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A new call for peace from Irish-American leaders

Four years ago, a group of us, as Americans deeply concerned over the tragic conflict in Northern Ireland, first joined together to issue a St. Patrick's Day statement calling for an end to the killing and destruction and urging our fellow citizens to reject the path of violence. Each year since then, we have renewed our call for peace.

On this St. Patrick's Day 1981, we take satisfaction that American support for the violence has declined. We have seen the decline not just in weapons or financial aid, but in the insidious support of those who create or credit the propaganda that can only increase the tension and worsen the violence. More and more Americans have come to understand the critical importance of avoiding any activity in the United States or abroad that can lend itself in any way to the terror and brutality in Northern Ireland.

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So today we reaffirm our appeal for peace. We urge all Americans to join us in condemning the violence in Northern Ireland, and to forswear any word or deed that fosters further violence.

We also take satisfaction in the increasing degree to which the governments of Great Britain and Ireland have come to accept an American dimension in the Northern Ireland issue. We believe that the United States has a constructive role to play in promoting a peaceful settlement of the conflict. The Carter administration's 1977 statement was a milestone in this regard, and we look forward to working with President Reagan and Secretary Haig -- our fellow Irish-Americans -- in continuing this indispensable effort.

We are confident that the American people will give their full support to a policy of the United States that seeks a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland , that helps bring terrorism to an end, that demands respect for the human rights of all the people of Northern Ireland, that recognizes the legitimate aspirations of both the Protestant and Catholic communities, and that strengthens the ties between two of America's closest friends -- Ireland and Great Britain.

Recent events have brought new hope. In our statement a year ago, we urged the British government to join with the government of Ireland in working together for peace. We welcome the meetings last year between Prime Minister Haughey of Ireland and Prime Minister Thatcher of Great Britain. In particular, we welcome their Dublin meeting last December, in which they acknowledged the strain caused in the relationship between the peoples of Britain and Ireland by the problem of Northern Ireland. We find special promise in their recognition of the need to develop policies and proposals leading to peace, stability, and reconciliation, and their decision to devote their next meeting, in London this year, to consideration of the "totality of relationships within these islands." We look forward to that meeting, and to the joint studies the British and Irish governments have commissioned to prepare for it.

We believe that the encouragement of the United States has been a significant factor in this hopeful initiative, and that continuing encouragement from the United States can provide a vital incentive for peace in Northern Ireland. We reject the machinations of all those who seek for their own advantage to subvert this constructive new approach.

We emphasize that the only settlement we favor is a peaceful one achieved by consent. We know that a settlement cannot be dictated or imposed -- not from Belfast or Derry, or from London, not from Dublin, and not from Washington.

We reaffirm our belief that the only way to secure a lasting peace is to end the division of the Irish people. We share the great goal of Irish unity. But we agree that the goal can be reached only with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, and with full safeguards for the rights of both sections of the community.

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We must build as well on the progress we have made with the American people. We are therefore announcing today our intention to establish a new organization, "Friends of Ireland," whose purpose will be to seek an end to the violence and to support a peaceful settlement in accord with the principles we have stated. The organization will be open to membership of all those in Congress who share our principles. It will strive to inform Congress and the country fully about all aspects of the conflict in Northern Ireland. It will emphasize our concern for both the Catholic and Protestant traditions in Ireland. It will seek in other appropriate ways to serve the cause of peace and to facilitate greater understanding of the positive role America can play in resolving this tragic conflict.

On this St. Patrick's Day, we ask all Americans to join our cause, to reject the bomb and the bullet, the fear and the terrorism and the bigotry.

We look to a future St. Patrick's Day, one that we can foresee, when true peace shall finally come and Irish men and women everywhere, from Dublin to Derry, from Boston to New York to Chicago and San Francisco, shall hail that peace and welcome the dawn of a new Ireland. Edward M. Kennedy Christopher J. Dodd Joseph R. Biden Jr. Alan Cranston Thomas F. Eagleton Daniel K. Inouye Patrick J. Leahy George J. Mitchell Claiborne Pell William Proxmire Daniel Patrick Moynihan Thomas S. Foley Edward P. Boland Charles F. Dougherty James J. Howard Paul N. McCloskey Jr. Joseph M. McDade James M. Shannon Pat Williams Edward J. Markey Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Hugh L. Carey Brendan T. Byrne J. Joseph Garrahy

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