US delegation visiting UK Ireland amid Protocol row

US delegation visiting UK Ireland amid Protocol row

A US delegation is visiting the UK and Ireland to underscore its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, and will later meet with the Taoiseach, Foreign Minister and other political leaders and stakeholders.

While in Ireland, the bi-partisan delegation of nine will visit Kerry, Dublin and Belfast starting this weekend.

In a statement concluding the visit to the UK prior meetings in Ireland, Chairman of the United States House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means and Co-Chair of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Richard Neal said the delegation came to the UK "to reaffirm our bond with one of our oldest allies."

"Since Russia invaded Ukraine without provocation, we have been in lockstep with the UK in our support for the Ukrainian people," he said.

"We met with Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer, as well as other members of Parliament, to discuss how we will continue to use any tool at our disposal to stop this war. We underscored our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement in bilateral meetings with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan."

He said the delegation conveyed to UK allies that negotiations with the EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol "must continue in good faith and with urgency."

"As we travel to Ireland, we are guided by the economic and strategic cooperation between our two countries that is strengthened by cultural ties and mutual affinity," he said.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney will host a working lunch for the delegation and several Irish Government and political representatives, which will focus on Northern Ireland, Brexit, the future of Europe and the transatlantic relationship, and the deep and enduring ties between Ireland and the United States of America.

Commenting on the visit, Minister Coveney said he was looking forward to an exchange over lunch on Northern Ireland "on all aspects of Ireland-US relations: including immigrations and people-to-people links; on our mutually beneficial trade and economic relationship; as well as key international issues, including hose Ireland can play a constructive role in strengthening the EU-US relationship now and into the future."

During their time in Ireland the Congressional Delegation will also meet with President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Congressman Neal will also address the Seanad on Tuesday evening.

DUP North Belfast MLA Phillip Brett has said the US Congressional delegation has spent too much time with the Friends of Sinn Fein chasing Irish American votes rather than taking time to listen to wider viewpoints in Northern Ireland.

"Congressman Ritchie Neal and many of his fellow travellers are regularly seen in the company of Sinn Fein and have spoken of their desire to see Northern Ireland removed from the United Kingdom," he said. "It is therefore no surprise that their visit to Northern Ireland seems tone deaf to the concerns of unionists.

"If the US delegation is only interested in a one-sided approach to Northern Ireland, then they would have been better staying at home.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald met the delegation at Leinster House today.

"There would be no Agreement without the US," she said following the meeting. "The progress we have made since 1998 has been due to the diligence and commitment of US political leaders who have acted as guarantors of our agreements.

"These agreements face challenges from a British government that plays fast and loose with international law and places narrow Tory party concerns above the needs of the people and economy of the north.

"We all agree the way forward is clear - the DUP need to get back to work and stop blocking the formation of an Executive.

This is the first US Congressional delegation to visit Ireland since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, and follows a period of active Irish Government engagement with the US Administration in recent months.

Minister Coveney met with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Washington, D.C. in April. The Taoiseach met virtually with President Biden while in Washington, D.C, and eight Government Ministers travelled to key US cities as part of the international St. Patrick’s Day programme for 2022, focussing on the theme of ‘Connection & Community.’