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Interview With Former U.S. President Bill Clinton; Interview With Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Interview With Former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern; Interview With Clint Smith. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired April 17, 2023 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, and welcome to AMANPOUR. Here's what's coming up.
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BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I think we were all privileged to be where we were when we were and privileged to do our part to get this
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AMANPOUR: A historic reunion to celebrate a historic peace agreement. My exclusive interview with the 1998 Northern Ireland peacemakers. U.S.
President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Irish Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My children have never grown up in a normal society.
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AMANPOUR: Why the people chose piece by a historic margin. From the archive, my report on the families who decided a quarter century ago.
Also, ahead --
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This thing that shows you the parts of yourself that you are proud of? And also, the thing that shows you the parts of yourself
that you're not so proud of.
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AMANPOUR: The poetry of parenthood. Writer Clint Smith talks to Michel Martin about his new collection of works inspired by his children.
Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour at Queens University in Belfast with the principal peacemakers who ended the war here
in Northern Ireland 25 years ago. During the so-called Troubles, more than 3,500 people were killed, most of them civilians. 50,000 were injured as
acts of terror, traumatized generations.
Ultimately. it was a clutch of leaders, local and global, who took a chance and risk it all on peace. Catholic nationalist leader, John Hume, and the
protestant unions, David Trimble, cross that bridge together. And in time, they shared a Nobel Peace Prize.
Now, despite serious flaws, the enduring success has made the agreement a bit of a model for peace negotiations around the world. And the peace
brokers, Bill Clinton, president of the United States, the Irish premier, Bertie Ahern, and Tony Blair, the British prime minister, join me here for
their first joint interview on what it took, and the hard choices for peace all those years ago. And here is that exclusive conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Welcome, President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Ahern. We're calling this the reunion of the peacemakers, and I just wonder
just to start with reflections. First with you, Mr. President, of just what it means for you to be together, to be here 25 years later with all the
BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I think we were all privileged to be where we were when we were, and privilege to do our part to get this
done. They actually had to sign the agreement. You know, I was just cheerleader, sort of, and gave them to George Mitchell, which was the gift
of a generation. So, I think we're proud. I hope we are.
AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Blair, this was something that wrecked many British governments before yours.
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: But I was lucky in having a group of people in Northern Ireland, leaders who are prepared to lead and
do difficult things. I had an Irish Taoiseach, an Irish prime minister that had -- you know, we were coming to the end of the 20th century, and you
needed people with a kind of 21st century mentality of the world, and he had that.
And then, President Clinton was saying that he was a cheerleader, but he was actually much more than that. He was also an intervener at crucial
points in the negotiation. So, we were lucky. It was just one of -- like it's one of these things. You think -- I think it's -- it was a combination
of circumstances, but the individual leadership of people at that particular moment was crucial in delivering it.
AMANPOUR: And, Prime Minister Ahern, was it that mostly the alignment of the stars, so to speak, in terms of leadership? Was it also about the
people on the ground?
BERTIE AHERN, FORMER IRISH PRIME MINISTER: Yes. The parties and people on the ground both, I think from our point of view, and to have the president
United States being genuinely interested and Bill to give time and to stay up at night, I mean, we're -- you know, we are a small country and, you
know, the things you don't expect. And I was just so lucky that Tony and I got on so well. He gave us an enormous amount of time.
I know you have a 100 other items on this list and, you know, I realized that every prime minister is busy, but when I looked at my agenda against
his agenda, and he was prepared to come here, spend days here weeks here, hours and, you know, time and time again. And people talk about 1998, but
we went down to 2007 and the same commitment you gave, Tony, and that was an extraordinary commitment.
AMANPOUR: Can I ask the origin story? So, President Clinton, even in your campaign, you know, before the '92 election, you talked about this, to
Irish Americans. You said you would put all your abilities behind trying to get peace. Why? Why did it matter so much, even in '92?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I was a student at Oxford when The Troubles began. I remember what a big story it was when Bernadette Devlin was
elected to parliament. And I remembered -- and I went to Ireland a couple of times while I was a student, and I saw both happiness and the sorrow.
And I always felt when I started talking to Irish Americans when I was running for president that we can make a positive difference if we were
fair to both sides.
And I knew that to do that, we'd have to do something that -- the side that was then prevailing would think was unfair, which was to get involved,
because the -- our whole diplomacy was built around our special relationship with the U.K., which included staying away from Ireland. And
even when President Kennedy came here, he didn't talk about Northern Ireland and no president ever spent the night in Northern Ireland until I
did, stayed in the Europa on purpose because it had been bombed so much.
And so, I give a lot of credit to the Irish Americans that urged me to do it and to the people in my national security council, especially Nancy
Soderberg, who is here today, and who worked this issue for me. Who said, you know, you might not have a lot of experience in foreign policy, but
your instincts are right on this, stay.
