Key role: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played key role in release of kidnapped Irish priest Fr Michael Sinnott

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played a major role in securing the release of Irish priest Fr Michael Sinnott.

The priest was kidnapped 32 days ago by a radical group of Islamic militants called the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It was revealed that Clinton's involvement may have convinced the militants to release the priest. Clinton met with Irish officials in Washington last week, and following that meeting she agreed to raise the issue with the Philippine government.

The Department of Foreign Affairs had also been in contact with the British and Malaysian governments and they are known to have been heavily involved in the efforts to release the Fr. Sinnott.   

Ireland's Asian ambassador Dick O'Brien was instrumental in the release of the priest. The highly skilled diplomat orchestrated the Department of Foreign Affairs effort from Manila.

Throughout Fr. Sinnott's ordeal, Mr. O'Brien was constantly in direct contact with the Philippine's Interior Secretary, Ronaldo Puno. 

A video of the hostage taken by the kidnappers was released on October 31. In the video the MILF demanded a $2 million ransom for the release of the priest.

Within days of the videos release, Puno revealed to Mr. O'Brien that the government was now in contact with the Kidnappers and no effort would be spared in securing the release of the priest. 

Whilst negotiations continued between the Philippine Government and the MILF militants, Mr. O'Brien was able to get the U.S. State Department to raise the issue with the executive secretary of the Philippine government.

The Philippine army was drafted into the region this week and Fr. Sinnott's future looked uncertain.

However as pressure from Clinton and representatives from foreign governments increased, the MILF contacted O'Brien, informing him that they were prepared to release the priest.

It is now known that Interior Secretary Mr. Puno travelled to Mindanao and personally supervised the release of Fr. Sinnott.
The Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo greeted Fr. Sinnott when he was released yesterday.

The full extent of the State Department's role in Fr Sinnott's release has not yet been fully revealed but Minister Martin was quick to thank the U.S. government, the Red Cross and the Philippine government for their help in the release of Fr. Sinnott. 

Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen also released a statement praising the diplomatic efforts that secured Fr. Sinnott's release. 

“On behalf of the Government, I want to commend the government of the Philippines and our Ambassador Richard O’Brien, and our officials, who have all worked with great commitment and resolve to bring about Fr. Michael’s release," he said.