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theguardian.com

Don’t let Brexit undermine Ireland’s peace | Hillary Clinton | Opinion

‘The principles of the Belfast agreement are more important than ever.’ Stormont. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

 

Hillary Clinton

Twenty years ago, the Good Friday/Belfast agreement helped bring an end to decades of conflict and violence in Northern Ireland. It was a watershed moment – the result of diplomatic efforts within the halls of government and extraordinary actions of ordinary women and men who reached across longstanding and bitter divides.

Today, the agreement stands not only as a local framework for shared understanding, but as a shining example of what’s possible when citizens come together to demand peace, and preserve it across generations. As the world celebrates this significant anniversary, we must also remain vigilant in protecting the agreement in the face of our current challenges – from the uncertainties heralded by Brexit to the hurdles posed by the impasse in devolved government in Northern Ireland – and do all we can to deliver on the unrealised aspirations of human rights and equality that were espoused that day in April 1998.

Even now, I can picture clearly my husband’s first trip to Northern Ireland as president. On a cold winter night in 1995, Bill and I joined thousands of people at Belfast city hall for the lighting of the Christmas tree. As Catholics and Protestants alike came to that spot from their deeply divided neighbourhoods, there was no guarantee that violence wouldn’t break out; yet they came with a sense of hope, after so many seasons of darkness.

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Bill and Hillary Clinton have a special relationship with Ireland and those involved in the peace process. Today, the former president spoke at the funeral of former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness who passed away earlier this week.

‘Tears to my eyes’

Hillary Clinton reveals husband Bill’s moving speech at funeral of Martin McGuinness left her in tears

The former First Lady said Clinton’s touching tribute at the Derry mass should be watched by those who want to be inspired

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!

 

 

Dear Friend,

You might not know me, but my name is Stella O’Leary and I founded Irish American Democrats to support candidates who promote peace and prosperity in Ireland. Hillary, more than any other 2016 presidential candidate, fits that bill.

It may be hard to remember, but 20 years ago, St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland would have been anything but happy. Back then, Hillary traveled to Northern Ireland  to help resolve what had been a decades-long conflict.

WATCH AND SHARE LET’S TALK HILLARY’S NEW VIDEO

Hillary brought Catholic and Protestant women together over tea and soda bread. Her inspiration, and the Irish women’s groups she helped build, are the heart of the peace process today, she talked about how she loves to visit https://www.village-bakery.com to get ideas for her baking, and that’s how she got inspired to give out the bread. Share their story to bring smiles to Irish faces this St. Patrick’s Day.

In part because of Hillary’s work, I can say:

Finally, a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sincerely,

Stella O’Leary

P.S. I wish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t say lightly that a vote for Hillary brings smiles to every Irish face—please share this story to wish your friends and family a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Same to you, Stella! Erin go Bragh!

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Hillary harks back to her Girl Scout days and a song many of us can remember having sung in rounds: “Make new friends, but keep the old.  One is silver and the other gold.”

Reminding us that in the days following 9/11 NATO invoked Article V of the Washington Treaty, an attack on one is an attack on all, she launches a review of U.S.-European relations since the end of World War II, through the Cold War, and including deteriorating relations during the George W. Bush administration.

Upon assuming the post of secretary of state, she recalls, she made phone calls to European leaders letting them know we remain tight friends.  Her first opportunity to reinforce that message face-to-face came with her attendance at the April 2009 G-20 summit in London.

Playing Catch-up With Mme. Secretary 2: London

 

She formed an especially good working relationship with then UK Foreign Minister David Miliband, but allows that she also had a good rapport with then Shadow Foreign Minister, William Hague who now holds the post.  She dubs Hague “the David Beckham of toasting.”

