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Irish Voice News
Obama Speaks On Irish Issues
October 15, 2008
By Cahir O’Doherty
DEMOCRATIC presidential candidate Barack Obama’s written responses to a questionnaire on Irish issues submitted by the Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC) and the Ancient Order of Hibernians have been warmly welcomed by the two Irish American organizations.
Asked if his administration would designate a representative or ambassador to the peace process in Northern Ireland, Obama replied in an official statement that he would, and that he would be personally involved whenever required.
After what he called extensive consultations with prominent Irish Americans, and informal soundings with British and Irish officials, Obama affirmed his intention to appoint a special envoy to the north.
Asked if he would also support the IAUC and the AOH’s call for the complete transfer of the power of policing and justice to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Obama replied that he has repeatedly called for the devolution of policing and justice to occur without delay.
Obama added that the most recent report by the Independent Monitoring Commission makes clear that the IRA Army Council is “no longer functional nor operational.”
Therefore there was no convincing reason for these authorities to remain under control of the British government, he wrote, adding that he believed devolution should occur without delay.
On the controversial subject of whether an Obama administration would support and call for a full disclosure and truth recovery process similar to the South African truth and recovery commission, Obama replied that he would support a reconciliation process that seeks the comprehensive truth about past violence.
On the issue of the Pat Finucane murder Obama was asked if his administration would support an international inquiry into the murder of the former human rights lawyer. In his letter Obama replied that he believes there should be an independent, public inquiry as Judge Peter Cory recommended.
Noting that the issue of immigration has been framed by increasingly acrimonious debate, the IAUC and the AOH asked if an Obama administration would support immigration reform that would bring closure to families suffering in the U.S.
Obama replied that he supports comprehensive immigration reform and would fight for a reform package that would keep open what he called the doors of opportunity. Obama added that the broken immigration system could only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a solution to strengthen national security while reaffirming America’s heritage as a nation of immigrants, so that the estimated 12 million undocumented here could get on a responsible path to citizenship.
Asked how he would address the plight of some former Irish Republican activists who have faced deportation because of their prior affiliation with the movement, Obama replied that his administration would look at each of their cases on a case-by-case basis and within the context of broader comprehensive immigration reform.
Concerns about the new extradition treaty between the U.S. and Britain, that shifts key decisions about extradition from the courts to the executive branch, potentially weakening the ability of the person sought for extradition to mount an effective defense were unwarranted, Obama argued in his statement to the Irish groups.
Under an Obama administration no American would be extradited for political activity, which is protected by the First Amendment, he said. Obama also added that his secretary of state would have a duty, in carrying out every extradition treaty, to rigorously scrutinize every extradition request to ensure that they were not politically motivated.
Asked about the importance of U.S. economic investment in Northern Ireland to promote political stability, Obama replied that he believed that business investment in Northern Ireland should be fair, equitable and inclusive.
IAUC National President Kate McCabe told the Irish Voice, “We applaud Senator Obama’s statement in support of a truth recovery process in Northern Ireland and also his call for an independent, public inquiry into the human rights lawyer Pat Finucane’s murder as recommended by Judge Peter Cory.
“We hope Obama’s statements will send a clear message to the British government that Irish America will not stop applying pressure until we get to the truth — our support only gets stronger.”
“The response that we were really the most excited about was Senator Obama’s commitment to the Pat Finucane enquiry,” McCabe added.
“Obviously its an issue that Irish American activists have been working on for a number of years and even though we had success in support of the resolution, we feel like it needs to happen and we are excited that Senator Obama is in support of it.
“With less than a month to go before the Presidential election, Senator Obama has chosen to voice his support for a range of critical issues that are necessary to promote the struggle for truth and equality in which Irish America is so intimately involved,” McCabe added.
McCabe said she was hopeful that Irish America’s involvement in promoting justice, cross-community reconciliation and substantive equality in Northern Ireland would continue unabated under the next Presidential administration.
She added that although the IAUC has to date received no formal response from the John McCain campaign, she looks forward to hearing McCain’s responses to the joint questionnaire.
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