JFK's sister tipped for Dublin post

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PRESIDENT CLINTON is expected to tell the Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds, during talks here today - coinciding with St Patrick's Day - that he is naming Jean Kennedy Smith, the sister of John F Kennedy, as his ambassador in Dublin.

The two leaders will also discuss American policy towards Northern Ireland and specifically the proposal, which has caused considerable controversy both in Ulster and in London, that the President send a special envoy to the province to investigate the conflict there on his behalf.

Although no formal announcement may be made today, it is thought likely that Mr Clinton will propose a compromise under which he would first send a low- profile emissary to Northern Ireland who could in turn advise him on whether or not a fully-fledged peace envoy might then be appointed.

Rumours that the role of envoy might eventually be entrusted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tom Foley, have circulated for weeks. Mr Foley insisted again last week, however, that no mention of such a mission has been made to him by the President or his staff.

The choice of Mrs Kennedy Smith, 65, who currently works for charitable organisations in New York as ambassador, is likely to be well received in Dublin. At the least, she is guaranteed direct access to a powerful Democrat in the Senate - Edward Kennedy, her surviving brother.

Joe Kennedy - the nephew of Edward and Jean and a member of the House of Representatives - yesterday took advantage of Mr Reynolds' visit to promote his own campaign to prod the British government over Northern Ireland by submitting to Congress a draft resolution calling on London to pass a Bill of Rights for the province.

'Too often in Northern Ireland, justice is only as good as the last judge,' Mr Kennedy said, alleging that there had been a 'serious deterioration of respect for human rights' by the British forces in Northern Ireland.

In New York last night, meanwhile, a new organisation was formed to promote American political engagement in the Irish Republic and in the North, under the name 'Americans for a New Irish Agenda'. Formed by the leaders of an Irish-American group that backed Mr Clinton's election, it has been joined by the Governor of New York state, Mario Cuomo, and the Mayor of New York, David Dinkins.

In Washington last night, President Clinton attended a celebrity dinner organised by the American-Ireland Fund, a non-political fund-raising society, with such personalities as the actor Paul Newman as well as Mr Foley and the leader of the SDLP, John Hume.

A top priority for Mr Reynolds, who began his Washington visit yesterday, is to dissuade Mr Clinton from carrying through a proposed tax reform that would tighten the rules on American firms investing in Ireland with the potential consequence of driving them out the Republic.