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Irish-Americans for Hillary

Posted by pocochina on March 17, 2008

So it’s all-Hill, all the time around here.  I have the obligatory Spitzer post in the works (of course now that I’ve said that I’m sure I’ll accidentally delete it somehow) but the primary keeps catching my attention.  In this case, it’s the Irish-Americans for Hillary campaign on the website.  It’s politically relevant, both in that it sheds light on international political activities of HRC when she was the First Lady and in sordid horserace terms, but Northern Ireland is also personal for me.

My dad’s family can trace our lineage back to Counties Armagh and Tyrone, which are two of the six counties making up the province of Northern Ireland.  The state of Pennsylvania contains an enormous Irish Catholic population, and while probably not as reliably liberal as their Boston counterparts, they have remained a force in state Democratic politics.

I researched Ireland and Northern Ireland for my senior papers both in high school and college, and during college, I studied in Belfast for three months.  Some of the happiest hours and days of my life were spent wandering where the streets have no name. Northern Ireland is a much safer, more peaceful place – though  its divisions are far from healed – since the Good Friday Agreement, and the peace negotiations brokered by President and First Lady Clinton and Senator George Mitchell.  I, even as a foreigner with dark hair and olive skin, was safer alone at night in Belfast than I am in my very own neighborhood.  And because of the international attention paid to the Troubles, and the palpable feeling of progress towards peace, academic Belfast has drawn scholars of tumult and peace, class and religion, security and freedom, politics and community.  It’s a place where the problems of South Africa and Israel/Palestine are felt deeply and publicly.

It’s no surprise that MP Trimble trivialized the former First Lady’s work as “a wee bit silly” even as many others* who were there attest to HRC’s important role in the peace process (including Trimble himself during the process). You see, Hillary Clinton worked with the community, and specifically with the women of the community.  Understanding of conflict in Northern Ireland is riddled with symbols of maleness.  The murals are overwhelmingly of guns, of young male martyrs, of politicians; when they are of women, they are nearly invariably evocative of the Virgin Mother.  Feminist agitation is discouraged within both communities – pro-choice Irish nationalists are accused of abandoning their Irish Catholic communities, Protestant feminists are derided as socialist republicans – and so modern women’s movements have been crucial loci of new cross-cultural communities.  Northern Irish authorities, in order to address understandable fears of law enforcement, have been experimenting with restorative justice for petty criminal acts, in which debts to society are paid by attempting to shift restoration from the state to the victim.  The community matters heavily in conflict resolution, and the peace plan of the Clinton Administration contributed to the possibility of peaceful and alternative solutions.

In the last few years, Northern Ireland has dropped largely out of the public eye, largely as a product of the increasingly peaceful life and politics there, but Senator Clinton has not given up on the province.  She continues to visit Belfast and Dublin as part of her job as a US Senator.  Her hands-on approach to conflict resolution shows that she is, and will continue to be, a voice for practical, peaceful progress in national and international issues.

*“Anyone criticizing her foreign policy involvement should look at her very active and positive approach to Northern Ireland and speak with the people of Northern Ireland who have the highest regard for her and are very grateful for her very active support for our peace process.”  Nobel Laureate John Hume.  Source

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