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White House visit: Simon Coveney to brief Trump administration on Northern Ireland

The Tánaiste is to travel to New York and Washington DC following this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Tánaiste Simon Coveney
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Tánaiste Simon Coveney

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY is travelling to New York and Washington today where it’s expected he will brief US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the Northern Ireland peace process.

While in the US, the Foreign Affairs Minister is due to attend a series of meetings with members of the Trump Administration and the United Nations.

It’s understood Tillerson, a Republican politician, asked to be briefed on the Good Friday Agreement and peace process, with Coveney scheduled to attend a bilateral meeting with the secretary on Friday evening.

The pair is also expected to discuss the US/Irish relationship, among other issues.

Coveney begins the first leg of the trip following today’s Cabinet meeting, when he is due to travel to New York.

On Wednesday the Tánaiste will deliver an address on Brexit at Columbia University while on Thursday he will begin the government’s programme to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement at Cooperation Ireland’s ‘20 years of Peace’ event with a keynote address.

Ahead of the trip, Coveney told TheJournal.ie: “The Good Friday Agreement has had a transformative effect on the island of Ireland and all of us who believe in lasting peace in Northern Ireland need to stand by the agreement and defend it from anyone who says otherwise.”

He added:

We are reflecting on 20 years this year since the Good Friday Agreement was signed. The fact that the Executive and Assembly are not currently operating in Northern Ireland makes it all the more important that we re-commit to the principles of power-sharing and strong North-South and East-West relations that are at the heart of the Agreement.

Good Friday Agreement programme before Cabinet

A programme of events at home and abroad to mark the Good Friday Agreement anniversary, which the US administration played a key role in, has been developed and is being brought before Cabinet for approval this morning.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been engaging with other departments on the entire island of Ireland, overseas embassies, groups and institutions in a bid to plan conferences, seminars, cultural responses, acts of commemoration and other initiatives to mark the anniversary.

The government’s programme will include events in Dublin, Washington, London, and Belfast.

The Cabinet discussion on the commemorations comes as Brexiteers have been accused of jeopardising peace in Northern Ireland following comments made by Labour MP Kate Hoey.

She told HuffPost UK “there is a need for a cold, rational look” at the Good Friday Agreement, stating that it is not “sustainable”.

Other issues 

While the peace process is front and centre this week with the return to direct rule being mentioned, Coveney will also address other matters while in the US.

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On Wednesday the Tánaiste will also hold a number of meetings with groupings at the UN on Ireland’s campaign to secure a seat on the UN Security Council for 2021-22.

Canada and Norway are the other candidates competing for a place.

On Friday morning the Tánaiste is due at the White House for a meeting on the Middle East peace process with Jason Greenblatt – Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.

Simon Coveney recently visited Israel and Palestine, including Gaza, in January.

Writing about the trip in an op-ed for TheJournal.ie, he flagged that he would be lobbying the US administration directly not to reduce funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides food, healthcare and education in Gaza.

Coveney said this ”essential agency” should not be jeopardised at such a sensitive time

Immigration issues will also feature on the agenda for meetings in Washington DC.

Bertie Ahern says he’s been ‘talking to Simon Coveney’ about the ongoing Stormont talks>

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