Bill Clinton says Northern Ireland must resolve outstanding issues

Former US President Bill Clinton told people to "finish the job" on peace

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Former US President Bill Clinton has said Northern Ireland must "finish the job" and resolve the outstanding issues in its peace process.

During a speech at the Guildhall Square in Derry, he said countries around the world involved in conflict "looked to Northern Ireland for inspiration".

He also thanked former SDLP leader John Hume for his contribution to the peace process.

Mr Clinton later met Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness at Stormont, Belfast.

He then gave a lecture on leadership at a new institute being named after him at Queen's University.

"I've had an unusual and wonderful day in Northern Ireland today," Mr Clinton said during the speech.

"I had the opportunity to go to Derry earlier today. I walked across that beautiful bridge uniting the city and I asked the leaders to finish the work that still had to be done."

'Get the show on the road'

Mr Clinton told the audience in Derry's Guildhall Square that "you have to finish the job".

"There are still issues that remain unresolved in the 19 years since the ceasefire and 16 years since the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

"How that is resolved is not for me to say, it is for you."

Mr Clinton said "this town and John Hume's insistence on non-violence and the embrace of it ultimately by the other parties, notably Sinn Féin" served as an inspiration.

"We need to get the show on the road," he said.

"I implore you, for the sake of the young people and all of those who did so much for so long, like John Hume - finish the job."

Inspiration

Pointing to Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, Mr Clinton said he was struck by the Sinn Féin politician "bragging" while Stormont education minister about the work he was doing for Protestant children.

"You have inspired the world, you have to finish this," he said.

He finished his speech by saying: "I thank you for what you have done, my heart is with you always and you've given me one more day in Derry I will never forget."

Earlier, President Clinton met civic leaders in the city.

Mr Hume said he had the "greatest admiration" for the former president.

John Hume

John Hume

John Hume was one of the driving forces behind the Northern Ireland peace process.

He played a crucial role in bringing about an IRA ceasefire and creating a climate in which nationalists and unionists could forge a future together.

He was born in Derry and has a great love of his native city. His experience of discrimination and poverty drove him to help set up the Credit Union movement and to become involved in the civil rights movement.

He helped to found the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) in 1970, taking over as leader in 1979.

He worked as an MP and MEP, forging strong links for Northern Ireland, both in Europe and America.

Behind the scenes, he strove to broker the IRA ceasefire and resolve the Northern Ireland Troubles.

At times, he was criticised fiercely, both by unionists, and by people within his own party.

The Nobel Laureate said he was "deeply appreciative" for all the work President Clinton had done to help Northern Ireland.

"Bill Clinton had economic difficulties and international difficulties to deal with during his administration, yet he gave so much time to Northern Ireland and the peace process," Mr Hume said.

President Clinton was interrupted briefly by a man in the crowd who began shouting about Iraq.

Mr McGuinness said it was wonderful to see John Hume "honoured in this way".

"I think we all recognise the major role that John played with others in putting this peace process together, and I think for President Clinton to come and to walk across the peace bridge with him and Pat [Mr Hume's wife] is hugely symbolic," he said.

The former president also visited the University of Ulster's Magee campus during his visit to Londonderry.

Mr Clinton helped to launch Peacemaking In the Twenty-First Century, a new book celebrating a series of peace lectures given at the campus.

University of Ulster vice-chancellor Prof Richard Barnett said the university was "delighted to strengthen its links with President Clinton and to welcome him back to the city".

Mr Hume held the Tip O'Neill chair in peace studies at the University of Ulster from 2002 to 2009.

'Historic occasion'

The event at Queen's was one of the first engagements for the university's new vice-chancellor, Prof Patrick Johnston.

"This is a historic occasion for Queen's University Belfast," he said.

"It is also a proud moment for me as I begin my tenure as vice-chancellor and it is a landmark event in the life of Northern Ireland.

"We are honoured that President Clinton has given his name to our leadership institute and we are delighted that he has joined us in person to set the seal on that partnership."

Mr Clinton has previously described working on the Northern Ireland peace process as one of the "great honours" of his life.

His last trip to Northern Ireland was in 2010 when he outlined his ideas for building economic prosperity during a visit to Derry.

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