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Ex-president to visit Ireland

By Susan Falvella Garraty

Former President Bill Clinton is headed back to Belfast at the end of September, or early October.

According to the U.S. economic envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, Mr. Clinton will travel to the North on behalf of his wife, Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton will be targeting economic development for "hard to reach" communities across Northern Ireland. Some areas of the North, both Catholic and Protestant, have yet to gain an economic dividend from the political peace and efforts on both sides of the Atlantic are being focused on turning this situation around.

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"I want to thank President Clinton for the commitment he has continued to show to Northern Ireland in support of the U.S. government's economic mission in the region. It is almost ten years since President Clinton's historic visit to Northern Ireland in 2001 and I know he is very much looking forward to being back again," stated Kelly.

"Having played such a critical role during his presidency in helping to build a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, President Clinton has remained very active in his support of the region, including hosting a special session on Northern Ireland at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City last year. I am very grateful for his continued support of our mission," Kelly said.

Clinton's visit, a private one, albeit with a very public purpose, will also include a stopover in Dublin where he will attend an award ceremony where Loretta Brennan Glucksman will be lauded for her work with the American Ireland Fund.

Mr. Clinton's trip will come after his hosting the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative in New York where Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern are "featured attendees."

Irish billionaire and Digicel owner Denis O'Brien will host a special session at the New York gathering on the recovery in Haiti.

Other Irish participants, such as former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, feature prominently in this year's CGI events, and they will be mixing it up with such Hollywood notables like Ben Stiller, Barbara Streisand, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

First Lady Michelle Obama will close the annual event that has become one of the world's most glittering meeting of notables in foreign policy, philanthropy and global advocacy.

The Clinton Ireland visit, meanwhile, will be a curtain raiser for the planned one day Northern Ireland investment conference being organized by the Secretary of State and slated for Washington, D.C. next month.

The conference will be attended by fewer than 100 people, though the list includes North leaders Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

The Irish Times reported that the conference will include meetings between executives of U.S. companies already operating in Northern Ireland and executives of U.S. companies who have been looking at the North as a possible location to do business.