Brexit

Nancy Pelosi brands Brexit an 'aberration' in peace process during border visit

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the border at Bridgend in Co Donegal before attending a series of events in Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Rebecca Black

BREXIT should be just an "aberration" in efforts to strengthen Northern Ireland's peace process, US congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has said.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives joined congressman Richard Neal on a visit to the Irish border yesterday, which has been a major stumbling block to the UK's EU withdrawal.

She was greeted by anti-Brexit campaigners during her short stop at the frontier at Bridgend, ahead of a visit to Belfast today to attend a reception in Stormont's Long Gallery on 'the future potential of Northern Ireland'.

The senior Democrat from California. who is the highest-ranking elected woman in US history, said her country had a vested interest in peace in Northern Ireland which was sealed by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Read More: No frontiers as Speaker Nancy Pelosi crosses border

"We have said that we are guarantors for the Good Friday Agreement because we believe it is fair to both sides - that is why they agreed to it," she said.

"We believe that Brexit should be just an aberration in this discussion as we continue to build and strengthen our peace that was generated by the Good Friday accord."

Ms Pelosi also repeated her assertion that the peace process was a "beacon to the world" and a model for reconciliation.

She said: "Far be it for any of us to want that beacon's lustre to be dimmed by anything that the Brexit conversation could bring down on the Good Friday accord."

The congresswoman also walked across the peace bridge over the River Foyle in Derry city.

The pedestrian bridge was built using EU funds and links nationalist and unionist communities on either river bank.

Ms Pelosi said her border visit was made out of respect for the courage of those who participated in the Good Friday Agreement.

Earlier this week she warned that US trade talks with the UK could be endangered if the accord which marked the end of the Troubles was compromised.

John Boyle, mayor of Derry City and Strabane Council, said it was evident Ms Pelosi was determined to protect the integrity of the agreement.

"They will support us in ensuring it does not impact on that very important agreement which was signed in 1998," he said.

Meanwhile, Ms Pelosi and Mr Neal also met yesterday with East Derry DUP MP Gregory Campbell and his party colleague and Foyle MLA Gary Middleton.

"We raised with Ms Pelosi and Richie Neal the issues of Brexit, Stormont and the enforced movement of the Protestant community out of the west bank area of Londonderry," Mr Campbell said.

Ms Pelosi visited Belfast more than two decades ago, a city with the second oldest continuously operating US consulate in the world, established in May 1796 by the first American president, George Washington.

Speaking ahead of today's visit, she recalled the sights she witnessed during her previous trip.

"The difference between what we went through then and what we saw in terms of tanks and barbed wire," she said.

"It is about peace, it is about not just what it means to Northern Ireland and Ireland, that would be reason enough for us to be guarantors."

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