Belfast Telegraph

Robinson and McGuinness are keeping the show on the road

The First and Deputy First Ministers have been on a whirlwind of photo calls this week as they visit major Northern Ireland companies ahead of next week's investment conference in Washington.

The proliferation of pictures - surveying a bottle of chemicals at Almac in Craigavon, admiring glow-in-the-dark evacuation equipment at Lightstep in Dunmurry - seems to signal an efficient working relationship between the two. And it would take a heart of stone not to be amused by the matching safety goggles and Almac overalls donned during yesterday's Almac visit.

Such tableaux can only enhance the image of Northern Ireland as a safe house for American money and a worthy location for investment ahead of the conference. In fact, the images seemed to begin streaming out at the opening of the New York Stock Exchange Technologies offices in Adelaide Exchange in Belfast city centre.

Controversially, the pair declined to meet Pope Benedict XVI on his recent visit to Britain in order to attend that opening, sending out a strong signal that the province was open for business and had two united leaders singing from the same hymn sheet.

Image is everything, and while this pair is still far from the Chuckle Brothers rapport which ultimately dogged Ian Paisley snr, there does seem to be a greater willingness to engage in the OFMDFM.

And it's the economy, stupid, which is making them work harder.

Following the trip to Craigavon, Mr Robinson said they were told by Almac's board that much of the company's success was down to an admirable local talent pool. "The message that we will take to the US next week is clear, if you have the business we have the people," he declared.

Mr McGuinness also bigged up the province as a whole. "We have grown into a confident and forward-looking society that I believe potential investors recognise as our most valuable asset," he said.

The dynamic duo sprinkled some political stardust on the Ballygawley dual carriageway project in Co Tyrone on Wednesday, before calling in to the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute in Loughgall, Co Armagh, where they admired some willow woodchip.

Politics may well be showbusiness for ugly people (no disrespect to Messrs McGuinness and Robinson). Let's hope these shows bring in plenty of business after next week.