The deal between Sinn Féin and the DUP marks a significant triumph for US foreign policy, senior congressmen said in Belfast on Sunday.
Richard Neal, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives, said: “If it were not for Iraq this would be the triumphant moment for American foreign policy. I think there would be a great deal more attention being paid to it. It’s extraordinary.”
The congressmen said the speed of political developments since March 26th had surprised everyone. “It has been terrific,” Mr Neal said.
“One of the unifying themes of our visit is that there has been a great note of optimism. Even the parties as we have met with them privately have expressed their support for the idea that DUP and SF have made the agreement go forward.”
Congressman Walsh added: “The pace of change had been breathtaking. What sealed the deal was the vote. The people said, let’s do it, let’s get it done. It empowered Adams, it empowered Paisley. There’s a lot to be said for democracy.”
Asked if the North of Ireland could serve as a model for other conflicts he said: “It’s not quite that simple but yes, I do believe that.”
The delegation later met Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness at the party’s Falls Road headquarters. Walsh said the message was: “Congratulations, there is a way to go, but it is a long way from where we’ve come.”
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Mr McGuinness said the size and stature of the delegation were evidence of the ongoing interest in the US in the Irish peace process.
“The significant progress we have achieved in recent years is due in no small way to the effort of Irish American organisations, those on Capital Hill and of course successive US Administrations.
“We look forward to this relationship developing and strengthening further as we enter what promises to be a new era of politics on this island.”
ROSEMOUNT TOWER GONE
In another sign of progress, one of the last remaining British military installations on Derry’s west bank has been removed.
The final sections of the Rosemount surveillance tower, on the edge of the Creggan estate, were dismantled over the past week.
Erected almost 20 years ago, the tower and its sophisticated eavesdropping equipment has long been a source of resentment for the community.
Residents have reported British soldiers giving them details of incidents in their homes which could only have been known through surveillance.
Cecil Hutcheon, who along with his wife Marion led a campaign to have the tower removed, said the community could now return to “a normal life”.
“It is great to see. Our privacy is no longer taken from us. We can now get on with normal life.
“People of Rosemount can start opening their blinds again after 17 years,” he said.
The removal of the tower comes as part of demilitarisation moves across the north.