Category: Archive

Ireland was a tonic, Hillary says in book

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

And first daughter Chelsea Clinton once disembarked from a plane at Shannon airport in the middle of the night simply to touch Irish soil, Sen. Clinton reveals.
“Of all the places we visited during the eight years of Bill’s presidency, none was more invigorating and inspiring than Ireland,” Clinton writes in “Living History.”
Clinton gives a detailed account of her first visit to Ireland in 1995 with her husband, who, she writes, “was determined to work toward a solution” to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Interestingly, there is no listing for “Northern Ireland” in the book’s index; all the cross-border visits are indexed under “Ireland.”
Writes Clinton of the ’95 trip to both the North and the Republic: “Of all the trips we took during the eight years of Bill’s presidency, this one was most special. Bill was proud of his Irish ancestry through his mother, a Cassidy.
“Chelsea fell in love with Irish folk tales when she was a little girl. She first saw Ireland in 1994 in the middle of the night at Shannon airport during a refueling stop on our flight to Russia.
“She asked if she could go out into the field and touch Irish soil. I watched as she picked up some sod and put it into a bottle to take home.”
Later she writes: “Ireland invigorated and inspired me, and I wished we could bottle up the good feelings and take them back home.”
Irish affairs even intruded on Hillary’s most troubled day in both her marriage and her eight years as first lady.
Aug. 15, 1998 was the day that President Clinton revealed his affair with Monica Lewinsky to his wife. It was also the day of the Omagh bombing.
“As we struggled with this personal and public crisis, the world provided another cruel reality check,” she writes. “In Omagh, Northern Ireland, a renegade Irish Republican gang detonated a car bomb in a crowded market, killing twenty-eight, wounding more than two hundred and badly damaging the peace process that Bill had worked so long and hard to nurture with Irish leaders.
“As reports of the casualties came in that Saturday afternoon, I remembered the times I’d sat with women in all parts of Ireland to talk about the Troubles and to look for a way to achieve peace and reconciliation. Now that’s what I had to try to do in the midst of my own heartrending troubles.”
In her book, Clinton pays particular tribute to the late Northern Ireland peace activist Joyce McCartan, describes as “disconcerting” the “overt meddling in American politics” by the British Conservative Party during the 1992 presidential campaign, and writes of the Rev. Ian Paisley that he seemed stuck in a time warp, unwilling to concede a “new reality.”

“Deserved” Nobel
Sen. Clinton’s “Living History” follows another recently published book that touches on former president Bill Clinton’s peace efforts in Ireland.
Writing in “The Clinton Wars,” the former top adviser to President Clinton, Sidney Blumenthal, says that the former president sought refuge from the Monica Lewinsky scandal by working daily on his Irish peace initiative.
He describes Clinton in the weeks following the eruption of the Lewinsky affair, as working “day by day” toward breakthroughs in the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
Blumenthal suggests in the book that his former boss might have deserved a Nobel peace prize for his efforts in Ireland. He compares Clinton’s presidency most closely to that of Theodore Roosevelt. Neither, the author writes, faced a single overwhelming crisis. “Instead, they perceived the necessity to frame new national policies in order to deal with great transformations in the economy and society and in America’s place in the world,” he argues.
One of Clinton’s new polices was, of course, an American role in Irish and Anglo-Irish affairs.
And while Blumenthal notes that T.R. won the Nobel prize for mediating the treaty concluding the Russo-Japanese War, Clinton had “effectively resolved the conflict in Northern Ireland and worked hard to try to resolve the crisis in the Middle East and Korea.”
Both presidents, Blumenthal concludes, left unfulfilled agendas behind them.
Blumenthal also describes how Clinton’s peace efforts in Ireland got off the to a rocky start.
He writes that Clinton’s 1992 pre-election pledge to send a special envoy to Northern Ireland had “infuriated” the British government, then led by Conservative John Major.
Major, writes Blumenthal, thought that Clinton was “demagogically appealing to Irish-American voters and meddling in internal British affairs.”
Adds Blumenthal: “Clinton’s and Major’s chilly relationship got frostier in 1994 when Clinton granted a visa to Irish Republican Army leader Gerry Adams. But Clinton was pushing new diplomacy whether Major approved or not, and he had given the visa to Adams with the understanding that Adams would secure a ceasefire in Northern Ireland.
“In November, 1995, Clinton was welcomed by rapturous crowds when he visited Belfast, where he shook hands with Adams [offending the British] and turned on the lights on the city’s Christmas tree.”

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