Donald Trump's travel order is wrong but I stand by our invite to him, says Arlene Foster
Former First Minister Arlene Foster has spoken out against US President Donald Trump's controversial ban on immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries - despite having invited him to visit Northern Ireland.
It emerged this week that the DUP leader, along with ex-Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, sent a letter to congratulate Mr Trump that included an invitation to visit.
Sinn Fein has distanced itself from that invite, with its new northern leader Michelle O'Neill stating it "would not now be appropriate".
Mrs Foster has urged Mr Trump to reflect on the temporary ban.
"I can understand why he would want to put the security of the American people first, that is something he always said he would do throughout his election campaign," she told the Impartial Reporter. But she added: "Blanket bans don't work."
"What you need is intelligence to be able to stop terrorists entering your country and that's really what he should be focusing on instead of a blanket ban which just causes alienation. There are numerous countries which don't let Israeli passport holders into their country. I think that's wrong as well. I think there should be open borders, but obviously if there is intelligence in relation to terrorism then those people should be stopped."
However, Mrs Foster says she stands by the decision to invite Mr Trump, pointing out that the US is a "hugely important market for Northern Ireland".
"Not just in terms of foreign direct investment but also in terms of trade, our exports are continuing to rise," she said.
"It is important for our companies and our businesses, and indeed the well being of Northern Ireland, that that continues.
"When the democratically elected President was put into office we believed it was the right thing to do, to welcome that fact, to wish him well and of course to invite him to Northern Ireland as well. I think a Presidential visit would bring the spotlight of the world to Northern Ireland for all of the right reasons."
Meanwhile, Mrs O'Neill said Mrs Foster should not become First Minister in a future Executive until cleared by an inquiry into the "cash for ash" scandal.
The DUP leader lost her position when Mr McGuinness quit in protest at her handling of the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.
Mrs Foster has denied wrongdoing in a furore that has left Stormont facing a potential £490m overspend.
"Any right-minded person shouldn't put themselves forward for a position in an Executive which is obviously subject to an investigation," Mrs O'Neill said.
"Arlene Foster was the architect of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme."
The DUP hit back at these comments, describing them as an "outrageous attempt by Sinn Fein to dictate to unionists in general, and the DUP in particular, as to who will be our leader".
DUP MP Sammy Wilson added: "Our message to Michelle O'Neill is clear - Arlene Foster is our leader and the Sinn Fein desire to get rid of her will not succeed."
Earlier Mrs Foster expressed determination to "complete the job" she had started as First Minister and deliver a brighter economic future for Northern Ireland.
"I recognise the frustration of people across Northern Ireland that we are facing another election rather than getting on with the job.
"I recognise the wider frustration with politics here. I share those frustrations. Our politics can and should be better," she told an audience of business representatives at the Lough Erne Resort on the outskirts of Enniskillen.
"However, I believe (devolution) is the best system for Northern Ireland to allow us to work in partnership with those from across our community."
The DUP leader also predicted there would be a "very challenging round of negotiations" post-election to get power-sharing back up and running at Stormont.