Clinton's view of N Ireland Peace Process


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From MoD Oracle

Former President Bill Clinton, who encouraged the 1998 peace accord for Northern Ireland, said during a visit to the British territory Thursday that he expects the pact's key goal - a joint Catholic-Protestant administration - to be revived.

The British and Irish governments plan a new round of Belfast negotiations starting Wednesday involving the two key adversaries in any new power-sharing coalition: the Democratic Unionists, the major British Protestant party, and Sinn Fein, the major Irish Catholic party.

``Mostly you get the feeling that they are willing to work out an accommodation,'' Clinton said. ``... They are serious political parties, so they want to exercise authority.''

In a sign of the influence Clinton still wields in Northern Ireland, he planned separate meetings with leaders of all four major local parties and Britain's governor, Paul Murphy.

Later, he planned to travel with his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, to Londonderry, Northern Ireland's predominantly Catholic second-largest city, where she was scheduled to receive an honorary degree and deliver a speech on Northern Ireland's peace process.

Northern Ireland's previous power-sharing administration collapsed in October 2002 after three crisis-prone years. The four-party coalition, which included Sinn Fein, suffered repeated breakdowns over the IRA's refusal to disarm. It collapsed over an alleged IRA intelligence-gathering operation inside the government.

Local politicians, particularly on the Catholic side of the divide, have been watching U.S. politics closely to see whether John Kerry, a Democrat from the Irish-American stronghold of Massachusetts, will defeat George W. Bush in the November presidential election.

Clinton - who played a lead role in drawing Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army-linked party, in from decades of political isolation - said he expected Kerry to be much more involved in encouraging Northern Ireland power-sharing if he became president than Bush's administration has been.

Clinton said Kerry ``would far more likely be heavily involved and supportive of the process and bring the American government to bear.''

He said Northern Ireland's peace process, which seeks to forge compromise between Sinn Fein and Protestant leaders who revile the IRA, demonstrated why Bush's so-called ``war on terror'' was misguided.

``Terrorism is the major tactic being employed by a certain set of fundamentalists who want absolute power. If you can't kill, occupy or jail all your enemies, eventually you have to make a deal. That is what politics is, and it is essentially what happened in Northern Ireland,'' Clinton said.

``That is a rule that we need to be following all around the world. We need to stand up to terror, oppose it and oppose the fundamentalism. But we also have to create a fabric, a network for cooperative relationships where people see America as being on their side.''

How about this for reporting? Note "British territory" and "Britiain's Governor."

I thought NI was not territory but part of the UK! And when did we last have a Governor of the Province?

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