Belfast Telegraph

Envoy Hart to lead delegation in push for US investment

By Liam Clarke

The US is about to step up involvement in the peace process with an American investment conference in Northern Ireland and a visit by a number of powerful politicians.

The new US special envoy, former Senator Gary Hart, will also be back next month and is expected to lead the Congressional delegation here in the spring.

A US Consulate spokesman said Mr Hart "will urge full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and support development of initiatives aimed at fostering economic prosperity in Northern Ireland".

"With the acute stage of negotiations complete, there will not be as urgent a need for Senator Hart to travel here. However, Senator Hart plans to travel to the region in the coming months to encourage the parties to continue working closely together to ensure a brighter future for the people of Northern Ireland. Other US officials will also play a role in supporting those goals," the spokesman added.

The visits will provide an opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland before it takes on the powers to set corporation tax rates.

Yesterday Martin McGuinness gave a broad hint at what was to come after returning from a brief trip to the US. He had been a guest of Congressman Richard Neal at Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

"There is still a very strong interest in the US and over the next short while there is a strong possibility of new trade and political missions to the North, including a visit by potential investors to Derry and Belfast," the Deputy First Minister said.

Mr McGuinness told members of the Capitol Hill Irish caucus, a lobby group of legislators chaired by Mr Neal, that "successive US administrations have been pivotal in terms of the progress we have made away from a very bitter and protracted conflict".

He also said the influence of Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator Hart "was a crucial factor in securing the deal, which built on the excellent work done by Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan 12 months previously".

Last year Mr Hart said he planned to make St Patrick's Day in America a focus for boosting interest in Northern Ireland.

Profile

As US special envoy to Northern Ireland, former Senator Gary Hart is a representative of the Secretary of State, John Kerry. Mr Hart is currently being aided by prominent US peace process supporters Bruce Morrison, a former Democratic Congressman, and James Walsh, a Republican Congressman from New York, as well as the lawyer Paul Quinn.

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