By Ray O’Hanlon
After several weeks and several drafts, a group of Republican legislators and Irish-American GOP activists have sent a letter to President Bush urging him to directly involve himself in the search for a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
The letter, copies of which have also been sent to Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, urges Bush to sustain former president Clinton’s Irish policies as a top presidential priority.
It also asks the new president to underline his personal commitment to a policy on Ireland by way of his upcoming State of the Union address to Congress.
Recent indications from the White House have been that foreign policy in general and issues such as the Irish peace process in particular would fall primarily within the remit of the State Department.
"Your predecessor saw that career bureaucrats were not able or willing to provide the political heft on this issue necessary to achieve the real breakthroughs in the Peace Process," the letter to Bush states.
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"Only after he moved lead responsibility for this issue from the State Department to the National Security Council was President Clinton able to give a clear indication of how important of an issue this would be for his administration.
"A similarly clear and convincing statement of this issue’s political importance to your administration would be an early and welcome sign of your intention to continue America’s unbiased involvement in the peace process."
The letter, signed by individuals who describe themselves as a group of Republican Party leaders committed to helping the new administration formulate a policy to promote lasting peace in Northern Ireland, praised Bush for the attention he paid to Northern Ireland during last year’s presidential campaign.
The letter was signed by two U.S. senators, John McCain and Susan Collins, and seven members of the House of Representative: James Walsh, Ben Gilman, Peter King, John McHugh, Jack Quinn, Chris Smith and Marge Roukema.
The letter was also signed by Susan Davis, president of the National Assembly of Irish American Republicans, and Frank Duggan, the group’s co-chairman.
The letter states that Bush’s initiative with regard to Ireland had allowed the Republican party to effectively dispel the traditional perception in the Irish-American community that Republicans were hostile to their political goals.
"A statement of our commitment to Irish issues will be exceptionally well received and can become a vehicle for cooperation with Democrats on other issues. It will reassure Congress, and the world, that you will continue the historic bi-partisan support for the U.S. role in Ireland, a nation which has given the U.S. many of its finest sons and daughters," the letter said.
"Our mission is to reach out to Irish Republicans and Democrats alike, showing them that the Republican party cares about the issues of most importance to them."