- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009


John Bruton, a former prime minister of Ireland, remembers visiting Washington as part of a European delegation and an unscheduled encounter with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

“We were seeking to meet a member of the Senate, but our previous arrangements had fallen through,” Mr. Bruton said Monday. “At literally one minute’s notice, Ted Kennedy agreed to come down the corridor and meet us.”

Mr. Bruton, now the European Union’s ambassador to the United States, marveled at Mr. Kennedy’s vast knowledge of foreign affairs.

“He gave us a virtuoso display of technical knowledge of foreign policy and security issues and responded fully to specialist questions on these subjects from experts from all the major parliaments of Europe,” he said.

Mr. Bruton recalled working with the Massachusetts Democrat on Northern Ireland peace proposals, which eventually led to the famous 1998 Good Friday accords, which established autonomy within Britain, and later to a renunciation of violence by the Irish Republican Army in 2005. Mr. Bruton was prime minister from 1994 to 1997.

Mr. Kennedy helped persuade diehard Irish-Americans to stop raising funds to support the IRA and work for Northern Ireland’s self-government, instead of union with the Republic of Ireland.

“He played a critical role in diminishing support among Irish-Americans for the use of violence or coercion of any kind to resolve the divisions between the two communities in Northern Ireland,” Mr. Bruton said, referring to the pro-British Protestant majority and the pro-Irish Catholic minority.

“This required courage on his part, as many of his constituents would have disagreed with his position. He was a big supporter of successive Irish governments … in forging the compromises that have now given Ireland peace and stability at last.”

Mr. Bruton noted how Mr. Kennedy, who died late Tuesday at age 77, was still a forceful speaker even a “few years ago” when he appeared at the National Press Club.

“He was a great orator in the old tradition,” Mr. Bruton said. “In public speeches, he was a master both of cadence and clarity of expression, making anything he had to say a pleasure to listen to.”

The British government honored Mr. Kennedy in March for his work for peace in Northern Ireland by awarding him a knighthood. Two years ago, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair recognized Mr. Kennedy at a British Embassy reception for his contribution to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Kennedy responded by praising Mr. Blair, saying, “He convinced Northern Ireland that all can grow by putting away the bombs and the bullets.”


The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam on Wednesday criticized the communist government for a crackdown on dissent and for a state television broadcast that implied the United States was to blame for encouraging free political debate.

“We are disappointed by the VTV broadcast that cited confessions by several Vietnamese citizens for activities that, in many places in the world, are regarded as normal, usual discussions aimed at strengthening rule of law in Vietnam,” Ambassador Michael Michalak told reporters in Hanoi.

Vietnamese Television last week aired a 20-minute broadcast of Le Cong Dinh, a lawyer arrested for advocating democracy. He also mentioned meetings he had with Mr. Michalak and former Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte.

Mr. Dinh could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of “conducting propaganda against the government.”

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