Hillary Clinton said Northern Ireland had become a symbol of peace and hope as she was formally installed as chancellor of Queen’s University.
The former US secretary of state, who is the first woman appointed as chancellor of the Belfast academic institution, attended an installation ceremony in the city on Friday morning.
It marks the latest chapter in the Clinton family’s long association with Northern Ireland, with Mrs Clinton and her husband former US president Bill Clinton having been regular visitors to the region as enthusiastic supporters of the peace process.
As Mrs Clinton took part in the installation procession a number of anti-war protesters, who had gathered outside, hurled insults and abuse.
Speaking at a ceremony where she was formally installed, she described the university as “special”.
The former presidential nominee said: “(It is) a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship in technology, business and health, and an incubator for artists and scientists leaders and activists.
“I’m looking forward to learning much more about this university and then helping to tell the university’s exciting story about the future you will create together.
“But there was another reason why I agreed to become a member of this community.
“Northern Ireland has become a symbol of democracy’s power to transcend divisions and deliver peace, and we need that beacon of hope now more than ever.
“But with hope comes responsibilities, the responsibility to be a citizen, to be willing to discuss and learn from people unlike yourselves, to debate and compromise in search of common ground to participate in our shared institutions, to respect the rights, dignity and needs of all people, and to uphold the rule of law.”
Mrs Clinton was appointed to the role for a five-year term in early 2020 but her official installation was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mrs Clinton added: “The work of integration in housing and schools is far from finished.
“Neighbourhoods remain divided.
“Poverty and unemployment persist.
“The difficulties of the past continue to threaten the present.
“Divisions over Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol and proposed amnesty legislation might very well undermine a peaceful future.
“A future that people voted for, fought for, and even died for.
“Now I don’t pretend to have the political answers to resolve this impasse.
“That is up to the people of Northern Ireland.
“But I do know this: the future of Northern Ireland will be determined by the power of communities coming together, like the one here at Queen’s.”
The ceremony in the university’s Whitla Hall also saw honorary degrees awarded to 14 leading figures in the worlds of business, politics, sport, the arts, policing and education in Northern Ireland.
Among recipients will be Derry Girls writer and creator Lisa McGee, former Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Sir George Hamilton and Ireland’s highest-capped female athlete, international hockey player Shirley McCay.
President and vice-chancellor of Queen’s, Professor Ian Greer, welcomed Mrs Clinton’s installation.
“We are delighted that Secretary Clinton has been able to travel to Belfast to be formally installed as the University’s 11th chancellor,” he said.
“Secretary Clinton is an internationally recognised public servant who has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to Northern Ireland.
“She has an enormous amount to offer the university and will continue to work as a key advocate for Queen’s on the international stage.
“It is also a pleasure today to award honorary degrees to 14 world-leading, highly distinguished individuals.
“We warmly welcome them to the Queen’s family.”
In 2018, Mrs Clinton was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from Queen’s for exceptional public service in the US and globally, and for her contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.