Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.

EDITORIAL: Welcome One And All

One of the more encouraging aspects of contemporary congressional discourse is the fact that members of both parties can agree on issues of concern to Irish America.

This is something of a minor miracle given that many members have a hard time finding common ground with regard to even an existential threat such as climate change.

We count our blessings so.

A few days ago, sixteen members of the United States House of Representatives, from both parties, penned letters to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris, and the British Ambassador to the United States, Karen Pierce.

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The identical letters raised profound concern over the pending British government Legacy Bill for Northern Ireland.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

In the letter, signed at the top by Republican Brian Fitzpatrick and Democrat William Keating, the representatives state in part: "We write to you to restate our profound concern about the substance and potential consequences of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

"The Special Relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States is one which has always relied on mutual respect and the importance that both nations place on democratic governance and human dignity.

"At the same time, the United States has played an active role in the Northern Ireland peace process and continues to regard the Good Friday Agreement as the best framework for a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. This legislation as written does not uphold the shared principles at the foundation of our partnership or the principles which underline the Good Friday Agreement. 

"The unity among all the political parties and many other stakeholders throughout Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom in opposition to this measure is resounding and consistent, and the amendments proposed by His Majesty’s Government to the Bill in the last couple of months have been insufficient in addressing the concerns of those parties, victims’ groups, and civil society in Northern Ireland. Members of His Majesty’s Government have acknowledged in the House of Lords that if the Northern Ireland Assembly were sitting, this Bill might have never been given legislative consent by that body."

The first line of that paragraph above is a signal to the letter recipients that there is no way around the common front that has been established on Capitol Hill with regard to the peace process, the Good Friday Agreement and the defense of all its parts.

An interesting aspect of this latest letter is that it was signed by names both familiar to activist Irish America, and names not so familiar.  

In addition to Reps. Fitzpatrick and Keating the letter was signed by Reps. Richard Neal, Michael Lawler, Kevin Mullin, Chris Smith, Mike Quigley, Gerald Connolly, Brendan Boyle, Barbara Lee, Brian Higgins, Mary Gay Scanlon, James McGovern, Chellie Pingree, John Larson and Stephen Lynch.

Most of these House members have been active with regard to Ireland for years. Chellie Pingree, whose district is in Maine, and Barbara Lee are new names on the block. Lee's signature means there is a coast-to-coast aspect to the letter. Her district is in California. 

Regardless of party or district, the active interest of all sixteen House members is deeply appreciated. And we know there are quite a few other members of the House and Senate who are ready and willing to make their feelings known as the days count down to the next standout date in the Legacy Bill debate, that being September 5.

In the meantime, welcome one and all. Your words count. Your interest and concern counts. Irish America counts. The United States of America counts.