White House Condemns Northern Ireland Attacks
By MARK TRAYNOR
WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barrack Obama used his St. Patrick's Day address to praise as "heroic" the response to recent violence in Northern Ireland.
Speaking from the Oval office, where he was joined by Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen at the traditional St. Patrick's Day meeting between the two leaders, Obama reiterated U.S. support for the peace process.
"The thoughts and prayers of Americans everywhere go out to the families of the fallen," he said.
"They've shown they judge progress by what you build and not by what you tear down. And they know that the future is too important to cede to those who are mired in the past."
He added, "I want everyone listening to know this: the United States will always stand with those who work towards peace."
President Obama was echoing the words made by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton a day earlier on March 16.
Clinton, speaking alongside Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin, condemned the recent attacks on security personnel in the North, in which dissident republicans killed two soldiers and a police officer.
She branded the dissident groups involved as "criminals" attempting "to drag the people of Northern Ireland back into a full cycle of violence and retaliation."
"The success of the peace process has consequences that go far beyond Northern Ireland," she told the news conference in Washington.
"It provides proof to people everywhere that negotiations, dialogue, reconciliation, diplomacy can end conflicts that have tormented generations. The United States stands with the people of Northern Ireland."
On March 7 British soldiers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21) were shot dead by the Real IRA at Massereene Army barracks, Co. Antrim.
This attack was followed by the shooting of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll (41) in Craigavon, Co. Armagh on March 9. The Continuity IRA later claimed responsibility for the killing.
It is believed the memberships of both dissident groups totals about 300 people.
Leaders from across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland, the Republic and Britain were quick to condemn the attacks.
Both Brian Cowen and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown were united in labelling the attacks as "evil" perpetrated by groups set on derailing the peace process.
Meanwhile First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson (Democratic Unionist Party), said those responsible "will not succeed" in returning the North to violence, while Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin), stated that those involved in the killings were "traitors to the island of Ireland."
The responses by both Obama and Clinton will be seen as an important step in furthering the ideals of the peace process in a Northern Ireland shaken by the recent attacks.
Mark Traynor is a freelance writer from Dublin, Ireland.