Former US Senator Gary Hart to meet Northern Ireland parties

Gary Hart It is understood Mr Hart will use his visit to assess how the United States can assist the parties in Northern Ireland to advance the peace process

The former US Senator Gary Hart will meet representatives of the five Stormont Executive parties later this week as part of a fact-finding trip to Ireland.

The former senator is also holding discussions in Dublin and London.

Although he is travelling in a private capacity, it is understood Mr Hart is making his trip at the request of the US Secretary of State.

The US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland visited in June.

During her brief trip to Stormont, the issues of flags, parades and the past were discussed.

Inter-party negotiations on these issues chaired by Richard Haass broke up without agreement at the New Year.

It is understood Mr Hart will use his visit to assess how the United States can assist the parties in Northern Ireland to advance the peace process.

A former Democratic senator for Colorado, Gary Hart sought the party's nomination for president twice in the 1980s.

On the second occasion he withdrew from the race after negative publicity over his alleged relationship with a model, Donna Rice.

Since retiring from the US Senate, Mr Hart has worked as a consultant on US national security matters.

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