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15th Apr 2023

From one Presidential visit to another, Bill Clinton arrives in Belfast

Rory Fleming

Bill Clinton Belfast

Hours before incumbent President Joe Biden departed these shores, former US President Bill Clinton arrived.

Commemorations around the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement are set to continue this week, with a number of events scheduled in Belfast to mark the occasion.

One such event is a conference hosted by Queen’s University Belfast, which will see the likes of former US President Bill Clinton attend alongside his wife Hillary, who was formally appointed as the first female chancellor of the institution back in 2021.

Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern will all be in Belfast this week to commemorate the 25 anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. (Credit: Getty Images)

The Clintons arrived in Belfast on Friday evening, just a matter of hours before US President Joe Biden’s rapturous address to nearly 30,000 people in Ballina, after which he unofficially announced his 2024 Presidential campaign.

Joining Bill and Hillary Clinton at the conference will be former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and ex-US senator George Mitchell, who also played key roles in the delivering of the historic peace agreement.

Mr. Mitchell chaired the negotiations between the opposing Loyalist and Nationalist factions in 1998, with both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair agitating for peace from their positions of power as US President and UK Prime Minister respectively.

Mr. Clinton has said that he is “honoured to be back” in the North, where “against the odds, the peace has held and democracy has not lost its grip here”.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will also be in attendance in Belfast, with the one-time Fianna Fáil leader representing the Republic of Ireland during the negotiations almost 25 years ago.

Mr. Ahern will make the trip North amidst a cloud of speculation surrounding a possible Irish Presidential bid, with the 71-year-old refusing to rule out a 2025 run for Áras an Uachtaráin during his Late Late Show appearance last week.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden delivered an address at Ulster University, in which he expressed his hope that a return to power-sharing could be made possible in Northern Ireland to help bring about a stable government and economic windfall for its citizens.

President Biden addressed Ulster University on Wednesday, in which he declared his hope that the Stormont Assembly would soon return. (Credit: Getty Images)

The Stormont Assembly is yet to sit under Sinn Féin’s stewardship following their historic election victory last May, due to the DUP’s protest against post-Brexit trade agreements.

Speaking to this fact, President Biden said “As a friend, I hope it’s not too presumptuous for me to say I believe the democratic institutions established in the Good Friday Agreement remain critical for the future of Northern Ireland”.

The Democratic Party leader added “It’s a decision for you to make, not for me to make, but it seems to me that they are related”.

Sinn Féin leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill also remarked that Mr. Biden’s visit was “a special moment” and that she “is looking forward to working with his administration”.

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