Category: Archive

Clinton: ‘Stay the course’

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Speaking at the Magee campus of the University of Ulster, Clinton gave the Tip O’Neill Inaugural Lecture to an invited audience, which included Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, the party’s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness, and SDLP leader Mark Durkan.
The former president encouraged all Northern political parties to fully implement the Good Friday agreement. He acknowledged that the process was difficult, but he asked the people of the North to “stay the course and lead by your example.”
Clinton’s first visit to Derry, in 1995, created unprecedented euphoria in the historic city and his message at the time was simple: “You can achieve peace.” But now, seven years on, he acknowledged the peace process has hit a difficult patch with the suspension of the power-sharing institutions — but he predicted that this would not last.
“There was a bit of a problem with implementation, it’s just in a bit of a rut at the moment,” he said.
In the long term, he said that Northern Ireland had the political will to resolve its differences and it was better off than other trouble spots hit by ethnic conflicts.
“When the Middle East peace fell apart, when the future looked uncertain in Bosnia, when Africa was still reeling from losing 10 percent of the people in Rwanda and 2 million died in the Congo, I could always point to the Good Friday accord,” he told the Derry audience.
“I ask you to stay the course and lead by your example. In a world that is coming together, I think the Good Friday accord is about the best you could ever do — the principle of consent. You need to think a long time before you give that up.”
Clinton went on to outline the principles enshrined in the agreement, much of which, he insisted, remained a model for the world: “The majority rule, the minority rise, shared political responsibilities, shared economic benefits, special relationships with both the UK and Ireland. The assumption that if everyone is treated fairly now when one religious or political group is in the majority, it will work out fine, too, when we’re all integrated into much bigger units anyway. I don’t think you can do much better than that and I think that’s why the deal was made in the first place.”
After delivering his lecture, the former president traveled to Dublin for a meeting with the taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to discuss the AIDS crisis in Africa. Ireland has become the first nation in the world to back efforts by Clinton to improve treatment for AIDS patients in the Third World. In an agreement with Clinton’s foundation, the country will pay for the treatment of up to 500,000 people diagnosed with AIDS in Mozambique.

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