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         BRIDGES to NORTHERN IRELAND 3 By the s the American presence in Northern Ireland seemed stronger than at any time in the past. The completion of the Ulster American Folk Park, just outside Omagh, in the s established a powerful physical reminder of the vast number of Ulster men and women who had immigrated to America from the eighteenth century right up to the present. However, the American presence had become a still more daily part of peoples’ lives in a way unthinkable even twenty years earlier. To be sure, motion pictures, books, and magazines had been a visible link with the United States for years, but by the s lifestyles in Northern Ireland and indeed Western Europe had embraced many aspects of North American living. Dress, for example, was more informal, with blue jeans, sweatshirts bearing American logos, baseball caps, and trainers being worn on the streets of Northern Ireland by people of all ages. Indeed, the occasional jogger can be seen on Belfast streets with color-coordinated athletic wear. Supermarkets have also made major inroads into both the shopping and the eating habits of the people. Not only are CocaCola and innumerable packets of crisps (potato chips) and frozen vegetables now available in any supermarket or convenience store, but also such distinctively American exotics as maple syrup, popcorn, and dried cranberries can be got as well. All of this, together with self-service petrol (gasoline) stations, drive through carwashes, launderettes, and credit cards, shows that the American style of life has been widely  popular in Northern Ireland. However, if American culture and lifestyle were becoming widespread throughout Northern Ireland by the s, the American government had scrupulously stood aside from the political turmoil in the province during the past two decades. Nevertheless, by the mid-s, the new American president , Bill Clinton, saw an opportunity to intervene on the edge of events, as a neutral party, with the hope of pushing the peace process forward. The United States Consulate General in Belfast would be called upon to play an important and increasingly public role in serving as a bridge between the people of Northern Ireland and America. Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, while not indifferent, had not given Irish affairs a high priority. Both presidents made annual statements on St. Patrick’s Day deploring violence and terrorism in Northern Ireland and expressing hope for a political solution to the problem.1 On the other hand, under both Reagan and Bush the consulate general was encouraged to consult with a broader spectrum of political opinion in Northern Ireland, so that the reports the State Department received more accurately reflected the political reality. However, Bush was preoccupied in  and  with the Gulf War and the events leading up to it. During this period Great Britain was a major ally of the United States both in the United Nations debates and, especially, in the Gulf War. Nonetheless, Bush had appointed Douglas B. Archard consul general in . Archard, who had an M.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin, had served in Vietnam and Pakistan before coming to Belfast. He was given a great deal of independence in running the consulate general, and he articulated a more sharply critical view of human rights issues in Northern Ireland than his predecessors. U.S. policy still forbade actual contact with gunmen, but Archard BRIDGES to NORTHERN IRELAND ⁄  . See for example George Bush, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States,  (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, ), book , pp. – , and Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States,  (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, ), book , p. . opened talks with Sinn Fein and various loyalist groups—people on the acceptable edges of Northern Ireland political life. It was Archard ’s desire to provide a neutral ground where people of opposing political views, who normally had no contact with each other, could meet in social circumstances. Ardnavally, the consul general’s residence, was the perfect place for breakfast meetings, luncheons, cocktail parties, formal dinners, and even his own wedding. He often used the occasion of a visiting congressman or someone from the United States Information Agency International Visitor Program as an excuse to bring Northern Ireland political leaders together . Archard also traveled throughout the province, often meeting with the elected members of the local councils and inviting them to Ardnavally. For these efforts Archard was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Ulster and a Superior Honor Award by the Department of...

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