By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Northern Ireland’s first minister, David Trimble, urged President Clinton to issue a public statement on paramilitary arms decommissioning during a meeting between the two at the White House on Monday.
Although Clinton was eager to discuss with the press his views on the situation, Trimble asked the White House to refrain from making broad statements during the UUP leader’s first visit as the head of the now functioning Northern Ireland government.
Trimble sought to downplay this visit because of an anticipated formal U.S. recognition he and his deputy, Seamus Mallon, in the new year.
Aides said Trimble sought the meeting with the president so he could personally convey the details of the deal he struck with his party that allowed the assembly and executive to move forward, despite the lack of any IRA decommissioning.
In explaining the intricacies and deals he had to secure from his party to allow him to enter government with Sinn Féin, Trimble also made the appeal for Clinton to make a public statement requesting the IRA in particular to move ahead with decommissioning.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
In addition to Trimble and President Clinton, White House officials Sandy Berger and Jim Steinberg of the National Security Council attended the one-hour Oval Office discussion.
White House officials were tight-lipped after the meeting and refused to make any other on-the-record remarks other than to say it was a good meeting designed to bring Clinton up to date on the status of how "full implementation of the Good Friday accord" was progressing.
"The president agreed that all aspects of the Good Friday agreement should be implemented," said White House spokesman Jim Fallon.
White House, Irish and British government officials have all pointed to St. Patrick’s Day 2000 as a time when the White House expects to celebrate in style the anticipated successful outcome of the Good Friday agreement’s outline for government in Northern Ireland.
Trimble focused on the possibility of the United States offering an economic peace dividend with further trade and investment if his own February deadline on IRA decommissioning is met. Mallon and Trimble’s visit next March might then become a trade and investment development mission supported by the Clinton administration.
White House officials, meanwhile, have been mulling over a January visit by Mr. Clinton to Ireland. His senior advisors have prevailed, and May 2000 is now the working timetable for a possible trip for the president, assuming a successful resolution to the decommissioning issue.