BRITAIN-FINANCE-ECONOMY-G20

Prime Minister Cameron Meets With U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Playing Catch-up With Mme. Secretary 3: Germany, France, Czech Republic

She also singles out former French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, as one with whom she had an especially good rapport.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R

If your eyes welled up at times when reading the previous chapter about Pakistan, Hillary evokes smiles and laughter with her description of Former French president, Nicholas Sarkozy.  Revealing that often his interpreters had trouble keeping pace with him and that he asked her why all the other diplomats were unforgivably old, gray, and male,  she revisits that simply charming “Cinderella” moment when she lost her shoe on the steps of the Élyseé Palace.  (Posts here are not necessarily deep and analytical – as you may know.)

Hillary Clinton Loses Her Shoe And Looks Adorable Doing It!

 

She speaks of her strong admiration for German Chancellor Angela Merkel with whom she apparently shares a “color memo” phenomenon so uncanny that on a state visit in June 2011 Angela brought her a framed German front page where readers were challenged to guess which was which sans benefit of visible heads.

Slideshow: Hillary Clinton at Chancellor Angela Merkel’s State Visit Today

Video: Secretary Clinton at the State Luncheon in honor of German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Merkel Meets With Barack Obama

Hillary provides a pretty extensive retrospective on NATO, its post Cold War expansion in eastern Europe, and its contributions to operations in Afghanistan and in Libya.  She is very passionate on the subject of NATO calling it one the most successful military alliances in history (and the European Union one of the most successful political ones).  She contrasts 75% of the sorties over Libya striking 90% of the targets with the situation a decade before when the U.S. was responsible for hitting 90% of targets in Kosovo.   Her attestations on pages 231 and 232 are presidential (to the surprise of no one here).   A thing to behold.

Madeleine Albright was known for her brooch-diplomacy. Some of her foreign counterparts came to see her brooches as a mood-coding system.  Hillary, who is, after all, a self-described hair icon,  relates an amusing exchange when she was in Bulgaria (NATO member since 2004) in February 2012.  Prime Minister Boyko Borissov seemed edgy.  He finally confessed that he had heard that when her hair was pulled back it indicated a bad mood.  She reassured him that she was not engaging in hair diplomacy but that it “takes her a little longer” to get her look together.

Secretary Clinton with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov

Turkey has been in NATO since 1952, is strategically very important, but following the G.W. Bush administration the Turkish people took a dim view of the U.S.  Hillary’s first visit there as secretary of state was in March 2009.  She made it a point on that trip to take advantage of mass media.

Hillary Clinton’s Interviews in Turkey

On pages 234-235 she explains the term Islamist Party.  It is an important read.  She discusses [now outgoing] Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at length and states her concerns regarding his “Zero Problems with Neighbors” policy, which, on first take, can appear very positive.  Hillary cites the real and potential pitfalls of such a policy, especially when Iran is one of your neighbors. [Reports are that Erdogan will continue calling the shots, so it is unlikely that this policy will be abandoned.]

Ahmet Davutoglu came into the picture early as a close advisor to Erdogan but soon became the Turkish foreign minister with whom she collaborated over nearly her entire term.  (Ali Babacan was the foreign minister she encountered on her first trip there.)  Only three months after that trip, Davutoglu arrived at the State Department as foreign minister and a long working relationship commenced.

(As I returned to the first draft of this post to edit it, Davutoglu was named the new prime minister of Turkey.  Congratulations, Mr. Prime Minister and the best of luck to you in your new post!)

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu shakes hands with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before taking part in meetings in Istanbul on June 7, 2012.  AFP PHOTO / POOL / Saul LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu shakes hands with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before taking part in meetings in Istanbul on June 7, 2012. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sh Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ahmet Davutoglu

 

Hillary Clinton’s Bilaterals Today

Concerns remain.  Dissent is not easily tolerated.  Religious freedom is an issue.  Hillary  hosted Patriarch Bartholomew at a dinner in his honor early in her tenure at State.

Hillary Hosts The Patriarch

He, in turn, received her at the Patriarchy in 2011.  She has known him for a long time and has enormous respect for his opinion.   There is a beautiful slideshow at the link below.  Hillary mentions seized church property that has not been returned.  The photos provide an idea of the nature of what the government is holding.

