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Hillary Clinton: A Strong Partner for Northern Ireland

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Hillary Clinton: A Strong Partner for Northern Ireland

Today, Hillary Clinton joined with Irish-Americans at Saint Patrick's Day parades and celebrations in Scranton and Pittsburgh. Her visit came on the heels of a meeting with the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shaun Woodward, where she discussed the status of the peace process, the work of the new devolved government, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Northern Ireland.

As President, Hillary is committed to achieving lasting peace and reconciliation and to supporting the Northern Ireland government, building on her 13 years of working for peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.

"As the 10-year anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches, I salute the brave and tireless efforts of the parties to the pact, and the contributions of so many citizens to the resolution of the conflict and the achievement of peace," said Clinton. "As President, my administration will deepen and strengthen ties between the United States and Northern Ireland, and between the people of the United States and those who live on the island of Ireland."

Hillary's presidential agenda builds on her long record. She traveled to Northern Ireland seven times between 1995 and 2004, and gave what Northern Irish leader and Nobel Laureate John Hume recently described as "decisive support" to the peace process in Northern Ireland. Her work at the grassroots and behind-the-scenes helped cultivate the conditions necessary for the peace to take hold and last.

In fact, in recent days several people deeply involved in the peace process noted Hillary Clinton's contributions. For example, in a recent interview in the Irish Times, Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, said, "Senator Clinton played an important role in the peace process…I met the senator on many occasions when she was First Lady, and subsequently when she became a senator for New York State. I always found her to be extremely well informed on the issues."

In an article published this week in the Irish-American paper, Irish Voice, Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland said, "She made a huge contribution towards lifting the esteem of women in our society by the fact of seeing someone of such high office taking an interest and concern in them. I think the events in Ireland at that time were incredible and remarkable and she certainly played an important part."

As President, she will:

* Pursue vigorous diplomatic engagement. Hillary will lend her personal support and the diplomatic resources of the United States to help resolve the outstanding issues on the road to permanent peace. She will name a White House special envoy on Northern Ireland tasked with assisting her in her efforts to provide diplomatic and economic support to Northern Ireland. Hillary supports full devolution as envisioned in the Saint Andrews Agreement and believes that the transfer of policing and justice powers is a major priority and should be completed as swiftly as possible. Where old issues persist or new issues arise, she will work personally with the leaders of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Great Britain to ensure the full implementation of the tenets of the Good Friday and Saint Andrews Agreements.
* Build robust economic partnerships. Hillary believes that a thriving economy in Northern Ireland and in the bordering counties of the Republic is an important part of building a lasting peace. She is committed to a strong economic partnership between the United States and all of Ireland.
* She will continue to support the International Fund for Ireland through annual appropriations to spur economic and employment opportunities and to improve cross-border business and community ties.
* She will work with the Northern Ireland government and business leaders to explore new opportunities to attract international investment that will spur economic expansion. She will direct her Secretary of Commerce and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to determine smart strategies to promote investment in Northern Ireland, and to support a growing all-island economy. She will also encourage Northern Ireland businesses to come to the United States to invest. In addition, as a follow-up to the U.S./Northern Ireland Investment Conference, which she supports, Hillary's administration will help coordinate a summit of mayors from the United States, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to build ties and to share ideas on economic development and attracting capital.
* Hillary will also build on her work as a Senator, providing U.S. technical assistance on issues ranging from job creation to trade and agriculture policy. And she will support grassroots efforts in Northern Ireland to promote economic development and improved housing, health care, and education.
* Promote women's political and economic progress. Hillary will continue the efforts she began as First Lady - through support for Vital Voices and other initiatives - to encourage the participation of women in the political process, to promote women-owned businesses, and to continue to support women as leaders in their communities.
* Strengthen cultural ties. Hillary will return as President to Ireland and Northern Ireland to honor the strong and deep relationship between the people of the United States and the people of all of Ireland. She will continue her work on fostering a vibrant alliance between the United States, all of Ireland, and Great Britain based on our shared values and common aspirations.
* Apply lessons elsewhere. Hillary will use the lessons learned from her experience in the Northern Ireland peace process to confront situations of violence in troubled regions of the world, to bring old enemies together, and to build democracy and prosperity.
* Reform our broken immigration system. There are an estimated 50,000 undocumented Irish immigrants in the United States. Hillary believes in comprehensive and fair immigration reform that respects our immigrant heritage and honors the rule of law. She will continue to work with the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform and a wide range of other immigrant advocacy organizations to put the undocumented on a path to legalization as part of comprehensive reform, and to fix other aspects of our broken immigration system.
* Hillary's presidential agenda builds on her long record. She traveled to Northern Ireland seven times between 1995 and 2004, and gave what Northern Irish leader and Nobel Laureate John Hume recently described as "decisive support" to the peace process in Northern Ireland []. Her work at the grassroots and behind-the-scenes helped cultivate the conditions necessary for the peace to take hold and last.
* As Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, said, "Senator Clinton played an important role in the peace process…I met the senator on many occasions when she was First Lady, and subsequently when she became a senator for New York State. I always found her to be extremely well informed on the issues." [Irish Times, March 12, 2008].
* Senator George Mitchell said in an interview with CBS news, that "[s]he was helpful and supportive, very much involved in the issues, knew all of the delegates. She accompanied President Clinton on each visit he made to Northern Ireland, made several visits of her own. Her greatest focus was on encouraging women in Northern Ireland to get in and stay in the political process, the peace process. And I have said publicly many times and wrote in my book, the role of women in the peace process in Northern Ireland was significant. It did make a difference in the process, so as I said I think it was a helpful and supportive role." [CBS News Interview with Katie Couric, March 10, 2008]

