We are writing you as a group of Republican Party leaders who are committed to helping your new Administration formulate a policy to promote lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Throughout your campaign, we have been especially heartened by your willingness to consider the issues confronting Northern Ireland, and the impact of America’s policies in achieving a just and lasting peace. Your initiative in this area has allowed the Republican Party to effectively dispel the traditional perception in the Irish American community that Republicans were hostile to their political goals. You have an opportunity to build on the work that has already been done and make peace in Northern Ireland a priority and a legacy of your presidency.
There are 44 million Americans of Irish ancestry, with ties to both traditions on the island of Ireland. Our Republican Party Platform was very strong in support of the peace process. It received a great deal of attention in the Irish and Irish-American press. We stated clearly our support for full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Platform on Ireland was the result of the support of Platform Committee Chairman Governor Tommy Thompson and discussions with your national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, Speaker Hastert, Senator Abraham, former Speaker Bob Livingston, Frank Duggan and Susan Davis of the National Assembly of Irish American Republicans, and many others. It was a successful team effort and resulted in a statement we can all be proud to support.
Very few, if any, foreign policy issues received bipartisan support in the Clinton Administration, apart from the Irish issues. Although President Clinton receives much of the credit for his efforts in the North of Ireland, the Republican Congress supported his agenda throughout, and indeed often led the way. Only after Republicans took the majority was Chairman Ben Gilman, of the International Relations Committee, allowed to pursue hearings on Irish political prisoners, the MacBride principles and policing reform, among many other issues. Republicans resumed formal links between the Congress and the Daíl by re-establishing the U.S.-Ireland Inter-Parliamentary Exchange in 1997, after the Democratic Congress allowed it to lie dormant for twelve years. In October of 1998, we overcame White House inertia to create the Irish Peace Process and Cultural Training Program with unanimous bipartisan support. Over the next few years, thousands of young people from the North and South will have an opportunity to live and work in the United States, returning home with a new understanding of tolerance and peace in a diverse society.
In this fiscal year’s Foreign Operations appropriations bill, Chairman Sonny Callahan increased the U.S. contribution to the International Fund for Ireland by $5.4 million over the President’s request, bringing next year’s funding to $25 million. Many of us have traveled numerous times to Ireland over the last six years to support the peace process and develop personal relationships with the political and business leaders in the North and South.
We will continue to remain actively engaged in support of lasting peace and justice in Northern Ireland and your leadership could provide the impetus necessary to achieve real advances in achieving our common agenda. We would welcome any opportunity to offer feedback or share our recommendations on these very important issues.