Category: Archive

Editorial: September’s hope

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

It has changed from being a virtual lap of honor to being a renewed and urgent mission for peace. President Clinton will arrive in Ireland in a few days, an Ireland that will still be trying to deal with the enormity of loss suffered by all its people in a murderous moment last weekend in a peaceful country town. Coming on top of other recent tragedies, the murder of the Quinn brothers in particular, Omagh was an all too grim reminder that true peace requires far more than words on a piece of paper.

Three years ago, the Clintons arrived in an Ireland dizzy with the prospects for a better time brought about by the first IRA cease-fire. People were still cautious, wary. After all it was by then 16 years since Pope John Paul had pleaded, on his knees, for peace — 16 bloody years. Here, though, was a young leader in a new time, a U.S. president with a talent for words and a capacity to reach out beyond the barriers to action created by years of redundant policy and political habit in Washington. And people all over Ireland listened. They listened in Northern Ireland most particularly because this man was pointing to a country with its own history of division and internal strife, a country that had fought a great civil war only to forge from the ashes of conflict a nation dedicated to peaceful and often spectacular progress within the boundaries of its daily civic life.

Clinton’s presence, his words, his encounters with onetime political pariahs, did not, however, copperfasten the peace. There would be more violence to come. But there would also be the first signs of a new politics, a politics still burdened by rancor and bitter accusation perhaps, but only words of rancor, not bullets and bombs. That politics takes center stage in Northern Ireland, with the convening of the Assembly, a few days after the departure of the Clintons. It is to be hoped that President Clinton can inspire ordinary people in a manner that will have the most positive effect on their elected representatives. There has been a suggestion that the upcoming visit will be more low key than three years ago, one devoid of big, set piece events. No matter. The size of the event matters less than the message Clinton carries, his manner of imparting it, and the willingness of people to take it truly to heart.

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