Irish Prime Minster Brian Cowen has told the American Ireland Fund dinner in Washington that their honoree, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who attended the dinner with her husband Bill, had provided outstanding leadership on Ireland.

"We were so pleased to learn the fund has recognized Secretary Clinton. We in Ireland have been fortunate to count her as a true friend over many years. She has offered outstanding leadership.

“We deeply appreciated, Secretary Clinton, the visit you made to Ireland last October, at a particularly important moment in the peace process.

“I know that you also got some sense of the affection in which you are held in Ireland when you walked down Grafton Street and were surrounded by so many well wishers.

“I carry with me tonight the good wishes of Irish people everywhere and congratulate you most warmly. We know that you have brought many talents to the high office, which you hold today.

“We know also you have a deep understanding of the issues and the concerns of Northern Ireland.

“Since your visit, Secretary Clinton, we have seen a historic agreement to transfer policing powers from London to Belfast.

“For the first time, these powers will be exercised by a democratically elected cross-community administration in Northern Ireland – with the support of all our people.

“That administration is led, and that agreement was reached, by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

“They are with us tonight and I want to acknowledge their leadership,

“I also want to recognize US economic envoy Declan Kelly, who since his appointment has done such an outstanding job.”

He also stated that Ireland will be in the forefront of a global economic recovery. “We are building a smarter economy, investing heavily in science and research, developing green technology and renewable energy, promoting our third-level institutions in the US and expanding our cultural programs.

“And just last week, we launched our Innovation Task Force Report, identifying new strategies and positioning Ireland as an international innovation hub,

”The great strengths and advantages that Ireland offers will be important as the global crisis eases and as our economy grows again.

“And as we recover, we recognize the need to reach out in new and exciting ways to our global Irish family, here in the US and around the world.

“That is why we convened the Global Economic Forum last September in Ireland and are now following up on many of the discussions from that time."