Clinton has previously described her role in the Northern Ireland peace process as meeting with women’s groups to encourage them to build a political climate for peace.
Former Sen. George Mitchell, who was the lead U.S. negotiator, said Clinton’s visits were “very helpful.”
“She was especially involved in encouraging women to get involved in the peace process,” which was a “significant factor” in the agreement, Mitchell said in an interview.
But Tim Pat Coogan, an Irish historian who has written extensively on the conflict in Northern Ireland, said the first lady’s visits were not decisive in the negotiating breakthroughs in Northern Ireland.
“It was a nice thing to see her there, with the women’s groups. It helped, I suppose,” Coogan said. “But it was ancillary to the main thing. It was part of the stage effects, the optics.
“There were all kinds of peace movements, women’s movements throughout the ‘Troubles.’ But it was more about the clout of Bill Clinton,” added Coogan, who said Clinton administration decisions to grant visas to leaders of the Irish Republican Army’s political wing and appoint a U.S. negotiator were the keys to changing the political climate.
One of Clinton’s most noteworthy forays onto the foreign stage came in 1995, when she delivered a speech at the United Nations’ women’s conference in Beijing. That speech was widely noted and hailed as a bold call for women’s rights, especially because Clinton explicitly spoke out against forced abortion and other practices of the host country.
“In the years since, I have met many women from many places who tell me they were at Beijing, or had friends who were, or who were inspired by the conference to launch initiatives,” Albright wrote in her 2003 memoir.
The speech might never have happened if the first lady had not pressed for it, said one former Clinton administration official sympathetic to her candidacy who traveled with her and Albright to Beijing. The administration was conflicted about whether Hillary Clinton should go to Beijing at all because of the regime’s record on human rights.
“Yet she was determined to go and was convinced that her going would send a very strong signal of support for human rights,” said the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named. “Everyone at the end of the process almost certainly would have said, ‘How could we be so foolish to question the wisdom of the trip?'”
Still, Rice questioned whether that trip amounted to the kind of preparation for a global crisis that Clinton has claimed.
“How does going to Beijing and giving a speech show crisis management? There was no crisis. And there was nothing to manage,” Rice said.
Hillary caught padding her resume… again