Talks on united Ireland should get underway, influential US politicians say following Stormont and Irish government leaders’ Washington visit

Preparations should now begin on a referendum on a united Ireland, Irish-American Congressmen

US congressman Richard Neal. Picture by Richard Neal/Twitter
US congressman Richard Neal. Picture: Richard Neal/X

Conversations on a united Ireland should get underway, US politicians have said after the visit by Irish leaders to Washington sparked optimism over the future of the island.

Influential Irish-American Congress members have said talks on a border poll are now “entirely appropriate” and have urged preparations to get underway in order to avoid a Brexit-style “debacle” in the aftermath of a successful poll in which voters agree to unity.

The success of the Good Friday Agreement was personified in the appearance of Stormont’s Sinn Fein First Minister Michelle O’Neill and DUP deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly at gala events in Washington ahead of St Patrick’s Day, it was claimed.

The pair joined leaders including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald in the city ahead of Sunday’s main reception in the White House.

Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, who co-chairs the Friends of Ireland Caucus at Capitol Hill, said the tone in which the Stormont leaders spoke at last week’s Ireland Funds gala event was “revealing”.

Ms O’Neill and Ms Little-Pengelly stressed they were in the US to advocate for Northern Ireland and set out shared priorities
Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly spaking at last Wednesday's Ireland Funds gala event in Washington D.C. PICTURE: NIALL CARSON (Niall Carson/PA)

“There was great enthusiasm in the room - they received a standing ovation when they opened and then when they closed - and I think that the endurance of the Good Friday Agreement was highlighted, again, in terms of its success,” he told the Sunday Times newspaper.

Referring to the Agreement’s provision for a border poll, he said: “My own sense is that there’s a bit of a ways to go here on it, but I do think that there’s a discussion happening within political parties.

“I think that there has to be a series of baked-in assurances - there would need to be no threat to any identities. I think that there would have to be some compromises again, along the way. But I think given the democratic nature of the Republic and Northern Ireland that the idea of a conversation is entirely appropriate.”

Caucus co-chair, House of Representatives member Mike Kelly, said the US would support Ireland, “for what lies ahead”.

Congressman Brendan Boyle
Congressman Brendan Boyle Congressman Brendan Boyle

Congressman Brendan Boyle, who also sits on the caucus, said “proper planning and preparation” was vital ahead of a poll.

“I think the whole Brexit debacle is a great example of what not to do,” he said.

Mr Boyle added: “What’s really important right now is for people in Dublin and Belfast, but also in Washington and London and Brussels, to talk about and work through all the possible scenarios, the ramifications, how best to prepare.”