Obama to review NI envoy practice

The Irish Times
published a statement on Barack Obama’s pledged review of the practice
of sending a special US envoy to Northern Ireland, on the grounds that
the immediate crisis is over.

I would be disappointed if an elected President Obama halted the practice.

One of the major sticking points in the transition of the
power-sharing government in Northern Ireland is the devolution of
policing and justice matters. As part of the cross-community Alliance
Party’s delegation at Leeds Castle in September 2004, I remember how
this was a vital issue, and remained so throughout the rest of the
post-Agreement negotiations.

This issue is live, today, with Sinn Fein threatening to walk away from the Northern Ireland Executive if progress isn’t made.

But even if this issue is resolved sooner rather than later, without
high drama at Parliament Buildings at the Stormont Estate, much work
remains for the people of Northern Ireland to build a “shared and
better future”.

The current special US envoy, Paula Dobriansky, played an important
role in the recent investment conference held in Northern Ireland. Her
high profile kept a spotlight on local developments. For example,
during the conference New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, made a
strong statement on the need to remove the so-called “peace walls”
separating segregated neighbourhoods. Without such attention, the
temptation will be for the powers that be to turn a blind eye.

The success of the peace process in Northern Ireland was due in part
to the persistent efforts and contributions of numerous players,
including those from America and notably that of Senator George
Mitchell.

To consolidate the peace and to assist in the efforts of those in
Northern Ireland working for a truly shared and better future,
continued devotion by others is required. Indeed, I would argue crucial
for success.

While the good services of the Consulate General office in Belfast
have been very welcomed over the years by politicians of all hues in
Northern Ireland, the continuation of a special US envoy would
underline US Executive support, as required, to move Northern Ireland
society beyond a co-existence of non-violence to one more at east with
itself and that celebrates (not merely tolerates) its rich diversity.

This “Yank in Ulster” beseeches the Obama team on continue what has
been a successful foreign relations policy. I would enjoy an
opportunity to meet the next special US envoy to Northern Ireland.

Obama to review NI envoy practice of elected (Irish Times)

Barack Obama would consider whether a special US envoy to Northern
Ireland was still necessary if elected president, a statement from the
presidential candidate said today.

Ten years after the Good Friday peace accord which enshrined
political power-sharing in the North, the Illinois Senator said he
would review whether an envoy or senior administration official would
be most effective.

As Democrats gathered in Denver, Colorado, for their national
convention, Mr Obama said the crisis for Northern Ireland had passed
and that local people were in charge of their own destiny.

A statement on behalf of Mr Obama said: “Barack Obama understands
that US attention and support will be required to solidify the peace.

“But he also recognises that the crisis period for Northern Ireland
has passed and that the people of Northern Ireland are now in charge of
their own destiny.

“He will consult with the Taoiseach, the British prime minister, and party leaders in Northern Ireland to

determine whether a special US envoy for Northern Ireland continues
to be necessary or whether a senior administration official, serving as
point person for Northern Ireland, would be most effective.

“As president, Barack Obama will personally engage on Irish issues whenever necessary.”

The Bush administration has used a series of special envoys including current incumbent Paula Dobriansky.

The Clinton administration also took up the practice, with Senator
George Mitchell credited with helping break the political deadlock and
establishing principles of non-violence characterising Northern Ireland
politics.

Today’s Obama campaign statement was issued through the non-partisan
US-Ireland Alliance, a non-profit body dedicated to cementing
transatlantic relations.

It said: “Barack Obama will continue the tradition of welcoming the
Taoiseach to the White House on St Patrick’s Day, and he intends to
visit Ireland as president.”

In April Mr Obama reiterated his call for the devolution of justice
and policing and noted the need for reconciliation so that Northern
Ireland’s people could live together as neighbours instead of being
segregated by peace walls.

He recognised that the Bush Administration continued to support the
peace process, endorsing a US investment conference aimed at attracting
businesses to Northern Ireland.

President George Bush visited Northern Ireland in June as part of his European tour.

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