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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 22:50 GMT
Women have 'critical role' in NI

Hillary Clinton: Encouraging women politicians
US First Lady and senator elect Hillary Clinton is to convene a meeting of women parliamentarians from Northern Ireland, Britain and the Irish Republic.

She announced her plans on Tuesday at the start of the US First Family's visit to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Bill Clinton earlier told reporters that he had been urged to make the decision to go to Ireland for a third and final visit before the end of his US presidency, by his wife and their daughter Chelsea.

Departing with Chelsea from the itinerary set out for her husband, Hillary Clinton met female politicians from the Irish Republic at the official residence of the American ambassador to Ireland, Michael Sullivan, in Dublin's Phoenix Park on Tuesday morning.

Follow-up to conference

A little more than a month after securing election to the US Senate in New York, Hillary Clinton said the convening would be part of her work to encourage women to take a critical role in the peace process.

The First Lady said she would reveal more about her plans for the all-women parliamentary meeting in Belfast when she attends an event for the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust in the Belfast Opera House on Wednesday.

But she confirmed it would involve politicians from England, Wales and Scotland - as well as both sides of the Irish border.

"This convening of parliamentarians is a follow up to the Vital Voices conference which we held in Belfast two years ago, and is part of our ongoing efforts to make sure that women play a critical role in the peace process in Northern Ireland and in building a peaceful and prosperous island," she said.

Mrs Clinton added that her entire family intended to return soon to Ireland, in a private capacity after her husband's departure from office.

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See also:

12 Dec 00 | Europe
Clinton begins final Irish visit
11 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton considers NI peace role
07 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton 'will not negotiate' in NI
07 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Bill Clinton 1-0 Belfast Giants
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