Hillary Clinton warns NI peace is 'fragile' as she accepts honorary doctorate in Belfast

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) at Queen's University Belfast for her exceptional public service in the US and globally, and for her contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Ms Clinton gave a speech at the special ceremony in her honour to an audience of around 800 people at the Whitla Hall.

The audience includes Northern Ireland's former first minister Peter Robinson, Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Alliance leader Naomi Long.

A small number of protesters, including People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll, gathered outside the university's grounds. Some of the protesters are carrying placards reading, "no honours for war criminals".

Wearing an academic gown, Ms Clinton took part in an academic procession through the grounds of the university.

The procession was led by the President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Greer.

It also included a number of professors and academics at the university.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Prof. Greer said: "We are delighted to award an honorary degree to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"The former US Secretary of State is an internationally-recognised public servant, who has developed strong links with Queen's and Northern Ireland.

"She made a considerable contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and, as Secretary of State, focused on economic development to underpin the emergence of a strong and competitive Northern Ireland.

"With her long-standing commitment to peace, stability and economic regeneration, she is a strong advocate for Northern Ireland and an inspirational role model for the Queen's community."

As she introduced Ms Clinton to the audience, Pro Vice-Chancellor Adrienne Scullion announced a new scholarship programme for post-graduate students.

The Hillary Rodham Clinton scholarship will be available for post-graduate study in politics, human rights and peace-building.

Ms Clinton thanked the university for the honour and spoke of her "great pleasure" at being in Belfast.

"It is a special place for me and my family, and we treasure our continued connection," she said.

"The people of Northern Ireland face consequential decisions," Ms Clinton said, referring to Brexit.

"I do not come today as an authority with all the answers.

"I come as a friend who knows how hard the struggle has been.

"You deserve a future without that struggle."

Ms Clinton received a round of applause as she told the audience she had thought Brexit was a bad idea at the start, and an even worse idea now.

"But Brexit appears to be happening," she said, urging that Brexit should not be allowed to "undermine the peace and prosperity that has been so dearly won here".

"Peace is fragile," she warned.

Ms Clinton has urged Northern Ireland's politicians to put their quarrels aside.

"The world is watching, Northern Ireland has been a symbol to people ... of democracy," she said.

"We need that, that symbol, that reality, more than ever because democracies across the world are facing a toxic backlash."

Ms Clinton warned of "foreign manipulation", using divisions to "pit us against each other".

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