From an Irish-American perspective, the race for the White House took a big step forward this week with the release of the Republican Party Platform at the GOP convention in Philadelphia.
Thanks to the hard work of a determined cadre of GOP members in Congress and a number of Irish-American activists, the party platform for the first time included a significant and groundbreaking statement on Ireland. It is one that embraces a variety of issues that are of concern to Irish Americans, a segment of the population who now, rightfully, expect that Ireland will remain a primary foreign policy concern of the United States no matter who moves into the Oval Office in January.
The Republicans’ platform document praises the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement and calls for its full implementation. It also calls for complete implementation of the Patten Commission’s recommendations on police reform in Northern Ireland, an inclusion that is certain to raise eyebrows in the British government. The statement also embraces the continued progress toward power sharing in Northern Ireland by expressing support for "a representative local assembly."
In addition, and this will certainly surprise some, the platform document calls for a "review of issues" of deportation and extradition arising prior to the Good Friday accord. The platform concludes by promising, if necessary, a U.S. presidential envoy to help facilitate the search for lasting peace, justice and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.
The Republicans have for years left themselves exposed to the entirely legitimate criticism that the party leadership has been overly sympathetic to the British perspective on Ireland while ignoring the feelings of many rank and file party members and supporters. Late in the day perhaps, but better late than never, that leadership has grasped the fact that there is much to be gained from involving the U.S. in the ongoing quest for a just settlement in Northern Ireland.
Now it’s simply a matter of turning words into deeds. It can only be hoped that such a process is indeed a simple one in the event of the GOP ticket securing the White House in November.