Magazine article Newsweek International

An Irish Farewell

Magazine article Newsweek International

An Irish Farewell

Article excerpt

It's hard to blame Bill Clinton for getting a little misty-eyed. In small hamlets on the road from Dublin, hundreds of villagers turned out last week in the blustery chill to cheer and wave. When the president finally reached the border town of Dundalk, a crowd of 50,000 packed the central square as American and Irish flags billowed in the wind. "A large part of my heart will always be in Ireland for all the days of my life," Clinton said. When the crowd sang a melancholy rendition of "Danny Boy," Clinton didn't need the sheet of lyrics someone had tacked behind the podium. He sang heartily, arms around daughter Chelsea and wife Hillary, who wiped away tears. Afterwards, when fireworks lit up the skies, Clinton plunged into the crowd, seeming to want to shake every hand.

Last week's trip--which also included a stop at the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast, tea with the queen at Buckingham Palace and a shopping spree along London's Portobello Road--was more symbolic than substantive. Though Clinton continued nudging the parties along the route to peace, there was little solid progress. The new Assembly still faces collapse if three issues aren't resolved: the nature and extent of reforms to the province's police force, the pace of British military de-escalation along the Irish border and the question of how the IRA should dispose of its weapons.

If the trip was Clinton's last as president--aides haven't ruled out a quick jaunt to North Korea--it was a fitting swan song. …

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