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Engel takes House Foreign Affairs gavel

Congressman Eliot Engel, accompanied by his wife Pat, is sworn in earlier today as House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo courtesy Congressman Eliot Engel’s office.


By Ray O’Hanlon

Congressman Eliot Engel recently wrote the British ambassador in Washington “as a Member of Congress who has a continuing interest in Northern Ireland.”

The next letter will be as a congressman - and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Engel was sworn into the top House post today by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and will have a mountain of work to deal with given the lately chaotic state of U.S. foreign relations and diplomacy.

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But the New York representative has vowed to keep Ireland front and center.

Engel’s letter to Sir Kim Darroch, sent last month, was specifically related to the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre in Belfast and the now ongoing inquest.

Engel highlighted his concerns in the letter about issues including withholding of key British army records, and British calls for a statute of limitations amnesty, or special laws for British soldiers.

In his letter Engel wrote that he had heard concerns that the inquest might fail to ensure that justice will be done, “leaving open the wounds from a conflict that all want to relegate firmly to the history books.”

And he continued: “I understand that there is growing apprehension among the Ballymurphy families that the Ministry of Defense may be deliberately withholding documents and disclosure items crucial to the investigation.

“Additionally, I am aware that some Britons have recently called for changes to the statute of limitations laws. Such changes could result in the absolution of anyone judged guilty and could fundamentally taint the inquest.

“As a Member of Congress who has a continuing interest in Northern Ireland, I am compelled to relay these concerns to you and would welcome any response you may have.”