A US advertising campaign supported by a number of Irish-American groups and sponsored by Sinn Féin is seeking to mobilise support for a border poll on Irish unity.
The open letter, under the header “A United Ireland - Let The People Have Their Say,” ran in newspapers including the Washington Post and the New York Times.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides for a referendum on Irish Unity. It is for the people to determine their future,” it stated, appealing to the Dublin government to promote and plan for unity.
“As Americans, we call upon our government and public representatives to urge the British government to set the date for the Unity Referendum.
“With your support we can be the first generation of Americans to visit a free and united Ireland.”
The ad campaign was supported by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the Brehon Law Societies, the Irish American Unity Conference, the James Connolly Irish American Labor Coalition, and was paid for by Friends of Sinn Féin.
Irish-Americans are being urged to get more involved in efforts to bring increased political pressure on Ireland and Irish reunification at a time when the Tory government in London is increasingly acting in support of unionists.
The emergence of tensions over Brexit, and in particular the status of Britain’s border through Ireland, has brought a renewed focus to Ireland in the United States.
The Biden administration has so far been clear in its opposition to a hardening of the border through Ireland, as well as British backsliding on its commitments under the Irish Protocol of Brexit.
It is also clear that the momentum has now turned against British rule in Ireland, and that Irish-America could play a crucial role in the months and years ahead.
Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams last year urged Irish-America to be active in the campaign for Irish unity, which he said is a “doable project”.
Party leader Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the latest move by Irish-American groups to support the call for a Six County vote on reunification.
Ms McDonald said: “Irish America has been central to the signing and safeguarding of the Good Friday Agreement. The central principle of the Agreement is the right of the people to determine their constitutional future.
“A unity referendum is the measure of that right and an essential commitment of the Agreement.
“Brexit, the British government breaking international law, and threats from unionism are a challenge to the Good Friday Agreement.
“Change is underway, it cannot be resisted but it must be managed. Now is the time to recommit, and not resile, from the commitment to peace and democracy.
“I commend the groups involved for their common sense call for the Irish government to prepare and promote Irish unity as part of an informed, respectful and inclusive process and for the British government to set the date for the unity referendum.”
US SENATE SET TO BACK GFA
Meanwhile, a resolution outlining support for the Good Friday Agreement is due to go before the US Senate next week, the latest indication of bipartisan backing on Capitol Hill for the 1998 peace deal.
According to an Irish Times report, the resolution expresses support “for the full implementation” of the agreement and subsequent efforts “to support peace on the island of Ireland”
It also states that any new or amended post-Brexit trade agreements between the US and the London government should take into account that the conditions of the Good Friday Agreement are met, with specific mention of the Irish protocol.
Noting that the protocol was intended “to protect the peace”, the draft resolution explicitly states that the reintroduction of “barriers, checkpoints or personnel on the island of Ireland” would threaten the peace deal.
The resolution is being proposed by Democrat senator Bob Menendez and Republican senator Susan Collins.
The prominence of Irish issues on Capitol Hill comes as Washington prepares to mark St Patrick’s Day next week. Taoiseach Micheal Martin will hold his first bilateral meeting with Mr Biden on Wednesday, while the annual Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill is being replaced with a virtual event.
Meanwhile, the British government has sent a senior official to Washington in an effort to increase its own lobbying of the Biden administration for the cause of British rule in Ireland.
Speaking last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Mr Biden is “unequivocal” in his support for the Good Friday Agreement.
“It has been the bedrock of peace, stability and prosperity for all the people of Northern Ireland,” Ms Psaki said.
* The following is the full text of the letter:
“On St. Patrick’s Day, our eyes turn to Ireland and the celebration of all things Irish. The ties of family and friendship between the USA and Ireland have endured for centuries.
“Ireland has given much to the USA. We have given much to Ireland. A generation in Ireland has grown up in the peace made possible by the support of successive American administrations and the efforts of Irish America.
“The 1998 Good Friday Agreement replaced conflict and violence with a peaceful and democratic pathway to a United Ireland.
“The Good Friday Agreement has changed Ireland for the better. Challenges remain but twenty-three years on, Ireland continues to seek the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. The Unionist (Pro-Union with Britain) electoral majority in the North is gone. Their rights, and the rights of all, are guaranteed in a United Ireland. It will be a welcoming home for all.
“A new Ireland is emerging, and more and more people are looking beyond the divisions of the past. A new Ireland that is seeking to undo the damage of the undemocratic partition of Ireland 100 years ago and the recent British government imposed Brexit.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides a referendum on Irish Unity. It is for the people to determine their future. The choice is clear. A United Ireland and membership in the European Union. Or a divided island at the mercy of the British Government.
“It is now time to have an inclusive, informed and respectful discussion.
“We appeal to the Irish Government to promote and plan for Unity.
“As Americans, we call upon our government and public representatives to urge the British Government to set the date for the Unity Referendum.
“This is the time for the people of Ireland to have their say.
“With your support, we can be the first generation of Americans to visit a free and United Ireland.”