Bill and Hillary Clinton are to visit Northern Ireland on Friday, December 7, according to senior political sources in Dublin.
Mrs Clinton, who is the US Secretary of State, will be in Dublin for a meeting of the Organisation for European Security and Co-Operation, which is being held from December 6-7.
Ireland is currently president of the organisation. Senior political sources there say they have been told that she will arrive in Dublin on 5th. The plan is that she will attend the session on the 6th and travel North on the 7th, where she will meet her husband Bill, the former US President.
Last month the Belfast Telegraph revealed that she would visit Northern Ireland. The trip may be one of Mrs Clinton’s last foreign engagements as Secretary of State, the equivalent of America’s Foreign Minister.
Her term runs out on January 20 and she has stated publicly that she does not want a second term, though no replacement has so far been named. Since being appointed on November 21, 2008, she has set records as the most-travelled Secretary of State for her time in office.
If the trip runs to plan, it will be a nostalgic occasion for Mrs Clinton and her husband. The couple visited the province three times
while he held the Presidency between 1993 and 2001. Both took a close interest in the peace process and she was well-known to open doors for Northern Ireland politicians, especially women, in Washington.
In 1995 the two of them stood behind a bullet-proof screen to turn on the Christmas lights in Belfast just a year after the IRA ceasefire.
She has also visited the province without her husband.
In 1999 she was the keynote speaker to a women's conference, and in October 1997 she gave the Tip O’Neill Memorial lecture at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus. In October 2009 she addressed the Northern Ireland Assembly.
That trip also followed engagements in Dublin.
Senator George Mitchell, who chaired many of the peace talks here, has praised her role in the peace process.
“She was very much involved in encouraging the emergence of women in the political process in Northern Ireland, which was a significant factor in ultimately getting an agreement,” he told the Washington Post in 2008 when she was seeking the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination.
A Clinton visit to Belfast will be seen as a boost to US relations. If she does stand down as Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, who also has a strong interest in Ireland, is strongly tipped to succeed her.