And so, we took the heat. And even the British ambassador, then-admiral Crowe, had been chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under President
Reagan and stunned the world, including me, when he endorsed me for president and he called me and he said, you gave me this great job, and now
you're making it impossible for me to do it. I said no, Admiral, you're going to be more important than ever. This is a good thing.
AMANPOUR: So, you're U.S. ambassador had his marching orders from you. Prime Minister Blair, here you are. You have come in as a labor prime
minister for the first time in a generation and you have an overwhelming mandate and you start by doing this. I mean, it's -- you were elected in
'97. The negotiations started in '97. Why? Why was it so important to you to put that much political capital?
BLAIR: Yes. I think -- I mean, there was a personal reason, actually, to a degree, rather like the president. I mean, my family, on my mother's side,
come from Donegal. I'd grown up with a very clear understanding of The Troubles. And, you know, you would wait literally every morning in the
1970s and 1980s, 1990s, to use on the U.K. media of acts of terrorism and destruction, death -- story -- tragic stories of the families of the
victims of The Troubles.
So, it was all -- it was part of my own personal history. But I also thought, you know, John Major, who would be my predecessor as prime
minister had tried and got somewhere, there was some stirring you could see, some possibility, even though the thing had broken down by the time we
came to office, and I thought -- I mean, I've often wondered whether it was just because it was straight into government and maybe the -- you know, you
had this feeling that everything was possible. And so, you're prepared to give what most people thought was impossible about.
So, what -- for all of those reasons, the first speech I made as prime minister was here in Northern Ireland. And then, you know, we -- once we
decided to work on it, we put a lot into it.
AMANPOUR: And Prime Minister Ahern, you also became prime minister the same year as Prime Minister Blair. And I mean, did you feel that there was
a fatigue? Did you feel that -- I mean, it said that the IRA, well, either persuaded or figured out that they could no longer kill, maim and terrorize
their way to a United Ireland. What do you think and made you put all your chips on the table as well?
AHERN: Well, I think the conflict would have went on and -- if we didn't put in the effort, the IRA, we're not going to be beaten and we're not
going to win, and that -- but that had been clear for a long way back. And I think the British army -- like at one stage, there was 80,000 -- Northern
Ireland is a small place, but we're at 80,000 security between army, police, reserves. So, it was an enormous security operation. So, everyone
was just taken on.
But I think, you know, there did come an opportunity to new governments coming in, support of the president, the parties beginning to listen. I
think when, you know, Tony Blair, as prime minister, went to Balmoral Show and set out his position, that gave us an opportunity to get the IRA to go
back into ceasefire again.
And then, I mean, the big risk I think we talked was to start the talks with the part of paramilitaries or those that represented them because,
just quickly, the history is The Trouble start in the '60s, there was one effort in '74. The next effort was until '85. The next effort was until
'98. And if we fail, it was another decade. So, I think there was that opportunity is -- and if we did not do what we did '98, the vines would
have continued. So, that was -- I think we realize we have to give it a go, and lucky enough that, you know, we had the British prime minister for the
first time in decades was prepared to put huge political capital.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, I'm really interested in what Prime Minister Ahern says about the paramilitaries and the IRA. Prime minister's chief
negotiator, Jonathan Powell, and others have said that, you know, for a long time the Americans played a very destructive role. They gave visas to
Irish fundraisers for the IRA. They allowed weapons to be sent to the IRA. Your courts provided safe haven to IRA people who were fleeing, you know,
the law over here.
So, comment on that and about -- and I guess did that then give you credibility with them? We've helped you for so long, now, we can ask you to
come to the peace table?
CLINTON: Yes. But only because I also took on some very strong people in the Irish American community who were convinced that terror was basically
the end of those who were engaging in it. And were also more tolerant of the unionist paramilitary groups.
So, the fact that there was all this turmoil, I think, gave us a chance. And we started with the visa for Adams.
AMANPOUR: Gerry Adams. Sinn Fein.
CLINTON: But it was organized. There were seven Irish American groups that were very interested, and they were mostly pro republican. They were
mostly. But they were anti-violence. So, one of them we arranged asked Gerry to come give a speech. And the visa I gave him was for two days on
the promise that not one penny would be raised, even for Sinn Fein, no money. And it was seen as a balanced move to break the ice.
And I think, frankly, we all have to give a lot of credit to the people here, because they were sick of it. They were tired of dying. They were
tired of the uncertainty. They were tired of the poverty that attended constant violence. They were tired of it all. And it created an opportunity
for these two guys who were willing to take the risks to move us towards where we went. And the fact that all the parties were included in the
negotiations, which was quite taxing on both of them. I can tell you from time to time in different ways. That made a difference. Then, I think,
George Mitchell made a difference.
AMANPOUR: George Mitchell has said -- I can't remember the figures, but it was -- I know hundreds and hundreds of hours and days of negotiations that
finally led to yes, but it may have gone the other way. Can you recount and reflect on how difficult actually? I mean, it sounds like, you know,
everybody is ready to do it, but actually, it was very difficult to get the Good Friday Agreement.
BLAIR: Yes. It was very difficult. Being a one vital thing that I think helped was not just things we've been talking about the last few minutes,
but also, if you're going to make a peace process where you've got to be prepared to talk to everyone, right, and I remember when we first -- when I
became the first British prime minister actually to sit down with the Sinn Fein people. And, you know, this was, you know, horribly controversial at
the time when people thought you're going to -- Gerry Adams have been prevented -- there was a law in the U.K. that prevented him appearing on
AMANPOUR: Even his voice.
BLAIR: Even his voice, right.
CLINTON: Even his voice.
BLAIR: And I don't think we could have got this off the ground if we hadn't been prepared to talk to everyone. And then, there really is this
thing about the people being prepared to act in a way that isn't politically conventional.
So, 30 years, the Irish Taoiseach -- I mean, he could have stuck in a fairly traditional Irish position on everything, but he didn't. And that --
we each kind of liberated each other. So -- and then, when it comes back to what you and President Clinton we're just talking about, it became easier
for him to intervene constructively when it looked like everyone was being involved, and there was a seat at the table for everyone.
And then, Mowlam moves at that time, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, actually visited loyalist prisoners who are from the other side
engaged in terrorist activity. And that again was something that a lot of people -- you know, they really recoiled from, but I don't -- the whole
point about a peace process, you're never going to get anywhere unless everyone is prepared to take risks for peace.
And you either spend your political capital or you hoard it. And for all sorts of various reasons people decided to spend it. And I think for those
politicians in Northern Ireland who, after all, we're the ones that had to take the most difficult decisions, those are the people here. I think they
were exhausted. But they also -- there was something about the moment and the circumstances that made everyone think, OK, come on, you know, we're
approaching a new millennium, we're really going to carry on with people killing and fighting each other in a European country in the 21st century?
There was that as well, that kind of feeling that change had to come and then, with the people who are prepared to be agents of that change.
AMANPOUR: So, 25 years later, indisputably, this is a success, which everybody involved is so happy about, and you're celebrating and it's an
amazing thing. The war is over. But again, your negotiator, Jonathan Powell, has said, and like many have observed, that the problem with peace
agreements is that it stops the war, but sometimes it doesn't deal with all the other problems. So, problems that people want, you know, health,
education, poverty, employment, all of that.
I wonder if you can reflect on the fact that there's not even a functioning parliament assembly here right now. It's gone back and forth, back and
forth. And many of the new politicians say it's not fit for purpose anymore because the Good Friday Agreement baked in that it had to be nationalists
and unionists who shared power, and not what seems to be have grown up in the middle, which is, you know, more moderate neither one nor the other.
AHERN: I don't think there's anything wrong with the fundamentals of the agreement, it was based on an inclusive process, as Tony has just
explained, of bringing every party in. And it was based on a comprehensive list of items. So, everything was included, all the issues that have been
resolved. When it came to the institution, setting up the executive, the only way you could do that was giving everybody a say because otherwise it
wasn't going to work.
AHERN: Now, 25 years on, you can argue, I think fairly, that there should be some changes in the mechanisms of that, and that's not a problem. I
mean, we had a review. We have to sit down in 2006. We've only had one review in 25 years, which is amazing, and that was in St. Andrews, and we
successfully got in the DUP at that stage. They weren't in at the start.
So, I think, you know, maybe there's some changes that are needed. But first of all, we need to get the institutions up now and then have a look
to see if there's something --
AMANPOUR: Yes. But I'm actually --
AHERN: But not changing fundamentals --
AMANPOUR: No, no. But the institution, Stormont. I think you've said that, you know, they need to come to their senses, the parties, we need to stop
this, stop -- start stuff the whole time. Each side can torpedo it. I mean, for almost half of the time it's been British rule here and not local rule.
AHERN: Yes. And in fairness to the British rule and the civil servants have done a very good job keeping it going. It's not the right way of doing
it. But I think what's important now is that the local politicians listen to their own people who are saying, we have health issues, we have
infrastructural issues and we have education issues, the issues of integrated education, all kinds of problems, and there's nobody dealing
with it. So, I think it's really the local politicians to resolve this.
But I should say, there's only one party outside of that, and we're not trying to force them, we're trying to encourage them to join in the change
position. Hopefully, they'll do that shortly.
AMANPOUR: And I want to ask you also about another thing, because, you know, again, many have commented that the "political vandalism of Brexit"
has brought the back, the poison of identity into politics here to the -- you know, to the -- not the exclusion, but, you know, to the diminishment
of other issues. Are you worried, President Clinton, that identity will, you know, put its horrible roots back in amongst the parties in the system
CLINTON: Worried, I think, would be the wrong word. But I think we have to face the fact that even with the government going down, Northern Ireland
looks pretty good compared to a lot of other formerly purely democratic countries in the world. I mean, this identity thing swept the world at the
end of the Cold War, took a few years to get going. We -- it's selfish, but I think Tony and Bertie and I and a lot of others, we did a pretty good job
with the whole European continent trying to keep people working together at the end of the Cold War.
