New York, NY March 6, 2012
The New York City-based Irish Parades Emergency Committee (IPEC) expressed condolences to Congressman Donald Payne’s family today upon news of his death, and expressed deep gratitude for the Congressman’s vigilant pursuit of peace and human rights in the north of Ireland, Darfur, and other sites of conflict in the world.
Congressman Payne supported human rights and political change in Northern Ireland since the bleakest days of the conflict in the early 1970s, and observed contested Orange Parades forced through Catholic neighborhoods with IPEC human rights observers in Belfast and Portadown in the 1990s and 2000s. He also led many U.S. Congressional delegations to the north of Ireland, and built support for the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and fundamental reform of the Northern Ireland police and state.
A veteran of the U.S. civil rights movement, Congressman Payne was a strong supporter of equality and non-discrimination legislation in the north of Ireland. During a debate in Washington on the MacBride principles–which sought to leverage U.S. investment to end employment discrimination against Irish Catholics in the north, Congressman Payne said: “I and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus can easily identify with the Catholic minority…I recognise many similarities in how they are treated with how people here were treated.”
Payne was also a strong advocate for peace and human rights in Africa, and for the prevention and treatment of HIV, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa and elsewhere.
“Congressman Payne defended human rights for all, and saw the connections between oppression and inequality in different contexts,” said James P. Cullen, a member of IPEC and a retired brigadier general in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps who last served as the Chief Judge (IMA) of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. “We will miss his calm, understated leadership on so many human rights and peace issues. He spoke with great moral authority and improved the lives of millions of people, here in the U.S. and around the world.”
Congressman Payne advocated for investigations into the murders of Northern Ireland human rights attorneys Patrick Finucane and Rosemary Nelson. Both died for their belief in and commitment to justice. There is compelling evidence that their murders were state-sponsored. Congressman Payne’s voice, together with those of other international figures, gave strength and hope to their families and others who struggle for justice.