Category: Archive

Helms illness imperils Senate RUC resolution for 2000

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Sen. Jesse Helms, laid low with a bout of pneumonia, has been resting in his native North Carolina. But the 79-year-old veteran politician’s will is still evident in Washington, D.C., where an effort by Sen. Edward Kennedy to steer a resolution on reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been blocked by Helms, the committee’s chairman.

Sense of the Senate Resolution 332 mirrors a similar House of Representatives measure that called for full implementation of the Patten Commission recommendations on reform of the RUC.

The House resolution received overwhelming support from both parties.

But Helms, who was not facing a reelection test this week, reportedly has problems with the wording of the Senate version, which is co-sponsored by Democratic senators Chris Dodd and Patrick Leahy as well as Florida Republican Connie Mack. Efforts to obtain comment from Helms’s office were unsuccessful.

A Kennedy spokesman expressed concern that the resolution would now fall by the wayside as the 106th Congress heads into a lame-duck session beginning Nov. 14.

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"Right now we can’t get it through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Kennedy spokesman Jim Manley said.

Meanwhile, Helms has sent a letter to Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble expressing support for Trimble’s efforts to defend both the peace process and unionist interests.

The letter was co-signed by Sen. John McCain, who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination earlier this year.

Helms and McCain commended Trimble for his "distinguished leadership to ensure that the momentum for peace in Northern Ireland has been maintained while protecting the interests of the community that you represent."

They added: "We commend your courage in seeking an end to the cycle of violence in Northern Ireland while properly demanding the elimination of the means to project terror."

They said they would "continue to press for decommissioning of arms by combatants in this conflict" and that they appreciated the strength of Trimble’s convictions on all issues vital to reconciliation and peace.

"Please know that you continue to enjoy our support in this noble effort," Helms and McCain concluded.

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