Hillary visit in doubt, but she still ‘cares deeply’ about peace
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that she plans to use the power of her office to actively assist the peace process for the foreseeable future.
Making her first public comments since speculation emerged last week that she would take the post of Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Mrs Clinton said that she has “spent many years in this — on this issue. I care deeply about the outcome”.
“I know the players. I stayed closely in touch with them when I was in the Senate so I’ve made it clear that I and my team are on call to help in any way we can, as the continuing decisions have to be made to realise the full benefits of a Northern Ireland at peace and moving toward the kind of prosperity they’re looking for,” she said.
Mrs Clinton said that the progress made since the Good Friday Agreement was forged means that the special envoy role has changed dramatically from the days when her husband first appointed George Mitchell to the post.
“The problems that the continuing efforts toward finalising the agreements in the Good Friday Accord are really up to the parties themselves, and certainly in consultation with the British Government and, to a lesser extent, the Irish government,” she said.
As such, she said that she doesn’t “see the need for someone fulltime”.
Mrs Clinton said that, despite the fact that she is overseeing special envoys to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well on-going diplomacy with India, Russia and China, “this is one that we’re going to really keep a close eye on”.
“I’ve been in consultations with representatives of the Irish government, the British Government, the Northern Ireland leadership, and we’re going to be as helpful as we can,” she said.
Asked why she wanted to be involved in Northern Ireland given the many other more pressing global issues at hand, she said: “I think that this one issue has had so much work already done that having a specific person outside of government assigned to it didn’t make, to me, as much sense as me and my team, people who work on European affairs who have the responsibility for Ireland and the UK, who are involved in a day-to-day way with furthering our goals in Europe, and myself — that we’d be the ones to take stewardship over this.”
Ironically, Mrs Clinton’s comments came hours after the Irish-Echo newspaper in New York reported that her second-in-command — Assistant Secretary of State PJ Crowley — had dismissed the idea of her being the envoy, saying “she is the Secretary of State, not a special envoy”.
In her interview with the BBC, Mrs Clinton did not address rumours that she plans to visit Northern Ireland and the Republic in September.
A State Department spokesman contacted by the Belfast Telegraph said that he could neither confirm nor deny speculation about the visit.