‘Finish the job’ of NI peace process, Clinton urges

Ex-US president says it’s not for him to detail how final issues might be solved

Former US President Bill Clinton speaks at the Guild Hall in Derry today as part of his visit to Northern Ireland.  Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Former US President Bill Clinton speaks at the Guild Hall in Derry today as part of his visit to Northern Ireland. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 21:01

Former US president Bill Clinton this afternoon urged Northern Ireland politicians and people to “finish the job” of resolving the outstanding issues of the peace process.

Mr Clinton, on a visit to Derry to honour former SDLP leader John Hume, made reference to the Haass talks aimed at dealing with the issues of parades, flags and the past.

In a speech to hundreds of people in Derry’s Guild Hall Square, Mr Clinton, who said it was his eighth or ninth visit to Northern Ireland, said it was not for him to detail how the final issues might be sorted out. The challenge was for local politicians and people.

“You have to finish the job,” he said. “There are still issues that remain unresolved after 19 years since the ceasefire and after 16 years since the Good Friday accord. How that is resolved is not for me to say, it is for you say,” he added.

“One of my fellow Americans, Richard Haass, did his best to start talks that would lead to a resolution. They haven’t yet. But the most important thing is that you finish the job, that you free yourselves of the past so that you can embrace it and be proud of it and not be imprisoned by it,” added Mr Clinton.

Mr Clinton referred to other countries and regions such as Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Colombia and the Basque region of Spain that were striving for accords similar to the peace that was achieved in the North. All were learning lessons from the Northern Ireland experience, he said. “Never underestimate the impact that this small place has had on the larger world because of that peace agreement,” he said.

During his speech, one man heckled Mr Clinton with a reference to Iraq. A small group of about four or five people also protested against his presence, with two of them displaying placards which stated, “Clinton, Bush, Obama - War Criminals” and “There’s blood on your hands Bill”.