Mandelson snubs Washington Committee
BY SEAN BRADY
British Direct Ruler in the Six Counties Peter Mandelson has snubbed the US House Committee on Inernational Relations.
When in America in March, Mandelson indicated that he would accept an invitation to address the committee on the current impasse in the peace process in Ireland when he met committee members on 16 March.
However on 29 March, in a letter to Committee Chairperson Ben Gilman, Mandelson claimed that ``it would not be appropriate for me as a member of the British government to give testimony to a formal meeting of your committee. I should be happy to send, via our embassy, a written briefing note on areas of interest to the committee.''
Gilman has expressed disappointment at the decision. There is enormous interest in the Congress on events in Ireland and all of the members were looking forward to the proposed committee session, he said.
In a letter to Mandelson, Gilman wrote: ``Since your decision to suspend the power-sharing institutions, things have gone from bad to worse in the search for a lasting peace and justice, along with timely and much needed policing reform. We had hoped to discuss these and other important issues with you in depth at the proposed audio/video conference before the Committee.
``I note the British Embassy's erroneous press statements that it would be quite odd for any member of a foreign government to give evidence.
``My letter of invitation noted that if you preferred, for protocol purposes, we would treat your appearance as a briefing rather than a formal hearing. That was how we handled Chairman Chris Patten's most recent visit before our Committee on his proposed RUC policing reforms for Northern Ireland just last year.
``Many government have sent representatives before our Committee to testify. For example, among others in recent years, we have had the Ambassador of Argentina to testify, the head of the Guatemalan government delegation to the peace negotiations, the Vice Minister of the Presidency of El Salvador, and the senior Economic Advisor to the Russian government, who testified he came ``as an official of the government of Russia'' when he was before our committee.
``All of these foreign government officials have appeared before our Committee in the past. I note that just in the last few weeks the Ambassador from Columbia has appeared on both the House and Senate side of the Capitol to give testimony to many Congressional committees on the peace process, the drug situation, and proposed counter narcotics aid to Columbia.
``The search for a lasting perace and justice in the north of Ireland is one that requires trust and confidence-building on all sides. I trust that you will reconsider your decision and come before our Committee.''