By Ray O’Hanlon
Six members of the House of Representatives last week expressed concern that Wednesday’s peace process speech by British Prime Minister Tony Blair might undermine power sharing in the North.
“As members of Congress who have has a long-standing interest in Ireland we are genuinely concerned that your words may be used to undermine the power sharing institutions established under the Good Friday agreement,” the congressmen said in the letter.
The letter was signed by House members Jim Walsh, Peter King, Joe Crowley, Ben Gilman, Richard Neal and Chris Smith.
“These institutions have been working effectively and it is our strong belief that they should not be tampered with,” the six stated.
The congressmen said they were “equally concerned” over what they called a growing “anti-agreement sentiment” in Northern Ireland.
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“We would hope that all pro-agreement parties would reaffirm their unambiguous support for the full implementation of the historic peace accord. And we would caution against any attempt to rewrite the agreement,” they said.
“There is still work to do in the long road toward reconciliation. And the creation of another crisis in this process will not bring us closer of these important goals,” they concluded.
Meanwhile, New Jersey representative Frank Pallone Jr. condemned, in a House of Representatives floor speech, the murder of Gerard Lawlor by the UDA in Belfast.
“He was killed solely because of his religion,” Pallone, a Democrat representing New Jersey’s sixth district, said.
The murder of Lawlor by the UDA “confirmed that loyalist groups refuse to give equality to Catholics, called for the in Good Friday accord,” said Pallone.
Reacting to the Blair speech, Pallone said that while he was encouraged by it he was also worried that an increase in troop and police numbers on the streets would do little to stem the violence.
“In the past, when the offenders of cease-fires were groups that are loyal to the crown, the police frequently turned a blind eye to the violence and refused to arrest and prosecute offenses against Catholics. This only caused the conflict to escalate,” Pallone said.
He urged Blair and Ulster Unionist leader and First Minister David Trimble to find and take legal action against the perpetrators of violence, especially the most recent acts.
“For the Good Friday accord to be successful all parties in Northern Ireland must stop the sectarian violence,” Pallone said.
The clans gather
It must be the time of year. Head for the beach or gather as a clan.
In Ohio, the sixth annual “Gathering of the Irish Clans” festival is slated for Sunday, Aug. 18, at the St. Maron Recreation Area in Youngstown. The theme of the event is “God Bless America,” though the inspiration for the gathering goes back to the traditional harvest gathering in Ireland known as the festival of Lughnasa.
The Ohio gathering follows a recent first coming together of U.S. members of the Byrne family, which took place in New York, and the 12th gathering of members of the O’Dea clan in Ennis, Co. Clare. The O’Dea event, which is also open to
people with the family names O’Day, Dee and Day, is organized by Chicago-based Irish radio host P.J. O’Dea.
The Byrnes, meanwhile, have set up a website for anyone with that name in the U.S. Other names linked to the family include Burns, O’Byrne, O’Broin, Brin and Beirne. The web address is www.Byrneclanusa.com.
IAUC for SF
The Irish American Unity Conference has chosen San Francisco for its annual convention, which is being held this year in September.
The 19th annual meeting of the group will be held Friday, Sept. 27, through Sunday, Sept. 29, at the United Irish Cultural Center.
The theme of this year’s convention is the “Good Friday Agreement — Working for Justice and Peace in Ireland.”
A number of speakers are lined up for the convention with topics ranging from Bloody Sunday to the latest clashes in North Belfast.
Details on how to sign up for the convention are available from Briana Learnihan at (510) 393-4913, John Fogarty, at (209) 463-0135 or from the convention committee at (415) 244-3036.
S.F. consular move
The Irish Consulate in San Francisco has moved to new offices. The new address for all consular services is 100 Pine St., 33rd floor, San Francisco, CA 94111. The consulate has retained its phone number, (415) 392-4214.