume and Martin McGuinness.
Continued the Times report: Pelosi said she had heard “excellent arguments” for Ireland to sit on the UN Security Council as she highlighted Ireland’s efforts in 1961 at the UN to push for non-proliferation of nuclear armament.
Ireland is currently campaigning for a rotating seat on the council. The vote will be held next year.
Pelosi also praised Ireland’s efforts on green technology, adding that both Ireland and the U.S. could do more on climate change and could do so together. Both countries “must do better and must to more and can to it together” with the urgency the issue demands.
She said it was a public issue in terms of clean air and water, an economic issue in terms of green jobs and reducing income inequality, and a security decision “to keep us safe. Climate was a national security issue throughout the world, she added.
Pelosi introduced members of the House delegation in her address after former taoiseach, Enda Kenny, welcomed them at the entrance to the chamber.
Pelosi praised Ireland for being the first in the world to vote by referendum for same-sex marriage, and also cited the backing of women’s reproductive rights.
She said that “from a crucible of deprivation and sadness” Ireland had “blossomed,” and while being one of the world’s youngest nations, the country enjoyed one of the oldest cultures.
There were smiles all around when Pelosi spoke of one of her meetings with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Washington. She offered him a tour of Capitol Hill “by the Speaker.” Mr. Varadkar, who had interned on the Hill as a student, replied: “Ma’am I used to give that tour.”
Pelosi said Ireland had been a thread “in the fabric” of American history and life.
Ireland and the U.S. “know the joy of independence.” Both countries had endured the trauma of civil war and the “satisfaction of rebuilding our nations.”
She said she and her husband, Paul, did not have Irish grandparents, “but we have Irish grandchildren – Liam, Sean and Ryan Kenneally,” and their son-in-law, Michael Kenneally. She said their grandchildren were baptized in County Wicklow, where their Irish grandfather was buried.
Pelosi concluded her speech by saying: “May God continue to bless America, may God continue to bless Ireland, may God continue to bless the partnership we share.”
Separately, the Irish Times reported that Pelosi and her delegation, which includes Friends of Ireland Chairman Congressman Richard Neal, and Congressman Brendan Boyle, the only current House member with an Irish immigrant parent, “had a forceful and at times heated encounter with pro-Brexit UK hardliners” during their stopover in London.
The American politicians had “rejected claims that the border was a ‘concocted’ issue.”
The delegation met members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, led by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, on Monday.
Congressman Boyle said the delegation members had a “frank discussion” with the ERG that was “a good, sincere, honest exchange.”
Boyle, according to the Times report, said the delegation’s warning about any post-Brexit risk to the peace process jeopardizing any future UK-U.S. trade deal, and the challenge of passing any trade deal through the U.S. Congress amid the current climate, had “acted as a reality check” on some UK politicians they had met.