Restoring Stormont ‘can fairly easily be done’, says Bill Clinton

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The restoration of the Stormont Assembly can “fairly easily be done if we want to”, former US president Bill Clinton has said.

Addressing an audience in Londonderry marking the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, Mr Clinton said an excuse can always be found to say no.

Crowds gathered outside the Guildhall and an invited audience inside the building rose in a standing ovation as Mr Clinton arrived.

Bill Clinton gives a speech
Bill Clinton gives a speech to the Guildhall (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ash lead singer Tim Wheeler dedicated a performance of his hit Shining Light to journalist Lyra McKee on the fourth anniversary of her murder.

U2 frontman Bono appeared in a video paying tribute to agreement architects John Hume and David Trimble, describing the former as a “man who made all our lives bigger”, and Lord Trimble as the “politician who was seen as a hardliner” but “when the moment came, made the hard choice for peace”.

Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary
A video of U2 frontman Bono (Liam McBurney/PA)

He said they “who put their lives and careers on the line” for peace.

“I loved and admired them both, but what they stood for is alive in your lives,” he said.

Mr Clinton described the “gift of the agreement” as “lifting our lives, our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives”.

He said it is important to get Stormont back up and running.

“Based on what I’ve heard it can fairly easily be done if we want to, but we can always find an excuse to say no,” he added.

Tim Wheeler of Ash performs the song Shining Light
Tim Wheeler of Ash performs the song Shining Light (Liam McBurney/PA)

“The people we honour today got to yes.”

Mr Clinton said he can remember virtually every encounter with Mr Hume and Lord Trimble, adding that the latter was “so modest” and never got “the credit he deserved”.

Earlier in the event two school pupils, James Tourish, who attends St Columb’s College, and Ellianna McBride, who attends Foyle College, urged progress.

Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary
Ellianna McBride, 18, from Foyle College (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ms McBride said while peace has created the context for politics and for political institutions to work, “those institutions need to function now”.

“The lack of decision-making on pressing issues in healthcare, employment and education is failing our people. We need political stability if Northern Ireland is to become the vibrant, innovative economy and the tolerant liberal society desired by its young people,” she said.

Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary
Former US president Bill Clinton and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP (centre right) are greeted by patrons at the Guildhall Taphouse (Liam McBurney/PA)

He spoke to a number of people in the Guildhall Taphouse and posed for selfies on request.

Emerging outside to be greeted by more crowds of well wishers, Mr Clinton took time to speak to several people before getting into his waiting vehicle to leave.

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