Hillary Clinton and President Higgins discuss peace process

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is greeted at Dublin Airport by the charge d'affaires of the US Embassy, John Hennessey Niland

Sarah Stack

THE value of the peace process in Northern Ireland as a model for resolution was top of the agenda during talks between President Michael D Higgins and Hillary Clinton.

The United States secretary of state paid a courtesy visit to Aras an Uachtarain, where they spoke about the Irish community in the US and development issues in Africa.

A spokeswoman for President Higgins said Mr Higgins and Mrs Clinton discussed a number of issues including their shared interest in upholding and defending global human rights and the peace process in Northern Ireland and its value as a model for resolution in regional conflicts.

"The president availed of the opportunity to thank Secretary Clinton for all her support to Ireland over the years - as First Lady, US Senator and latterly as Secretary of State," she added.

Mrs Clinton travels to Belfast tomorrow after a series of events in Dublin.

However loyalist violence could mar the trip after the non-sectarian Alliance Party was targeted as a row over changes to the flying of the Union flag in Belfast escalated.

Mrs Clinton, who visited Northern Ireland three times with her husband, former US president Bill Clinton, during the 1990s, plans to discuss the peace process and trilateral US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership and economic opportunities for Northern Ireland.

Elsewhere Mrs Clinton launched a new Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction at Dublin City University, where she delivered a speech on global human rights.

She told more than 1,000 students that Egyptian people deserved a constitutional process that was open, transparent and fair.

"The upheaval we are seeing once again in the streets of Cairo and other cities indicates that dialogue is urgently needed," she said.

"And we call on all the stakeholders in Egypt to settle their differences through discussion and debate and not through violence.

"And we call on Egypt's leaders to ensure that the outcome protects the democratic promise of the revolution for all Egyptians."

Concern Worldwide, Ireland's largest international humanitarian organisation, also presented Mrs Clinton with its inaugural Fr Aengus Finucane Award for Services to Humanity.

Tom Arnold, Concern chief executive, said Mrs Clinton was recognised because she put development at the heart of US foreign policy.

"In particular, she has put a huge focus on policies to improve nutrition for pregnant women and children," said Mr Arnold.

"Her leadership on this issue has inspired other political leaders to introduce policies which will improve the lives of tens of millions of women and children."

Fr Finucane, who worked with Concern from its earliest days in Biafra in 1968, later served as chief executive and honorary president.