President Bill Clinton arrived in Belfast on his helicopter, which touched down at the City Airport just before 11.00pm. He was met by Northern Secretary Peter Mandelson, the RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan, the US Ambassador to London and other dignitaries. He is now in the Hilton Hotel where he is spending the night ahead of tomorrow’s round of engagements. Earlier Tony Blair arrived in an RAF jet. He will accompany the US President in a series of functions at Stormont in the morning.
Earlier Mr Clinton addressed a 60,000 strong crowd in Dundalk town centre, saying "It's a new day in Dundalk and a new day in Ireland", as he paid tribute to all the people he has met during his involvement in the peace process. President Clinton called on the people of Dundalk to stand up for peace and said that violence suffocates opportunity. He asked the people of Ireland to protect the country's economic and political progress
Mr Clinton also praised Irelands's "anti-establishment attitude to innovation" as a major factor in attracting inward investment. The President cited Ireland's people, music, literature and golf courses during his speech, which ranged from the UN to St Patrick. He welcomed Ireland to the United Nations Security Council, and claiming that more than any other nation, Ireland had lived up to the example set by its patron, St Patrick.
Earlier today in Dublin, the President and the Taoiseach spoke of the mutual esteem between the two countries, and stressed that the peace process could not be allowed to falter. Mr Clinton said that he believed that, by its involvement in the peace process, America had in some tiny way repaid Ireland and its people for the massive gifts they had given to the United States over so many years.
The Clinton family were running behind schedule for most of the day, but had a drink in Fagan's pub opposite the constituency office of Taoiseach in Dromcondra in the company of Bertie Ahern and Celia Larkin. They each had a small drink before leaving, Bass for the Taoiseach and lager for Bill Clinton. They also completed a shopping trip to the Blarney Wollen Mills on Nassau Street. Mr Clinton and the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will meet the North's political leaders at Stormont tomorrow.
Earlier, President Clinton spoke of his warmth for Ireland as he addressed 2,000 guests at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin this afternoon. He again spoke of the importance of the peace process, and the example provided by Ireland's prosperity. He said that he got involved in the peace process because it was the right thing to do, despite the advice of many American political figures.
Addressing the same audience, the Taoiseach praised President Clinton's tenure in the White House and said that over the past eight years he had contributed greatly to helping secure peace in the North. Mr Clinton entered the Storehouse with Mr Ahern and his partner, Celia Larkin. On arrival inside, he was greeted a host of politicians and dignitaries from the Republic and the North, including the leaders of the main parties, the former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, and the former Tánaiste, Dick Spring.
Previously, he met Bertie Ahern at Government Buildings. He was greeted on the steps by the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Government Chief Whip, Seamus Brennan. At a news conference held shortly after Mr Clinton’s arrival, the Taoiseach said that it was a great honour to have President Clinton in Ireland. On the subject of the peace process in the North, Bertie Ahern said that he thought the President could still help move the process forward. Mr Clinton said that people around the world are looking to Ireland as an example of conflict resolution, but that it would be impractical to expect the problem to be solved overnight.
"I think that we have to keep going. I don't think reversal is an option. It is obvious to me from all the human contact - just the increasing cross border contacts that the people want this thing to go on. I think that the leaders just have to find a way through the last three or four difficult issues and I think that it can be done and I'll do what I can," President Clinton said.
He also said that he would be interested in playing a future role in the North should the new administration want him to do so. “I think the new president, whoever that may be, will want to have a new team in place and I will support that. I want to support whatever decision the new administration makes on foreign policy and if I can be a resource I will. If I can ever help the Irish of course I will but I think in terms of my Government's representation that will be entirely up to the new president and I will support whatever decisions are made in that," he said.
It is hoped that the visit will add momentum to efforts to resolve outstanding differences in the peace process. However, Northern Secretary, Peter Mandelson, has said that there was unlikely to be any political breakthrough in the current impasse in the North until after Mr Clinton's visit. Mr Mandelson said that what was needed was gentle movement on a number of key issues, adding that he thought Mr Clinton could edge people forwards.
Airforce One touched down at Dublin Airport at 8:24am, after being delayed by over half an hour. The President stepped off the plane at 9.00am and was greeted at the Airport by the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and the Tánaiste, Mary Harney. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen, and the United States Ambassador, Michael Sullivan, were also among the welcoming party. President Clinton is accompanied by his wife, Hillary, and their daughter, Chelsea.
Shortly after landing, President Clinton's party travelled by helicopter to the American Ambassador's Residence in the Phoenix Park where he had breakfast with a group of American politicians. He and his family were then entertained by President Mary McAleese and her family at Áras an Uachtaráin. The two heads of state discussed the state of the Northern Ireland peace process. Mr Clinton then travelled without Senator-elect Hillary Clinton and Chelsea, who returned to the US Ambassador's Residence, to a meeting with the Taoiseach at Government Buildings. Senator-elect Clinton met with a group of female parliamentarians at the Residence.
Mr Clinton then made his way to the Guinness Store to greet five floors of people over lunch. Later this afternoon, the President will go for a walk around some parts of Dublin City. After returning to the Phoenix Park, he will travel to Dundalk, where he will make a public address before leaving to Belfast. In Belfast, he will visit Stormont and make a key-note speech in the new Odyssey Arena.