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SDLP secure Obama meeting

By David Gordon

The SDLP last night secured an eleventh hour meeting with the US President after it appeared the party leader would not get ‘face time’ with Barack Obama.

After complaints by SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie, it emerged last night that she would meet the President alongside the delegation from the Republic.

Ms Ritchie had argued that all four parties in the Stormont Executive should have been represented at the White House.

Speaking ahead of the Northern Ireland Breakfast in Washington, she said that if there is a four-party coalition, there should be “physical and political manifestations” of it in action.

“The best place to show that is here in the United States, with a four-party meeting with the President,” she said.

Peter Robinson retorted: “We meet the President by his invitation. We know that we do not demand meetings with the leader of free world.”

Mr McGuinness said: “We don’t decide who goes into the White House. That is in the gift of the President.”

UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said he understood what Ms Ritchie was saying, but added: “It’s entirely a matter for those who issue the invitations who they invite. What advice they received is another matter. I’m not getting into that. I’m concentrating on building economic contacts.”

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