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Decision Time

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The committee will meet Thursday and just a simple majority will be required to send the bill to the full U.S. Senate for a final vote.
The revised treaty has been opposed since its birth in 2003 by a number of Irish American organizations and activists. Opponents are expected to attend Thursday’s committee hearing.
However, discussion at the hearing is likely to be limited with the emphasis instead on the member vote.
That said, a spokesman for committee chairman, Senator Richard Lugar, indicated that some steps have been taken behind the scenes that could assuage some, if not all, Irish American concerns.
The spokesman said that Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, had been working with Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut in an effort to resolve the issues of particular concern.
Dodd, a Democrat with possible presidential ambitions, has been apparently sympathetic to the AOH and other critics of the treaty.
Recently elected AOH National President Jack Meehan has urged the treaty’s rejection stating that its ratification would entail signing away the rights of Americans to a fair trial.
The Hibernians have also produced a “Comparison Document” outlining in detail the organization’s broad reservations over the treaty.
In addition, the AOH National Political Education Committee has been circulating a release describing the treaty as “dangerous” and a means by which “many of the rights” taken for granted by American citizens would be eliminated.
Opposition to the treaty has also been spearheaded by Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois while a coalition of Irish American organizations, under the Unity In Action Committee umbrella, late last week issued a statement calling on the Senate to reject ratification.
Boyle has argued that, under the revised treaty’s provisions, American founding fathers and mothers such as John Hancock, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James and Dolly Madison would be extradited to Britain for the very revolutionary activities that founded the United States.
Boyle and other critics have especially focused their attention on the revised treaty’s potential effects with regard to political activity linked to Northern Ireland but have also highlighted – as has the American Civil Liberties Union – what they claim are the treaty’s dangers to civil liberties in general.
“The LAOH has denounced this U.S./UK treaty as an assault on the basic civil liberties of all Americans,” said Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians National President, Dorothy Weldon.
Weldon’s criticism was included in the Unity in the Action Committee release, a document that also carried statements on behalf of the Irish American Unity Conference, Irish Northern Aid and the Brehon Law Society.
Opposition to the revised treaty has also been expressed in recent months by the Irish American Emergency Parades Committee, Americans for a New Irish Agenda and the Irish American Labor Coalition.
The revised treaty, said Jim Cullen of the Brehons, was simply unwarranted and threatened “fundamental violence to American legal traditions.”
The treaty, argued Cullen, substituted decisions by political operatives and bureaucrats for the review and rulings of the federal judiciary.
“We must insist that the courts determine key issues like rights and liberties that arise in extraditions to the UK, a jurisdiction whose concern for these matters of due process, particularly in Northern Ireland, are more than suspect,” Cullen stated.
The Foreign Relations panel last discussed the treaty just before it went into summer recess in early August but deferred its vote until this week.
Activists who attended the pre-recess meeting, chaired by Sen. Lugar, urged rejection of the treaty.
At that hearing, however, Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Paul McNulty said he refuted “in unequivocal terms” the suggestion that the U.S. had entered into the treaty “in order to collude with the United Kingdom in a campaign of retaliation against Irish-American Citizens.”
The revised treaty was signed in March 2003 by then U.S. attorney general, John Ashcroft, and the British home secretary at the time, David Blunkett.
In his remarks at the signing ceremony, Ashcroft made no specific reference to any conflict, group or country.
British government representatives have repeatedly denied that the treaty was drawn up with Northern Ireland, or Irish American activists, in mind.
In a July visit to Washington, D.C., British government minister-of-state, Baroness Scotland, sent a letter to each of the 18 members of the Foreign Relations Committee.
In the letter, Baroness Scotland stated that full Senate approval by October was of “paramount importance.”
What was at stake, the baroness told senators, was “not only the continued status of the U.S. as a ‘trusted partner’ for extradition but also the perception in the UK of how our relationship works in practice.”
The baroness stated that the purpose of the treaty was to “modernize” extradition arrangement. It was not, she said, aimed at speeding up the extradition from the U.S. of people “suspected of involvement in terrorism” connected with Northern Ireland.
“The concerns about the treaty raised by certain Irish-American groups are groundless,” she stated.
Prof. Boyle, reacting to the letter, said that a “British Baroness telling the democratically elected Members of the United States Senate that they had better ratify this treaty by October or else” was “pretty outrageous.”

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