But it did strip the -- sort of the near off of longstanding differences, racial, religious, ethnic, cultural differences, that other people could
exploit. And so, the Brexit phenomenon has been all too present all over the world, including in the United States, where you cannot run a
successful democracy in an interdependent world if it is dominated by people that think the only thing that matters is our differences.
But when the Northern Ireland government has worked and it worked -- Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, the odd couple in politics, produced a few
years of on time budgets, agreed upon help. When Martin McGuinness, in the first Stormont government where Sheamus O'Malley (ph) represented the
totally nonviolent republican side, Martin McGuinness was the education minister, and stunned them by first recommending increased funding for the
poor schools in the unionist community. And he proved that he would be fair. And I think that that triggered something in everybody else,
including eventually Ian Paisley, and they wound up just working things out.
Look, I don't know any government where everybody agrees on everything. But if you can take these big divides and say, we agree on 70 percent, 80
percent of the things, and we're going to do those things, I think that made a huge difference. So, that's why all of us hope the government will
come up again because it has worked when it's been up.
AMANPOUR: Prime Mr. Blair, Martin McGuinness, obviously, Sinn Fein negotiated previously IRA, it said, there is something like the statistics,
it's like 90 percent housing segregation still in Northern Ireland, education segregation still exists, poverty in many pockets. Although, a
lot of opportunity as well in other pockets.
How do you think this province, this place is going to emerge from that kind of existing segregation 25 years on?
BLAIR: OK. So, I think that the important thing is to say, what have we gained? We've gained peace for 25 years. As a result of that, the economy
here has doubled. And Belfast is a thriving European city today. You know, you can understand why that there's some hope and opportunity, so that's on
the one side. On the other side, you've got institutions that are unstable and you still got real pockets of deprivation.
Now, the only way you're going to make sense of that is to pursue political stability, because political stability gives you the space in which you can
deal with these problems. And what's interesting if you look at conflicts around the world, and Northern Ireland was just an example of this, whilst
this violence or whilst, as President Clinton was saying, the differences of what matters, it's very hard to create that space for advance and for
It's only when people are prepared to give this -- put -- take the difficult decisions to put stability in place that you can then deal with
these social and economic problems and you give people a sense that they can plan for the future. So, this is why -- I mean, I believe -- by the way
the other interesting thing about Northern Ireland is the emergences you've just been saying, of this this middle ground, where a generation -- I think
probably under 45, some of whom have grown up remembering The Troubles, some of whom no idea about The Troubles at all.
There are interest in the sectarian (ph) future, right? They want a Northern Ireland that's -- what -- it's connected to the world, that's go
ahead and so on. Brexit, of course, is a problem because it put a border down the north and south, which we've had to deal with. But in the end, we
got to get over that and then, we've got to create the circumstances in which there is the political bandwidth and focus then to deal with the
underlying problems, which was the ones that really matter. And that's possible to do.
And I think if you look 25 years ahead, hopefully, you'll have probably an amended form of Good Friday Agreement because there will be a different way
of doing things, but we will have kept that essential political stability that allows progress to happen.
AMANPOUR: So, you've all talked about, you know, expanding this model around the world, and there have been so many -- enough successful
diplomatic achievements that have lasted. Bosnia, although that froze the conflict and the aggressors seek to gain what they wanted to in the
beginning by other means. Kosovo, you intervened in. And to this day, it's peaceful and independent and democratic.
Unfortunately, the Middle East, which you definitely all have had a lot to do with. I read that David Trimble, the -- obviously, the unionist leader
at the time, his deputy said that he took this Good Friday Agreement to Ramallah, showed it to Yasser Arafat, who was the head of the Palestinian
authority, and said, this is your blueprint for success. And we know that it happened in Colombia. We saw the government of Colombia make peace with
-- you know, with their militants and militias, the FARC.
President Clinton, right now, the people who cheered on the death of the peacemaker, Yitzhak Rabin, are in government and there's nowhere to -- it
seems like there's nowhere to go, and what do you think? I mean, when you look at this blueprint, why do you think it hasn't worked elsewhere? For
instance, let's just take the Middle East.
CLINTON: Well, the difference is -- and a bit, let's just start with the Middle East. Tony spent years working on this.
CLINTON: But they started with a different model. I mean, when we signed the Middle East Peace Agreement in '93 --
AMANPOUR: The Oslo Accords.
CLINTON: -- on the south lawn of the White House, everyone's assumption was that they had to work for a two-state solution and they would argue for
a few years about what to do with the unresolved issues and what to do with the line drawing. But that the Israelis wish to remember remain a majority
Jewish state, but to be at peace with their Palestinian neighbors who would have their own state, if we could work out the myriad questions that had to
be worked out. So, we started with a different model.
They started with the model here that they could share the future and that they had not enough land to fight over and they had to work together. So, I
think the real question is the Middle East is now waiting for somebody to answer the now what question. Because I still believe that people
everywhere would prefer to work together than be at war.
