Belfast Telegraph

State papers: Ex-US President Carter mooted as potential special envoy to Northern Ireland

Role: Jimmy Carter
Role: Jimmy Carter

By Michael McHugh

Former US President Jimmy Carter was suggested for a Northern Ireland peace process role in the early 1990s.

Speculation was mounting in January 1993 that President-elect Bill Clinton would appoint a special envoy.

British Foreign Office official Jonathan Powell mentioned Mr Carter in a note disclosed in an archived British government file released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Mr Powell described how former congressman Bruce Morrison, then head of the Irish Americans for Clinton lobby group, envisaged the envoy.

Mr Powell wrote: "He (Morrison) did not envisage an Irish American filling the role.

"An Irish American like (Bill) Flynn would have too much baggage.

"He envisaged instead someone completely independent, like Jimmy Carter, or someone in the same mould but of lower profile."

Mr Carter only served one term in office as President, from 1977 to 1981.

In August 1977 he became the first President to speak on the issue of Northern Ireland.

He expressed his support for "peaceful means for finding a just solution that involves both parts of the community of Northern Ireland".

After leaving the White House, Mr Carter became a diplomat and mediator around the world.

He worked on the Middle East peace process and tried to encourage talks between North and South Korea.

In 1993 a statement from the Friends of Ireland in the US said: "On this St Patrick's Day, the Friends of Ireland in the US Congress join with Irish Americans... in calling for renewed efforts to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Northern Ireland."

In the event, former Democratic senator George Mitchell was appointed as envoy in 1995, securing a commitment to non-violence from the gunmen and ultimately becoming the architect of the Good Friday Agreement.

Successive envoys including Richard Haass and Gary Hart have helped maintain US involvement in Northern Ireland's peace process.

Mr Hart's appointment lapsed when the Obama administration left power in 2017, and the position has not been filled by President Donald Trump's team.

Influential Irish-Americans have been lobbying the Trump administration to restore the envoy post in a bid to help salvage the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

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