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US 'crucial to helping Northern Ireland bounce back' from Covid pandemic

After talks with Special Envoy, Sinn Fein and DUP hope cross-Atlantic relationship will aid the economy


First Minister Arlene Foster with US special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney and Junior Minister Declan Kearney

First Minister Arlene Foster with US special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney and Junior Minister Declan Kearney

First Minister Arlene Foster with US special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney and Junior Minister Declan Kearney

The DUP and Sinn Fein have said that a strong relationship with the US is key to supporting Northern Ireland's economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The parties were speaking after meeting US Special Envoy Mick Mulvaney at Stormont on Tuesday.

He also held talks with the Ulster Unionists and is set to meet the SDLP and Alliance at Westminster on Wednesday or Thursday.

His visit is part of a week-long trip to the UK and Ireland.

First Minister Arlene Foster said: "It was a pleasure to meet Mr Mulvaney for the first time formally in his role as Special Envoy.

"As our biggest international investor, the United States is hugely important to Northern Ireland. They have long since recognised the strength of our people and the value of our skilled workforce.

"Our meeting afforded the chance to discuss, not just the challenges facing us in Northern Ireland, but the opportunities for trade and investment that will be crucial as we work to rebuild our economy.

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"Mr Mulvaney's interest in the digital economy is particularly relevant to us given our world leading expertise in this sector. I look forward to exploring opportunities to drive investment in this key area."

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill couldn't attend the meeting because she was unwell. She has tested negative for Covid-19.

Sinn Fein was represented by junior minister Declan Kearney.

"We have a long-standing relationship with the United States and in recent years have been uniquely placed to harness some of the huge potential that offers us," he said.

"This is no doubt a turbulent time globally as we face the shared challenge of responding to, and recovering from, the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We discussed this issue with the Special Envoy, along with the additional challenges presented by the fast approaching end of the Brexit transition period."

Speaking after his talks with Mr Mulvaney, Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said: "The meeting provided the opportunity to raise a number of issues with the US Special Envoy, not least our concern and frustration at how a number of politicians are incorrectly misrepresenting the Belfast Agreement in the current Brexit withdrawal negotiations and completely ignoring the unionist position.

"We stressed that the Belfast Agreement must be supported in all its forms and that any barriers to trade within the UK are unacceptable to all of us who put interests of Northern Ireland and it people first."

Mr Aiken added: "We discussed the issue of state aid which is causing so much angst to Dublin as Brexit approaches, and highlighted the importance of the UK Government being able to support Bombardier and the local aerospace industry and how this must not be thwarted by Northern Ireland being subject to rulings from the European Court of Justice.

"We also briefed the Special Envoy on the need for legacy arrangements to be fair to all, including former police officers and soldiers, and that we will not accept the rewriting of history.

"It was a very positive meeting and we look forward to continuing our engagement with the US government as we move forward."

Earlier this week, Mr Mulvaney met Secretary of State Brandon Lewis. The US Special Envoy said he was optimistic that the UK and EU could reach a trade deal before the end of the year.

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