Former U.S. President Bill Clinton says he’s optimistic that one of Northern Ireland’s main political parties will soon end a boycott that has kept the regional government on ice for more than a year
BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday he was optimistic that one of Northern Ireland’s main political parties would soon end a boycott that has kept the regional government on ice for more than a year.
Clinton said he had met with Democratic Unionist Party leader Jeffrey Donaldson on Monday, and “I left that meeting more optimistic than I entered it.”
Clinton is in Belfast this week to mark 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement ended decades of sectarian bloodshed. The deal established a Northern Ireland government with power shared between British unionist and Irish nationalist parties.
The DUP walked out more than a year ago to protest post-Brexit trade rules that imposed a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. It has refused to return, despite a deal reached by the U.K. and the EU in February to remove many of the border checks.
Clinton said the deal, known as the Windsor Framework, had gone a long way to resolving the political impasse.
“So I expect that, in the not too distant future, the barriers to bringing up the government again will be removed,” he told the BBC. “Because everybody knows that economically, socially and politically, they would be worse off if they packed it in over the current level of disagreement.”
U.K. Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris also urged the DUP to go back into government, saying those who valued Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom should “put the union first, restore the devolved institutions and get on with the job of delivering for the people of Northern Ireland.”
“The biggest threat to Northern Ireland’s place in the union is failing to deliver on these priorities,” he told a Good Friday Agreement commemoration conference in Belfast.