Bill Clinton Honored for Irish Peace Process; Says Hillary Helped Too

Apr 9, 2008 8:00pm

ABC News’ Sarah Amos Reports: Bill Clinton was honored at an event commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Good Friday Accord this evening at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan. Clinton thanked the crowd for the honor, but added "I got a lot more out of this than I gave. It was a joy. Every single minute."

Clinton kept his remarks short, speaking mainly about the other people involved in the Irish peace process, both directly or indirectly. He spoke in detail about the role Yitzhak Rabin played in Clinton’s decision to give Gerry Adams a visa, remembering a conversation he and Rabin had the day he shook hands with Yasser Arafat at the White House.

"I looked at him and I said ‘tell me the truth, why did you do this, why did you do this?.’ And he said ‘because there is no other way but peace. Their children deserve a safe childhood too. We have to give it to each other.’ and he said ‘ after all, you do not make peace with your friends.’ …I thought about Rabin and how he gave his life for the simple proposition that you do not make peace with your friends. They only become your friends later," Clinton told the crowd.

There was very little talk of Presidential politics, but Clinton did start his speech by remember his visit back in 1990 to the Irish Presidential forum – the same one his wife spoke at today. "I was sitting here listening to Brian talk and I was thinking about, it has now been more than 16 years, since I came early in 1990 to a late night meeting, of the Irish, which occurred again today, and another Presidential candidate which I happen to know appeared before them," chuckled Clinton, to a thunderous round of applause. Clinton also joked about a recent trip to Geradville, PA saying "I was in Geradville and I was there hunting votes, and they knew it."

During the introductions much praise was given to Clinton for the role he played in the peace process in Northern Ireland. An ample amount of thanks and praise was also give to his wife Hillary, stressing that while some recent accounts may diminish her role, the people at the event tonight knew differently.

"I appreciate what you said about Hillary," said the former President during his speech, adding "it brings to mind other people that deserve credit. I talked to Bernie Ahern about this once, I don’t think it is possible to give enough credit to the citizen’s groups, especially the women’s groups, in both communities, who worked for years and years and years to basically say, you know the people are tired of this. they want a different future, we have to take a different direction, and I am grateful to them."

Clinton also got in what some might take as a veiled mention of certain Irish politicians who didn’t remember what both Bill and Hillary Clinton had done for the Irish, while recounting a conversation between himself and Congressman Richie Neal, D-Mass.

"Richie Neal, in a totally different context, said to me, aww you know we Irish have such long memories, it has cost us so many problems over the years. Now some of our Irish politicians seem to have overcome this default. But those of us who haven’t will jog their memories. I say that only to make this point, now our children can build memories of peace. Now long memories will be turning dark nightmares into bright mornings and if I had anything to do with it, I am just grateful for the chance," said Clinton.

It was a short event seeing as Clinton is on a strict time schedule with the charity Elton John concert occurring tonight. As members of the organization came on stage to take pictures, one of the board members joking made an announcement that Clinton couldn’t stay very long because as he had some sort of concert to attend, and he was sure Clinton wouldn’t have as much fun as he was having at Gallagher’s.

Clinton of course was kept as far away from the press as possible so there was no chance to ask questions.

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