Congressman Higgins Meets With Irish Leaders, Highlights 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and other members of the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus met with Irish Taoiseach (Head of Government) Leo Varadkar in Washington, D.C. The binational briefing included updates on the current status of U.S.-Ireland relations, the implications of Brexit on Ireland, immigration, and the effort to restore the power-sharing institutions in Belfast. During the visit, the Prime Minister fondly recalled having served as an intern for former Western New York Congressman Jack Quinn, Higgins’ predecessor.
Higgins also met with Sinn Féin leadership including new Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald, former President Gerry Adams, who stepped down after serving as the Party’s leader for 34 years, and Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill. Sinn Féin is the oldest of Ireland’s currently active political parties. It takes its name from the Irish Language expression for “We, Ourselves.”
The Good Friday Agreement, settled on Good Friday in 1998, provided a framework for governance in Northern Ireland. In 2006, as a member of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, Congressman Higgins visited Ireland and met with Sinn Féin leaders and others during the critical Northern Ireland Peace process. Later in 2006, British and Irish government leaders settled differences through the St. Andrews Agreement, which revived the stalled peace process.
In advance of St. Patrick’s Day weekend, in remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives, Higgins recognized local celebrations and spoke of how the nation and the world can learn from the progress made in Ireland.
“Mr. Speaker, this weekend Irish Americans will celebrate St. Patrick's Day with parades and parties of every level of exuberance, including my hometown of Buffalo, New York. Buffalo’s St. Patrick's Day celebration is one of the most spirited in America.
“This year is a special celebration as it marks the 20-year anniversary of peace in Northern Ireland. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement brought peace to Catholics and Protestants after 700 years of armed conflict. This peace belongs to the people of Northern Ireland and to the world.
“Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and the late Martin McGuinness, along with Democratic Unionist Party’s Reverend Ian Paisley, took a courageous step no one believed was possible 20 years ago: they denounced violence and committed themselves to a peaceful power sharing and reconciliation to live in peace together.
“Mr. Speaker, let this St. Patrick's Day and 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement stand as a shining lights of hope for a gentler America and more peaceful world.”
In a letter to Congressional appropriators, Higgins is also advocating for funding for the International Fund for Ireland, which was eliminated in the President’s 2018 and 2019 budgets.
Buffalo is ranked one of the top cities in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. This year’s celebrations include the “Old Neighborhood Parade” which starts down South Park Avenue in South Buffalo on Saturday, March 17th at noon and the Buffalo St. Patrick’s Day Parade which makes its way down Delaware Avenue in Downtown Buffalo on Sunday, March 18th at 2:00pm.