Clinton prepped to scold leaders in North if Good Friday talks failed

Former US president Bill Clinton was prepped to publicly scold the political leaders in Northern Ireland if they failed to get agreement during the talks on Good Friday 1998.

Files released by his presidential library show that on the eve of the talks, a strategy was prepared for the then president.

If successful, there was to be a communications onslaught to highlight the public and private role his administration played in bringing the peace process to the point of consensus, according to the files.

A memo in advance of the 1998 negotiations said regardless of the outcome, Mr Clinton had an important role to play once the negotiators broke up.

“If no agreement is reached before the Easter holiday, or there is a collapse in the talks, the president will need to publicly scold the leaders for failing to seize this moment in history while balancing the need to keep the process and hopes of the Irish people alive for the future,” his advisers wrote.

The limited files on the Peace Process were the fourth batch of material from the presidential archive released this year.

Elsewhere, the records show the poor opinion some officials in the Clinton administration had for politicians in the North.

One memo expressed concern that the political leaders of the republican and unionist parties expected access to the president every time they visited Washington.

Another spoke of an “insatiable desire” among the same politicians for prestige and recognition. “Was the Nobel Prize not enough,” it asked.

The files also point to the existence of many records which were not released as they are still considered too sensitive.

These include the opinions of Mr Clinton in the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement and the investment his administration was prepared to pump into Northern Ireland. All of the documents concerning the “game plan funding for Northern Ireland” remain classified. A note from Conal McFeely regarding the ex-prisioners investment fund, written in the week before the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, was also withheld. In addition, notes on phone calls between Mr Clinton and the then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, have remained private. The released information did contain some details on a planned investment of $10m which Mr Clinton was to announce during his trip to Belfast. A memo for the national security council also revealed that consideration was given to the US government providing funding towards the start-up costs of the Northern Ireland Assembly. This was suggested by senator George Mitchell but was ruled out as inappropriate.


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