By Ray O’Hanlon
Members of Congress active on Irish issues welcomed the result of last week’s Irish general election.
The return of Fianna F_il to power and success of Sinn FTin in the election was hailed by Rep. Peter King.
King said that Fianna F_il’s success was “very important,” because it would stabilize the Northern Ireland peace process.
Combined with the rise in support for Sinn FTin, the composition of the new D_il would also show the U.S. government that there was a majority nationalist and republican sentiment prevailing in Ireland’s parliament.
“Stability is critical and the fact that Bertie Ahern is still leading the government shows that the dynamics that put together the Good Friday agreement are still in play,” King said.
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Rep. Joe Crowley said that the election was good for the peace process in the North as it would maintain focus on a lasting settlement.
“I’m not surprised at Sinn FTin’s success either,” the New York Democrat said. “It’s an indication from the South to the North of support for the peace process and the legitimization of Sinn FTin.”
Rep. Richard Neal, who, like King and Crowley is a co-chair of the congressional Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs, said that the “breadth of victory” for the nationalist parties in the election had underlined support for Ahern’s committment to the peace process.
Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, described the Sinn FTin performance as “quite stunning” and said that it was apt that those parties which had most vigorously supported the Good Friday agreement had enjoyed the greatest success in the election.
Fr. Sean McManus of the Irish National Caucus also focused on Sinn FTin’s success.
In a statement, McManus said that Sinn FTin’s “impressive” electoral performance had come despite the recent hearings before the House International Relations in Washington on the so-called Colombia Three, and despite the “sinister efforts” of the committee chairman, Rep. Henry Hyde, to “embarrass Sinn Fein and thereby harm the Irish peace process.”
Meanwhile, newly elected Sinn FTin TD Martin Ferris is likely to be the first of his party’s expanded D_il group to visit the U.S.
Already a familiar figure to Irish Americans, the onetime IRA gunrunner will probably visit at least a couple of American cities within the next month or so, according to a well-placed source.
Ferris topped the poll in North Kerry in a contest that saw the end of the political career of former Labor Party leader and tanaiste Dick Spring.
Spring was tan_iste when Ferris was arrested in connection with the 1984 gunrunning incident involving the U.S. trawler Valhalla, out of Gloucester, Mass., and the Fenit, Co. Kerry, fishing boat Marita Ann.
Ferris is now one of five Sinn FTin TDs who will take seats in the new D_il.