The United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the street violence and intimidation seen across Northern Ireland this week, sparked by a dispute over the flying of the Union flag over Belfast’s City Hall.
Loyalists, angered by this decision not to fly the Union flag all year round, set fire to an Alliance party office on Wednesday. On Thursday four men were arrested after a bomb was discovered in Derry and on Friday Alliance MP Naomi Long and Sinn Fein councillor Jim McVeigh were issued death threats.
Speaking at a news conference she held with pro-British First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy, former IRA leader Martin McGuinness, Clinton said “Peace does take sacrifice and compromise and vigilance day after day. And we’ve seen that again this week that the work is not complete, because we have seen violence break out again. And I join with both Peter and Martin and all the leaders and citizens who have condemned the recent attacks here in Belfast and around the whole area. Because look, there will always be disagreements in democratic societies…
“Violence is never an acceptable response to those disagreements, and I strongly endorse what Peter and Martin have said, that all parties need to confront the remaining challenges of sectarian division peacefully and together.”
She added “There can be no place in Northern Ireland for any violence, any of the remnants of the past need to be quickly, unequivocally condemned.”
When questioned on the threats against the lives of the Northern Ireland politicians, Clinton said “I am very distressed by the news that [Long’s] been subjected to threats, that members of the Alliance Party have had their homes and offices attacked. That’s absolutely unacceptable, and both Peter and Martin have spoken out in unmistakable terms condemning this kind of intimidation, threatening behavior.”
She continued “Democracy requires dialogue, compromise, and constant commitment by everyone to protecting the rights of everyone. And so the United States will continue to strongly support all those who stand on the side of peace and reconciliation and democracy and dialogue, and we will strongly support the work that Peter and Martin and their colleagues are doing.”
Clinton’s reason for visiting Northern Ireland was to discuss the possible economic opportunities between Northern Ireland and the United States.
Speaking on this topic she said “I think that there will be a lot of ways that we can work together to spur economic growth. Northern Ireland has a skilled workforce, world-class research institutions, an advanced telecommunications infrastructure that is essential for competing in today’s knowledge economy, and I am very keen on continuing not only in this position but in the future to be of whatever assistance I can to maintain our connection but also to work to produce results.
“The U.S.-Ireland Research and Development Partnership is working to reinvigorate science and technology cooperation among Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and the United States, and we just recently had a visit of our experts to help facilitate partnerships between our science and technology agencies, foster research networks, and try to build more economic connections between the North and the South.”
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said “There are no truer friends to this island, or our peace process, or the economic prosperity that many people enjoy as a result of the new jobs that have been provided, provided by the support given by both Bill and Hillary Clinton. So we wish you all the very best in the future. And again, our deepest thanks and appreciation for your support.
Here’s the ITV report on her visit to the North: