“Prime Minister Ahern of Ireland and Prime Minister Blair of Britain have been strong allies for peace. John Hume and many others have been heroes along the way,” Kennedy said in a statement.
But the “indispensable persons” in what was an historic agreement were Gerry Adams and the Rev. Ian Paisley, said Kennedy.
“In reaching this agreement, they have acted to strengthen democracy and create a future of peace and stability,” Kennedy added.
“Today, the people of Northern Ireland salute them both for reaching this new day, and the world congratulates them as well … Sinn Fein and the DUP have finally taken the essential step of looking forward together – not backward – and have agreed at long last to work with one another for the future of Northern Ireland.
“The eyes of the world will be on them on May 8. All who care about lasting peace and stability look forward to the permanent restoration of the Northern Ireland government at that time,” Kennedy said.
Senator Hillary Clinton said the agreement marked the culmination of a long and historic journey by all those involved in the peace process.
The agreement, she said, would mean that the Northern Ireland peace process would serve as a model to the world in resolving differences and restoring lasting peace through power sharing and the promotion of common interests among diverse groups.
“Prime Minister Blair and Taoiseach Ahern, as well as all officials in their respective governments, deserve the world’s gratitude for their continued dedication and attention to restoring the devolved government,” Clinton said.
“I know all Americans stand ready to do whatever is needed to help reach a governing consensus and a way forward toward a more prosperous Northern Ireland. I am grateful to everyone involved and I know the world will view this agreement as a momentous time in the history of this great country and its people.”
Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the Friends of Ireland group in Congress, described the agreement between Adams and Paisley to work together in government as one of most significant developments on the island of Ireland in more than a century.
“I would like to congratulate both Rev. Paisley and Gerry Adams on this remarkable achievement. The historic compromise they reached took courage and vision. They took a genuine risk for peace. And thanks to their efforts, a new era in Northern Ireland is about to begin,” Neal added while also acknowledging “the extraordinary work” of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Neal pledged that Congress would continue to work in support of power sharing.
“With the help and support of our friends in Irish America, we made this issue a foreign policy priority. While there were many difficult moments during the past two decades, America never lost faith in the peace process. The agreement reached today should be viewed as one of the great American foreign policy achievements in recent memory,” Neal said.
Rep. Joe Crowley, co-chair of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs described the Adams, Paisley meeting as “great news’ that represented a major step forward in achieving lasting peace, freedom and autonomy for the people of Northern Ireland. “Since the 1998 Good Friday peace accord the goal of forming a unity government that offers a representative voice for Catholics and Protestants alike has been just a little bit beyond reach – until now.
“I share and welcome the surprise of witnessing Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams sitting across from each other to announce their coming together to forge this historic power sharing agreement for self-rule. I commend both men for their willingness to act for the greater good and open the door to a better future for the north of Ireland,” Crowley said.
Congressman Peter King, also an ad-hoc co-chair, and a veteran of Irish American involvement in the search for a settlement, described Monday’s events as “truly historic.”
King said that fifteen or twenty years ago very few people would have imagined “an all encompassing agreement” between Adams and Paisley.
King said that just because the process had gone on for so long people should not lose sight of just how dramatic a development the agreement actually was.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, just returned from a visit to Ireland, north and south, described the agreement as a cause for much celebration.
“After decades of violence, civil strife, and discrimination, a power sharing government will finally be formed,” Quinn said.
“When the Council traveled with the Council of American Ireland Relations to Belfast a week ago, we met with Sinn Fein, the DUP, and leaders of the Irish and British governments to offer our strong support for their negotiations. To have been part of that historic week, and to have been able to encourage all sides, was a tremendous opportunity,” Quinn added.
“We hope and believe a lasting peace has now been established for all the people of Northern Ireland,” she said.
New York City Comptroller William Thompson, in a joint statement with Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York and who is also trustee on the New York City Fire Department Pension Fund, saw the meting as a springboard for greater investment in the North.
Last fall, both men led a delegation to Northern Ireland to discuss New York City’s investments there and urged leaders on both sides to work toward a power-sharing government.
Such an outcome, they hoped, would help establish the long-term stability conducive to foreign investment.
“We believe that today’s announcement signals a time of great opportunity for investors such as the New York City Pension Funds to further invest in Ireland’s future. We will join our colleagues at the Pension Funds to explore prudent investment options in what we hope will be the dawn of a new era of peace and justice,” Thompson and Cassidy said.