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Bombardier Boeing row could harm peace in Northern Ireland: Foster and O'Neill appeal to US Vice President Pence

By Jonathan Bell

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill have sent a joint letter to the US Vice President over the bitter trade dispute between aerospace manufacturers Bombardier and Boeing suggesting peace in Northern Ireland could be harmed.

Boeing argues that state aid for Bombardier has given it an unfair advantage in the market place and asked US authorities to investigate.

Bombardier's new CSeries jet, which is at the centre of the dispute, has its wings built in Belfast.

Read the full letter here

In their letter the DUP and Sinn Fein leaders say the dispute represented a "very grave economic threat facing bombardier in the region". They suggest it could harm peace in Northern Ireland.

It comes after Theresa May stepped in to appeal to Donald Trump to assist with the case.

It's believed the letter is the first intervention the two leaders have made on an issue since the collapse of power sharing.

They write that if the case succeeds it will have "serious implications" for the future of the CSeries aircraft and Belfast operations.

"Bombardier Belfast is our largest manufacturer, and a highly significant exporter and employer in this region. The value of its operations covers an extensive supply chain," they write.

The threat facing us as a result of the ongoing case is alarming.

"For a small economy such as ours, the significance of the contribution Bombardier makes cannot be understated. The threat facing us as a result of the ongoing case is alarming, and goes much wider than may immediately appear."

They added: "The security of our economy has and continues to be a crucial part of our efforts in delivering peace through prosperity. At a time when we are striving to take the next steps in our work on the Peace Process, and resolve out current political difficulties, this issues creates a new and potentially critical factor.

"The United States has been our financial ally for many years. Your long term friendship has been of incalculable value in helping deliver peace and prosperity. At this crucial and sensitive time for the future we would ask you give consideration to the implications any decision may have here."

In signing off they say the letter has also been sent to the heads of Boeing, Prime Minister Theresa May and the British Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and Defence.

Defending its actions, Boeing said it was seeking "to restore a level playing field in the US single-aisle airplane market". Bombardier said Belfast was crucial to its operations but would not comment further given the ongoing proceedings.

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