U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton addressed The Stormont Assembly on Monday and urged all concerned to make continuing efforts to secure long-lasting peace.
“We meet at an important time in the history of Northern Ireland,” said Clinton, who added that men and women who were once sworn enemies are working together to build a stable and prosperous future for the people they represent.
“The promise of the Good Friday and the St. Andrews Agreement has not been fully realized and is now facing a new challenge with the global economic downturn, which threatens some of the gains you have made in the past decade.”
The Former First Lady said devolution was never going to be easy "under the best of circumstances," but under the circumstances in Northern Ireland, what they had achieved was all the more noteworthy. Clinton also said that the U.S. would support, and not meddle in, affairs in the state.
“When it comes the important issue of devolution of policing and justice, that is a decision for this Assembly to make,” she said, adding that she was confident that the Assembly could get the job done.
Clinton pointed out the resilience of the people in Northern Ireland to “find a way.”
“There have been man moments in Northern Ireland’s peace journey when progress seemed difficult, when every route forward was blocked and there seemed to be nowhere to go. But you have always found a way to do what you believed was right for the people of Northern Ireland.”
While Clinton applauded the decision of some paramilitary group to decommission arms, calling it a necessary step, she called the killing of two British soldiers in March a reminder that “there are still those looking to seize any opportunity to undermine the process and destabilize the government.”
Clinton urged the Assembly not only to complete devolution, but to build up Northern Ireland to be a place where every child could fulfill their potential, pointing to the strides that the Northern Irish economy had made since the violence ended.
“Northern Ireland’s success in the competitive global economy depends on investors believing that you will do all you can to maintain political stability and public safety . . . Peace and economic stability should go hand in hand," she said.
Clinton talked of her association to Northern Ireland, from her visit with husband President Bill Clinton in 1995, when the First Couple stayed at the Europa Hotel, visited City hall and lit the Christmas tree.
Clinton spoke of the children she saw at the tree lighting ceremony, and wondered at how many of those young lives were changed or even saved by the risks taken by those in the Assembly to fight for peace. She said that the Assembly had the power to sustain that peace for generations to come.
“I pray that you will succeed, and I pledge that we will stand with you as you do the hard work of building a future of peace and prosperity for people who so richly deserve it.”