Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s message to Northern Ireland at the one day Northern economic conference at the State Department on Tuesday was clear.
It was “stay strong” and America will be by the North’s side to help in whatever way it can, especially on the economic front.
"A stronger economy in Northern Ireland will help secure a lasting peace, and peace in Northern Ireland is a bedrock foreign policy priority for the United States," she told business and political leaders.
The meeting in Washington, D.C. brought prominent business leaders from all over the U.S. to discuss investment in Northern Ireland.
It is not the sexiest subject, post-conflict economic reconstruction, but it is great credit to the U.S. administration and Clinton that they continue to address it in dogged and persistent style.
America has been putting its money where its mouth is. As Clinton pointed out, over 1,000 jobs have gone to Northern Ireland form U.S. companies in the past year alone.
"U.S. companies have recently created more than 1,000 jobs in Northern Ireland, including 100 jobs crated by GE Energy, and more than 300 in the Belfast office of New York Stock Exchange," she said.
In announcing new jobs, Clinton said, "Dow Chemical will open a supply chain consulting service in Belfast, and the Terex Corporation will open a European business services center as well."
That job creation has been greatly helped by the work of Clinton’s economic envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, who has made it his mission to bring jobs to the North through thick and thin.
Kelly took on the job with a determination and commitment that has created exciting new opportunities for investment there by U.S. companies.
It has also been helped by the shoulder-to-shoulder stance of First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who have held the line despite major attempts, especially by dissident IRA groups, to crate havoc.
While it has not been easy and the two still make strange bedfellows, their determination to soldier together rather than apart has made all the difference in the North’s power sharing government.
Clinton paid deserved tribute to both leaders, and said she hoped for a "renewal of commitment (to the peace process) because in the long-run it's these kinds of jobs and these kinds of opportunities that are more lasting and more predictable."
Jobs were key as "dissidents continue to exploit every chance they get to influence in those hard-to-reach communities where peace is most fragile," Clinton said.
"And we need to prove in Republican (Catholic) and Loyalist (Protestant) communities alike that peace pays off, that means working to bring opportunity to all of Northern Ireland," she said.
Clinton’s own commitment to Ireland has also been a huge part of the peace process. She and her husband have been deeply involved from the beginning, from the time of the first U.S. visa for Gerry Adams in 1994, and now almost 17 years later they are still deeply connected.
Bill Clinton paid a visit to Northern Ireland last month, and his wife hosted the economic conference on Tuesday.
Truly, Ireland has been blessed by such commitment.
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