Belfast Telegraph

Hillary's tribute has left me overwhelmed, says SDLP councillor Sharon

By Claire Williamson

An SDLP councillor has said she felt "completely overwhelmed" after former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid tribute to her while receiving an honorary degree in Belfast.

On Wednesday, Mrs Clinton gave an address at Queen's University, Belfast where she urged Northern Ireland's leaders to create an interim unity government in order to navigate through Brexit.

During her speech, she also paid tribute to SDLP councillor Sharon Haughey-Grimley from Co Armagh, who announced in June that she was stepping down from politics.

She came to the attention of the Clintons in 1995 as a 14-year-old schoolgirl when then US president Bill Clinton read out a letter she sent to him about wanting peace in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Clinton said on Wednesday: "She desperately wanted to believe that a better future was possible, and she wrote 'both sides have been hurt, both sides will have to forgive'." Mrs Clinton recalled how they stayed in touch and she came to work for her as an intern in her Senate office in 2003.

She spoke of her "pride" when Mrs Haughey-Grimley was elected to the Armagh City and District Council in 2005, becoming Lord Mayor in 2012-13.

Mrs Haughey-Grimley, who has three sons, said she was giving up her role as a councillor to spend more time with her family. She will remain a party activist when she completes her full council term next May.

Mrs Clinton said: "Sharon is leaving politics for now, to spend time raising children but also because she wants to see what happens, how Northern Ireland's leaders will put aside differences, work together to blunt the effects of Brexit and move forward with optimism.

"She remains hopeful, just as she was at 14, because she is convinced a better future is possible for her and for her three boys. In a way, her story is the story of this land and this remarkable journey. A child of the Troubles becomes a woman of the peace."

In response, Mrs Haughey-Grimley said she was "absolutely overwhelmed".

"I feel truly humbled by Hillary's beautiful words and it is something that I will always cherish," she said.

"I'm very fortunate to have maintained a strong relationship with the Clintons since 1995.

"They have been an incredible support and inspiration to me over the years and I am very grateful for their encouragement and friendship, which they have extended to my family also."

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