Belfast Telegraph

G8 is a chance to tell the world Northern Ireland is ready to do business

By Liam Clarke

There will be several Peter and Martin moments — guest appearances by the First and Deputy First Minister — around the G8 summit.

Despite the heavy international agenda, David Cameron, and to some extent Barack Obama, are determined to showcase Northern Ireland as a poster child for what can be done in a former conflict zone.

It sends a strong message that the leaders of some of the most important economic and military powers on earth are now happy to visit an area with our legacy. It is a sign to the world that our war is over and we are open for business. As David Cameron said, it could not have happened 20 years ago.

We are likely to gain more from our few days in the limelight than other G8 locations. When the UK last hosted a G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland, it was largely incidental.

The tone, as a British event, was set when it was opened by a black tie dinner hosted by the Queen. Here, the regional quality will be front and centre.

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness will greet most of the leaders when they land at Aldergrove on Monday morning. They will then take part in President Obama's keynote local event when he addresses young people at the Waterfront Hall. He will be joined by his wife Michelle and two teenage daughters Malia and Sasha on the stage.

Clips from that speech will go coast to coast in the US and beyond. His planned message of hope will encourage others to visit Northern Ireland. Afterwards the two leaders will travel to Enniskillen to be filmed with all the heads of state.

There will be other photo opportunities for the two of them, including one with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Premier. He will get strong coverage from his country's TV and print media when he tours the Titanic quarter. That will encourage tourism and trade. There may be other moments with leaders like Stephen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minster, on Tuesday.

Money couldn't buy it. Better still, these meetings will be accompanied by plugs for an international trade and investment conference in October backed by a package of investment incentives.

This is heavy duty international exposure for the leaders of a devolved region whose population lags behind the majority of G8 cities.

It is an opportunity to show our best face. All we have to do is take it.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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