By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Clinton has urged republican and loyalist paramilitaries in the Northern Ireland conflict to lay down their arms according to the terms of the Good Friday accord.
Speaking at a dinner organized last week by the American Ireland Fund, Clinton said trust was what has been missing from the equation.
"Some of these folks have been doing this for so long that their whole identity is caught up in the continuation of the conflict," Clinton said during the dinner, held on Nantucket island.
"We have got to target those critical decision makers and give them an image of a life they can have that is meaningful and rich. . . . We have got to help them let go."
In recent times, Clinton has increasingly tossed script speeches aside when speaking about Northern Ireland. Since the seeming collapse of the Good Friday accord a few months ago, Clinton has used his own words when discussing the issue.
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Money collected at the AIF dinner, meanwhile, will be contributed in first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s name to Vital Voices, a project that brings Protestant and Catholic women together in Northern Ireland. Mrs. Clinton has previously participated in several Vital Voices programs.
Mrs. Clinton said she was honored by the AIF’s choice. "Thanks to the Fund, we’ve really been able to make progress by bringing people, particularly women, together," she said. "Thank you for believing so strongly that peace will last, that it will take firm root."
The president said the parties in Northern Ireland should look to the women his wife has worked with if they need role models emulate.
"Sometimes, I think her world will have more to do with whether peace will really take hold than the one I’ve moved in," he said.
Originally, Mrs. Clinton was to be the sole headliner at the fund-raiser, but just a few weeks ago, the president’s aides said he would like to attend the annual festivities held in a private home on the small island off the coast of Massachusetts.
The press was kept away from the event that allowed those willing to pay $250 a ticket to mingle with the Clintons during the event, which ultimately raised $95,000 for the American Ireland Fund.
The AIF event was attended by about 300 people, and the money raised will support work to help promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland.