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Friday, October 31, 1997 Published at 14:15 GMT


First lady tells Irish US is partner in peace

Hillary Clinton: "a precious peace"

Hillary Clinton, the first lady of the United States has returned to Ireland, almost exactly two years after triumphantly visiting both sides of the Irish border with her husband, the US president.

Mrs Clinton, on the first leg of a trip that includes engagements in London and Belfast, was guest of honour at a reception and government dinner in Dublin Castle, hosted by prime minister Bertie Ahern.

The last time Mrs Clinton touched down on Irish soil she and the president delivered a major boost to the Northern Ireland peace process just three months before the initiative came close to floundering following the collapse of the first IRA ceasefire.

This time the first lady stressed: "Be assured the United States is your partner in the long haul to peace."

And she told 350 guests at the Dublin reception: "My husband remains personally committed to this effort and to those who take risks to make peace happen."

[ image: 50th Birthday appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show]
50th Birthday appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show
Mrs Clinton, who is to have talks in London on the peace process with Prime Minister Tony Blair, underscored the special need in the present position for both compromise and reconciliation.

Referring to the breakdown and restoration of the IRA ceasefire, she said: "In this precious peace we now have almost all the parties in the conflict sitting down to discuss the substantive issues."

She insisted that she and her husband were under no illusion that the path towards peace would be easy. "Wounds are still raw and all sides have to compromise and seek peace and move towards common ground in the weeks ahead."

Her visit comes at a time when her personal popularity in the United States is high. She recently celebrated her 50th birthday by appearing on the Oprah Winfrey show and has made an increasing number of public appearances with her family.

[ image: A popular public figure]
A popular public figure
Her popularity has been put down to the strong stance she has taken on issues such as childcare and women's rights.

There are concerns however that she could run into difficulties if she takes her advocacy work overseas and particularly to the politically sensitive arena of Northern Ireland.

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