Friends of America

I see that over on oconallstreet public affairs specialist Conall McDevitt  is suggesting it’s time for Northern Ireland to mature its relationship with the United States. I’m all for that. For too long, Northern Ireland has played the supplicant, with its hand out for economic or political assistance.

With Conall publicly speculating that it may be time for a Friends of America group, I would bet a few dollars that moves are already well afoot towards its establishment. Well, Conall, you can sign me up straightaway!

I’ve always thought of myself as a friend of America. I may not get an invitation to the Consul General’s annual Fourth of July barbecue (looks like my eagle-embossed card was lost in the post AGAIN this year!), but I’m there in spirit.

Half my extended family are American and I’ve worked, played and travelled there a bit in my time.

The blues, Pete Seeger, The Boss – lovin’ it!
Home made burgers, ribs, cold beer – lovin’ it!
New York, DC, San Fran – lovin’ it!
Ohio primaries, hanging chads, soaring rhetoric – lovin’ it!

Basically, I’m nuts about America!

So, if there’s gonna be a Northern Ireland Friends of America group, I want in. That is, as long as it’s the sort of friendship that is not afraid to be critical as well as supportive, one that can celebrate a friend’s successes but, equally, not be afraid to tell the friend when they are screwing up their (or others’) lives.

My enthusiasm for things American doesn't blind me to its dark side. The recklessness of Iraq, torture, Guantanamo – hatin' that!

The ability to be supportive and critical are characteristics of a friendship that’s mature, rather than asymmetrical. Let’s hope that this is the sort of group that Conall and others are talking about – that would be a real welcome present to the incoming Consul General.

Let’s face it, right now, Obama and Clinton’s America is looking for friends. After years of alienating most of the planet, they are now urgently looking to get back on track and are holding out the hand … for friendship.

For months, Clinton has been asking the world – and especially countries in Europe – to show some friendly support by helping it solve the Guantanamo problem: how to close the infamous detention camp (an Obama campaign pledge) and give new homes to those innocent people unlawfully detained all these years…

Our friends down south have just offered the practical hand of friendship by offering new homes to two Uzbek detainees – just what Amnesty has been urging for some time. An increasing number of other European countries, most recently Spain, has also been stepping up to the plate.

Can Northern Ireland match that? Of course, the NI Assembly isn’t in charge of foreign policy, but both it and the First and Deputy First Minister could make clear to Foreign Secretary David Miliband that Northern Ireland is willing to be part of doing the right thing, both in terms of human rights and as a friend of America.

That's what Amnesty is calling for. So is Northern Ireland willing to be a friend in (times of) need?

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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