Memo to Irish America: The Irish Peace Process is on the 2024 American Election Ballot

By Martin Burns

Now that Irish America has enjoyed the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities, it is time to get work on the issue looming up before us: a vote on Irish reunification. In recent years, the question of Irish reunification has moved to the top of the issue agenda. Politicians in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are talking about a border poll as envisioned under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Organisations like Ireland’s Future are holding public forums on what a united Ireland might look like. Prominent academics in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States are laying out the possibilities for a new and united Ireland. The debate has clearly begun.

Support for a border poll is growing throughout Ireland. Sinn Fein, which has been consistently arguing on both sides of the border for a unity referendum, is now the largest party in both the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly and in local councils. In the Republic of Ireland, Sinn Fein leads in public opinion polling. Elections must happen in the Republic within a year, and many believe that Sinn Fein will win enough seats to form a government or be the senior partner in a coalition government. It is possible that by Saint Patrick’s Day 2025, Sinn Fein will be in government on both sides of the Irish border.

In America, prominent Irish American politicians who have long been sympathetic to Irish unity in private are beginning to speak out publicly in support of a border poll. Congressman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) who chairs the Friends of Ireland Caucus on Capitol Hill over the Saint Patrick’s Day week acknowledged that important conversations on a possible border poll were already taking place. Neal’s Republican counterpart, Congressman Mike Kelly (Pennsylvania) also indicated that he will support Ireland for “what lies ahead.” Unlike almost every other issue under the sun, support for Ireland transcends party loyalty on Capitol Hill.

Throughout history, the United States has supported Ireland. In the 1840s, America was a refuge for millions of Irish fleeing famine and oppression in their native land. President Bill Clinton in the 1990s was instrumental in bringing about the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. In recent years, President Biden and members of Congress have worked hard to make sure that Brexit did not damage the Irish peace process.

Today, America can also play an important role in the next chapter of Irish history by making sure that the people of Ireland, both north and south, have the chance given them by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement to vote for a new and united Ireland. This is where you, my fellow Irish Americans come into the equation. Each one of us, who care about the promise of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, has an obligation to raise this with our elected officials from the House of Representatives, Senate, and the presidency itself.

In this internet age, it is very easy to locate who your member of Congress is. Every member of Congress has a webpage and makes it easy to share your thoughts. You do not have to be an expert in foreign policy to simply ask what he or she will do to make sure that the Irish people can determine their future. In addition to reaching out directly to your member of Congress, use social media to share your support for the Irish peace process with your friends and encourage them to contact their member of Congress.

To paraphrase the Irish hunger striker, activist and author Bobby Sands, everyone no matter where they are in society has a part to play. I have no doubt that Irish Americans across this country will step up to play their part to make sure that the people of Ireland have the chance to turn the promises of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement into reality. So, go ahead and contact your member of Congress. Speak up in support of a referendum on a new and united Ireland. Do it today. Play your part.

Martin Burns is a campaign manager and political advocate in Ireland and the USA. He recently completed his Master of Arts degree with distinction in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice at  Queen’s University of Belfast. This story was first published on his Medium page and was shared here with his permission.

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