There are very few places where -- you know, we had a special problem in Bosnia because we couldn't make the peace without the Bosnian Serbs. And
then, from the beginning, either hardline Serbian government or their Russians sponsors were always pushing for paralysis, paralysis, paralysis.
They are still way better off than they were when they were slaughtering each other in massive numbers. But, you know, I hope that will be resolved
But this is different because they decided to share the future from the beginning and to guarantee everybody a role in it.
AMANPOUR: So, you've talked about war, the current war in Europe, which threatens us all, is happening because of Russia's illegal invasion of
Ukraine. How do you see -- do you see the possibility of any kind of negotiation, anything even based on this kind of thing or any other kind of
thing, right? How do you see that ending?
BLAIR: It's extremely difficult, and it's a whole other subject. And the difference between the Russia Ukraine conflict and Israel Palestine or what
happened in Northern Ireland is that in the case of Israel and Palestine, in the case of Northern Ireland, you have two sides in conflict, but both
of whom have a cause that is, you know, you could say is reasonable. United Kingdom or one side, United Island on the other. OK
The trouble is, I'm afraid, I don't -- there's no justification for what has happened in Ukraine. So, I think that's -- it's a different category of
conflict. But one principle is the same, which if, if you -- once you determine what is the right outcome, and in my view, the right outcome is
the aggression in Ukraine does not succeed, then you don't give up.
I mean, the one thing I think that was very clear about the Northern Ireland Peace Process, for whatever reasons, is that none of us were
prepared to give up on it at any point in time. We never really resolved (ph) even though it points to it did look absolutely impossible. And so, I
think if you want to resolve anything, you've got to decide, first of all, what is the just and the fair outcome, and then, you've got to keep
committed no matter what the obstacles.
CLINTON: Yes. If I could just say one thing, I think one of the things that everyone needs to understand, trying to make sense of Ukraine and
compare it to what happened here, none of us thought we would stay for life. We all believed in democracy within our own jurisdictions.
I mean, I love being president. If we didn't have the term limit that would have had to take me out in a pine box or beat me. But I believed in it
because I don't think anybody should stay in power for life. If you determine to stay for life, then the only thing you really care about is
breaking the opposition. And it's very hard to get a good outcome.
And you see that now in Mr. Putin's Russia, he never agreed with Boris Yeltsin when the Yeltsin promised me and actually signed an agreement that
he would -- with John Major, your predecessor, and with NATO that he would respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
AMANPOUR: After you urged them to give up their nuclear weapons?
CLINTON: I did. And I still -- that was the right decision at the time. They were the third biggest nuclear power in the world. Brazil had an
active nuclear program. India had an active nuclear program, still does. Pakistan did. But South Africa and Brazil were about to join, and they
totally gave up their programs because of what we were doing.
So, Ukraine played a very positive role there. And we tried, in turn, to guarantee their territorial integrity. But I will give this to Mr. Putin.
He was totally honest with me. He told me three years before the invasion of Crimea that he did not agree with Yeltsin and Yeltsin never got this
adopted by the Duma. It was not a treaty. He wasn't bound by it, and he didn't agree with it. But he always wanted to reconstitute, in some form or
fashion, the Soviet Union or a capitalist version of it.
And so, we can't forget that the fight for democracy goes on even as we tried to use democracy here by giving everybody a say and making sure
everybody was represented to make a better future.
AMANPOUR: In retrospect, do you regret having persuaded them to give up their nuclear weapons?
CLINTON: No. Because at the time I had reasons to believe that we could build a world with fewer nuclear weapons and I had reason to believe that -
- I knew Boris Yeltsin will keep his word. He wasn't an imperialist. But I regret what happened.
AMANPOUR: And Prime Minister Ahern, finally, Gerry Adams, when this was signed, said that it's just a bridge towards a United Ireland. Is that what
it is? Is that's what's going to happen? Do you see that happening in your lifetime?
AHERN: I think what will continue on, it's the balance between union with the U.K. and unity within the island, and those two separate traditions
will continue to peacefully put forward their case. And Brexit, I think, has heightens the debate as far more debate you can go to university now
anywhere in the island, but they're not debating something about unification one way or the other, but it's been done peacefully and it's
been done open. I think it's still a long way off.
There's a clause in the agreement that said there can be plebiscites every so often. We haven't had one in 25 years because we haven't got stability
of institutions. My view is simple enough, until there is stability of the institutions, it's stupid to have a referendum.
And secondly, the preparatory work is only starting. It's only starting in academic life at the moment. So, it's a long way off, but the aspiration
will continue. But there's two separate exasperations to stay close to the U.K. As part of the U.K., an aspiration for United Ireland.
So, I think those two issues or they're the identity issues, but the Good Friday Agreement remembers that you can be British, you can be Irish, you
can be both, I think that serves as well for now. But it would be continued to be challenged.
AMANPOUR: President Clinton, Prime Minister Blair, Prime Minister Ahern, thank you all very much, indeed.
