Clinton aide accuses Nothern Ireland politicians of abysmal leadership

A former aide has sparked controversy in saying that Northern Irish politicians, back some 20 years ago, displayed abysmal leadership

A former senior aide to the Bill Clinton during his time in the White House has issued a damning indictment on the state of Northern Ireland’s politicians.

Writing for the Irish Times to mark the moment, 20 years ago from the 31st August that the IRA declared its ceasefire, Nancy Soderberg, who, under Clinton, served both as his Deputy National Security Adviser then later as US Ambassador to the United Nations accuses all parties of an “abysmal abdication of leadership.”

Opening with a warning that “too many in Northern Ireland take two decades of a ceasefire for granted” she goes on to outline the role that the Clinton administration played in the peace process and the struggles it had in allowing certain members of Sinn Fein and the IRA into the United States.

Her strongest and most stark words however are left until the end, with a warning that Northern Ireland is in danger of getting stuck in the past, thereby making progress going forward much more difficult.

Looking back at the role played by Senator George Mitchell in brokering the Good Friday Agreement, Solderberg says of both unionists and republicans that “rather than spending these past years building a shared prosperity, both sides remain far too stuck in the past, making progress vulnerable and even reversible.”

Picking up on the latest efforts to resolve issues concerning the past she writes:

“Richard Haass, the chair of last autumn’s unsuccessful negotiations, has laid out proposals to help both parties get past their fixation on the injustices of the past, including a programme of historical investigation, information recovery, and thematic appraisals of patterns and practices by state and paramilitary forces.

“But the parties have failed to pick up that plan to deal with the past, and thus they are failing to get on with the future. That is an abysmal abdication of leadership.”

She continues:

“Good leaders would be able to recognise the righteousness of the other side and step forward to compromise and build a more prosperous future. Good leaders would get past the flags, parades and the legacy of the violence of the Troubles and work together to attract investment, technology, and build the best schools which are no longer segregated.

“So on this anniversary of peace, let the leaders of Northern Ireland think about the thousands of people walking the streets today who would have died had the ceasefire not taken hold in 1994. They want to live in the future, ideally a prosperous one. It’s time to get beyond the past and build a Northern Ireland that can compete and thrive in the 21st century.”

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