A Time magazine article claimed that "several diplomatic sources" who worked on the Northern Ireland peace talks "say that the women's groups" with whom Hillary Clinton engaged during the process "were not nearly as pivotal to the process as Hillary's backers maintain" and that former Sen. George Mitchell was "much more involved in those efforts." But the article failed to mention that Mitchell has said that Clinton's statements regarding her role in the peace process "are generally accurate to the extent that they have been relayed to me."
A March 13 article on Time magazine's website, written by Karen Tumulty, Michael Duffy, and Massimo Calabresi, purported to "cut through the spin" regarding Sen. Hillary Clinton's statement that "she 'helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland' in the 1990s." The article claimed that "several diplomatic sources who worked on the peace talks say that the women's groups [with whom Clinton engaged] were not nearly as pivotal to the process as Hillary's backers maintain" and added: "Clinton's husband and, to an even greater extent, former Senator George Mitchell were much more involved in those efforts [the peace talks], when the eyeball-to-eyeball negotiations began." But Time failed to report that Mitchell, who served as a U.S. special envoy to Northern Ireland and chaired the talks leading up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, said in a March 10 interview with CBS' Katie Couric that he thought the statements Clinton made regarding her role in the peace process "are generally accurate to the extent that they have been relayed to me." Additionally, Mitchell, who has not endorsed a candidate for president, also said: "Her greatest focus was on encouraging women in Northern Ireland to get in and stay in the political process, the peace process. And I have said publicly many times and wrote in my book, the role of women in the peace process in Northern Ireland was significant. It did ... make a difference in the process, so as I said I think it was a helpful and supportive role."
Moreover, as Media Matters for America noted, the March 12 edition (subscription required) of The Irish Times reported that former Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume said, "I can state from first-hand experience that she played a positive role for over a decade in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland."
From Couric's March 10 interview of Mitchell:
COURIC: There has been a lot of controversy about Hillary Clinton's foreign policy credentials, and some of the claims she's made. She's talked about being active in the Good Friday Agreement, the agreement in Northern Ireland which you, of course, spearheaded. Can you describe her role in that process?
MITCHELL: She was helpful and supportive, very much involved in the issues, knew all of the delegates. She accompanied President Clinton on each visit he made to Northern Ireland, made several visits of her own. Her greatest focus was on encouraging women in Northern Ireland to get into and stay in the political process and the peace process. And I have said publicly many times and wrote in my book, the role of women in the peace process in Northern Ireland was significant. It did have a -- make a difference in the process, so as I said I think it was a helpful and supportive role.
COURIC: Her claims to be involved, then, you believe are not exaggerated?
MITCHELL: Well, I haven't seen the exact words that she has used to describe it. I've gotten a lot of calls from reporters who've told me what she said, but I think her statements are generally accurate to the extent that they've been relayed to me.
From the March 13 article at Time.com:
WHAT SHE SAYS
On the campaign trail, Clinton has claimed she "helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland" in the 1990s.
Clinton's words are very carefully chosen. She has never claimed to have actually negotiated the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which paved the way toward power-sharing in Northern Ireland. Her involvement was more about generating public and private support for peace talks in the months leading up to that agreement.
It's a key distinction. There is no question that the First Lady encouraged women from Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods to push their political leaders toward the bargaining table. She traveled to Northern Ireland twice by herself in the mid- to late 1990s and praised those who stood up for peace. She engaged in particular with a group of women peace activists who were largely cut out of the male-dominated negotiations and encouraged them to keep the pressure on.
Some of Clinton's supporters, like former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, say this pressure was instrumental in creating the atmosphere for the eventual peace agreement. But several diplomatic sources who worked on the peace talks say that the women's groups were not nearly as pivotal to the process as Hillary's backers maintain. And Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey, former First Minister of Northern Ireland, told Britain's Daily Telegraph that Clinton was not involved in the process and her claims to have played a direct role were "a wee bit silly."
Clinton's husband and, to an even greater extent, former Senator George Mitchell were much more involved in those efforts, when the eyeball-to-eyeball negotiations began. Clinton was working on the outside, said several involved in the process. "She was helpful with Vital Voices," said Jean Kennedy Smith, former ambassador to Ireland, referring to a women's organization in the country. "But as far as anything political went, there was nothing as far as I know, nothing to do with negotiations." Smith, who is supporting Obama, suggested the process was well under way by the time Clinton got involved.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Clinton played a role in hearing the concerns of Irish women left out of the peace process, and in encouraging them to put pressure on their countrymen to pursue negotiations. But that does not mean she rolled up her sleeves and conducted or led the talks that resulted in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.