Former White House adviser Nancy Soderberg has stated that Albert Reynolds, then Irish leader, secretly showed her an IRA ceasefire statement that convinced President Clinton to agree a visa for IRA hardliner leader Joe Cahill to come to America in August 1994.
As the 20th anniversary of that historic ceasefire looms on August 31, Soderberg has also seriously criticized the parties in Northern Ireland today for not building a better shared future in the North.
Writing in the Irish Times Soderberg, who was a key adviser to Clinton on Northern Ireland, stated, “Today, too many in Northern Ireland take two decades of a ceasefire for granted. They still focus on their own sense of victimhood of the past and fail to forge a new united community that can not only solidify the peace, but even build shared prosperity. A look back at the hard-fought ceasefire may encourage some broader thinking about the responsibility of leadership to build a better shared future for the people of Northern Ireland.”
She accused current leaders in the North of an “abysmal abdication of leadership” and of being “far too stuck in the past, making progress vulnerable and even reversible.”
She noted how she had been pulled away from an August vacation to deal with the request for a visa for Joe Cahill to come to America to explain the ceasefire to hardline Republicans in the US.
“Two decades ago, I was pulled out of my brief August vacation with repeated requests for president Bill Clinton to offer a visa to one of the most notorious IRA members, Joseph Cahill. Earlier that year, Clinton had stuck his neck way out by admitting Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams into the United States, despite his visa ban for terrorism. As one of Clinton’s senior advisers, I’d argued that doing so would test whether Adams was serious in his claim to be pushing for an IRA ceasefire.
"Yet, eight long months had passed and still no ceasefire. I’d frankly given up and was thinking more about how we could squeeze Irish Americans from supporting the IRA. The last thing I was about to do was recommend another visa, especially given Cahill’s record of direct involvement in the violence.
"But the phone kept ringing. First it was repeated requests from then US ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy: 'You must let Cahill make the case to the IRA hardliners in America.' I responded, 'No Way! Let us see a ceasefire first.' She called again. Then, once I was back at my desk in the West Wing, the taoiseach Albert Reynolds was on the phone arguing for a Cahill visa. I said forget it.”
Soderberg then reveals that Reynolds pulled his trump card.
“Then the taoiseach, whose role in the peace process has been rightly widely commended following his recent death, told me something extraordinary. The IRA statement was ready to go – but to seal the deal, Cahill must be allowed to first talk to the American supporters. Then he read me the statement under the condition of complete secrecy. I was stunned.
"Rather than the usual murky and heavily caveated statements, the IRA statement clearly stated it would implement a unilateral ceasefire. President Clinton soon approved the visa. We held our breath.” Soderberg wrote.
During the Clinton Administration, Soderberg was appointed to the UN Security Council. She was foreign policy adviser to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007 and is currently running for the Florida state senate.