Belfast Telegraph

Hillary Clinton urges political leaders to stop Brexit dragging Northern Ireland back in time

Former United States First Lady and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said that she is 'deeply concerned' at the political situation in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Clinton has made numerous trips to Northern Ireland over the years in a variety of roles including as President Bill Clinton's First Lady and as President Obama's Secretary of State.

President Clinton is credited with helping to get the Good Friday Agreement over the line and he will receive the Freedom of Belfast next week as part of the agreement's 20th anniversary celebrations.

Mrs Clinton sat down with Northern Ireland news website The Detail for an interview this week to discuss the current political issues facing Northern Ireland, including Brexit..

She famously visited Belfast with President Clinton in late 1995 and said that the experience had a profound affect on her.

“Going to Belfast and then later that trip to Derry in November of 1995 was one of the most important, transformational experiences that I personally ever had in a public political context,” she said.

“You hear about what happened in the Troubles, you read about it, but going to Belfast, when there was by no means a consensus that a different path forward was possible, meeting some of the major players on both sides of the community divide, some of whom wouldn’t talk to me or shake my hand.

“Standing at the city hall in front of that huge crowd for the lighting of the Christmas tree and seeing the hopefulness and the incredible energy of people of all ages, particularly young people and young parents.

Mrs Clinton questioned what political parties could gain from the political impasse at Stormont.

“It’s a good time to be reminded that there is still work to be done, including establishing a government," the former Senator said.

“I’m deeply concerned about what is not being done in pursuit of a governing agreement. I’m discouraged that the impasse has lasted so long. And now I’m just wondering, those who refuse to come together to create a government, what is the future they expect?

“Are they hoping to just maintain a status quo where no decisions, good, bad or indifferent, are made and where some of the promise of a peace dividend will not be fulfilled? Do they honestly think that that can be a long-term strategy? I don’t.”

She said that Northern Ireland political leaders where able to overcome much bigger issues in the past than those facing the country today.

“I worked with leaders who had been in the midst of the Troubles, who found a way to co-operate. They didn’t fall in love with each other, but they were able to move beyond the implacable contempt, to try to create that better future for those children I saw that night in Belfast," Mrs Clinton said.

Mrs Clinton said that Brexit was a backwards step for Northern Ireland

“Much of what the Good Friday accords covered were border issues, people wanted to trade and travel and support each other. Nobody knows what Brexit is going to mean."

“Obviously, I don’t support it. I think it was a shortsighted and unfortunate decision that was in great measure motivated by misconceptions and myths about what was happening in the relationship with the EU," she said.

“That’s for the UK to sort out, but they better figure out what to do about the Border in order to maintain the peace. Who wants to go back to a time when it was frightening to cross the Border, it was frightening to go to the pub at night, it was frightening to walk your child to school?

“Who wants to go back to that?

“I would hope that the political leaders would find a way forward that would make it very clear we’re not going back.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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