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Hillary Clinton to visit Northern Ireland

By John Mulgrew

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, is expected to visit Northern Ireland once again.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson extended the invitation after holding talks with Mrs Clinton during the week-long events surrounding St Patrick's Day in the US.

“She had a whole range of issues she wanted to go through and it was really productive,” said Mr Paterson.

“You don’t have to waffle around with introductions — she really understands how important it is to use this opportunity of political stability to move beyond the endless talk about the peace process to the economy and the shared future.”

Mr Paterson added that “she really gets the point that we have got to rebalance the economy” and added she had played a key role in recent decisions here, including fighting to keep direct flights to the US last year. Although her visit is not yet confirmed, it’s understood one of the most powerful and influential women in the US is highly likely to return.

Hillary made her visit as First Lady alongside husband Bill Clinton in November 1995 — 15 months after the IRA announced its first ceasefire.

During her time here she visited communities on both sides of the divide — joining the then President Clinton in lighting Belfast’s Christmas lights from behind a bulletproof screen.

As one of the most powerful women in international politics she has visited Northern Ireland under three guises, as First Lady, then as Senator, and in her most recent capacity as US Secretary of State.

Since 1995 she has visited Northern Ireland on several occasions, meeting with cross-community groups and working with Mo Mowlam in setting up the Vital Voices group to promote the advancement of women in areas such as business.

On her last visit in October 2009, Mrs Clinton addressed the Assembly, condemning the recent spate of dissident violence.

She told politicians the terrorists wanted to “derail your confidence” and their “destructive ambitions threaten every family in Northern Ireland”.

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