NI leaders welcome economic package
Northern Ireland's leaders have welcomed a new package agreed with the Government in Westminster to help their struggling economy.
Following talks in Downing Street with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Prime Minister David Cameron said the measures would help cement the political progress that had been made during seven years of devolved government.
He strongly backed the "ambitious and laudable plan" by the two leaders to bring down the so-called "peace walls" in Belfast which still separate the two communities in parts of the city, as well as moves to boost the economy.
"I see today as the start of a very important process of moving forward together to tackle both of these issues because it is only by tackling both that we will build the Northern Ireland that it's people deserve and long for," he said. "For me, what today is about is recognising the huge political progress over the last seven years is now going to be matched by the economic progress that we need and the social progress that we need too."
The announcement came as Mr Cameron prepared to host the G8 summit which is being held next week in Northern Ireland, at Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh.
The package includes a drive to accelerate investment in infrastructure and to promote new businesses in an effort to help the ailing construction industry. Initiatives to boost tourism will also be supported.
Mr Robinson said he believed the economy was ready to "turn the corner" - with inward investment already at the highest level in the history of Northern Ireland. He said: "In our view it is absolutely essential that we don't be complacent because we have reached agreements of a political nature, that we not look at the necessity to bring the whole of the community along with us and to have one united community in Northern Ireland."
Mr McGuinness also emphasised the importance of delivering economic prosperity and he issued an appeal to anti-poverty and anti-capitalism protesters heading for the G8 to demonstrate peacefully.
"It is my hope that this will be the most peaceful G8 summit in history," he said. "I hope that those people who are visitors to our country over the course of the next couple of days will respect the work to build the peace process that we have been engaged in for many years.
"I feel as strongly about those issues as anybody else but the way to deal with it is to demonstrate peacefully. I think that that sends the loudest message to the leaders if they hear people behaving in a very responsible fashion."