Hillary Clinton Visits the Patriarchy in Istanbul

In chapter 9, we saw Hillary negotiate the re-opening of the supply lines from Pakistan into Afghanistan.  She never makes a big deal of that, but it was a testament to her diplomatic skills.  Without those lines open, important supplies could not get to the troops,  and they were closed for many months.

Another of her major accomplishments was one which she was never intended to handle and which she describes blow-by-blow.   She had traveled to Zurich simply to witness the signing of the Turkey-Armenia Accord.  It was to be a quick stop on the way to London.  A formality.  At the last minute  Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian balked about a speech Davutoglu was planning to make.   Hillary took it upon herself to fetch him and, using two cell phones,  negotiate an agreement for the parties to go ahead with the signing.  She operated mostly  in her SUV.  It was a very dramatic day.  She saved it, and at the event stepped aside for her Swiss counterpart,  Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, who was the host, to orchestrate the formalities.  I remember her giving Micheline a little wink of encouragement.  In typical Hillary fashion, she did not care to boast or take credit for this.  She only cared that the work got done.

OK! Now it is a done deal! Hillary helped negotiate the agreement

Turkey-Armenia Accord Salvaged and Signed – Hillary Helps Make History!

Video: Signing of the Armenia Turkey Protocols

How Hillary Saved The Day

 

She departed for the trip to the Balkans that she speaks of on the day of her wedding anniversary 2010.

The Balkans: A Family Affair

There were several notable stops and events on this trip, but she refers specifically to this town hall.

Hillary Clinton’s Town Hall at National Theater Sarajevo

And then there was Kosovo where there was a huge reception in Pristina.  She stood beneath the enormous statue of Bill Clinton, and then discovered a store named for her (so Bill wouldn’t be lonely).

Hillary in Clinton Country (Kosovo, That Is!)

No matter where she traveled as secretary of state, Hillary always made sure to hold a meet-and-greet at the embassy or consulate that had hosted her to thank them for all of the work they had done to make her visit go smoothly.  As it happened, her final stop as secretary of state was especially significant because it was at the Consulate General of Belfast.  Peace in Northern Ireland had been a high priority of the Clinton administration and hard work on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the Irish Sea had brought that troubled land closer to that goal than it ever had been before.

Video: Hillary Clinton with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness

Hillary Clinton at The Ireland Funds Luncheon

Hillary Clinton with Staff and Families of Consulate General Belfast

Her remarks in the bilaterals at the link below contain references to the March 2009 attacks in Antrim and Armagh that she speaks about in this chapter.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Hillary Clinton’s Statement of Northern Ireland Decommissioning

She mentions, as well, her address to the Northern Ireland Assembly in October 2009.

Address of Secretary Clinton to Full Session of the Northern Ireland Assembly

The passages I bolded in the background briefing [in the link below] reflect,  I think,  what is so typical of the Hillary Clinton so many of us know and love,  the Hillary who works tirelessly in the background and declines credit for the good she does.   I am very certain that her intervention was integral in attaining this latest ascension up the tall ladder of unity in Northern Ireland.  But Hillary Clinton will always deflect the praise and aim the limelight on others with whom she has labored to reach an accord.  That is simply who she is and how she operates.  It is also very much a quality of character so many of us accept and admire about her.  I,  for one, am very mindful of the role she has long been playing in this peace process.   I know the devolution will succeed,  and there will be a final and lasting peace.  When it does, I and many, will forever remember the key role she played in the process, even as she disclaims it.

Secretary Clinton on Northern Ireland

This European chapter has been somewhat active re: updates prior to publication.  In the latest news, may this peacemaker rest in peace.

