Bill Clinton blown away as Irish artist unveils portrait of ex-US President to honour his 'vital role' in peace process

Bill Clinton blown away as Irish artist unveils portrait of ex-US President to honour his 'vital role' in peace process

FORMER US President Bill Clinton said he was "very grateful" on Monday as he attended the unveiling of a portrait of him by Irish artist Colin Davidson in New York.

Mr Davidson, who has also painted everyone from Ed Sheeran to the Queen, produced the artwork to acknowledge the 72-year-old's "vital role" in the Northern Ireland peace process by brokering the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony in Manhattan, Mr Clinton said the portrait - which he sat for last year - captured a part of him that few have seen.

Standing beside the painting, he told RTÉ News: "This actually captures a part of my personality I often try to keep hidden because I try always to be upbeat, I always try to be positive and I always to think that the best is around the corner.

"I am very grateful because the painting shows me in a way I would not be prepared to show myself, in my 'I don't know, but I sure hope so' mood".

'Age of resentment'

Mr Clinton also spoke about the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland at the function, saying he had "always been worried" about Britain leaving the EU without considering potential damage to the North.

"Those who want a hard Brexit are portraying it as the liberation of the UK, but if you look at the population trends and the wealth and productivity trends, they could be consigning one of the greatest nations in human history to a smaller role," he said.

"I don't like living in an age of resentment and division, I like living in an age of possibility and hope."

Co. Down artist Mr Davidson is arguably best-known for his Silent Testimony collection, which are 18 large-scale paintings of people who were affected by The Troubles.

He said his portrait was an attempt to show Mr Clinton's empathy and compassion for everyone on the island of Island, describing it as an "Irish painting" rather than an American-inspired work.

To mark the unveiling, three universities announced the creation of Clinton Scholarships in Peace Studies as an initiative to acknowledge his role in the peace process.

The President of Massachusetts University, Marty Meehan, DCU President, Brian Mac Craith and the University of Ulster President, Paddy Meehan, said the scholarships - each valued at €120,000 - were evidence of their institutions' "ongoing support for peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland".

Ciaran Madden, the Irish Consul General in New York, said Mr Clinton had changed the course of Irish history for the better during his term in the White House and that generations of Irish men and women owed him a debt of gratitude.

Irish businessman Denis O'Brien was among the guests at Monday's function, and was thanked for supporting the role of the Clinton Foundation in a number of countries.