US Congress members to act to defend 1998 deal

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A US Congressional delegation visiting Ireland has vowed to use its influence to stop Brexit from undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

The group, led by House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and including leading Irish-Americans Richard Neal and Brendan Boyle, marked 21 years since the signing of the treaty.

At a press conference at Stormont, Congressman Neal said the visit had been useful. “The one position that we all hold is that no wants a return of a hard [remilitarised] border – we’ve made that as clear as we can,” he said.

He said the US was a guarantor of the 1998 accord and that he and his colleagues did want to see the agreement “compromised in any sense or term”.

Mr Neal said the previous night’s events in Derry, in which journalist Lyra McKee was killed by a bullet fired during a riot, highlighted “how fragile the peace can be”.

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, made similar remarks in a speech in the Dáil yesterday as part of centenary commemorations.

She added that politicians in the US stand with Ireland as it faces challenges posed by Brexit - and issued a warning to the UK of future trade deals.

“We must ensure nothing happens in the Brexit discussion that threatens the Good Friday accord,” she said. “If the Brexit deal undermines the accord there will be no chance of a US-UK trade agreement.”

Ms Pelosi said two decades of peace cannot be jeopardised by the Brexit process.

“We treasure the Good Friday accord because it is not just a treaty, it is an ethic, it is a value, it is an article of faith for us, it is a beacon to the world,” she said.

In a separate address at Iveagh House at the Department of Foreign Affairs, the US politician, the third most powerful in the US after the president and vice-president, told “our friends in the UK” that a trade deal between Britain and the US is “just not on the cards” in the event of a breach of the Good Friday Agreement. “Don’t even think about it,” she said.

The delegation also visited the border between Derry and Donegal, where they symbolically walked from British jurisdiction into the 26 Counties.

Speaking to the media, Congressman Neal recalled a previous border crossing with a former Speaker. “I was on a bus here 30 years ago with the Speaker of the House, Tom Foley. The bus was stopped and British soldiers mounted the bus with full night-vision and armament and they searched the bus.

“Here we are 30 years later with Speaker Pelosi and we accept the result of the Good Friday Agreement that eliminated the border and we walk back and forth. At that time you were searched; today your phone pings,” he said.

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