Former Ireland prime minister Reynolds dies aged 81

 

Statement by President Clinton on the Passing of Albert Reynolds

Statement August 21, 2014

I am saddened by the passing of former Prime Minister of Ireland Albert Reynolds, who worked hard and risked much as Taoiseach to advance the Northern Ireland peace process.  His leadership alongside British Prime Minister John Major was instrumental in laying the foundation for the Good Friday Agreement, and our world owes him a profound debt of gratitude.  I will always be grateful for his encouragement, advice, and support in the peace process.  I join with his wife, Kathleen, his children, his many friends, and the people of Ireland in mourning his loss.

 

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Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

 

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>

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Clinton hails poet Seamus Heaney

Former US president Bill Clinton has praised Seamus Heaney as “our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives” and a “powerful voice for peace”.

The farmer’s son who went on to become a world renowned Nobel laureate died in hospital in Dublin aged 74.

Mr Clinton and his wife Hillary said they were saddened to learn of the death of their “friend”.

“Both his stunning work and his life were a gift to the world. His mind, heart, and his uniquely Irish gift for language made him our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives and a powerful voice for peace. And he was a good and true friend,” the Clintons said.

“We loved him and we will miss him. More than a brilliant artist, Seamus was, from the first day we met him, a joy to be with and a warm and caring friend – in short, a true son of Northern Ireland. His wonderful work, like that of his fellow Irish Nobel Prize winners Shaw, Yeats, and Beckett, will be a lasting gift for all the world.”

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In June 2009, Hillary Clinton, rushing to a meeting at the White House with Richard Holbrooke, slipped on the wet, oily floor of the State Department garage and fractured her elbow.  Concerned, Holbrooke wanted to stay with her, but she told him to proceed to the White House meeting without her.  “That’s an order,”  she said.

She was brought to the hospital where surgery was performed.  Pins and a rod were inserted,  and she worked from home for a few days.  When she returned to the office we saw glimpses of her wearing what we called the “Sling of State.”  On June 29 she returned to the press room for the first time since the accident.

Her first official appearance and first official act upon her return was, on July 1, 2009, the swearing in of Daniel Rooney as Ambassador to Ireland.

Three-and-a-half years down the road, at the conclusion of her final trip as Secretary of State,  Hillary fell ill  – her last stops were Ireland and Northern Ireland.  Here she is with Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny who was in New York for the parade today.

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Here she is  with First Minister of Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness.

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Following  this trip, she was scheduled to visit Morocco and the Middle East, but her illness and resultant fall and concussion cancelled those plans.  She spent the rest of December 2012 recovering.   She returned to D.C. on January 7, 2013 to a huge welcome and was presented with the “Helment of State” to protect her delicate head.

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Her first official public event upon her return this time was to thank retiring Ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney and his wife Patricia for their service.  She awarded them the flag that had flown over Embassy Dublin during his tenure and the Chief of Mission flag.  Here is  an excerpt of what she said.

So you and Patricia have done a fabulous job and I am so pleased to have this chance formally to present you two flags – the Chief of Mission flag, and the flag of the United States, as a small token of your very successful tenure in Ireland.

There you go. (Applause.) And Patricia, this one’s for you. You also served.

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The love affair between Bill and Hillary Clinton and Ireland did not begin with her service at the State Department and is certain not to end there.  They are both loved on the Emerald Isle.  Both of them are sure to return many times over.

We wish them and all of our readers a Happy and Blessed St. Patrick’s Day.  Our Irish eyes are smiling for all the good they have done.  We wish Ambassador and Mrs. Rooney and their considerable family the same.

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Having collected three awards on her final official visit to the Emerald Isle, Mme. Secretary’s work for peace in the north has garnered a nomination for an important award.

Clinton nominated for peace award

Sunday December 09 2012

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been nominated for a peace award just days after visiting Ireland.

A short list of five people have been released for the 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award.

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who was shot earlier this year, president of the Indian National Congress Sonia Ghandi, former Kenyan journalist John Githongo and Pax Christi International, a non-profit Catholic peace movement, have also made the list.

The award winner will be announced on January 1.

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In addition to the award presented to her by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness today, Hillary Clinton received the inaugural Fr. Aengus Finucane Award for Services to Humanity,  International Business Times reports.   High time we got that library/museum in Seneca Falls off the drawing board!  Where is she going to put all of these awards?

