Hillary Clinton emails reveal US diplomatic juggling on NI
Senior US aide called unionist leader ‘Empey Dumpty’ in email over 2010 political row
Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton: criticised for sending “classified” information on a private server. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
Emails released in the political storm over Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of a private email address for official business as US secretary of state show her recurring, sensitive and at times confused interest in Northern Ireland.
Thousands of emails from 2009 and 2010 have been released by the state department amid criticism that Mrs Clinton, the Democratic presidential front runner for 2016, sent “classified” top-secret information on a private server, potentially jeopardising US security.
The correspondence reveals that Mrs Clinton was kept up to speed with breaking developments in the political machinations around the devolution of power in Northern Ireland. The emails also show the struggles of her aides as they juggled relations with nationalists and unionists.
They also show the management of sensitive protocol issues by Clinton aides and offence taken by a former British secretary of state for Northern Ireland over his exclusion from a conference in Belfast.
At one point, Sidney Blumenthal, who was a long-time aide to Mrs Clinton, called then Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey “Empey Dumpty”. The comments were contained in a March 2010 email containing press clippings outlining the UUP’s opposition to the transfer of policing powers to Stormont.
Jake Sullivan, another of Mrs Clinton’s aides, advised her in December 2009 to telephone Northern Ireland’s leaders Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness but to “keep the calls at a very high level” because both will “go to the press after they speak with you”.
“You would be mostly in listening mode and wouldn’t engage substantively on the issues that are dividing them,” Mr Sullivan wrote.
In another email congratulating Mrs Clinton on her efforts in an agreement being reached on the devolution of power in 2010, Mr Blumenthal wrote: “Bravo! Brava! Issue your statement! Sid.”
In preparation for a speech around St Patrick’s Day in 2010, Mrs Clinton’s aides debated whether to include an anecdote about meeting female community leaders in the Lamplighter Cafe in Belfast during her and then US president Bill Clinton’s famous visit in 1995.
Ms Rooney apologised for including the story in a speech, saying she would let another of Mrs Clinton’s aides know the story was “off limits for at least a few years”.
In October 2010, Declan Kelly, Mrs Clinton’s then economic envoy to Northern Ireland, tried to smooth tensions with former British secretary of state for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward. He told Mr Woodward that he was being excluded from an economic conference she was hosting in Belfast because of “a number of protocol issues”.
An evidently hurt Mr Woodward, who became shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland after the British general election in 2010, accepted Mr Kelly saying that he accepted his exclusion was not for “personal” reasons.
“But I do think it’s wrong,” Mr Woodward wrote.
“The current coalition government in Britain will not always be in power and it may not even last the course,” he told Mr Kelly, a brother of Irish Labour Party deputy leader and Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly. “It seems regrettable that in such a challenging global economic environment that those of us who helped build the peace are not even invited to continue helping.”
Mr Blumenthal, including the correspondence between Mr Kelly and Mr Woodward, told Mrs Clinton in an email: “Exactly how Shaun has been shut out remains unclear.”