The Washington press corps might view Bill Clinton’s Russia trip this week as the main course and Ireland as an afterthought, but Irish America takes the reverse view. Apart from the fact that Ireland never threatened the United States with nuclear annihilation, is not a serious drag on U.S. economic prospects or world markets, and, unlike Russia, has a democratic tradition going back centuries, there are ample reasons for the president to place his own particular mark on a historical conflict far older than the United States itself.
Simply put, this is Clinton’s opportunity for the kind of legacy that appears to be currently eluding him on other fronts, not least the domestic. If, as was the case three years ago, Clinton manages to ignite the spark of hope and optimism so often lacking in Northern Ireland’s daily life, then there is every reason to believe that the path to peace will become so clear ahead that only the most myopic could possibly miss it. Peace in Northern Ireland carries with it so many possibilities that no side can afford to ignore its allure.
Russia and the U.S., never exactly friends even as wartime allies, do provide an example of how competing views of history and the future can be reconciled to more immediate and urgent needs. The United States itself is the world’s most significant example of how people from different backgrounds, races and faiths can live together, not always, but mostly, in harmony. Mostly is all anyone can expect in Northern Ireland. The Six Counties are not perhaps quite ready for e pluribus unum. But Bill Clinton can do much to start the process in that direction this week. We wish him God speed.