Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: Clinton's frustration at IRA's stalling tactics

By Steven Alexander

Former US President Bill Clinton confided in Tony Blair that he was "frustrated" by the lack of republican movement in the months after the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement.

Released transcripts of talks published by the Clinton Presidential Library between the former Prime Minister and the American leader give an intriguing insight into their relationship.

On May 23, 1998 - just after the referendum in favour of the Agreement - the two leaders were jubilant. Mr Clinton told Mr Blair: "God, it's great. I'm so happy. You must be ecstatic. You turned all those undecided voters - almost 100%." Talking about Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, Mr Clinton added: "He ought to chunk (sic) in some weapons pretty soon, shouldn't he?"

But the tone turned to despair in a phone call in the wake of the Omagh bomb on 15 August 1998.

The following day, Mr Clinton told Mr Blair he was calling to tell him he was thinking about him. "What the hell happened? Who did it?" he asked the PM.

"Do you believe the person who gave the warning made a mistake or did it deliberately?"

Mr Blair replied: "The truth is, we don't know."

He added that he had visited some of the victims and families earlier. "It was pretty harrowing," he admitted.

In a later telephone call in January 1999 Mr Clinton voiced concerns during a tense period when IRA arms and violence was in the spotlight.

"I'm really worried," he said. "Gerry Adams was here not long ago and I had a firm talk with him. I am really getting kind of frustrated by them not doing anything."

In one conversation, dated July 27, 1997, Mr Blair discussed Northern Ireland with Mr Clinton as the former Labour leader had a cup of tea with Steven Spielberg at his country residence.

In May 1997, just weeks before Portadown Orangemen had their last Drumcree march on the Twelfth, the two leaders discussed the parades crisis.

Mr Clinton said: "Some of my rich yuppie friends cancelled trips to Belfast to play golf."

Later, he said: "What is the role for the DUP and Paisley? If we leave the extremes out, they can undermine the solution. I was struck by that when I met Paisley.

"I didn't get a word in edgewise for 20 minutes, but I didn't care."

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