Hon. Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Re: Special Envoy to Northern Ireland
Dear Secretary Tillerson:
The Irish American Unity Conference (“IAUC”) joins in the concerns expressed by Congressman Richie Neal and many members of Congress in their September 19 letter to you, and by Irish Central Founder Niall O’Dowd, in expressing our extreme dismay over your decision to eliminate the crucial position of Special Envoy to Northern Ireland. This decision, if it stands, will seriously undercut the ongoing mission of the United States to ensure that progress continues to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
While much progress has been achieved since the 1998 Good Friday Agreements (“GFA”), the struggle for permanent peace and equality is far from over. Your letter to Senator Corker mistakenly states that “the 1998 Good Friday Agreement has been implemented with a devolved national assembly in Belfast now in place”. Unfortunately, neither of these propositions are true. First, the Good Friday Agreement has not been fully implemented. The United Kingdom has stubbornly refused to honor many of its commitments under the GFA, including specifically enacting a Bill of Rights for the North, funding legacy inquests, and “take resolute action to promote” the Irish language.
Second, as you should be aware, the devolved national assembly is not in place at this time. In fact, it has been suspended for over eight months, since January. A significant obstacle to reestablishing a representative government is that Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire, who is designated to promote and oversee
talks between the political parties, is not a neutral party. Mr. Brokenshire is a member of the UK Conservative Party, which is in coalition with Northern Ireland’s main unionist party, the Democratic Unionist Party. Consequently, he is constitutionally unable to
generate the necessary trust from nationalist parties to broker a fair agreement to help re-start the government.
Deputy Department Spokesperson Mark C. Toner’s statement of April 27, in calling for the reestablishment of a power-sharing government, recognized that “it is vital to build on the political and economic progress made since the Good Friday Agreement…” and reaffirmed the United States’ “strong support for peace, reconciliation, and prosperity in Northern Ireland.” Five months have since passed, and there is still no power-sharing executive.
Our country’s stewardship of the peace process cannot be fulfilled from afar. I respectfully but earnestly implore you to re-assess the circumstances currently pertaining to the North of Ireland, to reinstate the position of Special Envoy as soon as possible, and to appoint as envoy a person who commands the respect and trust of Irish America.
I thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter. If my colleagues and I can provide any additional information regarding the situation in Northern Ireland and its importance to Irish Americans, please contact me.
Peter C. Kissel
Irish American Unity Conference
5604 Utah Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20015
Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.