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SDLP councillor overwhelmed by Hilary Clinton's tribute to her during Queen's University speech

John Hooks

Reporter:

John Hooks

Email:

john.hooks@ulstergazette.co.uk

SDLP Councillor Sharon Haughey-Grimley has said she was completely overwhelmed by Hillary Clinton's tribute to her during her speech at Queens University Belfast last week.

The former US Secretary of State Hillary was awarded an honorary degree from Queen's.

She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) for her "exceptional public service in the US and globally, and for her contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland".

Mrs Clinton gave a speech at the special ceremony in her honour to an audience of around 800 people at the Whitla Hall. And during this speech she had some warm words for Councillor Haughey-Grimley who has a special friendship with the Clintons.

Mrs Clinton recalled how her husband, Bill received a letter in 1995 from a young 14 year-old girl from Armagh when he was the US President.

The letter from Sharon Haughey revealed how the then teenager ‘desperately wanted to believe that a better future was possible.’ The letter read: “Both sides have been hurt and both sides will have to forgive.”

“Bill was so moved that he brought the letter when we came to Belfast and he read part of it to the crowd at City Hall before we lit the Christmas tree,” said Mrs Clinton during her speech.

The Clintons stayed in touch with Sharon who would later go to work for Mrs Clinton as an intern in her Senate office.

Mrs Clinton told the audience how Sharon Haughey was elected to Armagh City & District Council at the age of 24 and went on to become Lord Mayor – at which point loud applause rang out across the Whitla Hall.

“In 2012 she met me for lunch and she wore the ceremonial chain of office,” said Mrs Clinton. “Sharon told me how she was about to get married and start a family.

“We met again in Dublin last year when she came along with her three boys. Those three sons are growing up only learning about the Troubles in history books.

“Sharon is leaving politics for now to raise her children but she wants to see how Northern Ireland’s leaders can put aside their differences, work together and move forward with optimism.”

Mrs Clinton described Councillor Haughey-Grimley as a child of the troubles and a woman of the peace who embraces the world that has opened up because of that peace, someone who is moving to the future and not turning the clock back to the past.

Councillor Sharon Haughey-Grimley said: "It is always a wonderful opportunity to welcome Hillary to Ireland and I was delighted to personally congratulate Hillary on her well deserved honorary doctorate from Queens, recognising the important role she has played and continues to play in the Northern Ireland Peace Process.

"I was absolutely overwhelmed when Hillary recognised my public service since writing to her husband President Bill Clinton as a school girl. I feel truly humbled by Hillary's beautiful words and it is something that I will always cherish. 

"I'm very fortunate to have maintained a strong relationship with the Clinton's since 1995. They have been incredible support and inspiration to me over the years and I am very grateful for their encouragement and friendship, which they have extended to my family also.

"The Clintons played a very important role in progressing the peace process at critical times. Led by John Hume, the Irish American dimension to the Peace Process brought our problems to a world stage, and in finding the solution of the Good Friday Agreement that relationship has reaped many economic benefits for our land.

“Hillary's strong message to our political leaders should not fall on deaf ears. She is absolutely right that we now need brave leadership that puts the people first, and provides a strong voice in the BREXIT negotiations. 20 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and all the issues that have been resolved since then, it is shameful that we have no functioning government.

“The people deserve better, and it's long past time for political leaders to do the right thing and make this place work for everyone."

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