Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Clinton: Gerry Adams kept the faith

Unable to attend ceremonies in Belfast marking the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Bill Clinton yesterday reminisced about his role in the process before an adoring crowd of Irish-Americans fans who had gathered in Manhattan to honor his efforts.

In a cosy upstairs room at Gallagher's Steak House, Clinton recounted his then controversial decision to grant Gerry Adams a temporary three day visa to visit New York in early 1994, a decision he made despite the vehement objections of British Prime Minister John Major.



"After that visit, Gerry Adams proceeded with good faith. And if he hadn't, I would have looked like a fool," chuckled Clinton.



Regarding the hard choices and compromises made by all sides, Clinton cited a quotation from slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who once said, " You don't make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies."



Clinton said that when he saw Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness make their historic joint trip to the US last December, he thought of Rabin.



"When Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness came here joined at the hip like Siamese Twins, I thought, 'Rabin is smiling down on us from heaven,'" said Clinton.



He also recalled meeting a more fiery Paisley in Belfast during one of his early trips.



Clinton said that, whenever he went aboard as President, he had always worry about forgetting his talking points, or even falling asleep from being jet-lagged. But when he met Mr Paisley, the ferocity of the diatribe that the anti-Agreement Paisley delivered rendered Clinton's fears totally irrelevant.



"For 20 minutes I got it with both barrels," he smiled. "I didn't have to worry about forgetting my talking points. And, as for sleep, it was not an option."



Of his first special envoy to Northern Ireland, George Mitchell, Clinton joked that the former Maine senator, being part-Irish and part Lebanese " was well prepared genetically for this. He understood the poetry, and the B.S (bull****)."



Clinton ended the night by attending a gala fundraiser at Radio City Music Hall with his wife and daughter, where Elton John gave a concert that raised $2.5m for Hillary Clinton's campaign coffers.

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