The decision by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to long-finger the May 29 vote resulted in virtual unanimity of view between Irish-American political leaders and lobby groups.
Senator Edward Kennedy said he regretted the decision to postpone the vote.
“The good faith efforts of Sinn Fein and the Irish and British governments had brought the parties to the threshold of an imminent and historic breakthrough that could well have guaranteed the success of the peace process,” Kennedy said last week.
“In the recent negotiations, the IRA had responded to every reasonable effort to clarify its commitment to end its support for violence. The Unionists cannot forever have a veto on the peace process. The people of Northern Ireland deserve better.”
A joint statement by the leaders of nine Irish American organizations went further in condemning Blair’s decision. The leaders described the move as a “reprehensible violation of democratic principles.”
“Either there is democracy or there is not, and there can be no democracy without fair elections,” the group said in a statement. “Britain’s participation in a war to bring democracy to Iraq, while at the same time denying democracy in the north of Ireland, is the height of hypocrisy.”
The statement was signed by heads and representatives of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irish American Unity Conference, Americans for a New Irish Agenda, the Brehon Law Society, the Irish American Labor Coalition, Irish Northern Aid, the Irish Parades Emergency Committee, Lawyers’ Alliance for Justice in Ireland and the Children of Ireland Group/Irish Education Foundation.
The statement said that the people of the North should be allowed to “cast an honest vote without political manipulation.” It also expressed a desire to see responses from the Irish and U.S. governments that would be both “severe and helpful” in restoring political progress in the North “along democratic lines.”
The British government had “unilaterally suspended” the political institutions established under the Good Friday agreement four times since its signing,” the group statement said.
Despite the appeal for a firm response from the Bush administration, the initial indication from Washington was that while it was disappointed with the postponing of the elections, it did not view Blair’s decision as one that might threaten the GFA.
The administration’s point man on the North, Dr. Richard Haass, described the postponing of the vote as “a bump in the road” but not a crisis.
Haass told the Irish national television and radio network, RTE, that the Bush administration’s view was that statements from the IRA and Sinn F