Category: Archive

Cowen to push North in D.C. visit

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, is in Washington this week for a series of meetings with top Bush administration officials. But a meeting with Bush himself is not on the schedule although efforts were being made Tuesday to secure Cowen a seat in the House of Representatives for Bush’s first address to Congress Tuesday night. After his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base on the Irish government jet, Cowen was lined up to meet earlier Tuesday with Vice President Dick Cheney in the White House. Cheney is being viewed by some as the administration’s likely front man on Northern Ireland in the months ahead. The Cowen visit, which comes in the wake of visits by the minister to both Moscow and Paris, coincides with yet another letter to President Bush urging him to keep Northern Ireland atop his foreign policy agenda. The letter, drawn up by the Washington D.C.-based US-Ireland Alliance, has been signed by over 400 people including 36 members of Congress from both main parties. The correspondence follows an earlier letter to Bush from a group of leading GOP members urging the president to pick up where his predecessor, Bill Clinton, left off on Northern Ireland. Cowen is also expected to remind the new administration that a direct U.S. role was a pivotal factor in the emergence of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Early Wednesday, Cowen is due to meet with Bush National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and he will also brief the editorial board of USA Today. Later in the day, Cowen will meet separately with the House International Relations Committee and Secretary of State Colin Powell. In addition to the North, Cowen and Powell will focus on EU-US relations and the Middle East. Ireland, which currently holds a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council, has expressed its concern over the recent U.S./British bombing of Iraq and is of the view that all issues in relation to current U.N. sanctions against Iraq need to be addressed. Meanwhile, the US-Ireland Alliance letter to President Bush argues that peace and justice in Northern Ireland are of great concern to the 44 million Americans of Irish descent. The letter states: "President Clinton made Northern Ireland a major part of his foreign policy agenda. His personal involvement, as well as the involvement of Senator George Mitchell, Members of Congress, business leaders, and many others, helped lead to the remarkable progress made by the peace process in recent years, including the Belfast Agreement of 1998, and the current power-sharing Assembly in Northern Ireland. "These steps are only the beginning. Much remains to be done to achieve the truly lasting peace so overwhelmingly desired by the people of both Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Belfast Agreement was supported by the vast majority of the people and its full implementation is critical to achieving that lasting peace. "With your personal commitment and involvement, the United States will continue to play an important and constructive role in this process that holds such great hope for all the people of that land." The U.S.-Ireland Alliance is a nonpartisan group that funds the annual Mitchell Scholarships with which American students study at Irish universities. The group’s president, Trina Vargo, a former top aide to Sen. Edward Kennedy, said that the letter was intended to remind Bush that the Northern Ireland peace process was one in which the White House has made and can continue to make a positive difference. "It is important that President Bush hear from Americans – both elected officials and constituents – that this is an issue we believe he should keep high on his foreign policy agenda," Vargo said.

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