Clinton arrives in Derry to pay tribute to John Hume

‘I want to thank you for honouring my great friend’ for peace process role, says ex-US president

 Former US president Bill Clinton walks with former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat across Derry’s Peace Bridge today. Photograph: Paul McErlane

Former US president Bill Clinton walks with former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat across Derry’s Peace Bridge today. Photograph: Paul McErlane

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 15:04

Former US president Bill Clinton arrived in Derry today to pay tribute to Nobel Laureate John Hume for his contribution to the peace process.

Mr Clinton gave a speech this afternoon at Derry’s Guild Hall Square in support of the peace process, during which he paid special tribute to Mr Hume for helping create the conditions that led to the IRA and loyalist ceasefires of 1994 and for his work as one the chief architects of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

Mr Clinton had earlier joined the former SDLP leader and his wife Pat to walk across Derry’s new Peace Bridge over the River Foyle.

“Once more I want to thank you for honouring my great friend John Hume for all he has done and all he has meant for Derry and for the peace process,” he said to applause from the crowd.

Mr Hume said it was an “incredible honour” for Derry that Mr Clinton, who first visited the city in 1995, was once again visiting.

“I am deeply appreciative for all the work he has done to help Northern Ireland, in spite of all the difficulties during his time in the Oval Office,” he said. “Bill Clinton had economic difficulties and international difficulties to deal with during his administration, yet he gave so much time to Northern Ireland and the peace process,” he added.

“Pat and I are delighted that Bill Clinton is here in Derry, a town and its people transformed by peace and which we are all so proud of,” said Mr Hume.

Mr Clinton, a long-standing supporter of the peace process, has been a regular visitor to Derry since his first time in the city as US president in 1995. This visit is being organised by the University of Ulster.

Mr Clinton is due to pay a courtesy visit to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont this evening before delivering the inaugural William J Clinton leadership lecture at Queen’s University in Belfast. He will officially name the leadership institute at the university, which was opened by former President Mary McAleese in October 2012.

In advance of his speech at Queen’s, Mr Clinton said he was delighted to be returning to the university. “I have long tried to support economic development in Northern Ireland and believe preparing young leaders is essential to long-term prosperity. So I am happy to be associated with this institute,” he said.

The new president and vice-chancellor of Queen’s, Prof Patrick Johnston, said the college was honoured Mr Clinton was continuing his association with the university and had given his name to the new institute.

“Once again he is demonstrating his belief in Northern Ireland and its people, as he has done with such dedication and commitment in the recent past.

“Now he is giving his support to an institute that will provide our community with the leaders of the future, in business and in public life,” he added.