Belfast Telegraph

Bullet pens and toy ducks among gifts given to First Ministers in Northern Ireland

By Jonathan Bell

A China horse, art from Kazakhstan and even a toy duck have been given to Northern Ireland's political leaders.

The register of presents handed to former first ministers Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster, the late Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and to junior ministers demonstrates the generosity of visiting dignitaries, guests and others to Stormont's top people since 2015. Items also included a tie, chocolates and books. As a matter of transparency, all gifts are documented, whether accepted or declined.

Stormont officials said all the items were under the limit for the value of gifts offered and in the "vast majority" of cases were retained by the department.

The register was revealed by Stephen Nolan on his Radio Ulster show. Former MLA Basil McCrea, who was interviewed on the show, asked: "So who ate the chocolates?"

He also highlighted that former US Vice President Joe Biden gave Mr McGuinness a pen during a St Patrick's day visit, but there was no record of a gift for Mrs Foster.

Mr Robinson was given tickets for the North London derby between Arsenal and Spurs shortly after announcing his resignation.

Elsewhere both Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness received a bullet pen sent from the Colombian president. He also sent a more conventional gift of coffee.

Artwork from Kazakhstan and books on the Orange Order and the Queen also featured.

Other gifts included an Amelia Earhart book, marking the life of the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, a framed print of the peace bridge in Londonderry and, bizarrely, a toy duck.

Mr McGuinness, who attended the Northern Ireland v Germany Euro 2016 match in Paris, received a picture book of the Green and White Army's exploits at the tournament.

Politicians and their junior ministers all received gifts from Chinese Consul General Madam Wang Shuying during a celebration of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 2016.

There is little detail of the exact nature of the gifts. One junior minister, for example, received a gift from the Swiss ambassador which was just listed as "watch".

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