Category: Archive

President Clinton’s Irish legacy: a chronology

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Bill Clinton’s third visit to Ireland as president of the United States last week was an emotional occasion as well as an important mission to shore up the troubled peace process. It was, for Clinton, the final public act in a more than eightyear effort to rewrite the story of the U.S. presidency and Ireland. Here are some of the highlights of the Clinton years.

April 1992

Gov. Clinton of Arkansas attends the Irish American Presidential Forum at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan. Candidate Clinton promises a U.S. peace envoy for Northern Ireland, a visa for Gerry Adams because he is an elected MP, and pledges support for the MacBride Principles on fair employment. Days later he won the New York primary.

October 1992

Just before the presidential election, Clinton renews the peace envoy promise and other pledges in a statement delivered to former Rep. Bruce Morrison. However, Clinton does not mention Adams, who had lost his Westminster seat shortly after the Sheraton forum.

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November 1992

Irish America wakes up to the election of a new president who has promised to turn aside years of U.S. reluctance to get deeply involved in the divided politics of Northern Ireland.

January 1993

Members of the Irish Americans for Clinton-Gore lobby group meet with officials of the incoming administration in Little Rock. Clinton is sworn is an 42nd president.

February 1993

Clinton meets British Prime Minister John Major. The new president sounds a cautious note on a possible U.S. role in the North but Irish American expectations continue to rise.

March 1993

Clinton appears to step back from envoy pledge during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington, but also states that the option is still open.

May 1993

Gerry Adams attempts to secure a U.S. visa but is denied by U.S. authorities. It is reported that the decision to deny was taken by Attorney General Janet Reno. Clinton later explains that he was advised against granting Adams a visa because of his connections to terrorism and the fact that he was no longer an elected MP.

September 1993

Speculation about a possible envoy continues to mount. Former president Jimmy Carter is one name linked to the job.

February 1994

In a major shift, and against the backdrop of the Downing Street Declaration, the U.S. allows Gerry Adams enter the country for a 48-hour period to attend a conference in New York. Clinton’s hand is seen as being behind the move. However, Clinton also pours cold water on envoy plan saying the idea had been "overtaken by events."

October 1994

Adams visits Washington on a post-IRA cease-fire return visit to U.S. He does not meet Clinton but gets a phone call from Vice President Al Gore.

December 1994

Clinton appoints outgoing Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as his special adviser on economic initiatives for Ireland. Clinton hints that Mitchell’s role might be more than just economic. Gerry Adams, meanwhile, returns to D.C. This time he enters the White House for a meeting with Clinton administration officials, including National Security Adviser Anthony Lake.

March 1995

Clinton shakes hands with Adams at a St. Patrick’s Day event hosted by House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Later, Adams is seated close to Clinton at the annual White House reception but the two do not meet for a second time. There is no photo of their first handshake.

May 1995

Clinton presides over three-day Washington trade conference on Ireland. Promises to visit Ireland in the fall.

December 1995

In what many see as a replay of President Kennedy’s visit in 1963, Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton visit Ireland, North and South. Kennedy did not visit North.

January 1996

Clinton backs arms decommissioning report by George Mitchell, now head of international decommissioning body and effectively the president’s peace envoy. But British government has doubts.

February 1996

IRA bomb in London ends IRA cease-fire but Clinton signals that he is not about to abandon support for Gerry Adams. Adams gets limited U.S. entry visa in March.

November 1996

Clinton elected to second term. Says he wants to see a "genuine" cessation of violence in the North.

September 1998

In the aftermath of both the Good Friday Agreement and Omagh bombing, the Clintons make their second visit to Ireland. Upon returning to Washington, the president is presented with the Paul O’Dwyer peace award on the same day as the Starr Report is made public.

November 1999

As a political power-sharing executive looks possible in the North, Clinton ponders a third visit to Ireland.

December 2000

Political problems stall the planned visit throughout the year, but, finally, Clinton makes an unprecedented third and final presidential visit to Ireland in an effort to shore up the still troubled peace process.

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