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First ministers defend Brazil and US trade visit


The First and Deputy First Ministers have defended their 12-day trade mission to Brazil and the US at the expense of the taxpayer.

Arriving back into Belfast International Airport yesterday, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness stood side by side – for the first time in public since last month – in defence of the visit, which took them to Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Washington DC and Los Angeles.

The main aim of the investment trip has been to drum up trade for Northern Ireland, and earlier this week Mr Robinson took to Twitter to respond to what he called the "whingers and whiners" who had criticised the cost of the trip and its "secrecy".

Yesterday, he told UTV that the two leaders had made "some fantastic contacts" in Brazil, and there would be a trade delegation there in May.

The DUP leader said the trip had been successful and worth every penny spent on it. "In terms of the worth of the visit, we can close down the doors, we can pull the shutters down, we can have a little northerner attitude, or we can reach out to the rest of the world and try and capture jobs, bring investment to Northern Ireland and try and bring visitors here as well," he said.

Mr McGuinness described the visit as "very important" and said he had no difficulty justifying the efforts made.

"We took a decision some time ago, at the foot of the huge success we've had in attracting new inward investment from the USA, that it was important to go out to countries like China, India and Brazil and I think people need to understand that if you don't go out to these places you don't count," the Deputy First Minister said.

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