Tuesday 12 December 2017

Bill Clinton aides raged over 'pushy' Hume and Trimble – files

Bill Clinton with John Hume and David Trimble in 2000. Picture: AP
Bill Clinton with John Hume and David Trimble in 2000. Picture: AP

Daniel McConnell, Group Political Correspondent

SENIOR aides in the Bill Clinton White House deeply resented the access demanded by Irish politicians around the time of the Good Friday Agreement, newly-released documents reveal.

The files released by the Clinton Presidential Library, dating back to the late 1990s and seen by the Irish Independent, show that senior Clinton aides were deeply frustrated by the demands of Northern politicians including John Hume and David Trimble.


"Was the Nobel Prize not enough?" asks one memo about the former SDLP leader Mr Hume and the former Ulster Unionist leader Mr Trimble.

Most of the memos released are from the period immediately before and after the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998.

However, a significant number of documents, including briefing notes relating to meetings between President Clinton and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, remain withheld.

The large number of demands by Northern Irish politicians came in for criticism from some of Mr Clinton's most senior officials.

One Clinton administration memo, in July 2000, referred to "The insatiable desire of Northern Irish politicians for praise and recognition."

In the wake of the Good Friday Agreement being signed, Mr Clinton's European head of the National Security Council from 1997 to 1999, Lawrence Butler, wrote urging that access to President Clinton be blocked to many Northern leaders. His note to then National Security Advisor Sandy Berger urged a clamping down on access.

At the same time, a number of other European governments were complaining that they could not get access to the White House. Meanwhile, minor Irish party leaders were regularly meeting the president.

Other memos show that both Mr Hume and Mr Trimble were demanding more recognition from the White House, which drew sharp criticism from key officials.

"Was the Nobel Prize not enough? Can we do just this letter and not send letters to the others?" asked one response.

Documents show First Lady Hillary Clinton was as willing to do all she could to help the peace process. A long itinerary for a visit to Ireland had some worried that it was too lengthy for her.

But the White House note stated FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States ) "has agreed to do this in addition to attending 'common people' events with the president".

Irish Independent

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