Concern Worldwide Honors U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Humanitarian Leadership with Inaugural Award in Dublin

NEW YORK, Dec. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — International humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide presented U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today with its inaugural Fr. Aengus Finucane Award for Services to Humanity.

CONCERN WORLDWIDE US HILLARY CLINTON

Secretary Clinton was in Dublin December 6 and 7 as part of her last official visit to Ireland to participate in the ministerial meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Secretary also met with Irish officials to discuss areas of cooperation in promoting peace, human rights, and economic growth, and delivered a major speech on U.S. achievements in support of human rights globally. After that speech at Dublin City University, Concern Worldwide CEO Tom Arnold presented the Secretary with the award.

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Edited to add this.

Hillary Clinton presented with Lifetime Achievement Award by The Worldwide Ireland Funds

By

JANE WALSH,
IrishCentral Staff Writer

The Worldwide Ireland Funds presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to salute her commitment to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland over her two decades as First Lady, US Senator and Secretary of State.

The specially commissioned Belleek China piece was presented at a luncheon hosted by The Worldwide Ireland Funds in front of 500 guests from all sides of the community in Northern Ireland as well as business, civic, community and cultural leaders.  Special guests who attended the event included The First Minister and Deputy First minister of Northern Ireland, along with members of the diplomatic, sporting and entertainment worlds.

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Meeting with Staff and Families of Consulate General Belfast

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Aldergrove Military Airport
Belfast, Northern Ireland
December 7, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a great pleasure to be here again, and I want to personally thank each and every one of you for the work that you are doing here. Let me start by thanking the Ambassador. Lou, thank you so much for your leadership and your indefatigable approach toward representing our country throughout the United Kingdom. And let me thank you, Consul General, for your leadership. I know it’s been a tough but exciting year in 2012. And we are grateful. I know you’ve only been here at the helm just a few months, but you’ve done an outstanding job. And Natalie, I want to thank you as well. You’ve become an integral member of the community, and your – what I’m told is your late-night dinners and your dog therapy – (laughter) – your border collie, Sam.

Well, I was here the first time 17 years ago this month, when we took a significant step toward trying to assist in the peace process, and it’s a real joy to be back here 17 years later. And the work we’ve done over those 17 years would not have been possible without all of you. This is a group that I’m told makes it a habit of punching above your weight. You may be small, but you are mighty. There’s only 24 of you, but you seem to be everywhere simultaneously and continuing our work to support peace and reconciliation. This requires vigilance, and that vigilance is something that we count on you to provide.

Then you’ve got the G-8 summit with President Obama coming to Northern Ireland for the very first time. There also is a large sporting event in the work, VIP visits, and so much more. And thanks to you for going to London to lend a hand every so often, like during the Olympics, which I know you did.

I am grateful to you, American and Irish alike, because this is a place that is very important to the American people. There’s a lot of – as I said yesterday in Dublin – a lot of connections with the whole island of Ireland. And as Peter Robinson never ceases to remind me, a lot of presidents came from here. (Laughter.) I’m not quite sure all the ones he’s counting, but I think that’s true. (Laughter.)

So can I have the Irish staff raise your hand for just a minute, all the Irish staff? Excellent. And who is Lorna? (Laughter.) Lorna, I’m told you’ve been here over 20 years.

PARTICIPANT: Yes.

SECRETARY CLINTON: So what did we do, take you out of grammar school? (Laughter.)

PARTICIPANT: Fifty next year. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, that’s excellent. Well, both to our locally employed staff here and our great American staff, thank you. And it’s a small enough group that I want to shake everybody’s hand. (Laughter.) I usually can’t say that. But I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas, and have a great Happy New Year. And it’s been a real honor serving with you. Thank you. (Applause.)

