Battle for Irish-American votes
Battle for Irish-American votes

The peace process in Ireland has featured in debate surrounding the U.S. Presidential election in November.

President George Bush, who is seking re-election, was criticised by General Wesley Clark, the former Nato commander-in-chief and one of the leading contenders for the Democratic Party's presidential election nomination.

General Clark compared President Bush's support for the peace process as being tantamount to working with a ``3,000-mile long screwdriver.''

``Well I'm going to engage with it personally,'' General Clark said last week in New York.

``That's the basic requirement for leadership and that's what it took, that's what Bill Clinton did. He put the effort into it to help it work and we will engage with it personally.''

``As far as all the puts and takes on it, I'm not going to get into those because when you get into those what I've learned about peace processes is that you cannot create a peace with a 3,000- mile long screwdriver.

``You've got to be there with people you can trust and you've got to be engaged.''

General Clark's attack on Bush has been denounced by lobby group the National Association of Irish American Republicans (NAIMR).

In a statement, the group, which is based in both New York and Washington, said that General Clark's attacks on President Bush's policies on Ireland demonstrated ``complete ignorance of the Bush administration's achievements in Ireland over the past three years and its unyielding commitment to the peace process and human rights in Northern Ireland.''

The Republicans' statement also pointed up President Bush's appointment of Ambassador Richard Haass as a special envoy and the recent replacement of Mr Haass with Dr Mitchell Reiss, and claimed the Bush administration had directly intervened to block an arrest warrant [pending deportation] for Malachy McAllister.

Clark said that he was aware of the issue of Irish deportees and that he was deeply committed to protecting the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, ``citizens and immigrants''.

``Our nation must always be on the side of promoting fair treatment, equality, and openness in countries dealing with historic and complicated conflict,'' Clark said in the statement.

``In addition, I believe we need a better immigration policy that recognizes the indispensable role that immigrants like the Irish have played in building and blessing America.''

He added that as President, he would support the recommendations of the Patten Commission on policing in the North of Ireland.

Clark has focused his campaign on a strong showing in next week's New Hampshire state primary to become the Presidential candidate of the Demcoratic Party.

Irish-Americans are the largest single ethnic group in New Hampshire, with almost 14% percent claiming Irish ancestry.

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