Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the agreement on justice devolution in Northern Ireland last weekend by telling the press that it would help consolidate the hard-won gains of the past decade.

Clinton, who visited Belfast last October, said she has been in regular contact with the Northern Ireland parties and recognized that the path to agreement had been bumpy.

In a statement to the press she said, “The devolution process has enabled Northern Ireland’s leaders to enact a range of needed reforms, from health to housing to environmental safety. Now they have even greater authority, and with that authority comes greater responsibility. They must continue to lead,” she said.

“The people of Northern Ireland are poised to build a thriving society on this stronger foundation a country where neighbors can live free from fear and all people have the opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential."

Clinton added that the success of the peace process was an example to conflict-blighted regions across the world. “Northern Ireland gives us hope that, despite entrenched opposition and innumerable setbacks, diligent diplomacy and committed leadership can overcome generations of suspicion and hostility.”

The Obama administration, through its Northern Ireland economic envoy Declan Kelly, will continue its work to ensure the future economic development of Northern Ireland.  Meanwhile Clinton vowed to host a meeting in Washington with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, probably in the spring, to discuss future investment in the North.

“I am confident that people of Northern Ireland will make the most of this moment. And I want to reaffirm the commitment of the United States -- and my personal commitment as well -- to support Northern Ireland in every way we can,” Obama added.

In Washington President Obama hailed the deal as an important step, adding that he looked forward to commemorating his second St. Patrick’s Day in the White House with the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen, a celebration which serves as a reminder of the shared history and close kinship between the two countries, Obama said. Obama will also meet with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in Washington on March 17.

In a statement, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, “We in the United States, who have been firm supporters of the peace process, are delighted to celebrate today’s agreement. The transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast will create peace and stability that lasts and will form a critical groundwork for a prosperous future in Northern Ireland.”

The four co-chairs of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs in the House, New York Democrats Eliot Engel and Joe Crowley, New York Republican Peter King and New Jersey Republican Chris Smith, praised the announcement of what they called the “Hillsborough Castle Agreement,”

“We applaud the leaders who worked so hard to secure this critical accord, including Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson.  We also commend Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Prime Minister Gordon Brown for their tireless and courageous efforts in making the Hillsborough Castle Agreement a reality,” they said.

“We would also like to thank U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for her steadfast leadership and involvement in the devolution process.  The dream of peace and complete self-governance for the people of Northern Ireland is one step closer to reality today.”