US political leaders maintain support for Ireland

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US political leaders continue to show strong support for the Irish cause despite a change in the balance of power following mid-term elections there.

The most powerful politician in the US Senate has again backed Irish unity and set out his strong opposition to proposed British legislation aimed at dealing with legacy issues arising from the conflict in the north of Ireland.

US Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer also said he will warn British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak there will be no post-Brexit trade deals with the US ‘if there is any backsliding’ on the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Schumer described the accord as “a monumental achievement for American diplomacy”. He said he had recently met Sinn Féin’s northern leader, Michelle O’Neill, after the party’s “historic win” in the last Belfast Assembly election.

“Can you imagine saying that 20 years ago? Can you imagine when the Ancient Order of Hibernians and so many were fighting tooth and nail simply to get a visa for Gerry Adams [to enter the United States] that Sinn Féin won the most votes of any party in [the] North of Ireland?”

He added: “It is amazing. That is something to be thankful for.

“During the meeting, I offered [Ms O’Neill] my support for full equality and full Irish unity. Unity based on mutual respect, self-determination, protection of all people of all backgrounds on the island of Ireland.”

Mr Schumer made the comments in an address on Sunday in New York, where he received an honour from the Bronx county board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He will remain as majority leader of the US Senate for the next two years at least after his Democratic Party retained control of the chamber in the US midterm elections earlier this month.

Meanwhile, a powerful Republican congressman has said the US House, now Republican-controlled, will not change its opposition to a trade deal with Britain if the Brexit dispute on Ireland is not resolved.

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, told a Dublin conference that Ireland should not be worried about a change in policy towards finding a resolution to the impasse over the post-Brexit trade deal for Ireland.

There have been concerns that Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives would see Democratic congressman Richard Neal, a strong supporter of Ireland, lose his influential chairmanship of the House of Representatives Ways and Means committee, which signs off on US trade deals with other countries.

Mr Neal and former House speaker Nancy Pelosi have consistently said there would be no trade deal between the US and Britain if the post-Brexit rules affected the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Fitzpatrick, a ranking member of the House’s European subcommittee on foreign affairs, said that “regardless of the make-up of the next congress”, Republicans and Democrats “see eye-to-eye” and shared “a strong bipartisan position” on the North.

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