Northern Ireland politicians today welcomed Barack Obama into office, as it emerged the only party leader from the province to attend the inauguration, Gerry Adams, will be leaving the celebrations early.
The Sinn Fein President is departing Washington immediately after today’s ceremony to return to Dublin for his party’s commemoration tomorrow night of the inaugural meeting of the First Dáil Éireann 90 years ago.
Mr Adams, who said he felt privileged to be a guest at a watershed moment in American history, commented: “In the short time I have been here it is obvious that there is enormous excitement and expectation among ordinary US citizens about the potential for positive change, heralded by the incoming Obama administration.
“Today is a national holiday in the USA — Martin Luther King Day — and coming as it does on the eve of the swearing in of America's first black president this year it has an added significance and poignancy. Barack Obama campaigned on the basis of bringing in change. There are high hopes in the USA and around the world that he will achieve this.”
His comments came as the DUP tabled a formal motion at Westminster welcoming the new President and other parties also gave their reaction.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: “There is no doubt that the inauguration of President Barack Obama will be a hugely significant day, not just in the United States but across the world. America remains as the world’s only superpower and for us here in Northern Ireland as the Investment Conference last year demonstrated, is a target for inward investment.
“Northern Ireland has much to be proud of within the United States and I am very keen that the Ulster-Scots who left these shores, and helped establish the democracy which Barack Obama represents, are recognised and commemorated.
“The links between Ulster and the United States are very strong and indeed the special relationship between the United Kingdom as a whole and the USA is something we all wish to see strengthened, so I am sure that this motion will attract support not just from Northern Ireland MPs but from right across the House.”
Alliance leader David Ford said the incoming President has brought hope to millions and brought “the chance to change the world for the better, following a difficult few years in America and across the globe.
“America has had to wait too long for someone like Barack Obama. His inauguration is seen as heralding a bright new era,” Mr Ford said.