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Nancy Pelosi says US has 'vested interest' in Northern Ireland peace process during visit to border

US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi with Congressman Richard Neal crosses the border into the Republic of Ireland near Bridgened in Co Donegal , as part of her four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire
US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi with Congressman Richard Neal crosses the border into the Republic of Ireland near Bridgened in Co Donegal , as part of her four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire
US House of Representatives speaker 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. Niall Carson/PA Wire
Congressman Brendan Boyle, Irish Education Minister Joe McHugh, Congressman Richard Neal and US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi at Bridgened in Co Donegal with crosses the border into the Republic of Ireland, as part of her four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire
US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi at Bridgened in Co Donegal, as part of her four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire
US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Richard Neal address the media at the Border in Bridgened in Co Donegal, as part of her four-day visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. Niall Carson/PA Wire

US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi has visited the Irish border as part of a visit to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The senior Democrat walked across the border into the Republic near Bridgened in Co Donegal, along with Congressman Richard Neal and Derry City and Strabane District Council Mayor John Boyle.

Ms Pelosi is part of a delegation of high-ranking US politicians on a fact-finding mission to the island of Ireland.

On Wednesday Ms Pelosi said that Brexit must not result in the return of a hard border during a speech at the Irish Parliament.

Speaking on Thursday, she added: "We believe that Brexit should be just an aberration in this discussion as we continue to build and strengthen our peace that was generated by the Good Friday accord."

She said the US had a vested interest in peace in Northern Ireland which was sealed by the 1998 agreement.

"We have said that we are guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement because we believe it is fair to both sides, that is why they agreed to it."

She has repeatedly railed against the prospect of a hard Irish border during her tour of Ireland with congressional colleagues.

Earlier this week she warned that US trade talks with the UK could be endangered if the agreement which largely ended decades of violence was compromised.

The DUP's opposition to the backstop insurance policy, which would keep Northern Ireland's regulations aligned with the EU to protect the free-flowing frontier, helped thwart Theresa May's bid to get her withdrawal deal through Parliament.

Some believe any reimposition of a hard border and checks at the frontier due to a no-deal Brexit could encourage a return to violence, although that is contested by many unionists.

The British Government has said it does not intend to put infrastructure there.

Ms Pelosi said: "We come here out of respect for the courage of those who participated in the Good Friday accord."

Dermot O'Hara, a spokesman for Border Communities Against Brexit, greeted her at the frontier.

He said: "She is saying to the British very clearly that they must respect the Good Friday Agreement, the Good Friday Agreement underwrote the Irish situation here.

"This is a British border here, we want the border to be in the Irish Sea and we appreciate the visit by the delegation and their support for the rights of the Irish people."

John Boyle, mayor of Derry City and Strabane Council, said it was evident Ms Pelosi was determined to protect the integrity of the agreement.

"They will support us in ensuring it does not impact on that very important agreement which was signed in 1998."

He said a hard border would be difficult to deal with psychologically.

"Many of us going back generations remember what a hard security border looked like here."

Joe McHugh, education minister in the Republic and Donegal public representative, said the visit of the third most powerful politician in the US was very important.

He added: "Since Brexit there has been a very loud voice along the border communities and further away from the border communities that we cannot go back to the past, we cannot go back to a border that is going to obstruct the free-flowing movement of goods and people on a day-to-day basis."

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