Clinton tells Dublin dinner guests that Northern peace process a template for Ukraine
City restaurant booked for private engagement with former US president
John Fitzpatrick: Organised with Denis O’Brien the dinner for Bill Clinton at Shanahan’s on St Stephen’s Green. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
Former US president Bill Clinton shared his thoughts on the crisis in Ukraine with a select dinner party in Dublin on Tuesday evening, suggesting the Northern Ireland peace process offered a template to reach a political solution.
Mr Clinton said that President Vladimir Putin saw his country as being surrounded by enemies and in Ukraine, the Russian leader was protecting his sphere of influence, whereas former president Boris Yeltsin was more strategic in international affairs.
According to sources familiar with his comments, Mr Clinton elaborated on his understanding of Russian thinking, noting the Russian people had a history of being invaded, by Napoleon in the 19th century and Nazi Germany in the 20th century, and this informed Mr Putin’s defensive position towards Russian territory and surrounding areas. The rhetoric around the Ukrainian crisis was reinforcing this view, Mr Clinton is said to have remarked.
The dinner at Shanahan’s On The Green was arranged by telecoms magnate Denis O’Brien along with the chairman of the American Ireland Fund John Fitzpatrick.
Reminiscing about his dealings with Mr Yeltsin as US president, Mr Clinton contended the former Russian leader was more pragmatic in Russia’s international relations than Mr Putin. The former US president believes, like Mr Yeltsin did, that Ukraine is a bridge between West and East rather than falling to the influence of either side. He said there needed to be an inclusive settlement in Ukraine recognising the different ethnic groups and that the Northern Ireland peace process offered a template to reach a solution.
Shanahan’s On The Green was yesterday enjoying the boost in publicity the dinner engagement brought. “Every bit helps, especially in the current climate,” said restaurant manager Martin Clegg. Mr Clinton was taken on a tour of the Oval Office Bar, which contains a collection of memorabilia honouring various US presidents with Irish ancestry. “He read all the documents and enjoyed that part of it,” Mr Clegg added.
However he turned down the opportunity to sample one of the restaurant’s signature steak dishes. Mr Clinton’s strict dietary regime – since 2009 he has cut back on his meat intake – meant he stuck to a small snack.