Hillary Clinton's Troubles explosion claim is rubbished

Hillary Clinton has “bombed” again with another war story that never happened — this time in Belfast.

She said in a speech at Stormont last week on her whirlwind visit to Northern Ireland that the city’s Europa Hotel was devastated by an explosion when she first stayed there in 1995.

But the last terror strike on the landmark building was 1993 — TWO YEARS before she checked in as First Lady with President husband Bill.

Sunday Life has discovered that renovations had been completed on the hotel in January 1994 — 22 MONTHS before they stayed there.

She told a packed Assembly last Monday: “When Bill and I first came to Belfast, we stayed at the Europa Hotel ... even though then there were sections boarded up because of damage from bombs.”

However, hotel sources have confirmed there was “no way” there was a board in sight when the power couple arrived.

US Secretary of State Clinton’s latest slip-up has echoes of her blooper last year — when she said she “mis-spoke” after telling a story about dodging sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996.

Last night, one of Clinton’s spokesmen told Sunday Life there was “no comparison” between the two incidents.

He added that she had simply been trying to express a sincere “perception” of a Belfast in darker days.

Ian Kelly said from his Washington office: “I think what Secretary Clinton was trying to do was draw contrasts between contemporary Belfast, which I know has changed hugely from the Belfast of 1995.

“We not talking about the same thing [as ‘mis-speaking’ in Bosnia]. Secretary Clinton was simply contrasting.

“The place she had in her mind still had quite a bit of tension.

“That was what she was trying to note — that there has been a real change since 1995 when there was real desire for change among mothers, fathers and children.”

Yesterday, the Europa Hotel concierge who dealt with the Clintons during their 1995 stay, said he had “no memories” of any boards at the hotel then.

Martin Mulholland added: “The hotel was spotless. There had been no bombs and there was no scaffolds or wooden boards or anything like that when they came.

“The place was spotless. The only security or boards that went up were the ones put up by Bill Clinton’s secret service team.”

Our photos show Martin shaking then President Bill Clinton’s hand outside the Europa when he came for his overnight stay on November 30, 1995. Clinton’s “mis-remembrance” could have been overlooked at the height of the Troubles, when the plush Europa became the most bombed hotel in the world.

Its windows were boarded up so many times after blasts that for a while it was dubbed “Hardboard Hotel”. But the official history of the Europa — the book In The Headlines — lists the last successful bomb attack there as 1993.

A skip lorry loaded with 500-1,000lb of explosives detonated near the hotel, ripping apart a side of the Grand Opera House and leaving a gaping hole in the Europa.

By August 1993, however, it had been bought over by hotel giant the Hastings Group, who gave it the sparkling new front we know today.

It was last March when Clinton claimed she bravely dodged sniper fire in Bosnia after landing in the conflict-torn country as First Lady in 1996.

During a speech on Iraq — while battling against Barack Obama to become Democratic presidential nominee — she said: “I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get in the vehicles to get to our base.”

But her “war story” came back to haunt her when archive TV news footage had showed her walking calmly away from the plane with daughter Chelsea. Red-faced Clinton confessed after: “I did misspeak the other day. This has been a very long campaign. Last week for the first time in 12 years or so, I misspoke.”

Another blunder came last April, when Clinton told on the campaign trail how Trina Bachtel was turned away for lack of health insurance and both she and her unborn baby died.

Miss Bachtel’s grieving family, however, said the story was simply not true.

Despite the fact that Hillary mis-remembered her time living in the shadow of bombs at the Europa in 1995, she returned to stay there last week.

Her entourage took over 110 rooms and, on her visit to Stormont last Monday, she hugged Martin McGuinness and talked of how Northern Ireland had transformed.

* Source: The Belfast Telegraph