Hillary Clinton tells Northern Ireland parties to put their quarrels aside

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has urged Northern Ireland’s politicians to “put their quarrels aside” and form an interim government.

Power-sharing government in the Province has been collapsed since January 2017 following a breakdown of relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Hillary Clinton during her address at a ceremony at Queen's University Belfast where she received an honorary degree

Hillary Clinton during her address at a ceremony at Queen's University Belfast where she received an honorary degree

Several rounds of talks aimed at restoring the institutions have failed.

Mrs Clinton has now urged that an interim government be formed to steer Northern Ireland through the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The former US presidential candidate made the call to a high-powered audience which included former first minister Peter Robinson and Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill.

“The policy disagreements dividing your political parties are deeply felt but the stakes of the Brexit process go way beyond politics as usual,” she said.

“I wonder if would it be possible for the people of Northern Ireland and those who represent them both in Westminster and here could figure out a way to form an interim community government for the purposes of securing the best possible Brexit outcome for Northern Ireland.

“Back in 2016, Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness wrote a joint letter to Prime Minister May about their Brexit priorities and concerns, that’s a long time ago in political years but a similarly unified voice could be valuable in the difficult days ahead.

“Imagine a functional Executive that speaks for all the people of Northern Ireland, weighing in on the final negotiations and implementation of whatever plan emerges.

“Imagine an Executive reassuring companies and investors already skittish about Brexit, sending a clear message that no matter what happens, Northern Ireland is open for business.”

The former US presidential candidate was at the Queen’s University, Belfast to receive an honorary degree.

Mrs Clinton first visited Northern Ireland in 1995 at a crucial time for the peace process.

She accompanied husband Bill Clinton as he became the first serving US president to visit Northern Ireland and they were greeted by huge crowds of well-wishers.

They switched on the Christmas lights in Belfast during a hugely symbolic visit. More than two decades on, Ms Clinton said the world was still looking to Northern Ireland for hope.

“The world is watching, Northern Ireland has been a symbol to people everywhere, democracy’s power to transcend divisions and deliver prosperity, peace and progress,” she said.

“We need that, that symbol, that reality now more than ever.”

Earlier in the ceremony, Ms Clinton welcomed a new scholarship in her name which was announced by Queen’s Pro Vice Chancellor Adrienne Scullion.

The Hillary Rodham Clinton scholarship will be available for post-graduate study in politics, human rights and peace building.

A small number of protestors, including People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, gathered outside the university’s grounds. Some of the protestors carried placards reading, “no honours for war criminals”.