St. Patrick’s Day celebrations spilled into March 18 for Bill Clinton, who was the guest of honor at a gathering of Irish Americans hosted by his longtime friend, hotelier John Fitzpatrick, on Saturday evening, March 18 in New York.

The Wheeltapper traditional Irish pub at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel was the setting for the party, and the 42nd president spoke fondly about his peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland which resulted in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 25 years ago.

Clinton plans on traveling to the North next month with Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, New York senator, and secretary of state who is presently the chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast.

“It was my great good fortune when George Mitchell ended his tenure as chancellor…they asked Hillary to be the next chancellor. So I get to go and take orders from her for three days, something I’m very good at, having had a lot of practice,” Clinton joked during his brief remarks before the 50 or so guests who included "CNN This Morning" co-anchor Kaitlan Collins.

Wearing a green tie given to him many years ago by the late Irish civil rights leader Paul O’Dwyer, Clinton said that he wanted to be the “first to say that sometimes I think I get too much credit for something that I worked my heart out for. There were so many of us trying to do this. And I regret that John Hume and Martin McGuinness and David Trimble and my great friend Seamus Heaney won’t be here to celebrate the 25th anniversary.

“I think it’s worth pointing out that this peace has endured in spite of a lot of political shenanigans over the years, in spite of the genuine disagreements about the unresolved issues which are there, and in spite of the government going down too many times as we all wrestle with what to do in the aftermath of Brexit,” the former president continued. 

The Windsor Framework, a plan to deal with the Northern Ireland border in the aftermath of Brexit, should be agreed to by all sides so that devolved government can resume in the North, Clinton said.

“I realize there are still some people against it but I don’t understand why given the fact I think it’s the best deal you can get. We know that there are very few perfect solutions in politics, there are very few permanent victories…but the peace in Ireland seems to be a permanent victory. No one really wants to go back to the way it was,” he added.

Making peace “is harder than people know” and often fails, said Clinton. The Irish peace process gave him “a thousand times more out of being involved…than whatever good I did. It was one of the great joys of my life and no matter how long I live, it will remain one of the deepest sources of gratitude. 

“Especially for all the friends I made, some of whom give me free drinks,” he joked as Fitzpatrick handed Clinton a freshly poured pint of Guinness. 

*This column first appeared in the March 22 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.