Category: Archive

Irish American Newsbriefs: All’s not lost, Mowlam says

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Deep concern in the U.S. over the future of the Good Friday agreement was welcome but overblown, British North Secretary Mo Mowlam indicated during a visit to New York last week.

"The Good Friday agreement is still very much alive," Mowlam told the Echo in an interview.

Mowlam cited the relatively peaceful recent Orange Order parades and the return of George Mitchell to an active role in the peace process as signs that progress can still be made despite the recent collapse of the Executive.

She said that Mitchell would be acting as a "facilitator" but that any resumed political talks would be less structured than in the past.

However, she added that Mitchell was "not going to stay forever."

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Mowlam also said that despite the recent setback, the peace process had been only "steps away" from getting over the hurdle between the political parties.

Mowlam described last week’s IRA statement as "unhelpful." particularly as it did not state clearly what the IRA wanted to see happen. She didn’t see the statement as a warning but more of a "holding statement."

During her U.S. visit, Mowlam was also in Washington where she met with a number of members of Congress.

RUC/FBI funds cut

The House of Representatives last week voted to cut funding for joint-training exercises involving the RUC and the FBI.

The bill proposing the cutoff, HR 2415, was drawn up by Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey.

Smith said that the bill required that any future joint exercises involving the FBI and RUC could only take place against the backdrop of an "independent and transparent" investigation into the murders of Rosemary Nelson and Patrick Finucane.

The GOP’s Smith is chairman of the House International Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights.

His name was attached to a letter recently given to Chris Patten, chairman of the commission investigating the future of the RUC, in which a number of leading House members called for a new "strictly impartial" and "truly representative" police force in Northern Ireland.

Reacting to the funds cut, Northern Secretary Mo Mowlam said she was disappointed because the House vote appeared to "go against the grain" of needed dialogue and cooperation in Northern Ireland.

Mowlam said that the Patten Commission report would address many of the issues raised by Congress.

Lawyers welcome arrest

The New York-based Lawyers Committee For Human Rights has welcomed the recent arrest in Northern Ireland of former UDA member William Stobie in connection with the murder of attorney Pat Finucane.

"This is an important step, but the investigation needs to go much further. Those responsible for targeting and killing Finucane must still be apprehended and prosecuted," said Lawyers Committee spokesman Mike Posner.

"We also believe that this arrest makes the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry into the circumstances of Mr. Finucane’s killing all the more necessary."

St. Patrick’s stamp

The U.S. Postal Service is considering a postage stamp that will honor St. Patrick’s Day. The service has been asked to issue a St. Patrick stamp by the American Irish-Celtic USA Stamp Committee.

Committee member Tom Culhane of Union, N.J., recently wrote President Clinton urging his support for a St. Patrick’s Day issue.

In a response from the Postal Service on behalf of the president, Culhane was informed that the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee currently had a file containing proposals of support for a stamp honoring the day, which millions of Americans see not just as a religious event, but as the country’s biggest unofficial holiday.

Culhane was told that the stamp programs for 1999 and 2000 were already complete and 2001 was the next year for which stamp subjects are being considered.

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