Belfast Telegraph

WikiLeaks analysis: US position over Northern Ireland is testament to lasting Clinton legacy

By Paul Connolly

The February 20, 2009, cable from the Belfast consulate and London and Dublin embassies, although never designed to see the light of day, is a unique insight into how the US position on Northern Ireland has evolved.

More than that, it is vivid testament that the Clinton doctrine — forged jointly by Bill and Hillary — has now survived into its third presidency.

Long gone the days of divisions, still raw in Bill Clinton’s early days, between London and Dublin when some people in both embassies were, at times, overly ‘native’ in their approach — siding with|the green in Dublin, or|pro-unionist and British in London.

In its place is a more unified, professional approach: honest broker, mediator, shoulder to cry on, soaker-up of complaints and, previously at least, big spender.

That at least, is the picture that emerges from the leaked cables. There will of course be differing strands of thought and occasional tensions that lie underneath.

It was in the Clinton era that the Americans forged an approach to the Northern Ireland issue that was united, disciplined and effective. An Irish American lobby was pow

erful in Washington at the time, and wily politicians like Tipp O’Neill and Daniel Moynihan were highly influential.

The Clintons had made promises to this lobby to step up the American role in the search for a solution in Northern Ireland. However, Clinton, who was aware of the unionist position from his days in Oxford has Ulster Scots ancestry and southern Baptist roots, knew that the politics of the province was more nuanced than the Irish American lobby believed.

It was not all plain sailing — a poisonous row between Dublin ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith and London ambassador Raymond Seitz made newspaper headlines.

Clinton and Hillary, however, quite taken with Northern Ireland, persevered. Winning the trust of unionists was seen as a critical part of becoming an honest broker in the peace process. Cables began to route direct to the White House and National Security Council (and, as the WikiLeaks cache shows, still do). The WikiLeaks cables show a US determined to advance key principles in an equitable settlement for Northern Ireland. They also show this was maintained under President Bush and continues under Hillary Clinton.

What is very clear is that Mrs Clinton remains acutely involved in Northern Ireland despite having what must be the world’s busiest in-tray.

WikiLeaks: US Embassy Cables
Click here to visit our WikiLeaks section and read more

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