"BUSH Views Northern Ireland as a Lesson for Peace" ran the headline in The Wall Street Journal on Monday as President George W. Bush prepared to arrive in the North. The article noted that Bush was hopeful that Northern Ireland could provide " an object lesson" for bringing peace to other trouble spots, "notably in the Middle East."
The article noted that Bush in recent months has "increasingly cited" the Northern Ireland peace process, and has asked Northern Irish leaders to provide seminars for Shia and Sunnis in Iraq as well as leaders from other places in the Middle East suffering from sectarian and ethnic conflicts.
Whatever his problems in other trouble spots around the world, Bush is entitled to share credit for what has happened in Northern Ireland. Indeed, his visit on Monday helped avoid a crisis last week when Sinn Fein were balking at going into office with new Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson because of the slow pace of negotiations on key issues such as policing control.
Bush has given equal access to all parties in Northern Ireland to the White House, and has made clear in many public statements that his administration is committed to continuing the extraordinary American involvement in the peace process that began under his predecessor Bill Clinton.
That is not empty rhetoric either. Indeed, it took Bush special envoy Paula Dobriansky's personal intervention to ensure that the new government was formed prior to Bush's visit there. It was typical of the type of hands on involvement of the Bush administration on the North.
Both of Dobriansky's predecessors, Richard Haass and Mitchell Reiss, were high-level appointments within the Bush foreign policy hierarchy, and both did excellent work in their roles at critical times.
Bush's eagerness to return to Northern Ireland on his farewell European trip is a clear acknowledgment that it is an important footnote in his legacy. While it will undoubtedly be overshadowed by other issues, he is due enormous credit for his efforts on behalf of Irish peace.
Ireland Says No
THE Irish vote to reject the Lisbon Treaty on an amended European constitution was no surprise in the end.
Truth is, most voters in Europe are suspicious of the super-state they have built over the past 40 years or so, despite the benefits that have flowed from it. The Lisbon Treaty is a case in point. No one in Ireland seemed to fully understand what it would mean, and the language contained in its amendments was convoluted to say the least.
No other country, however, gets to vote on it by referendum except Ireland, where a referendum is required on every major change. Other countries merely pass the new legislation by a vote in parliament.
Not for the first time Ireland has thrown up a major barrier to the plans of the European super-states for the future of the continent. It is hard to know if a way around the No vote can be found.
A previous treaty, known, as the Nice Treaty, was first defeated and then, after amendments, passed by the Irish electorate. Such a scenario seems the likely outcome here if the government and the main political parties can meet some of the objections raised.
No doubt, however, it is a difficult few weeks for the government as they seek to explain to their European counterparts just what went wrong.