By Susan Falvella-Garraty
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Clinton was shocked and personally concerned over the deaths of the three young boys in Ballymoney in Northern Ireland over the weekend.
“On behalf of all Americans, we extend our condolences to the family of the three boys, to the community where they lived and to all those affected by this tragedy,” he said from the White House on Sunday.
White House officials said Clinton had been kept informed of the clashes in Northern Ireland by his national security team and that he was saddened by the deaths of the Quinn boys, who were killed when a firebomb was thrown through the window of their bedroom early Sunday morning.
It is the wish of the president, who has invested considerable time and political capital in the Northern Ireland peace process, to turn calamity into triumph. “We hope their unnecessary deaths remind people of the costs of confrontation,” he said.
White House officials would not comment on whether the level of violence in recent weeks would preclude a visit tentatively scheduled for this coming September that would include visits to Dublin and the North by the president and Mrs. Clinton. “If you ask whether these events figure into a decision on the trip, the answer is yes,” a Clinton official said.
With potential bombings thwarted, including one last Friday in London and another in Armagh on Sunday, observers in Washington have heaved a collective sigh of relief that serious retaliatory action has not been realized. Officials said the president, and in particular his deputy national security advisor, Jim Steinberg, have had dialogue with the parties in efforts to find an amicable outcome to the Orange Order marches.
“The difficulty about the marches is that it is basically a parochial problem, and it is very difficult to offer help in such a situation,” a White House official said.
The U.S. was represented at the funeral for the boys on Tuesday by U.S. consul general in Belfast, Cathy Stephens.
Political leaders condemn violence
Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy added his thoughts on the killing of Richard, Mark, and Jason Quinn asleep in their beds when an incendiary device was lobbed through their living room window by loyalist terrorists.
“The Orange Order must recognize that its refusal to abide by the decision of the Parades Commission led to the murder of the Quinn boys,” Kennedy said Monday in the Congressional Record.
“Everyone outraged by the murder of these three young boys must redouble their efforts to support the peace process and to assure that extremists bent on sabotaging that process do not prevail.”
Other leaders added their voices to the call for peace.
Sean Chris Dodd of Connecticut called the killings of the three brothers such a “cowardly act that it is incomprehensible.”
“the most recent tragedy has tested the resolve of Northern Ireland’s political leaders to stay the course of peace,” Dodd said. “I hope they will remain resolute in support of peace.”
Outgoing Rep. Joe Kennedy called for an end to the Orange Order parades that have sparked the recent round of violence. Speaking in Boston, Kennedy said it’s time to “stop kowtowing to the beat of a bygone era and stop reliving the 300-year-old Battle of the Boyne. . . . The British government must not only continue to stand up against the Orangemen who seek to march in Portadown, but they must also ban all marches that intimidate the innocent.”
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the all New Yorkers extended their sympathy to the family of the three brothers. “In a year when the people of Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly for peace, it is tragic that there remain some who still believe that violence is the answer,” Giuliani said. “We hope this tragedy reaffirms the commitment to peace in Northern Ireland and unites every community there against those who preach and practice violence.”
Peter Vallone, the New York City Council speaker and candidate for governor, on Tuesday introduced a resolution condemning the violence.
“I was horrified to learn of this despicable and unconscionable act that claimed the lives of three innocent children,” Vallone said.