Clinton urges North to stay on peace path

Former US President Bill Clinton today urged Northern Ireland not to be discouraged from the path of peace by the recent violence in Belfast.

Former US President Bill Clinton today urged Northern Ireland not to be discouraged from the path of peace by the recent violence in Belfast.

During a visit to Enniskillen - scene of a Remembrance Sunday bomb atrocity - Mr Clinton said the sporadic violence and rioting should be seen in a proper context.

He said: ‘‘It is the last gasp of an old order and old habits die hard.

‘‘My message to you is: you should not be too discouraged.’’

He said those who wanted a new future ‘‘must be determined to stand against it and do what you can to bring it to an end’’.

Mr Clinton was opening a new peace centre in Enniskillen bearing his name.

The centre is on the spot where the IRA bomb exploded on Remembrance Sunday 1987 as crowds gathered at the cenotaph.

Eleven died and 63 were injured. A 12th victim, Ronnie Hill, died 13 years later after never regaining consciousness.

He said the new building was a celebration of peace. It was in his name because it could not be named after all those for whom it should be named - ‘‘all the people of Northern Ireland who fought for peace, often through their own tears and sorrow.’’

Mr Clinton told the people of Northern Ireland: ‘‘Never underestimate the importance of the successful peace in Northern Ireland on the troubled parts of the world.

‘‘You should see what is going on in Northern Ireland as a microcosm of the struggle the world has to undertake in the first few decades of the 21st century.

‘‘What you have done here is a microcosm of the work the world has to do.’’

He said people’s suspicions could be broken down and overcome through leadership. People could be taught to overcome their fears and be proud of their traditions and their community within a larger community.

There had been grievous loss in Enniskillen, he said, but the new centre could be ‘‘a shining beacon to the world’’ and he wanted to give his assistance.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan described Mr Clinton as a truly good friend to all the people of the island of Ireland.

He said on previous visits Mr Clinton had found the peace process ‘‘at times like a critically ill patient’’.

But he said the North had come a long way.

‘‘We still have some distance to travel, our peace is marred by street violence and dangerous community tensions as we see in Belfast in recent days.’’

Mr Durkan added: ‘‘We must bring peace to the people. It is not enough to have shared political institutions, we must also have shared streets.

‘‘We must not let street violence destabilise the political process.

‘‘Hotheads on the streets must be met by cool heads in our institutions.’’

Some of the victims of the bombing were present for the dedication of the new building and the plaque unveiling by Mr Clinton.

Mr Durkan said to them it was a difficult day of ‘‘hope mixed with profound sorrow’’.

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