Barack Obama has told politicians from Northern Ireland that he is looking forward to visiting the Fermanagh lakelands when he attends the G8 summit later in June.
Speaking during the annual St Patrick’s visit of the First and Deputy First Minister to the White House, the US president also praised the peace process — but warned that more work still had to be done.
He told an audience that included Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness that America continues “to see progress coming out of the Good Friday Agreement — but we also have to recognize that there’s a lot more work to be done before there’s true unity of effort in that country”.
In his speech to about 80 invited guests in Washington, Mr Obama reminisced about his 2011 visit to the Republic.
“And I’m very much looking forward to visiting Northern Ireland for the G8 summit this June,” he added.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who presented Mr Obama with the traditional bowl of shamrock, used his speech to highlight recent disturbing developments in Northern Ireland, including loyalist riots and recent thwarted mortar attacks by dissidents.
“I want you all to understand that this a time of great fragility in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Kenny.
“It’s a time for clear political leadership. And we as a government in the Republic together with the Executive, First and Deputy First Minister, the British government and all the parties want this to succeed.”
The first and deputy first ministers also met privately with Mr Obama as part of the US leg of their latest investment-seeking trip abroad.
They used a visit yesterday to the Los Angeles premiere of HBO series Game of Thrones, which is shot in Northern Ireland, to pitch for more filming projects. “Game of Thrones has generated up to £65m direct spend in the local economy,” said Mr Robinson.
“We will continue to build on our highly successful relationship with HBO and have made a strong argument for any further series to continue to be filmed in Northern Ireland.”
President Obama is scheduled to attend the G8 summit with other world leaders in Fermanagh in June.
After their own private morning meeting with the president, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness visited Capitol Hill, where they attended the Friends of Ireland luncheon hosted by Speaker of the House John Boehner.