Belfast Telegraph

Clinton hopeful of progress as he meets with party leaders

By David Young

Former US president Bill Clinton has revealed that a peace building centre named in his honour and built on the site of the IRA's notorious 1987 Remembrance Day bombing will be revamped.

Since his first visit to Northern Ireland in 1995 Mr Clinton has been the most high-profile international champion of the peace process.

As he returned here yesterday, Mr Clinton held separate engagements with DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and the republican party's Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill.

The private discussions came as the two parties remain at loggerheads in negotiations to restore powersharing.

After his meeting with Mrs Foster, Mr Clinton announced a new educational initiative in her home constituency of Fermanagh.

An academic link-up involving Dublin City University, Ulster University and University of Massachusetts (UMass) will see the re-generation of the Clinton Centre in Enniskillen.

A permanent memorial to the 12 people killed in the Poppy Day massacre will be incorporated into the new-look centre.

"I think it is altogether fitting that there is going to be a monument to what happened at Enniskillen," said Mr Clinton.

"I think it is also important that this small community where a very big bad thing happened will able to launch good things for the future and I am thrilled."

Mrs Foster welcomed the initiative.

"It is a sad reality that Enniskillen is known to many across the world as a result of the 1987 bomb in the town," she said.

"I have worked with many of the survivors of that bomb.

"A permanent memorial for the victims being incorporated into the remodelled Clinton Centre will be a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives and those who still live with the scars."

At the start of his comments, the former president told the DUP leader he did not like describing her as "former" first minister and expressed hope the institutions would be back up and running soon.

"We are going to get this going again I think," he said.

After meeting with Mr Clinton elsewhere in Belfast, Mrs O'Neill said: "We had a wide-ranging discussion on a number of issues including the current difficulties facing the political process, efforts to restore the political institutions on the basis of rights and equality and the implications of Brexit."

Mr Clinton had been due to fly to Northern Ireland on Monday but the trip was postponed due to Storm Ophelia.

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