CLINTON: Thank you.
AHERN: Thank you.
CLINTON: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Such important reflections. And really key, as you heard from all those peacemakers, was that it really did succeed here because they
gave everybody a stake, everybody a say despite its flaws. And also, you could see that the vested interests of the United States in diplomacy and
carefully deployed with such commitment is something that can really push these very difficult, difficult processes across the finish line.
And a month after that Good Friday Agreement was signed, 25 years ago, signed by the leaders, it was put to the people of Northern Ireland and to
the Irish Republic. In Northern Ireland, the deal passed a referendum by a whopping three to one. And I was here in May of 1998 covering that
referendum. I visited two families, catholic and protestant. They were both wary but determined to give peace a chance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Paul McCabe and his daughter, Una, play traditional Irish music. In the kitchen, son, Finabarr, helps his mother, Eilish, get
ready for dinner before going out for a game of Gaelic football.
A normal, happy family, right? Wrong. The McCabe's are Catholics, living in predominantly protestant Northern Ireland.
EILISH MCCABE, WIFE OF PAUL MCCABE: My children have never grown up in a normal society. Una and Finabarr don't know what it's like to experience
normality. They don't know what it's like to go out -- go to the school quite at night and come back and not find any security forces on the
AMANPOUR (voiceover): On their street in Aughnacloy, soldiers aren't looking for anything special, this is just routine.
UNA MCCABE, DAUGHTER OF PAUL MCCABE: You always kind of feel alienated in your own society because you can't walk down the streets without there
being heavy security forces and army walking down with their guns and everything, and you feel like you've done something wrong.
FINABARR MCCABE, SON OF PAUL MCCABE: It means missing out on knowing the other half of town like. You know, you don't get to know everybody.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Because catholic and protestant youth go to different schools, and even play different games. Finabarr and his friends
played Gaelic football. Only the rare protestant joins them. Adults go to separate pubs. Catholics drink at the Rossmore. Protestants down the
street. In Northern Ireland, division is a birthright.
The McCabe's will vote yes on the peace referendum because they want equality and police reform. They want to feel at home in their own land.
Like almost every family, the McCabe's have lost someone they loved. Parents now want a different future for their children. Children simply
want a chance. Waiting for the Good Friday Peace Accord had the McCabe's biting their nails.
U. MCCABE: I was really, really nervous. The first few days coming up to it, really, really nervous. (INAUDIBLE) wanted to go back like. You know,
you feared for your own life and you fear for your parents' life, it's what happens if it goes back. You know, it was definitely very emotional.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): This is a protestant household.
ALEX COLDWOOD (PH): -- bless this food to our bodies and our bodies do your services.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): Alex and Kathy Coldwood (ph), like many in their Belfast community, don't trust the peace agreement, and they will vote no
in the referendum. But they, too, wanted different future for 16-month-old Mary Ellen (ph).
KATHY COLDWOOD (PH): I don't want her to be brought up with hate. I don't want her to be brought up with a stereotypical view.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): This family knows all about hate and stereotypes. Alex was a paramilitary at 16. Did 13 years in jail for killing a catholic.
A. COLDWOOD (PH): Because of the hatred that I had for Catholics, I wanted to take action against that -- people from that community. And yes, I did
want to kill people from that community, simply because of the way that I grew up as a child.
AMANPOUR (voiceover): But in jail, he got religion and repentance. Now, he's determined that these vulnerable youngsters don't give in to the
culture of violence that envelopes them. It's not easy of course. These are high risk youths, poor and poorly educated with little hope of getting good
jobs. Alex's message of bridge building and respect gets through slowly, if at all.
Wayne is 15. He actually attends an integrated school and has catholic friends there.
AMANPOUR (on camera): So, you have a lot of friends who are Catholics. But if they came through the wrong road, through your road, you would you would
try to hurt them?
AMANPOUR: Is that normal?
WAYNE: Yes, over here. It's normally. In Northern Ireland, it's normal.
AMANPOUR: Do you think that it will change in the future?
AMANPOUR: How do you feel about Catholics?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing.
AMANPOUR: You don't like them? Because?
A. COLDWOOD (PH): You don't know why you hate someone from the other community. You simply hit them because that's the way that you're brought
up, and that's the way that you're programmed. But that's the thing that needs to change.
PAUL MCCABE: I think people have to recognize that we are different and that we have to accommodate that different, not to amalgamate and make some
idealistic and new community here. We are different, and that's it. That's a fact we have to recognize, and we have to accommodate that difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Words that are as true today as they were 25 years ago. But it is a lot more normal than it was then. Perhaps it will be another next 25
years, another generation that will truly seal the Good Friday deal.
As we've just seen, one of the driving forces behind the support of the Good Friday Agreement was parents wanting a better life for their children.
Parenthood evokes powerful emotions, from fear to joy. It can be a tricky experience to navigate. The writer, Clint Smith, took these overflowing
feelings and channel them into poetry, the poignant pieces he's done are all in his new book, "Above Ground." And here he is talking about it with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Clint Smith, thanks so much for talking with us once again. It's so fun to see you.
