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Expressing Support for Good Friday Agreement and Continued Police Reform in Northern Ireland

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KING of New York. Madam Speaker, today I rise in strong support of H. Res. 744, a resolution that expresses support for the Good Friday Agreement as the blueprint for lasting peace in the North of Ireland. H. Res. 744 is an expanded version of a resolution written by my colleagues JIM WALSH, RICHARD NEAL, JOE CROWLEY, and I last November. I appreciate Chairman HYDE sponsoring this new bill with its additional language which I believe strengthens our initial endeavor and moving it to the House floor promptly. I am also grateful for the opportunity to work with the Chairman and his staff on the drafting of this resolution.

H. Res. 744 expresses our strong commitment to the ideals of the Good Friday Agreement, a referendum that was endorsed by an overwhelmingly majority of the people living both in the North and the Republic of Ireland on April 10, 1998. As we approach the 8th anniversary of this date, I think it is important to recognize those groups and individuals who have committed themselves to peace, justice, and equality and worked to fully implement this agreement. Much progress has been made since 1998 but much still more needs to be done.

First, I'd like to commend (UK) Prime Minister Tony Blair and the (Irish) Taoiseach Bertie Ahem for their leadership in securing a peaceful resolution in the North of Ireland. We would certainly not be where we are today if it were not for these two great statesmen. I'd also like to thank our own government, including both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, for their dedication and efforts to move this process forward. We have been lucky to have fine diplomats such as George Mitchell, Tony Lake, Richard Haass, and Mitchell Reiss play vital roles during the past decade.

One of the most significant changes in the North recently related to the changes in policing. The new Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has adopted many of the Patten recommendations to become a much more integrated, professional, and impartial police force. Under the leadership of its chief constable, Sir Hugh Orde, and its ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, the PSNI is a much more effective and accountable law enforcement agency that promotes human rights and fosters community confidence.

Finally, I'd like to commend the leadership of Sinn Fein, specifically Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, for successfully urging the Irish Republican Army to end its armed campaign and verifiably put all of its weapons beyond use. This was a crucial step in the peace process to demonstrate the Republicans' commitment to an exclusively democratic and peaceful process. There is no place for any paramilitaries in the North of Ireland and it is my hope that the remaining private armies will follow the IRA's lead by destroying their weapons and signing up to the peace process.

Now is a critical time for the people and the political parties in the North of Ireland. This Thursday the British and Irish governments intend to publish their plans for a resumption of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive. It is long past due for this government to be back up and running. But for this to happen, all parties must agree to share power and commit themselves to the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.


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