Hillary Clinton could be made envoy to Northern Ireland

Hillary Clinton could return to Northern Ireland as the next US envoy, it emerged today.

The head of the State Department has encouraged political parties to conclude devolution of policing and justice powers to a local minister and wants to boost economic development.

She visited Northern Ireland six times between 1995 and 2000 and her husband Bill helped cement the peace process as President.

There has been no comment from the State Department but US sources confirmed she is expected to fill the role of special envoy.

Niall O'Dowd, publisher of the US-based Irish Voice newspaper, was interviewed on RTE radio today about the prospect of Mrs Clinton appointing herself as special representative.

"It has been talked about for some time within the Clinton camp," he said.

"It's an issue that Hillary holds very dear to her heart, her involvement in the peace process. I think they decided, she decided, that she felt that this is one job that she would like to do, as well as Secretary of State, and I think it fits in very well with her own profile and her own strengths.

"It's certainly something that she has always been deeply involved in and I think it's a very positive development for Northern Ireland."

He said she will be in Northern Ireland in September, although there has been no announcement from the US administration.

She has a long interest in the peace process and has been engaged with Northern Ireland since she became Secretary of State. She condemned the murders of soldiers and policeman by dissident republicans last spring.

The last diplomat to Northern Ireland was Paula Dobriansky. She stepped down when President George W Bush left office and has not been replaced.

* Source: Belfast Telegraph.