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In Dublin, Obama cites Irish peace accord as model for other conflicts

May 23, 2011|By Christi Parsons | Washington Bureau
(Irish government/pool/Getty…)

Reporting from Dublin, Ireland — President Obama on Monday paid tribute to the success of the peace process in Northern Ireland, lauding the ability of formerly warring sides to “re-imagine their relationships” and holding them up as an example for other parts of the world now caught up in conflict.

“It sends what Bobby Kennedy once called ‘a ripple of hope,’ that may manifest itself in a whole range of ways,” Obama said as he emerged from a meeting with the prime minister. “We are proud of the part that America played in helping to get both sides to talk and to provide a space for that conversation to take place.”

The remarks bore special freight, given Obama’s new effort to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington talking to members of Congress while Obama is overseas, as a rift widens between the two administrations over the future course of the talks.

Photos: A snapshot of Obama's visit to Ireland

Ireland provides a unique backdrop for the week’s discussion to begin. The violence in Northern Ireland mostly ended after the sides hammered out the Good Friday agreement in 1998, after negotiations facilitated by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell.

And though there are still some disagreements about particulars, many analysts believe the most important aspects of the deal have been implemented in the intervening years.

Monday afternoon, Obama spoke to a crowd gathered on the historic College Green at Dublin’s Trinity College, site of a 1995 speech by President Clinton.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny introduced the president to the crowd saying, Obama is “the American dream come home.”

Before a crowd of thousands, Obama praised the Irish for providing an example of how to work for peace.

The Irish “inspired the entire world by choosing to see past the scars of violence and mistrust,” Obama said.

“You, the Irish people, persevered and you cast your votes and you made your voices heard for that peace and you responded heroically when it was challenged,” Obama told the cheering crowd.

“Whenever peace is challenged, you will have to sustain that irrepressible impulse” toward love,” said Obama. “And America will stand by you always in your pursuit of peace.”

Earlier Monday, Obama’s travel through the countryside was delayed briefly after his car – an armored limousine the Secret Service calls “The Beast” – got stuck on a ramp.

The Obamas climbed out of it and into another limousine in the motorcade before proceeding. The presidential limousine is known for its security features, including its own oxygen system.

After the drive resumed and the motorcade made it out to the small town of Moneygall, Obama was careful not to repeat a small breach of etiquette committed by the queen while she was in town. She declined to drink a pint of Guinness poured and presented to her.

At a pub in Moneygall, the hometown of his mother’s ancestors, Obama drank three-quarters of a pint.

“You look a little like my grandfather,” he said to one man in the bar.

After an enthusiastic local response, the president’s return to the home country of his forbears ended with an early departure.

With a volcanic ash cloud threatening his travel plans, the White House announced late in the day that Obama would depart Monday night for London rather than Tuesday morning.

Photos: A snapshot of Obama's visit to Ireland

christi.parsons@latimes.com

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