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John Kerry on Irish Issues

John Kerry for President

John Kerry believes the ties between the United States and the island of Ireland are deep and abiding. The Irish contributed to the building of America – both Scots Irish Protestants who arrived on these shores as far back as Colonial times, and the numerous Irish Catholics who arrived in the mid 1800's, fleeing famine. And the United States has played an important role in Ireland's development. The Clinton Administration's historic role in the Northern Ireland peace process, and the role played by American business in the creation of the 'Celtic Tiger', were pivotal contributions in recent history. More than 38 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, and Ireland is an important ally of the United States. As President, John Kerry will work to maintain, and continue to strengthen, this important relationship.

John Kerry will put the Northern Ireland peace process high on America's foreign policy agenda. On this issue, he will continue to follow the path set by Senator Kennedy, President Clinton, and Senator Mitchell. John Kerry was one of the first Members of Congress to sign Senator Kennedy's 1994 letter urging President Clinton to grant Gerry Adams a visa. That initiative led to the IRA cease-fire and subsequent peace process. He supports the full implementation of the historic Good Friday Agreement, and commends the parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish and British Governments for bringing about, with the judicial guidance of Senator Mitchell, this best opportunity for lasting peace and justice in Northern Ireland.

John Kerry believes that President Bush has failed to recognize the importance of building on the work of President Clinton in facilitating the peace process. There was not a U.S. ambassador in Ireland in more than a year. President Bush’s lack of urgency in naming a new Ambassador to Ireland and the absence of presidential involvement in efforts to further the peace process are clear evidence that Ireland is not a high priority for the Bush Administration.

The Good Friday Agreement has produced many positive developments. Sectarian killings have largely come to an end. An Assembly for Northern Ireland has been established, allowing the people to select their own government. Demilitarization has begun. Decommissioning by the IRA has begun. A new police force has started to be developed – a force which hopefully will soon command the support of everyone in Northern Ireland. A North-South Ministerial Council, a British-Irish Council, a Human Rights Commission, and an Equality Commission have been created. While these developments have met with varying degrees of success, there can be no question that these efforts amount to a forward moving path.

While applauding these developments, John Kerry understands that much more remains to be done. As a supporter of the need to hold the recent elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly, he believes that repeatedly suspending democratic institutions is not the way forward for Northern Ireland. He urges all parties involved to work for the earliest resumption of the Assembly. And he believes that the review of the Belfast Agreement must be just that – a review, not a renegotiation. The problem is not the structures of the Agreement itself, but rather the failure of all to fully implement it.

The DUP cannot be permitted to disenfranchise half the population of Northern Ireland by refusing to form a government with Sinn Fein. It must be remembered that 70% of Northern Ireland's citizens voted for pro-Agreement parties. All other aspects of the Agreement should continue to be fully implemented and not put on hold while discussions proceed. Normalization must continue. The human rights agenda must be implemented. It is equally important that the IRA take further substantive measures of decommissioning. The guns are silent which is a positive step, but the guns must be removed forever and an end must come to all paramilitary activity – both Republican and Loyalist.

John Kerry’s Administration will stand ready to assist the British and Irish Governments and all of those who work for peace, justice and democracy in Northern Ireland. And as President, he will stand ready to play whatever constructive role may be of use to the parties, recognizing that most of the hard work remaining to be done, must be carried out by the people of Northern Ireland and the two Governments.

The U.S. relationship with Ireland is important beyond the issue of Northern Ireland. With more than 500 U.S. companies with a presence in Ireland, that country is commercially important. The recent success of indigenous Irish companies has also led to Irish companies creating more than 100,000 jobs in the U.S. and has resulted in Ireland being a large investor here. The many economic benefits to be reaped by a Northern Ireland that is politically stable and seen to be a safe place to live and work, can only increase U.S. business ties to the entire island. John Kerry’s Administration will support these growing business ties, which bring economic benefits to all.

As an English-speaking country with great familial and cultural ties to this country, Ireland serves as an important bridge between the United States and the European Union. John Kerry looks forward to working with the Irish Government in what will be a much-needed effort to repair American ties with Europe, which were greatly damaged in President Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq

Finally, the relatively free flow of citizens, be they immigrants, vacationers, business people, or students, has been of great benefit to both Ireland and the United States. John Kerry supports a proposal that will allow undocumented immigrants to legalize their status if they have been in the United States for a certain amount of time, have been working, and can pass a background check. This makes sense for the economy, provides fairness to people in our communities who have worked hard and paid taxes, and will also allow the United States to strengthen its homeland security by bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows and into the light of greater accountability. John Kerry is also aware of the deportee cases and will pay close attention to how these cases develop over the coming year.

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