The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is to address the Northern Ireland Assembly today, amid signs its main parties are edging towards a deal to complete the process of devolution from London to Belfast.
Mrs Clinton will make a joint appearance with First Minister Peter Robinson, of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Sinn Fein’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. She can be expected to urge these two main parties to make further progress. In practical terms this means clinching agreement on the devolution of policing and justice, a topic Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness spent many hours discussing with Gordon Brown last week.
The two local leaders have pressed for financial help to cope with the extra cost involved in the transfer of policing, including, for example, the cost of any compensation for police officers’ hearing loss during the Troubles. Mr Brown is said to have finalised a package to be presented to the parties today. Mr McGuinness has signalled satisfaction with Mr Brown’s approach. Mr Robinson has sounded a more cautious note, saying that he needs to consult with colleagues.