By Ray O’Hanlon
The Irish American Unity Conference and the Ancient Order of
Hibernians have appealed to “dissident” groups on both sides of the Atlantic to give the April 10 peace agreement a chance to work.
Both groups issued statements in recent days broadly, if not enthusiastically, supporting the agreement while urging Irish Americans to watch closely the political twists in the coming months.
“The voices of freedom from generations past must not be be drowned out by political babble, useless gestures and media manipulations,” AOH National Vice President Tom Gilligan said in a statement.
The IAUC’s release, issued by the group’s national president, Andrew Somers, called on Irish Americans to give the agreement a chance to work. But the tone of the IAUC release wasn’t particularly optimistic, citing “the British track record.” However, Somers added that now was the time for “all-party dialogue and the building of trust.”
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In a separate joint statement, the attention of the both groups was focused on the so-called dissidents.
“To all those men and women to whom this appeal applies, we wish to say that we share your skepticism and have serious doubts about the intentions of some who are a party to the accord,” the joint statement said.
“We urge all dissidents to now be bold and brave and true in this time of dialogue as you have been in time of war. We vow the vigilance of our respective organizations to insure that your voices will be heard more so than any bomb. If there is betrayal, and the record of treachery is long and indisputable, then we will be strengthened by the unity we now display.”
Meanwhile, both the AOH and Unity Conference took part in recent meetings in Washington with the congressional Ad Hoc Committee for Irish Affairs and officials from the Clinton administration’s National Security Council. Also taking part in the D.C. meetings, were Americans for a New Irish Agenda and the Irish National Caucus.
In a joint release, the four groups outlined a number of initiatives and developments they want to see take shape in the coming weeks and months.
One request was for a congressional delegation to attend and observe the Drumcree (Garvaghy Road) parade on July 5. The groups also urged the Ad Hoc Committee to ask the British government for a copy of the recent recommendations by Northern Ireland’s Parade Committee chairman, Alistair Graham, which were not released to the public.
The groups also outlined a wish list that included legal and police reform in Northern Ireland, a British government withdrawal of extradition warrants against Maze escapees Kevin Barry Artt, P=l Brennan and Terence Kirby; credit for time served for Joe Doherty and Jimmy Smyth; a congressional request for a pardon to be granted Liam Quinn, recently transferred to Portlaoise prison in Ireland, and for the U.S. government “to cease all further actions” against the group of Irish nationals known as “the deportees.”