CLINT SMITH, AUTHOR, "ABOVE GROUND": It's so good to be back with you.
MARTIN: You know, a lot of people, I think know, your work from your -- you know, your essays, your journalism, your reported work. I know, you
know, your recent book was about the importance of memory. What would you say this book does, like this particular book as a as a parent?
Myself, it's just -- there are times it just broke me. I was just devastated by it, thinking about, you know, the beauty, the terror, you
know, the bigness of the all the feelings about being a parent. But there are also a lot of ideas about history and how all that fits together. Like
what do you think this book does? How did it come to you?
SMITH: I think you described it perfectly, because part of what it's trying to describe is the messiness and the inconsistency in the complexity
of parenthood. How parenthood is this thing that is filled with so much love and levity and silliness and joy, and it's also incredibly scary. It's
also incredibly difficult. It's also incredibly anxiety (INAUDIBLE).
And I'm interested in how we hold all of those realities together. How parenthood is this thing that shows you the parts of yourself that you are
proud of and also, the thing that shows you the parts of yourself that you're not so proud of. The parts of yourself that, frankly, you might be
ashamed of that hadn't been revealed to you until you became a parent.
And so, you know, this book is really thinking about the simultaneity of the human experience, holding the love and the joy and the sense of wonder
alongside the sense of despair and fear and what it means to be human amid the backdrop of ecological, social and political catastrophe.
MARTIN: I get the sense that you started this book when you first learned that your wife was pregnant. Is that right?
SMITH: Yes. That's absolutely right. You know, as I write about in the book, it was not guaranteed that my wife and I would be able to have
children. We were given a less than 1 percent chance by our doctors. And so, we had in an emotionally rocky fertility journey. And we did conceive.
When my wife did conceive, it felt so miraculous but also so fragile. So amazing and also, it's so precarious.
And so probably, what I wanted to do is use poems as a way to mark moments in time to track how I was experiencing and how I was processing within
myself, these moments that felt, again, both exciting and scary all at once. And I just kind of kept going as my, you know, child went from being
an embryo to being a baby to being a toddler to being, you know, this little human that runs around and bumps their head on the walls everywhere.
And so, it -- for me, poetry is the act of paying attention. And part of what, I think, it does is allow me to pay attention to my children, pay
attention to the world around my children, pay attention to the way that I've changed as my children have come into the world, how they've
recalibrated my sense of the world. And I think, for me, that poetry is a really helpful means of creating time capsules within your life, almost
sort of archiving the different parts of your life so that you have these breadcrumbs that you can use to trace who you've been and how you thought
about your life at different periods of time.
MARTIN: So, I would love it if you would read a poem that speaks to kind of that early part of hoping and just the idea that this person might not
get here. I loved, "By Chance." Do you want to read that one?
SMITH: I'd be happy to. "By Chance." The doctor said you were impossible and you arrived anyway. Does it mean they were wrong? What does it mean?
You defied science. What is the difference between science and a miracle other than discovering new language or something we don't understand?
Today, we brought you home. I stayed up all night and watched you sleep in your bassinet because I was afraid if I close my eyes you'd vanished. Once,
a long time ago, your grandmother escaped a war and your great grandfather fought in one. You come from good fortune. You come from a history that is
arbitrary and cloaked in luck. You come from a land mine that was two feet to the left. You come from children who shared their bread when they didn't
have to. You come from the parachute that didn't open.
MARTIN: I -- when I say that you broke me, this is one of the ones that broke me. I thought, you know, you're so right. I mean, I'm not trying to
sort of turn your art into journalism, but your experience describes that of so many people, the -- all the what ifs, all the what ifs. But it also,
you know, does something else, which is you're talking about things that some people experience and other people, frankly, don't have to. And I'm
thinking here about, it's all in your head.
If you could talk about a little bit of it. Like your wife's experience, your experience as a family in an emergency room when she was pregnant with
your son and had a health complication. Your -- her feet were burning. So, you wound up going to the emergency room. Doctors kind of said, you know,
kind of was dismissive. You went home. The pain increased. And then she wasn't having it.
So, if I could get you to pick up where, he walked out of the room and told the nurse to send us home. Can I get you to pick up there?
SMITH: He walked out of the room and told the nurse to send us home. But the next day, the heat in your mother's legs grew into a blaze. We drove to
the hospital and asked to see a different doctor. The nurse said that wouldn't be possible. Your mother's restraint fractured. She has never
allowed someone to tell her the ground isn't there when she feels its soil beneath her feet. She leaned over the depths. I'm not asking you. I am
telling you, I need to see a different doctor.
The nurse, now anxious, disappeared into the hall. We were called to see a different doctor. And that doctor ran the test that your mother asked for.
What they found the curves in one out of 1,000 pregnancies. She told us you needed to be delivered early. That waiting too long might mean you
extinguish in a womb of poison blood. I keep thinking of what could have happened, of what almost did.
