U.S. Rep. Richard Neal pushes peace process in Northern Ireland
SPRINGFIELD - U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal this week continued his long campaign to help with peace and progress in Northern Ireland.
Neal met in Washington on Tuesday with Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams, amid concerns that protests and efforts by Irish Republican Army fringe groups are hurting the chances for reconciling Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
Neal and Adams also attended a private lunch with President Barack Obama in the U.S. Capitol as part of the traditional St. Patrick's Day observances.
Neal also met with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on Tuesday. Neal co-hosted a briefing with the prime minister with about 20 members of the House of Representatives, providing an update on the peace process, immigration reform and the Irish economy.
Neal, elected to congress in 1988, is the Democratic leader of the Friends of Ireland caucus in the House.
Neal's grandparents were both born in Ireland. Neal's involvement in the Irish peace process goes back 30 years.
Adams has asked Irish Republican Army groups to stop their violence and to support his campaign for a vote in Northern Ireland on joining politically with the rest of the island.
Adams is a reputed former commander of the long-dominant Provisional IRA faction that renounced violence in 2005. Adams has said the attacks by IRA splinter groups still opposed to Northern Ireland's Good Friday peace agreement make it more difficult to build public support for uniting the British territory with the Republic of Ireland.
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