Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Glamorous Dr Meghan O'Sullivan not afraid to get hands, or heels, dirty as she clambers into Twaddell protest caravan

Harvard professor Dr Meghan O'Sullivan  meets with Loyalists including Winston Irvine at Twaddell Peace Camp in North Belfast as  she and Richard Haas continue critical talks on divisive Northern Ireland issues 
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Harvard professor Dr Meghan O'Sullivan meets with Loyalists including Winston Irvine at Twaddell Peace Camp in North Belfast as she and Richard Haas continue critical talks on divisive Northern Ireland issues Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

She's no stranger to the White House's corridors of power. But yesterday Meghan O'Sullivan – vice-chair of the Haass talks – clambered in to a cramped two-berth caravan during a visit to the loyalist protest camp at Twaddell Avenue, north Belfast.

The academic, a former security adviser on Iraq and Afghanistan to US President George W Bush, met loyalists to discuss current parading tensions in the area.

Dressed in black, the glamorous American was careful where she placed her shiny black heels as she made her way through the muddy camp, the gates bedecked with Union and Ulster flags.

Flanked by a Press aide, the delegation then scurried across the road to a community centre, where more formal discussions took place.

Prior to her arrival tea, coffee and biscuits had been laid out for the visitors.

Union flag coasters were spread across the table, in case Dr O'Sullivan needed reminding why she was there.

The camp was established at the spot where Orangemen were stopped from completing a controversial parade on July 12.

They have maintained a 24-hour presence at the site on Twaddell Avenue for more than four months and have vowed not to leave until the marchers are allowed back on to the contested stretch of road along the Ardoyne shops.

So far, ongoing nightly protests have been peaceful. But given the close proximity of the rival factions, policing the camp costs in the region of £50,000 every day.

Serious rioting erupted in the area after police enforced the determination by the Parades Commission to block the return Orange Order parade on the Twelfth.

Such incidents were unlikely to have unsettled yesterday's American visitor. She has been providing advice in war zones that dwarf the Troubles for years.

Her time in Baghdad, which she left in 2007, is also remembered for risks she took to gauge opinion on the ground.

When a rocket hit a room next to hers in the al-Rashid Hotel and debris blocked her door, she climbed out onto a ledge 10 storeys up and clambered to the safety of another window.

Ms O'Sullivan has shown she's not afraid to get her hands dirty. Or her pristine heels, it seems.

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