Bill Clinton in Londonderry and Belfast visits

President Bill Clinton on his last visit to Queen's University in 2001.
President Bill Clinton on his last visit to Queen's University in 2001.

Former US president Bill Clinton has stressed the economic importance of developing a new generation of leaders in Northern Ireland ahead of his latest visit to the region.

Mr Clinton will tonight officially open a new leadership institute at Queen’s University in Belfast that carries his name.

Before delivering the inaugural William J Clinton leadership lecture at the university, the 67-year-old American statesman will meet with Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to discuss current challenges facing the power-sharing institutions.

The long-time supporter of the Northern Ireland peace process will begin his one-day visit to the region in Londonderry, where he will address crowds in Guildhall Square - a speech in which he is anticipated to pay tribute to former SDLP leader and Nobel Laureate John Hume.

On his fifth visit to Londonderry, Mr Clinton will also help launch a new book on peacemaking on behalf of the University of Ulster.

Commenting on the naming of the leadership institute at Queen’s, Mr Clinton said: “I have long tried to support economic development in Northern Ireland and believe preparing young leaders is essential to long-term prosperity.

“So, I am happy to be associated with this institute.”

The event will be one of the first engagements for Queen’s new vice-chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston.

“This is a historic occasion for Queen’s University Belfast,” he said.

“It is also a proud moment for me as I begin my tenure as vice-chancellor and it is a landmark event in the life of Northern Ireland.

“We are honoured that President Clinton has given his name to our leadership institute and we are delighted that he has joined us in person to set the seal on that partnership.

“Once again he is demonstrating his belief in Northern Ireland and its people, as he has done with such dedication and commitment in the recent past.

“Now he is giving his support to an institute that will provide our community with the leaders of the future, in business and in public life.

“The William J Clinton Leadership Institute symbolises our purpose: to create positive change in our society, to provide opportunity for individuals, organisations and institutions to grow and, in his words, helping to build creative networks of co-operation.”

In Londonderry, Mr Clinton will help launch Peacemaking In The Twenty-First Century - a new book collating a series of lectures, one delivered by himself, at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.

Former first lady and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan have also taken part in the Tip O’Neill Lecture Series.

Mr Clinton was heavily involved in the peace process, especially in the run-up to the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

He first visited Belfast in December 1995.