NI on agenda for Clinton talks


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Ireland this afternoon for a two-day visit to Dublin and Belfast during which she will reaffirm bilateral ties and stress the Obama administration’s commitment to political progress and economic development in Northern Ireland.

Talks between Mrs Clinton, Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Michael Martin focussed on Northern Ireland, with both sides agreeing on the importance of supporting the Northern Ireland parties in moving forward on the issue of devolution of policing and justice.

Mrs Clinton also made a courtesy call to President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin before travelling on to Belfast.

She met with British Foreign Secretary David Milliband in London this morning ahead of discussions focussing on Afghanistan and Northern Ireland with Gordon Brown.

Mrs Clinton’s visit is part of a week-long trip during which she will undertake official engagements in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Russia.

Her visit comes at a crucial time for the Northern Ireland peace process, with negotiations over devolving policing powers finely balanced.

Tomorrow morning, Mrs Clinton will meet First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle.

She is also due to address the Northern Ireland Assembly at Parliament Buildings. From there, Mrs Clinton will travel to Queens University in Belfast for meetings before making her way to City Hall where she will be welcomed by Mayor Naomi Long.

In a state department briefing this week, officials said Mrs Clinton’s visit to Dublin would reaffirm the ‘‘strong commitment to and ties with Ireland,”

The Obama administration recently appointed an economic envoy, Declan Kelly, to Northern Ireland.

‘‘We want to see trade and investment continue to provide jobs and opportunities for both sides of the Atlantic,” said Philip H Gordon, assistant secretary at the state department’s bureau of European and Eurasian affairs.

After Ireland, Mrs Clinton will travel on to Moscow.