MARTIN: It's just -- it was remarkable to me to read this because, you know, I obviously didn't know this story, you know. And here again, you
know, not to turn your art into journalism, but I think people now have become aware that the maternal mortality rate for black women is many times
that of white women. You know, the death rate of black infants is many times that of white infants. And, frankly, it doesn't really matter if you
have insurance or don't, if you are of means or not.
And I was just wondering, you know, how all that came into play when you were thinking about this, or did it, or was it just -- was it this moment,
like with your wife, trying to save her life and your child's or did all that kind of history come back in?
SMITH: You know, you keep saying you don't want to turn the poems into journalism, but I think what is the common denominator between the two is
that both are the process of documentation. You know, both the journalism and the poem are the process of paying attention to a moment, to a feeling,
to an idea, to a phenomenon and marking it and naming and excavating it.
And so, in this sense, you know, it's a sort of personal journalism, a sort of personal excavation because it felt really -- you know, this was written
in the midst of, as you've alluded, this moment where we have many black women who are coming to the fore. You know, Serena Williams, perhaps most
notably, talking about their experience of the difficulties of their experience in childbirth and the way that they weren't believed when they
talked about what was happening to their own bodies during their pregnancy from medical authorities.
And so -- and then, we have all of this research that comes out, NPR and "New York Times," so many different places that demonstrates the way that
no matter what your socioeconomic status is, no matter what your educational status is black women consistently are not believed by doctors
and nurses and other parts of the medical infrastructure when it comes to naming and talking about what they are experiencing, what they feel like
they need and what sort of medical interventions are necessary in order to prevent something from happening to the mother or happening to the baby.
And so, I watched this. I was reading all of this in the news and then, also, watching it happen to the person I love most in the world, and it
felt important to write a poem from the perspective of the partner as well, to watch -- to describe the sense of anger, the sense of anxiety, the sense
of helplessness that one feels when you see this person that you care so much about, and you know that they are carrying your child and you see them
dismissed over and over and over again knowing that they wouldn't -- this isn't something that they were making up, right? This isn't something that
was, as the doctor would say, psychosomatic. Like this was something that I that my wife knows her body, knows what's going on.
And I think this is an experience that black women, you know, over the course of generations, and still today, experience over and over and over
again. And so, I wanted to just sort of dig into that moment, to explore it, to excavate it and to name what was an experience that it wasn't simply
an abstraction, it wasn't something that exists in the context of medical journals, but it was something that was happening right in front of me.
MARTIN: Do you think that poetry allows you to say things that your journalism, your other writing does not?
SMITH: I think what poetry does is poetry allows you to wrestle with a question and not have to come up with an answer. It is something that --
and you can begin the poem with one question and end the poem with a handful of new questions, and I think that it is this space that's
different than, you know, writing an op-ed or writing an essay or sometimes when I'm trying to make an argument or when I'm trying to make an
I think that sometimes in poetry, it is simply the act of reflection. The act of meditation. The act of asking questions of a world that's full of
them. And I appreciate the space to wrestle with these questions and not feel pressure to opine, not feel a need to present myself as an authority
figure or as if I have a specific set of ideas or opinions when, really, the poem is the space where I'm trying to make sense of those ideas and
questions for myself.
MARTIN: I think your children are four and five now, if I have that, right? When they read this book 20 years from now, what do you hope they'll
take from it?
SMITH: I hope they know how much I love them. I hope they know that I think that they were hilarious, that they were fun, and that it was scary
and it was hard and it was exhausting. You know, I think I want my kids to understand the fullness and complexity of the world and I want them to
understand the fullness and complexity of their parents, that we are two humans. We're doing our best. And we want them to be safe and to be loved
and to be cherished. And that, you know, we are also imperfect people in an imperfect world. And I hope that they both feel loved and also feel
generous and extend us a sort of grace that we try to extend to others.
AMANPOUR: Clint Smith, your latest book is "Above Ground." Cliff, thanks so much for talking with us once again.
SMITH: Thank you. It's always a pleasure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It is all for the children. And finally, from here in Belfast, therefore an important message for the future from a lion of today. Just
hours after our conversation, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern all went to pay tribute to George Mitchell. He is the former senate majority
leader in the United States, famed for reaching out across the aisle, the man that President Clinton deployed to get this Peace Accord across the
line. The indefatigable negotiator who shepherded the Good Friday Agreement through to completion.
Mitchell, at 89 years old, is battling leukemia, but he returned here to Belfast to offer a message of hope and resilience and a warning to the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE MITCHELL: BROKERED GOOD FRIDAY AGREEMENT: We are living in fractured times. We need you. We need your ongoing patience, stamina and
perseverance. We need people who believe, who know that the possible does exist within the impossible. Don't let it slip away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: He reminded everyone that is youngest child was born Good Friday or rather April 10th, 25 years ago.
That is it for now. Thank you for watching and good-bye from Belfast.