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Former US president Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton regards Good Friday agreement as his greatest foreign policy achievement says aide

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Former US president Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton considers the Northern Ireland Peace Process his greatest foreign policy achievement according to a new radio documentary.

The former US leader was one of the main architects of the Good Friday agreement and is immensely proud of his involvement according to White House aide Susan Brophy.

She makes the remarks in the radio documentary presented by Hillary Clinton’s former White House Chief of Staff Ambassador Melanne Verveer.

The BBC website reports that the Radio Ulster documentary - Christmas with the Clintons - looks back at their 1995 visit to Northern Ireland and catches up with those who the Clintons met on the day.

Brophy accompanied the President on the historic trip which followed on from an interest in Ulster politics which had developed during his time at Oxford University.

Presidential aide Brophy told the program: “I guarantee you that he considers it probably the top foreign policy achievement of his presidency which says a lot - he was a very successful President.”

Clinton visited a number of areas in Belfast and also visited Derry, Armagh and Omagh on the 1995 trip.

He famously shook hands with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams on his visit to the Falls Road, a significant gesture according to the Republican leader.
Adams told the BBC: “There had to be some signal, particularly on the back of the IRA cessation, that things had changed.

“The actual handshake on the Falls Road was resisted by the British government right up to the very hour or two before it occurred.

“My colleague Richard McCauley had a feeling they would block any photograph, so he put a photographer and arranged a video above the shop.

“They brought the President walking down the Falls Road but kept the press back, so thanks to Richard’s ingenuity, the moment wasn’t wasted.”

The Clintons also made a trip by helicopter to Derry where they met 10-year-old local boy Mark Sheridan at the City of Derry airport.

He recalled: “I was the first person President Clinton had to head for to start with. I was wearing a secret service hat which one of the guys who’d been over in one of the previous weeks had given me, and he aimed directly for me when he came out of the helicopter.

“He pointed at the hat and said ‘I wear that hat when I’m jogging’ and I was amazed at the time that this guy who was on TV every day of the week, and had such an important job in the world, would come over and speak to me.”

The Clintons rounded off their day when they switched on the Christmas lights outside Belfast City Hall.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair also comments in the program on the commitment of the Clintons to the peace process.

He said: “It was something of a mission all the way through for Bill Clinton during those days. I phoned him virtually at every point of the day and night; he immediately got what the politics was. I don’t know how many calls he made to the various leaders but you know they were crucial really.”

Jackie Redpath, from the Greater Shankill Partnership believes the Clintons still have a role in Northern Irish politics in the wake of recent flag protests.

Redpath said: “He’s needed back here because there are things he can say about what’s going on on the streets at the minute here that people might just listen to.

“I think his future involvement and that of Hillary Clinton is not only likely but is required.”

The documentary, Christmas with the Clintons, will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle on Sunday 20 January at 13:30 GMT and repeated on Thursday 24 January at 19:30 GMT. It will also be available on BBC IPlayer Radio.
 

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