Clinton role in peace process

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The Independent Online
THE DECLARATION from Sinn Fein that the violence in Ireland should be over will be a welcome present for President Bill Clinton, who is about to arrive in Ireland.

At a time when the President is mired in a sex scandal at home and under attack for his administration's policies abroad, any good news would be acceptable. But Ireland is an issue into which the President has put a lot of personal effort, and which still commands his deep interest. He was keen to make another visit to Ireland after his previous successful trip, even though critics derided it as a "victory lap".

The Sinn Fein decision - which owes much to moves made over the past few years by the White House - will come as an additional boon. United States officials had said before his departure that one of the key aims of the trip to Ireland was to keep the peace process moving, and in particular to help solve the problem over the inclusion of Sinn Fein in the new Northern Ireland cabinet. That should be easier now that the IRA has renounced its violent past.

The President's decision to grant a visa to Gerry Adams in 1994 horrified British politicians and the security establishment, as well as many members of Mr Clinton's staff. But in August 1994, the IRA announced its first ceasefire, the first of a number of building blocks that have helped to end the conflict. The White House has remained involved in promoting peace.

The President and the White House have maintained the appearance of even- handedness, extending invitations to Protestant leaders. But the gamble they had taken was on Mr Adams, and his ability to change republican thinking. That gamble seems vindicated, something for which the President will probably be given little credit.