Remarks on the Situation in Northern Ireland

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
February 5, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. Well, today is a very positive day for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has taken another important step toward a full and lasting peace. Its political leaders have agreed on a roadmap and timeline for the devolution of policing and justice powers, and they’ve taken other productive steps as well. The accord they announced today will help consolidate the hard-won gains of the past decade.

Now, this has not been an easy road. There were plenty of bumps along the way. I have been in regular contact with the parties during the past year and, especially since my trip to Belfast in October, and I know that the way forward was far from clear. So I really want to applaud all of the parties for ultimately choosing negotiations over confrontation. In finalizing this deal, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness and their teams displayed the kind of leadership that the people of Northern Ireland deserve.

I want to recognize the leadership and the patient resolve of Prime Minister Brown and Taoiseach Cowen, as well as Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward and Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin. They have resolutely focused on moving this process forward, forging common ground, and reaching an outcome that will keep Northern Ireland on the path of peace and stability.

Now, this is not the end of the journey. So far, the devolution process has enabled Northern Ireland’s leaders to enact a range of needed reforms, from health to housing to environmental safety. Now they have even greater authority, and with that authority comes greater responsibility. They must continue to lead. The people of Northern Ireland are poised to build a thriving society on this stronger foundation – a country where neighbors can live free from fear and all people have the potential to fulfill their God-given rights.

This is a dream nurtured for so long in the hearts of people across Northern Ireland. It is also a dream that lives far beyond its borders, in countries and communities where ethnic and religious conflicts persist. This latest success in Northern Ireland points the way forward – and not only for this conflict. Northern Ireland gives us hope that, despite entrenched opposition and innumerable setbacks, diligent diplomacy and committed leadership can overcome generations of suspicion and hostility.

So, now we join the world in looking to the leaders of Northern Ireland to build upon their efforts by promoting a new spirit of cooperation among all of the parties. As they do, the United States will help. Our Economic Envoy, Declan Kelly, will continue working to help Northern Ireland reap the dividends of peace, including economic growth, international investment, and other new opportunities. In the near future, Declan and I will host First Minister Robinson and Deputy First Minister McGuinness here in Washington to discuss further investment in Northern Ireland and ways to build on this agreement.

I spoke very, very late in the evening in Northern Ireland with both Sean and Micheal and congratulated them, thanked them for their efforts. I spoke early this morning with both Peter and Martin and did the same, and also pledged our continuing support for their efforts.

So today, we salute this achievement. We recognize that a new chapter of partnership among Northern Ireland’s political leadership and people can now begin. And I am confident that the people of Northern Ireland will make the most of this moment. I want to reaffirm the commitment of the United States, and my personal commitment to support them in every way we can as they continue on this very positive path into the future.

I’d be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary --


QUESTION: -- good morning.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. (Laughter.) Here comes a microphone.

QUESTION: Just a quick reaction on the charges against the 10 Americans in Haiti. And also if I may add, is the United States studying the idea of withholding recognition of the Iraqi elections in March if the 500 Sunni candidates are excluded? The reason I ask is Vice President Hashimi told a few of us State Department reporters last night that that was the case. He raised it with you and he heard that you’re studying it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, Lachlan, on the 10 American citizens detained and now charged in Haiti, we are providing consular services. We have full access to them. The American ambassador is speaking with his counterparts in the Haitian Government. Obviously, this is a matter for the Haitian judicial system. We’re going to continue to provide support, as we do in every instance like this, to American citizens who have been charged, and hope that this matter can be resolved in an expeditious way. But it is something that a sovereign nation is pursuing, based on the evidence that it presented when the charges were announced.

With respect to Iraq, we were heartened by the decision earlier this week to reverse the deletion of the 500 names from the election lists for the upcoming election. We care very deeply that this election be free and fair and viewed by – legitimate by all of the communities within Iraq and by the neighbors. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Iraqis to consolidate their democracy. We have not made any decision about reacting to events that might occur within the context of the election, but we certainly were heartened by the court decision earlier.

Yes, Bob.

QUESTION: May I follow up, Madam Secretary, on that same matter? You said no decision’s been made about how you would view the outcome of the election, but could I ask you, are you considering the option of saying in advance that you would not accept the outcome, recognize the outcome of the election if these 500 are not --

SECRETARY CLINTON: We are not actively considering any option, Bob. We are very pleased that the decision made by the Iraqis themselves opens the way for these 500 individuals to stand for election. We think that is an appropriate outcome and the Iraqis made it on their own within their own legal process. We do very much encourage all of the parties and leaders of Iraq to ensure that nothing is done which undermines the legitimacy of this election.

We see an enormous amount of political activity, which is all to the good. Iraq is now engaged in politics and people are forming coalitions and seeking votes and reaching beyond their own community to do so. That is exactly what we want to encourage. So obviously, anything that would undermine the potential legitimacy would be of concern to us.


QUESTION: Madam Secretary, on Iran, if I might, China’s foreign minister yesterday again said that Beijing thinks it’s too early to be talking about sanctions, that they need more time for diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation. I’m wondering, do you feel that we do need more time on the diplomatic side? And how important is it, do you feel, that the Security Council is unanimous going forward on sanctions? Can we move forward even if China isn’t on board?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say that we have pursued diplomatic engagement with the Iranians steadily since President Obama took office. As you know, we have always had a two-track process. We hope that our colleagues and other members of the P-5+1 across the globe recognize that because they’ve been involved in it. They have helped to enable the negotiations to go forward by joining with very strong language about what was expected from Iran.

The fact is we haven’t really seen much in the way of response. Sometimes, we see response from a part of the government that is then retracted from another part of the government. So I think our position is that we have, in good faith, engaged in diplomacy with the Iranians. We’ve always had a two-track process, and we think it is important that we move now toward looking at what pressure, what sanctions can be brought to bear on the Iranians. We’re going to continue to reach out to all of our colleagues in this effort, including, of course, China. And as the process moves forward, we’ll have more to report.

Thank you all. Enjoy the snow. (Laughter.) Take care.

PRN: 2010/149