Clinton pledges support and cash to Dick Spring: Patrick Cockburn in Martha's Vineyard finds the president basking in success

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The Independent Online
UNDERLINING his continued involvement in bringing peace to Ireland, President Clinton yesterday broke his holiday to discuss the IRA ceasefire with Dick Spring, the Irish deputy prime minister.

During the 45-minute meeting at his Martha's Vineyard base, Mr Clinton promised to support the peace process and offered increased financial aid to unionist and nationalist communities.

But the meeting - the first Mr Clinton has had with a foreign leader since he went on holiday - also signals his wish to show the ceasefire as a foreign policy success for his administration.

Asked to specify US contributions to the ceasefire, Mr Spring mentioned the decision to give a visa to Gerry Adams to visit the US earlier in the year. 'Granting the visa to Mr Adams has proved to be a correct move' because it exposed him to American influence, Mr Spring said. There was no mention of a possible tri-partite meeting between Mr Clinton and the British and Irish leaders.

The administration, while generally supportive of the Irish government, is also being careful not to irritate Britain by too heavy an involvement in Irish affairs.

American financial aid is largely symbolic, but Mr Clinton wants to raise the US contribution to the Irish Fund, which supports projects in Northern Ireland and the Republic, from dollars 20m ( pounds 13m) a year to dollars 60m ( pounds 39m) a year over the next two years.

Mr Clinton said the US remained a 'friend of peace in Ireland and we will continue to do that'. Having taken some credit for the ceasefire the US president now has some political capital riding on its success.

Over the last year he has shown marked interest in Irish affairs - Republican administrations had almost entirely supported British policy in Northern Ireland - seeing the Irish leader, Albert Reynolds, twice and Mr Spring once since January. On the issue of the visa for Gerry Adams - and the veteran IRA man Joe Cahill last week - he overruled State Department and British objections.

Mr Spring said the US president had 'from his inauguration said he wanted to be helpful'. He also praised the US ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy-Smith, whose appointment increased Irish access in Washington.