Clinton pledges to work flat out for Ulster peace
Wednesday 18 March 1998
With the Irish peace talks at a crucial stage - they reconvene in Belfast on Monday for what the Government hopes will be one last concentrated sprint towards agreement by Easter - all the leading players were in United States for the holiday. As well as Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist Party leader, and Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, had all travelled to Washington. And while they had separate meetings with members of Congress on Capitol Hill, at the White House and with the press, there was little of the studied avoidance of the past.
They dined together, though on separate tables, at the British embassy St Patrick's Day lunch on Monday, and this was the first time Gerry Adams had been invited to the Washington embassy. It also marked a change of emphasis for the embassy, whose St Patrick's Day lunch was arranged in the past as a counterweight to the overwhelmingly republican tone of festivities in America. They were together again at the White House in the evening for the St Patrick's Day party.
US officials said that they hoped the contacts in Washington would help create more flexibility in advance of the Belfast talks, and there was a general air of optimism among British and Irish officials. Echoing the view of his British counterpart, Tony Blair, that agreement was "agonisingly close", Mr Ahern, told CNN that "what's been negotiated since 24 September and what is now in substantive form in various proposals is very near conclusion".
Emerging from a 45-minute meeting with Mr Clinton on Monday night, Gerry Adams also sounded optimistic, saying: "I think there is the capacity to have an agreement." He added a hope that there would be no new violence: "I think hopefully there will nothing remiss, but if there is we cannot allow that to deflect us or to shoulder us off the path that we're on."
Ms Mowlam told reporters that she knew the Easter deadline set for agreement, to enable a referendum to be held before the end of May, would be "tight and tough". But she said she believed it would be met. In the absence of agreement, however, there would be no referendum: "If all parties campaigned against it, it would be political suicide," she said.
Praising the American contribution in the approach of the next, crucial stage of talks, Ms Mowlam said "the can-do American spirit has a positive effect". Mr Clinton had already had a positive impact by "providing a united front when we face difficulties" and nudging the parties "when progress had to be made". She also held out the possibility that he might make a return visit to Northern Ireland, perhaps before a referendum. "We are not urging him," she said, "but he would be most welcome."
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
Peaches Geldof cause of death: 'Heroin addict' socialite had taken fatal dose of drug, inquest concludes
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN's human rights chief
Peaches Geldof inquest: Tragic final moments of socialite's life reveal she lied to husband about failed heroin tests
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...
£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...