Northern Ireland news

US government agency calls on President Trump to appoint special envoy to Northern Ireland

US Congressman Chris Smith, the co-chair of the Helsinki Commission, said the British government had brought "dishonour" upon itself with its handling of legacy issues. Picture from Chris Smith/Twitter
John Monaghan

A US government agency which monitors human rights compliance has passed a resolution urging President Donald Trump to re-instate a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the US Helsinki Commission, held a hearing about the Good Friday Agreement and its "achievements and unfinished business" in Washington yesterday.

Last month then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was "reviewing some names" for the position of special envoy, which has been unfilled since President Trump took office in January 2017.

The co-chairman of the commission, Republican Congressman Chris Smith, also expressed anger yesterday at proposals for a statute of limitations for prosecutions of security force members involved in Troubles-related deaths.

"In any civilised society there is no statute of limitations on murder," he said, claiming the British government's handling of legacy issues had brought "dishonour" upon itself.

Brian Gormally, of the Belfast-based Committee on the Administration of Justice, told the hearing that the British government had imposed a "blanket security veto" on legacy issues.

He also warned of the "profound impact" of Brexit and said that while it was "unlikely that one single factor will derail the peace process, the cumulative impact could begin to unravel it".

Mark Thompson, from Relatives for Justice, also warned that nationalist confidence in policing is "at an all-time low".

Jim McKay, a judge and the President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the US, said the organisation had pressed the Trump administration to appoint a special envoy.

On legacy, he added: "I am sure if Pat Finucane had been murdered on the streets of London there would have been headlines and inquiries... there is a different set of rules in Belfast."

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