Brexit should be ‘aberration’ in discussion on NI peace, says Nancy Pelosi

US speaker praises John Hume’s role as peacemaker, on visit to Derry

April 18th, 2019: Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, describes her experience of visiting the Border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland 21-years-ago versus today. Video: Freya McClements

 

Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has paid tribute to John Hume’s role as a peacemaker during a visit to Derry.

Speaking in the city’s Guildhall, Ms Pelosi said Mr Hume, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the 1998 Belfast Agreement, was “revered in Congress” and was “a “tremendous influence to all of us”.

Ms Pelosi was among a US congressional delegation who visited the Border between Derry and Donegal at Bridgend, Co Donegal on Thursday.

The delegation then travelled to Ulster University’s Magee campus, where congressman Richard Neal was awarded an honorary degree for his contribution to peace and conflict resolution, and visited the Peace Bridge.

US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi (centre) stands at a mock customs checkpoint manned by a member of the Border Communities Against Brexit group. Photograph: Getty
US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi (centre) stands at a mock customs checkpoint manned by a member of the Border Communities Against Brexit group. Photograph: Getty

Ms Pelosi and the delegation were welcomed to the Guildhall by John Hume’s wife Pat and the mayor of Derry John Boyle.

In her speech to politicians and civic leaders, Ms Pelosi thanked the Humes for their contribution to peace.

“The Hume legacy is the Pat and John Hume legacy,” she said. “They’re such a team. Thank you so much for your leadership.”

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Referring to a visit the Humes had made to her home 30 years ago, she said: “John Hume said to us that night, when we try to take down the walls in Northern Ireland, we must also take down the walls in our hearts for peace. He continues to do so.”

Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference at Bridgened in Co Donegal with congressman Richard Neal as part of her four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Photograph: PA
Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference at Bridgened in Co Donegal with congressman Richard Neal as part of her four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Photograph: PA

‘One community, two traditions’

Congressman Neal said Derry had been “so far ahead of the rest of the province because of the chances you took, and that was because of John Hume”.

“I remember coming here in a very different time,” he said, “and I bring that up because one of John’s favourite quotes was America, it was e pluribus unum – of many, one.

“It was consistent with John’s belief in agreement without uniformity.

“You are so far ahead of the rest of the province because of the chances you took, that was because of John Hume.

“It’s only one community but two traditions, and I think that’s what we want to embrace, the idea that we grow together, and the differences diminish.

“There can be no return to any sort of hard Border.”

Ms Pelosi praised the people of Derry for their role in achieving peace. “Congratulations,” she said, “on what you have done here in Derry and your role in achieving peace.”

The Belfast Agreement, she said, had served as “a beacon to the rest of the world”.

“Far be it from any of us to want that to be dimmed by anything that the Brexit conversations could bring down on the Good Friday accord, you just can’t do it.”

Earlier, Ms Pelosi visited the Derry-Donegal Border and spoke briefly to anti-Brexit protestors from Border Communities Against Brexit.

“We believe that Brexit should be just an aberration in this discussion as we continue to build and strengthen the peace that was generated by the Good Friday Accord,” she said.

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