US ambassador to mark bicentenary


Northern Editor THE US ambassador to the UK, Mr William J. Crowe, will inaugurate a wide ranging programme of social and cultural events in Northern Ireland on May 20th to mark the bicentennial of the office of the US Consulate General in Belfast, one of the oldest American diplomatic posts in the world.

The events to celebrate 200 years' continuous operation of the office will include a lecture on the American experience of democracy by Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the International Body on Decommissioning.

The first US consul, James Holmes, was appointed to Belfast on May 20th, 1796. The present Consul General, Ms Kathleen Stephens, took up her post last August.

Ms Stephens has announced that Mr Crowe and US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor will be among those present at the unveiling of a plaque on the anniversary date.

Over the following month there will be musical and arts events, and a series of bicentennial public lectures.

Ms Stephens said the long operation of the Belfast consulate was evidence of deep and abiding ties. The present task of the office continued to be to reach out into the community, increasing understanding on both sides, and increasing business and tourism links.

The hand written logs of the previous holders of the office record many dramatic events in Belfast's history, such as the launching of the Titanic, the bombing of the city early in the second World War, and the arrival of the first American soldiers in January 1942. At one point in 1944 more than 93,600 US troops were billeted in the North.

The most significant recent events for the consulate general were its involvement in President Clinton's visit to the North last November, and the White House Investment Conference.