Smith Honored for Work on Behalf of Veterans and Human Rights in Northern Ireland
Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore give Smith prestigious Commodore John Barry Award
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) was honored with the prestigious Commodore John Barry Award for his work on behalf of America’s veterans and for his efforts to promote peace and human rights in Northern Ireland by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore at their annual gala in Spring Lake this evening.U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) was honored with the prestigious Commodore John Barry Award for his work on behalf of America’s veterans and for his efforts to promote peace and human rights in Northern Ireland by the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore at their annual gala in Spring Lake this evening.
“I have always believed that the needs of our veterans must be at the front of the queue. Whether it be full and predictable funding for VA health care or a respectable and generous GI Bill benefit, our obligations to those who have answered the call in defense of our nation should never be shortchanged. I am grateful for this honor from the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore who themselves are tireless advocates for our nation’s veterans,” said Smith.
Named after the man considered to be the “Father of the American Navy,” the Commodore John Barry Award is bestowed on an individual for “valor in the Irish tradition of defense of the United States of America.” The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore have only given out nine of these prestigious awards since 1981.
Smith, the former chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, used his powerful gavel to author 13 laws to expand veterans programs and benefits in the areas of health care, housing, widows benefits, post-service employment and assistance to homeless veterans. He is the author of the landmark law the “Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001,” which increased funding to the Montgomery GI Bill by 60%. During his tenure as chairman, VA health care spending was increased by 42%.
Smith remains a champion for veterans to this day, continuing to fight for improvements to veterans programs including full and predictable funding for VA healthcare.
The award was also bestowed on Smith for his work to promote peace and protect human rights in Northern Ireland, which includes convening the first-ever Congressional hearings on human rights abuses in Northern Ireland. Since then, he has chaired a dozen hearings focusing on human rights abuses, discrimination against Catholics, and police brutality as fundamental causes of the civil unrest in Northern Ireland. Smith has also authored laws and resolutions to support the peace process and facilitate human rights reform in Northern Ireland. His best-known provision suspended U.S. support and exchanges with the British police force in Northern Ireland, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, until standards were set to vet out any RUC officers who engaged in human rights abuses.
Most recently, Smith introduced a resolution calling on the British government to live up to its commitment—as part of the Northern Ireland peace process—to implement a public, independent, judicial inquiry into the murder of courageous human rights attorney and activist Patrick Finucane. Smith’s resolution, H.Con.Res. 20, was overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in January and is expected to be considered by the U.S. Senate next week.
The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of the Jersey Shore’s gala is the organization’s annual—and only—fundraising event. The fraternal organization raises money for college grants for underprivileged kids at the event. The dinner starts at 8 pm and close to 450 people are expected to attend.