Saturday, December 8, 2012
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called yesterday (Friday) for an end to violence which has taken place in Northern Ireland this week, following the decision of Belfast City Council to stop flying the Union Flag year round. Clinton, who was on a visit to Belfast as part of a four-day tour of Europe, said that violence "is never an acceptable response to disagreements."
At a press conference also attended by Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Clinton condemned the violence: "We have seen this week the work is not complete and I join in condemning the recent attacks," she said. She also called for all Northern Ireland parties "to confront the remaining challenge of sectarian divisions, peacefully together".
She said that even though peace in Northern Ireland was "remarkably durable", "there are still those who would try to destroy it."
Even though Clinton will be stepping down as Secretary of State next month, she pledged to continue working on the peace process in Northern Ireland, "I offer to you, as I stand down from Secretary of State, to continue working with you in developing the peace process as an advocate and cheerleader for the process and to reach out to those who are not feeling part of it."
This week's outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland followed the decision by Belfast City Council to only fly the Union Flag on certain designated days, instead of all-year round, as is currently the case. Although nationalists on the council had wanted the flag removed completely, Alliance persuaded them to vote for their compromise proposal, whereby the flag would only be flown on certain designated days per year.
Alliance MP for East Belfast Naomi Long has received death threats, which Clinton called "unacceptable". A Carrickfergus Alliance party office was set on fire and two Bangor councillors' homes were attacked.
Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill Clinton have visited Northern Ireland several times previously. Bill Clinton played a key part in convincing both sides in the conflict to agree to end the violence.
Since becoming Secretary of State in 2008, Clinton has visited over 100 countries, meaning she has visited more countries during her tenure than any other Secretary of State.
There is now speculation as to whether Clinton will launch another presidential bid, following her failed campaign in 2008, when she was beaten to the Democratic Party nomination by Barack Obama. Several international figures have said they would support her presidential candidacy, including former UK prime minister Tony Blair, and Jordanian minister Nasser Judeh. 57% of those polled in a recent survey by the Washington Post indicated that they would support Clinton's candidacy although she has denied that she is planning to run.
Clinton is now to continue her tour of Europe, which is expected to be one of her last foreign trips as Secretary of State, with visits to the Czech Republic and Belgium.
== Sources ==
"Clinton uses visit to condemn Belfast violence" — Channel 4 News, December 7, 2012
"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns recent NI violence" — BBC News Online, December 7, 2012