Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Don't be cynical about Hillary, we're going to miss her

Hillary Clinton is this week expected to take advantage of a Dublin gathering of the Organisation for European Security and Co-Operation to make one more sojourn to Belfast to underscore her peace process devotion.

Then, as soon as a successor is confirmed by the US Senate, she'll quit the State Department's Foggy Bottom HQ for good - and one of the best friends that both sides of the Irish border ever had in Washington will no longer be available to steer US diplomatic energies towards Belfast or Dublin.

In a world where politicians often seem little more than fountains of self-serving platitudes and rhetoric, it's easy to be cynical about the likes of Hillary Clinton.

During her epic battle against Barack Obama for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2008, Hillary was lambasted from many corners for claiming a role in helping to advance the peace process..

"I went [to Northern Ireland] more than my husband did," said Clinton. "I was working to help change the atmosphere among people, because leaders alone rarely make peace."

Given the then white-hot slugfest she was having with the underdog Obama, it was hardly surprising that Clinton's detractors rushed to ridicule her claim.

But, like beauty, exaggeration may lie in the eye of the beholder. Bill Clinton's late-night telephone lobbying during the final round-the-clock negotiations that clinched the Good Friday Agreement have, to some at least, become the stuff of legend.

But the plain fact is that, while the support of the Clinton White House was an hugely influential factor, the peace process always was, and remains, a primarily home-grown affair.

Nonetheless, perhaps driven by a chip on her shoulder created by being lampooned for peace process claims, Hillary Clinton has had the satisfaction of doing more for Ireland than any of her predecessors.

The bottom line is that, during a tenure at the State Department's helm when a host of global crises demanded her attention - from the Middle East, to North Korea, Syria and elsewhere - Hillary Clinton has regularly carved out time to focus on Ireland.

Currently, the two leading candidates tipped to take over at State are America's UN ambassador, Susan Rice, and Massachusetts senator John Kerry.

Neither has been deeply involved in Irish issues, although Kerry - representing the Irish-American-laden Bay State - has a more solid grasp of Irish issues.

Republican Party opposition towards Rice has been world headlines for weeks and Barack Obama may be weighing how much political capital he wants to spend championing her cause in the face of such hostility.

However, even if Kerry eventually lands the post he's been angling for since 2008, it's unlikely that the peace process will retain the profile it has had thanks to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz