Tom jpg

Foreign Affairs panel bolsters Good Friday Agreement

Congressman Tom Suozzi


By Ray O’Hanlon

In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, the House Foreign Affairs Committee has passed a resolution in support of protecting the Good Friday Agreement in the face of perils posed by Brexit.

The resolution, crafted by Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Congressman Peter King (R-NY) calls for strict adherence to the Good Friday Agreement during Brexit negotiations.

Welcoming the passage of the resolution, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the committee, stated: "House Resolution 585 from Mr. Suozzi, reaffirms Congress’s support for the historic peace that the Good Friday Agreement brought to Ireland. This is an issue particularly close to my heart. I remember my first trip as a member of Congress in 1989, traveling to Ireland, traveling to Belfast during the dark days of the Troubles.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

"The Good Friday Agreement, and the fulfillment of every obligation under that agreement, is the only way to ensure that those times of violence and division never return.

“That’s why I’m so alarmed by the current situation with Brexit, which could reintroduce a hard border between the North and the Republic – a dangerous prospect not only for the peace process, but for the economic stability of the island, and for the rights of the border communities.

"With this resolution, Congress sends a clear signal to the U.K. and the EU that any Brexit deal must protect the Good Friday Agreement and all its components. I strongly support this good measure and I hope all members will join me in moving it forward.

The resolution will now go before the Full House of Representatives for a vote. It currently has forty co-sponsors from both parties.

Congressman Suozzi, in a statement, said that the resolution would ensure that any trade deal post-Brexit between the United Kingdom and the U.S. would require the UK to uphold the Good Friday Agreement.

"During these difficult times of often partisan and divided government in the United States, it is gratifying to see such overwhelming bipartisan support to ensure that Brexit and other political challenges don't threaten the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process by reintroducing a hard border," said Rep. Suozzi.

“Ireland is one of the oldest and closest friends of the United States and the Irish people have been a crucial part of the fabric of our nation. I thank my colleague Peter King, as well as applaud Chairman Engel and the Foreign Affairs Committee, for passing our bipartisan legislation and hope it will be passed by the House of Representatives in short order,” Suozzi added.

Congressman King said that support for the Good Friday Agreement was crucial as this critical time.

“The United States must affirm that the final Brexit deal retains language preventing the return of a hard border,” King said.

Back in January, Congressman Brendan Boyle introduced a Sense of the House resolution opposing any re-establishment of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Said the Philadelphia Democrat at that time: “One of the great foreign policy achievements of the 20th century was the Good Friday Agreement. Brokered by U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell, and agreed to by the UK, Republic of Ireland, and leading parties in Northern Ireland, it eliminated the hard border that then existed between Northern Ireland the rest of Ireland.

“Now Brexit threatens this. A hard border would eliminate the free flow of people between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which has proved fundamental to promoting peace and unity.

“Given the United States is a close ally of both the UK and Republic of Ireland, and given the United States played a leading role in helping facilitate the GFA, it is now time for the United States Congress to make clear we stand in strong opposition to a hard border. We must not go backwards.”

Thus far, the strongest support for the GFA in the context of Brexit has been voiced by Democrats, notably, in the House, by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Richard Neal, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Boyle, who is also a member of that committee. Senator Charles Schumer has also been vocal in his support of the GFA.

The Suozzi/King resolution will be seen as an advance by Irish American organizations and political activists given that it is a bipartisan initiative. The full vote in the House will be watched closely by those same organizations and activists.