An Alliance delegation consisting of Party Leader David Ford and Acting General Secretary Allan Leonard is in Washington this week. The party is taking the opportunity to brief political leaders in the US on the current situation.
Speaking as he arrived in the United States, David Ford said: “We will tell the Americans that many people in Northern Ireland are fed up with other parties blocking progress, be it through fundamentalism or unwillingness to accept political and legal structures. We want to make people aware of the support existing among the general populace to build on the progress made since the Agreement and end the current stagnation. People deserve better, and to achieve this, more needs to be done on policies promoting a ‘shared future’. We would like Congress to back this formally.
“Therefore, we are taking this opportunity to have an intensive programme of meetings in the early part of the week leading up to St Patrick’s Day. It is essential that leading members and staff in both Houses of Congress are aware of the strong support among many people in Northern Ireland for our agenda of political progress, economic development and more efficient public services.
“We are also seeking support in Congress for better Government funding for integrated education. We’ll be pointing out the stark fact that 95% of children in Northern Ireland attend schools that are segregated by religion, despite 80% support for integrated education among parents. Parents are being denied free choice in this area.
“The IMC has shown that republicans are starting to move away from criminality. Pressure needs to be applied, to ensure that this continues and develops into support for and acceptance of the Police Service.
“Northern Ireland has benefited from the involvement of the US Government over recent years. Continuing constructive involvement can help us overcome the current difficulties.”
Meetings have been arranged, among others, with the US State Department; Congressmen Peter King and Richard Neal and Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy; senior advisors to Senators Hilary Clinton and Edward Kennedy; and staff of the House Appropriations Committee.