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US politician Pompeo says Good Friday Agreement 'needs to be sustained'

Words of support: Mike Pompeo
Words of support: Mike Pompeo

By Gillian Halliday

A high-profile American politician has thrown his weight behind the Good Friday Agreement by insisting it should be protected from any adverse effects of Brexit.

Speaking just ahead of yesterday's 21st anniversary of the 1998 agreement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a Senate committee that the peace process "needs to be sustained".

His comment, reported by the BBC yesterday, was made as part of a discussion into the potential impact of Brexit on peace in Northern Ireland sparked by one of Mr Pompeo's political opponents.

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy suggested that Democrats and Republicans should unite on protecting peace in Northern Ireland.

He told Mr Pompeo: "We may disagree on the right prescription for Britain moving forward with respect to whether or not they stay in the European Union.

"But we likely don't disagree on the importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Murphy continued: "It seems like a moment when we should be standing up - Republicans and Democrats - and telling our friends in London that whatever they do, they need to recognise the existing fragility of peace in Northern Ireland and the importance of protecting that peace process no matter how this agreement with the European Union turns out." In response, the US Secretary of State said: "It is an incredibly important agreement, one that has proven very effective. [It is] one that needs to be sustained."

He joins a growing list of political figures here and across Europe who have raised doubts about how cross-Irish border co-operation can be maintained after Brexit.

Despite his support for the GFA, last August Mr Pompeo was criticised after he said he had not even considered requests by members of Congress to appoint a special envoy to Northern Ireland.

George Mitchell was appointed as envoy in 1995, and chaired peace talks that ultimately led to the GFA.

Last month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the appointment of a new US special envoy to Northern Ireland is not imminent.

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