Arlene Foster joins Martin McGuinness at public engagement
New First Minister Arlene Foster has attended her first joint public engagement with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
The Democratic Unionist leader and the Sinn Fein veteran were guests at a dinner in Belfast's Ulster Hall to mark the launch of a tourism drive to promote Northern Ireland's locally produced food and drink.
The initiative is the mainstay of Tourism NI's marketing campaign for 2016.
Mrs Foster, 45, replaced the retiring Peter Robinson as First Minister on Monday having already succeeded him as DUP leader last month.
With Mr McGuinness having struck up unlikely friendships with both Mr Robinson and his predecessor as DUP First Minister, the late Ian Paisley, observers will be closely monitoring the working relationship that develops between the republican leader and Mrs Foster.
Arriving at the banquet, Mrs Foster said: "The quality of our food is a major reason why people come to Northern Ireland. Food tourism already generates over £350 million per year to the local economy, but I believe there is significant room for further growth.
"Tonight's event gives us the opportunity to unashamedly restate that Northern Ireland's food and drink heritage is not just unique, but among the finest tastes and flavours to be found anywhere in the world.
"As the next 12 months of food and drink experiences unfold, there will be no better time for locals, visitors and global markets alike to enjoy a true taste of Northern Ireland."
Mr McGuinness added: "We have a wealth of high quality, safe and wholesome foods available to the processing, food service and retail sectors. Our produce has world leading traceability and safety controls and is produced on farms with a strong track record in quality assurance systems and high animal health and welfare standards. This makes our produce very attractive to the global market.
"We must drive quality, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship which will increase employment capacity in the food and hospitality sectors. I urge everyone with a role to play to do everything they possibly can to support this initiative to develop, enhance and promote the food and drink product at home and abroad."
The Year of Food and Drink 2016 initiative, which has a different theme for every month, has promised to put food and drink at the heart of the visitor experience.