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Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill to go ahead with St Patrick's plans in US


Arlene Foster (left) and Michelle O’Neill. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Arlene Foster (left) and Michelle O’Neill. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Arlene Foster (left) and Michelle O’Neill. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill will travel to the US for St Patrick's week celebrations despite coronavirus hitting Northern Ireland.

The First and Deputy First Ministers have a diary full of engagements in New York and Washington next month.

A spokeswoman for The Executive Office last night confirmed they would "undertake a range of engagements with political leaders and potential investors". She added: "Plans have not been affected by coronavirus."

While Sinn Fein and the DUP are keen to attend the first St Patrick's week events since devolution has been restored, ministers from the three other Executive parties are staying at home.

A UUP spokesman said: "Health Minister Robin Swann will not be travelling to the US for the St Patrick`s Day events. The health service requires his full attention and he will be in post in Northern Ireland."

SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon, and Alliance Justice Minister Naomi Long, are also remaining at home.

But SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and MLA Colin McGrath will fly to the US for St Patrick's week to meet potential investors "and to secure the continued support of senior US officials for the peace and political process in Northern Ireland", a party spokesman said.

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However, he added that their travel plans would be kept under review due to coronavirus and in line with the most up-to-date advice from the health authorities.

Mrs Foster and Ms O'Neill will arrive in New York on March 10 for a meeting with investors. They will meet politicians on Capitol Hill the following day and will attend an Ireland Funds dinner in Washington that night.

On March 12, they will meet key business figures at a breakfast hosted by the Northern Ireland Bureau. They will then attend the Speaker's lunch on Capitol Hill followed by a White House reception at which President Trump will be present.

Later that night, they will attend the Irish Ambassador's reception. A reception hosted by the British Ambassador will be their final US engagement the following day.

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