Jimmy Carter ‘was suggested for Northern Ireland peace process role’

Former US president Jimmy Carter was suggested for a Northern Ireland peace process role, official files show.

Speculation was mounting in January 1993 that president-elect Bill Clinton would appoint a special envoy.

British Foreign Office official Jonathan Powell mentioned Mr Carter in a note disclosed in an archived British government file released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast.

Mr Powell described how former congressman Bruce Morrison, then head of the Irish Americans for Clinton lobby group, envisaged the envoy.

Mr Powell wrote: “He (Morrison) did not envisage an Irish American filling the role.

“An Irish American like (Bill) Flynn would have too much baggage.

“He envisaged instead someone completely independent, like Jimmy Carter, or someone in the same mould but of lower profile.”

Mr Carter only served one term in office but became a diplomat and mediator around the world. He worked on the Middle East peace process and tried to encourage talks between North and South Korea.

In 1993 a statement from the Friends of Ireland in the US said: “On this St Patrick’s Day, the Friends of Ireland in the US Congress join with Irish Americans… in calling for renewed efforts to achieve peace, reconciliation and justice in Northern Ireland.”

In the event, former Democratic senator George Mitchell was appointed as envoy in 1995, securing a commitment to non-violence from the gunmen and ultimately becoming the architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Successive envoys including Richard Haass and Gary Hart have helped maintain US involvement in Northern Ireland’s peace process.

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John Major (Yui Mok/PA)

The newly released file also covered the opposition of UK officials to the US visa offered to former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.

Notes of a meeting between the US ambassador to the UK and the prime minister’s private secretary said: “Unless Mr Adams’ visit is followed by a rapid and permanent end to the IRA’s violence, there is no question that it will have done huge damage to the (Joint) Declaration.

“We warned of this ahead of the visit in the strongest possible terms.”

The Downing Street Declaration between former prime minister John Major and ex-Irish premier Albert Reynolds in 1993 laid the framework for the peace process which was to follow.

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