Former Senator Gary Hart is expected to be named as the US government peace envoy to Northern Ireland this week and to leave soon for talks there.

The 77-year-old former Colorado senator and presidential candidate will work closely with Secretary of State John Kerry and will report to the State Department.

Kerry and Hart are close and Hart endorsed him for president in 2004. Insiders say he would have been in line for a major cabinet position if Kerry had won.

His imminent appointment was first signaled in the Washington Post.

Hart will be going to Ireland at a time when crucial talks are taking place following a long stalemate between the two largest parties in the Northern Ireland government, Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party. Fears of a government collapse are said to be very real.

Both the British and Irish governments have gotten involved in the talks, which got off to a poor start last week when DUP leader Peter Robinson boycotted due to the presence of the Irish government.

Hart has already paid a visit to Ireland and reported back to State, but this would be his official appointment. He would be following in the footsteps of major figures such as Senator George Mitchell, who chaired the successful peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement, and Richard Haass now head of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Hart has interesting Irish connections. He fled to Oughterard in Galway and rented a cottage there after his abortive run for president in 1988 when his alleged affair with Donna Rice resulted in a media frenzy and his temporary withdrawal from the race.

He once said 50 percent of him wanted to be president and the other 50 percent wanted to live in Ireland and write novels.

In a speech shortly before 9/11 he predicted a major attack on America that would cost many lives.