A CLINTON administration starved for approval of its foreign policies believes that the United States deserves some credit for this week's historic truce by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
The Clinton White House has taken a more active - and implicitly less pro-British - approach to Northern Ireland diplomacy than did its Republican predecessors. By interrupting his cherished Martha's Vineyard vacation for today's scheduled meeting with Republic of Ireland Deputy Prime Minister Dick Spring, President Clinton seems to be promising that yet more US activism on Irish issues lies ahead.
``I am pleased that the United States has been able to contribute to this process of reconciliation,'' said Mr. Clinton in a statement.
The most visible example of US involvement in Northern Ireland so far has been the granting of visas. Last winter the US government allowed Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA's political wing, to visit New York and garner three days of precious international media exposure. The visit was harshly condemned by British authorities, who considered Mr. Adams the representative of murderous terrorists.
In recent days less-controversial IRA political leaders have also been granted approval to visit the US and explain the nascent peace process to the large Irish-American community.
By allowing Gerry Adams into this country Clinton ``gave him some credibility,'' says Rep. Thomas Manton (D) of New York, co-chair of a Congressional caucus on Irish affairs. ``That probably had more to do with advancing the peace process'' than anything else the US has done in years.
Last fall Congressman Manton and a number of his caucus colleagues met with National Security Adviser Anthony Lake to talk about Northern Ireland. Mr. Lake promised he would ``educate'' himself on the issue, says Manton. ``I think he had a lot to do with overruling the State Department,'' and allowing Adams into the US. Traditionally, the Democratic Party has been less pro-British than the GOP. In the part, many Democratic leaders have risen through the ranks of big-city ward politics, long a stronghold of Irish-Americans.
Some US lawmakers envision Clinton playing a large mediation role in the coming tough negotiations. US officials deny that they have made a firm promise of economic development aid for the Republic of Ireland, as Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds claims. But they reportedly indicated on background that Clinton sounded encouraging to Mr. Reynolds on the subject of aid and that a package of at least $100 million could be forthcoming.