Don's Diary

September 11, 1998

Weekend

David West, my assistant, rings every hour to assure me that everything is organised for the Clintons and the Blairs to dedicate Springvale Educational Village in West Belfast on Thursday. By Bank Holiday Monday I am worried that I am listening to a recorded message. I support my local hurling team, Rostrevor. We win. I am worried.

Tuesday

To Stormont with Lord Smith of Clifton (vice-chancellor of the University of Ulster) for a viva voce with secretary of state Mo Mowlam on progress at Springvale. This joint venture with UU will be the first post-Dearing development offering seamless progression from further and community education through to postgraduate research - in an area of social and economic deprivation. Thunder and lightning as we arrive. Lots of helicopters taking off and landing.

Wednesday

David West assures me every hour that everything is organised. Am I in Groundhog Day? Support Rostrevor again. We win again. I am very worried.

Thursday.

Meet possible private US funders for Springvale. Then the official dedication. I have no pass but the Royal Ulster Constabulary has my photograph.

The president is relaxed, mannerly, polite and patient. He treats everyone I introduce him to as if they are the last living soul on the planet. If the West Belfast delegation attends the next Democratic convention he will be nominated for a third term. Mrs Clinton is quiet. Mrs Blair is human, caring, interested. Dr Mowlam is Dr Mowlam - informed, enthusiastic, involved, the mortar that binds the whole event and the peace process together.

Gerry Adams is there too. Clinton praises him. Blair praises him. There is a serious outbreak of history in the marquee. Afterwards Gerry banters that he is sorry he was not in time to hear my speech.

I feel proud that the project has become a reality. I have helped forge a new link between further and higher education that will eventually radicalise the entire education system here. What did you do in the peace process, dad? I helped revolutionise the education system, son.

Friday

Our finance director gives me final confirmation of a healthy surplus in our budget. Overall a tough week for supporters of Rostrevor hurlers. And you think Bill Clinton has problems.

Patrick Murphy Director of the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education.

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