As First Lady:

She held private calls and meetings with the negotiating parties on all sides and at all levels to encourage them to continue working to establish peace long after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

# John Hume: "She made countless calls and contacts, speaking to leaders and opinion makers on all sides, urging them to keep moving forward." For example, Representative Peter King recalls how she and President Clinton sat down privately with Gerry Adams to discuss decommissioning of IRA weapons. [, March 6, 2008, "A fact check on Hillary Clinton's foreign policy claims."]
# Martin McGuinness, Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland: "I met her on many occasions as First Lady and Senator from New York. She is always extremely well informed and supportive on the issue I think she is as well informed as President Clinton ever was and he was always well informed on the political situation. Whenever I spoke to Senator Clinton I was always struck by the level of her knowledge and the fact that she was surrounded by people who always took it upon themselves to give great importance to the issue." [Statement in interview with Niall O'Dowd, Irish Voice, March 11, 2008]

She played a significant role in bringing women into the process, which paid key dividends in progress toward peace.

* For example, in 1998, under the auspices of the U.S.-led Vital Voices Democracy Initiative - established by Hillary and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright the previous year - Hillary brought together 400 women in Belfast to foster their rise to prominence and leadership and to ensure that their success helped support peace.
* Senator George Mitchell: "She was very much involved in encouraging the emergence of women in the political process in Northern Ireland, which was a significant factor in ultimately getting an agreement." [The Fact Checker, The Washington Post, January 10, 2008.]
* Geraldine McAteer, Chief Executive of West Belfast Partnership Board: "As First Lady, Hillary Clinton was extremely supportive of the peace process in Northern Ireland, and in particular, of the women who live here… Through her Vital Voices Conference in September 1998, I and others were able to develop our skills for the betterment of our communities." []
* Inez McCormack, the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions: "Hillary Clinton took risks for peace in asking me and others to bring women and communities from both traditions to affirm their capacity to work for common purpose and to assert, when there was no public dialogue which supported it, that working for common purpose on the basis of mutual respect was the core of effective peace building. She used her immense influence to give women like me space to develop this work and validated it every step of the way. This approach is now taken for granted bit it wasn't then." []
* Baroness May Blood of the House of Lords, who worked for many years as a community leader in the Shankill area of West Belfast: "The First Lady sent the message that the work and influence that grassroots women were undertaking within their communities was just as important as anything else that was taking place. I witnessed her building new confidence in women at the grassroots level and their stature grew within Northern Ireland as a consequence." []

She used her spot on the world stage to inspire citizens and to challenge the leaders from the contending sides.

* In so doing, she - like her husband - gained the admiration of the people of Northern Ireland. As the Philadelphia Inquirer put it in 1998, "Northern Ireland's residents value and respect both Clintons for their contributions to the troubled province's peace process." She developed close relationships in the Republic of Ireland, where at an important moment she carried a pledge to the government of Ireland that the United States would remain a partner in the peace process. [Philadelphia Inquirer, "Hillary Clinton Talks of Peace, not of Scandal," September 3, 1998]
* At a meeting with Senator Clinton in December 2007, Martin McGuinness said, "I've known Hillary Clinton a very, very long time and we have a lot to be thankful for, for her husband's contribution, for her contribution." [Guardian, "Clinton basks in glow of Ulster's first couple," December 7, 2007.]

As Senator:

Her efforts continued long after the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. She visited the Republic of Ireland on her first trip during her Senate term, and Northern Ireland on her second trip, where she spoke with all of the major leaders in Northern Ireland.

Every year around the St. Patrick's Day celebration, Hillary has met with the Taoiseach and other party leaders from Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain. She continues to take calls from all parties to provide help behind the scenes and to keep the process moving forward. She has held meetings in her office at the request of Northern Irish officials on job creation, trade, agriculture, autism, policing, economic development - and of course reconciliation.

* In 2004, Hillary and President Clinton met with the party leaders still working on establishing lasting peace during their visit to Ireland and Northern Ireland. They met with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein; David Trimble of the UUP; Paul Murphy, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; Peter Robinson of the DUP; and Mark Durkan of the SDLP. In addition Hillary sat down with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern during her visit where she and President Clinton discussed the current issues and a plan to move forward.
* On August 26, 2004, Hillary was asked to deliver the Tip O'Neill Lecture at the University of Ulster's Magee campus on the theme of peace and reconciliation in the modern world and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. During that visit, Professor Gerry McKenna, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ulster said that, "The honorary degree marks both Senator Clinton's distinguished career as a lawyer, politician and eminent public figure and her deep commitment to peace and progress in Northern Ireland." [Irish News, "Hillary in Magee lecture," August 24, 2004]
* Hillary continues to meet with elected and party leaders since the Northern Ireland Assembly was restored on May 8, 2007. In December 2007, when Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley were in Washington, they sat down with Hillary in a private meeting and thanked her for her contribution to the peace process. As McGuinness put it, "these are wonderfully exciting times for all of us back home, not least because of the contributions made by President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton." [AP, December 7, 2007].

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