O’Neill wins further US backing for Good Friday Agreement
O’Neill wins further US backing for Good Friday Agreement


Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill is in Washington, DC in a bid to persuade the US government to urge British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to prioritise the restoration of the North’s powersharing political institutions.

First Minister-designate Michelle O’Neill arrived in the US on Monday, ahead of a planned meeting between Sunak and US President Joe Biden.

In a statement in advance of her departure, O’Neill said she would urge the US to continue to press Sunak to prioritise restoration of the Stormont Assembly and Executive and advance the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The North’s devolved institutions are in their 16th month without a functioning Executive as a result of a boycott by hardline unionists. DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson insists the boycott will continue until the British government provides guarantees that the North of Ireland will remain British.

More than a fortnight ago, in line with demographic trends, local council elections showed nationalist voters clearly outnumbering unionists for the first time within the area under British rule. This has increased pressure for the British government to finally map out a peaceful route for Irish reunification as promised in the Good Friday Agreement.

Meanwhile, plans to restore Stormont are thought to be “on the back burner” over the summer period due to tensions over sectarian marches by the anti-Catholic Orange Order.

Speaking ahead of her visit to Washington, Ms O’Neill said she was traveling to meet with senior US officials and politicians on Capitol Hill to update them on the current situation in the North.

She said, “The public have now spoken in two elections over the last year. They have sent a clear signal they want parties working together around the Executive table delivering for all. They want the Good Friday Agreement implemented.”

She added, “The British government’s response to this boycott of our political institutions is lax, complacent and irresponsible. There is no sense of urgency. It has stalled the operation of the Good Friday Agreement and is leading to political drift. That must stop.”

She described the United States as a key partner for peace in Ireland. She said it was now time for government to be formed in Belfast and to seize the enormous economic opportunities now open and which were highlighted by Biden during his visit to Ireland in April.

She said, “The British government by its inaction cannot give the DUP a veto over the operation of the Good Friday Agreement. The governments must act in partnership to realize the opportunities for progress, prosperity and reconciliation. There can simply be no more delays.”

On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, O’Neill met with Representative Richie Neal, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee and member of the Friends of Ireland Caucus, among other politicians. She also met with the Republican House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, and other representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties.

“There is enormous goodwill and political focus from members of Congress on developments in the North, including on the recent council election outcomes,” she said.

“There continues to be firm bi-partisan support for the Good Friday Agreement, and the formation of a power-sharing government.”

She said there is a shared and united expectation to see the outcome of last May’s Assembly election respected, and for power-sharing to be reset and government established.

“With the visit of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak the attention of Washington is firmly fixed on the North of Ireland this week.

“There is no question of the strong support from everyone I have met across the political spectrum and the US administration to see the obstacles to forming an Executive removed without further delay.

“There is a clear need now for the British and Irish governments to come together and demonstrate joint stewardship in advancing a plan towards restoration of the democratic institutions, and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.”

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