Hillary and the Irish Question

The Clintons are resisting the disclosure of a document that could help clarify the New York senator's claims that she was "instrumental" in Northern Ireland peacemaking. The document's unlikely author: Chelsea Clinton. As a Stanford University senior in 2001, the former First Daughter wrote a 150-page thesis on the subject. Her faculty adviser, Prof. Jack Rakove, has said that Chelsea spoke with her father "at some length" about the negotiations. But the Clinton camp has declined to make it public. Through Clinton aides, Chelsea has directed reporters to ask Stanford for the document. But Stanford says it doesn't have a copy in its library, and Rakove, who does have one, says that only Chelsea can give the green light. The thesis, says Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines, "was written to satisfy an academic requirement—not media curiosity."

Regardless of what Chelsea's thesis may reveal about her mother's role in the accord, some British officials remain sore at her father for one of his earliest decisions in the negotiating process. In 1994, Bill Clinton granted a U.S. visa to nationalist leader Gerry Adams at a time when the Provisional IRA, the clandestine affiliate of Adams's Sinn Fein movement, was still conducting a terrorist campaign. A source close to Britain's former prime minister Sir John Major, who asked for anonymity when discussing a sensitive matter, says Major believes that Clinton's decision "set back the peace process," though Clinton was helpful later on. Indeed, two years later, U.S. officials were red-faced when the IRA broke a truce and set off a massive bomb near London's Canary Wharf. Nancy Soderberg, a senior adviser on Ireland to Bill Clinton, said the State and Justice Departments and FBI all urged Clinton not to grant the visa because it would look like the U.S. was rewarding terrorism. But Soderberg, who initially opposed the visa, later concluded that it would hasten IRA involvement in the peace process—a judgment that she says history has vindicated.

Soderberg also said that Mrs. Clinton's involvement at the time with Ulster women's groups "really did support the peace process." Former Northern Ireland peace broker George Mitchell told NEWSWEEK that neither Hillary nor Bill sat at the peace table, as the discussions were limited to U.K. and Irish officials, and Northern Ireland politicians. But he reiterated Soderberg's view that Mrs. Clinton played a "helpful and supportive role" with Ulster women. She's still winning the Irish vote today: Clinton is slated to attend the Irish-American Presidential Forum in New York this week.