This has to be seen as progress of course but don’t try to oversell this assertion to supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton who has been finding out in recent weeks that North peace is lately like a timeshare with a lot more investors than you might think from looking at the sales brochure.
Just as there is a long standing joke about how many people were crammed into the General post Office in Dublin’s O’Connell Street in 1916, there may someday be a yarn about which first ten thousand can stand in the credit line for bringing peace to Northern Ireland.
The truth is that the peace effort was indeed a vast one involving many people over many years and really it is no great surprise that Senator Clinton has been taking it on the chin for placing herself close to the top of the line.
At the same time, Clinton has been doing what all politicians do, most especially when they are running for office. She has been attaching herself to a good news story.
In her case, however, it’s been a little more than that. She’s been claiming a share of the credit for the good news.
At first glance it would seem that positioning herself in a flattering light on Northern Ireland before a crowd of eager Democrats in Iowa would not resonate all that far beyond the stubble of that state’s cornfields in deepest winter.
But of course everywhere is just a click away from everywhere else in this hyper-wired age. Mention Northern Ireland in Des Moines in the final countdown to an election year caucus and before the word is entirely out of your mouth they have heard you in Derry or Dungannon.
Since Iowa, the debate over Clinton and her claims has waxed and waned. It is waxing again in recent days because the lady herself, as Margaret Thatcher might have put it, is not for turning on the issue.
“I helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, Clinton told CNN a few days ago.
Much of the criticism and rebutting of Clinton’s assertions have been penned by newspaper columnists on both side of the Atlantic. Dick Morris and Eileen McGann led the early pace in the U.S.
Kevin Cullen, in his Boston Globe column, was a more recent critic. President Bill Clinton, Cullen opined, had actually never been accorded enough credit for his Irish peace work. His wife was in another category, however.
“To suggest Hillary Clinton was a major player in ending what the Irish in their penchant for understatement called the Troubles is like saying Eleanor Roosevelt played a big role in ending World War II,” Cullen wrote.
“By saying she helped bring peace to Northern Ireland, Hillary Clinton is a chancer,” he added, using a well-worn Irish description of someone who is pulling a fast one, or gilding the lily.
Most recently, the criticism has taken on a political hue, at least in Northern Ireland.
Former First Minister and Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble described Clinton’s claim to a peace role as being “a wee bit silly.”
“I don’t know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill (Clinton) going around………being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player,” the now Lord Trimble, who shared a Nobel Prize with John Hume for his contribution to peace, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
The response might be of course be that claiming to help something happen is not quite the same as claiming to be a principal player.
Trimble’s dismissal was enough, however, to draw other Northern Ireland politicians to Clinton’s defense.
John Hume has been one of her most ferocious defenders and Trimble’s jibe drew swift rebuke from the man who was Trimble’s nationalist Nobel partner.
“I can state from first hand experience that she played a positive role for over a decade,” Hume told the Derry Journal.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told the Echo that Hillary Clinton was someone who was “extremely well informed” on Ireland and its peace process.
McGuinness described Trimble’s remarks as “mean spirited.”