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Ophelia hits planned visit by Clinton to help Stormont stalemate


Former president: Bill Clinton

Former president: Bill Clinton

Former president: Bill Clinton

Storm Ophelia has forced former US president Bill Clinton to postpone a planned intervention in Northern Ireland's political stalemate.

It is understood Mr Clinton had been due here yesterday to meet the political parties as they continue to struggle to reach a deal to restore the collapsed Executive.

But the visit was called off at late notice due to the severe weather warnings. It is understood the visit may still take place today.

According to Stormont sources, Mr Clinton planned to take the meetings ahead of an official event in Dublin today, when he will receive an honorary doctorate from Dublin City University.

The face-to-face talks were aimed at encouraging former government partners Sinn Fein and the DUP to work through their differences and restart power-sharing.

With no end in sight to the political stalemate, the region could be moving back to direct rule.

Since his first visit to Northern Ireland in 1995, Bill Clinton has been the most high-profile international champion of the peace process.

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Three visits while he was US president and several since he left office have underlined his commitment to being an enabler of compromise.

However, he has also taken on the role of exerting pressure on both sides when political progress seemed to have stalled.

Meanwhile, the new US ambassador to the UK has been in Northern Ireland to meet the parties.

Billionaire investment banker Robert Wood Johnson, owner of American football team the New York Jets, said he would also be meeting business and other local leaders.

Writing in the Irish News, he said that despite the ongoing trade dispute between Bombardier and Boeing that threatens jobs in Belfast, "our trading relationship is broad, deep and long-standing - strong now, and it will get even stronger long-term".

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