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Clinton Calls for More Work to Consolidate Northern Ireland Peace

Clinton Calls for More Work to Consolidate Northern Ireland Peace

07 December 2012
Clinton standing with Northern Ireland politicians (AP Images)

Secretary Clinton stands with First Minister Peter Robinson, right, and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of the Northern Ireland Government Assembly in Belfast December 7.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged the supporters of peace in Northern Ireland to be “strong in the face of provocation.”

Speaking in Belfast December 7, Clinton said the murder of a prison officer in November, recent assaults on police and citizens and threats against elected officials are “sad reminders” that there are still people trying to destroy the peace.

In 2007, a Northern Ireland unity government was elected after four decades of violence between “nationalists” who favored breaking away from the United Kingdom and joining Ireland and “unionists” who supported continued union with the British government in London.

“It’s very clear that the voices of the responsible leadership are needed more than ever to remind us all that peace comes through dialogue and debate, not violence, and we have to be strong in the face of provocation and testing that will continue,” Clinton said. “Progress in democracy can never be taken for granted.”

Clinton said there has to be “an economic return on peace,” and more work is needed to improve living conditions in the “communities where people live, where there yet is not that sense of lasting hope and optimism.”

“How can we better make an impact on those who are either indifferent or negative toward what has been achieved? How do we reach the hard-to-reach communities — the young man from a loyalist community whose father couldn’t find work and who sees his own chances for a good job slipping away, the young woman from a Republican family who’s had to give up the idea of going to university?” Clinton asked.

She called for the peace advocates to be more creative and thoughtful about how they can support the two political leaders in the Northern Ireland Government Assembly — First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

She also said women peace activists in Northern Ireland played a special role in stabilizing the region. She singled out the late Joyce McCartan, who understood that “peace had to affect families. Families had to believe that life would be better for themselves and their children.”

The secretary also mentioned Monica McWilliams and Pearl Sagar, who worked to engage women in businesses and to convince them to be a part of the new economic and political forces that were generating peace.

Clinton promised to stay engaged in the peace effort after she steps down as secretary of state in the near future.