Friday 24 November 2017

Henry McDonald: Beneath the hype, the North remains divided

Barack Obama will carry on the torch lit by Bill Clinton and seek to illuminate Northern Ireland as an example to other conflicts around the world
Barack Obama will carry on the torch lit by Bill Clinton and seek to illuminate Northern Ireland as an example to other conflicts around the world

Henry McDonald

BILL Clinton and his wife Hilary became such frequent tourists to Belfast from the mid-1990s onwards that they named a suite after him in the Europa, which was once, pre the Sarajevo siege, the most bombed hotel in Europe.

The saxophone-playing, cigar-sniffing, intern-chasing Democratic President's first trip to Northern Ireland, however, was to be the most groundbreaking and historically significant. At the end of November 1995, Mr Clinton came to put the seal on the peace process.

From all sides of the sectarian divide he received a rapturous welcome and enjoyed fawning local media coverage. Yet behind all the smiles, the praise of peace processors and promises of fresh US investment, many of the toxins of the Troubles had not been washed out of the North's body politic. Far from it.

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