NOW that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Irish visit is over, and she most definitely acted as negotiator and envoy herself in Northern Ireland, as well as appointing economic envoy Declan Kelly, it is interesting to note who got this story right and who got it wrong in the preceding few months.
It was the most important story of the year for Irish America, the first ever dedicated visit to Ireland north and south by a sitting secretary of state, and it is extraordinary when you see how far off the mark many of the reports were -- except several reports in this newspaper.
Clinton spent hours negotiating with the Northern Ireland leaders, as did her economic envoy Kelly – incidentally, the only such envoy appointed to any country by this administration.
It is clear that she is taking the Irish issue very seriously, and that as long as she is secretary of state that it will be a high priority. The good work of Irish American leaders for decades with the Clintons is being rewarded.
So yes, we are taking a moment of self-congratulation here. Others got the story wrong about Clinton’s continued involvement in Ireland, perhaps because they really don't know Irish America and the influence it can still carry.
From the Irish Voice, July 22: “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to personally handle the role of peace envoy to Ireland, the Irish Voice has learned.
“Clinton is expected to visit Northern Ireland as secretary of state in early September, according to sources. She will be accompanied by the economic envoy who is expected to be named shortly.
“The decision is a major boost for Northern Ireland both in terms of visibility and personal involvement from the secretary of state.” (September, of course, turned out to be October for the official visit.)
From the Irish Echo’s Susan Geraghty, July 29: “Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is not going to be the special envoy to Northern Ireland. "She is the secretary of state, not a special envoy," State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told the Echo.
“And Secretary Clinton does not have any plans to visit Ireland in the immediate future, though she did say during the recent swearing in of U.S. ambassador Ireland, Dan Rooney, that she looked forward to going there eventually.”
From Niall Stanage, The Irish Times, August 8: The headline: “Clinton saga highlights ludicrous notions about importance of Ireland to America.” The “story”: “Hillary Clinton will not, after all, be the White House’s special envoy to Northern Ireland. The story of the U.S. secretary of state’s imminent appointment of herself to that role proved, like so much else that emanates from Irish America, to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors.”
From Denis Staunton, The Irish Times, Thursday, July 23: “United States Secretary of state Hillary Clinton has taken personal charge of the Northern Ireland brief for the Obama administration, but has yet to decide whether to take on the role of special envoy permanently. Informed sources told The Irish Times that Mrs. Clinton has no plans to visit Ireland in early September.”
From the Irish Voice, Wednesday, September 9: “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to visit Ireland in mid-October, according to sources close to the Clinton camp. And it is expected that she will be accompanied by the new economic envoy, who is expected to be named shortly.
“Sources say Clinton will use the trip as an opportunity to strongly dismiss reports that the U.S government is paying little attention to Ireland.
“Sources told the Irish Voice that Clinton has made absolutely clear her commitment to handling the Irish brief as well as her responsibilities at the State Department.
“She is expected to visit Dublin and Belfast during her visit and to discuss the state of the peace process as well as economic investment.
“She also wants to meet the Northern Ireland leaders and find out first hand what the priorities for the success of the peace process are.”