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Remarks to a Lunch Hosted by The Ireland Funds

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Titanic Belfast Building
Belfast, Northern Ireland
December 7, 2012

This is an absolute personal delight for me to have this opportunity to be here with so many people who I have known over so many years and who have made contributions large and small over those years to bring peace to this beautiful land. And I am very grateful to you, Karen, for putting this together and for everything you do at the Worldwide Ireland Funds. It is a great tribute to the Funds that you are exceeding your funding goals in this time of recession, because people are still so committed to doing what must be done to continue supporting the peacemakers and the decision makers here in Northern Ireland.

I could be here for a long time acknowledging people, which would be a terrible mistake on my part. But I do have to mention a few whom I see in the audience. I am honored to be joined by two men who are known for their commitment to peace and their willingness to work for it, John Hume and David Trimble. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you (inaudible).

And of course I’ve had already an excellent discussion with Peter and Martin and the more that I have the chance to be with them and work with them, the more impressed I am by their steady leadership and their very sensible, down-to-earth, practical approach to providing the peace and the peace dividend that the people of Northern Ireland so graciously deserve. They both said these incredibly nice things about me. They exceeded their quotient for eloquence by a long shot, but it means the world to me because I not only consider them colleagues, but friends. And so Peter and Martin, thank you. Thank you for what you do every day. (Applause.)

Minister Ford, Secretary Villiers, thank you as well for your contributions. And I was told that Doctor Paisley was here. (Applause.) Dr. Paisley, thank you so much for being here today. It’s just wonderful seeing you and I hope I’ll have a chance to personally greet you before I leave. I was also told Gerry Adams was here. Is Gerry here? Hi, Gerry. (Applause.) I also want to recognize Lou Susman, who has served so (inaudible) as our U.S. Ambassador. And also our Consul General, Greg, thank you for your services here. And I, too, will acknowledge and thank our former Economic Envoy Declan Kelly who has done so much to help bring more investors to the region, and I thank you for your contributions, Declan. (Applause.)

I’m sorry that Loretta cannot be here, but we send our best wishes to Loretta Brennan Glucksman and thank her for her chairmanship of the American-Ireland Fund. But it really is remarkable that for 35 years the Funds have promoted peace without taking sides, and they have been viewed as an important participant in the process of bringing people together. And I was delighted to hear that so many of the groups that I know continue to do such good work will be supported by them.

There are a number of my former interns who are here from the Ireland Funds, who I was privileged to host in my Senate office. They are extraordinary young people. I am very proud of them. And one of them I first – she first came to my attention in 1995 when she was 14 years old and she sent Bill and a deeply moving letter about the future she dreamed of for Northern Ireland. Then I knew her as a bright young intern when she came to work in my office and helping serve my constituents in New York, and apparently that experience really took because today we know her as the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Sharon Haughey. (Applause.) Sharon, why don’t you stand up? Where are you, Sharon? The next generation of leadership. There she is, way back there. Do you have your chain on – you got it? Good. (Laughter.) And I think she’s getting married later this month, so congratulations on that.

One person who is not here that I could not come to Northern Ireland and address any group without mentioning is Inez McCormack. Inez stands out amongst the extraordinary people I have met and worked with over the last 17 years. She inspired and motivated me, challenged me often, and we’re sending her our thoughts and our prayers and our best wishes as she fights a courageous battle against cancer. (Applause.)

Now, I think that we have all recognized and applauded already today the fact that the peace has proven remarkably durable, but I think it is only fair to say it is being tested, it will continue to be tested. Prison officer David Black, who was murdered last month, the police and citizens who have been assaulted, the elected officials threatened, including Naomi Long, who is here with us today – it has been a sad reminder, unfortunately, that despite how hardy the peace has been, there are still those who not only would test it but try to destroy it. And I really commend the leaders and citizens from the many groups who have condemned this violence, and of course, I join them in condemning it as well.

It’s very clear that the voices of the responsible leadership are needed more than ever to remind us all that peace comes through dialogue and debate, not violence, and we have to be strong in the face of provocation and testing that will continue. Democracy is a challenging form of self-government, but it is the best that has ever been invented by any human being, and therefore we have a lot to be both proud of and very careful to continue nurturing. And for me, it is a reminder as well that we have to continue to make sure that the promise of peace is delivered. Because the progress in a democracy can never be taken for granted, even progress so hard-won as here.

I remember very well when Bill and I came 17 years ago this month. He was the first American president ever to set foot in Northern Ireland. We stood behind a bulletproof screen to turn on Belfast’s Christmas lights in front of a vast crowd that stretched so far I could not even find the end of it in any direction. And it was a moment of such hope. And it has been that image that has kept me going through any challenges that have come across my mind when I think about what lies ahead. I said this morning in Stormont that a little girl, Catherine, who was there that night, said that her Christmas wish was that peace and love would last in Ireland forever. That is an appropriate Christmas wish for this season as well.

I also remember that there were still roadblocks, not just because the President of the United States was visiting. There were still searches for explosives as one walked into department stores. Those roadblocks are gone and the searches have ended. Many of us did a double-take when, this summer, Queen Elizabeth came for a visit and joined Martin McGuinness in that historic handshake. More and more foreign students are coming here to study at Queen’s and Ulster universities. So there still is such a sense of hope. But we know that we’re suffering in a terrible economic downturn, and I think it’s important to recognize that there has to be an economic return on peace, especially for democracies that have to deliver results for people.

And although the real credit of the progress that has been made belong to the people of Northern Ireland, those of us who have tried to help along the way, like George Mitchell or my husband and so many others, will continue to walk with you as you practice and tend to this peace. It is always a work in progress, and we have to do more to get out of the ballrooms, out of Stormont, into the communities where people live, where there yet is not that sense of lasting hope and optimism.

Now, I’ve been especially privileged to work with some of the community activists, and particularly a lot of the women, who are here with me today. I remember the late Joyce McCartan, who called herself a family feminist. I love that term, and in fact, adopted it. But what she understood was that peace had to affect families. Families had to believe that life would be better for themselves and their children. I remember meeting with Monica McWilliams and Pearl Sagar at the White House when I was First Lady, and they wanted to talk about how to grow businesses, how to convince people – especially women – to participate in the economy and the politics that was being created. So yes, we did use Vital Voices as a mechanism for bringing not only women together, but having them then reach out to others in a great chain of potential.

So there’s a lot that we can be proud of, but I want to just offer a cautionary word. Because if we do not focus on the community level – and as David Trimble said to me earlier today, on that interface – we will not have really achieved the peace that has been worked for. So I’m looking for new ideas about how to help you do just that. How can we better make an impact on those who are either indifferent or negative toward what has been achieved? How do we reach the hard-to-reach communities – the young man from a loyalist community whose father couldn’t find work and who sees his own chances for a good job slipping away, the young woman from a Republican family who’s had to give up the idea of going to university? We can be more creative and thoughtful about how we support the political leadership of Peter and Martin and other elected leaders by trying to help them from the ground up.

So my offer to you is, as I leave this current position and become a private citizen again, I want to continue working with you. I want to support you in what you are doing. And I hope that we’ll have a chance to really come to grips with some of the serious remaining problems that are still plaguing the fulfillment of our aspirations for the people of Northern Ireland. Of course I look forward to coming back and having some time just to relax and spend a few hours talking with friends and thinking about things besides public life. But I’m very serious about this offer and very serious to the Ireland Funds that I want to remain involved as a friend, an advocate, and a cheerleader for what you have already achieved.

And so as we approach another Christmas season with all that it represents – a season of hope and good tidings – let’s reach out to those who don’t yet feel that in their heart about what has been achieved by the hard work and sacrifice of so many here and so many who have come forth. And know that the greatest gift we can give to any of our fellow man or woman is the gift of peace and of love, and that’s what I want to see for the future for every child, boy and girl, here in Northern Ireland.

Thank you, and God bless you. (Applause.)

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