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Foster and McGuinness urge Trump to strengthen bond with Northern Ireland

Foster and McGuinness congratulate Republican on stunning triumph, but Nesbitt says he wouldn't welcome a new Washington administration 'trying to tell us what to do'

By Noel McAdam

Arlene Foster has said she expects America's relationship with Northern Ireland to continue in the aftermath of Donald Trump's election as President.

And the US contribution to economic development in the province should also continue, the First Minister added.

Both Mrs Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness congratulated Mr Trump on his victory yesterday, and expressed hope the province's long-standing ties with the US would be strengthened during his time at the White House.

His defeated opponent Hillary Clinton has a long-established relationship with Northern Ireland's peace process going back 20 years, and there has been speculation the US interest in us could wane under the billionaire businessman.

Yet Stormont's top two were stridently upbeat in their first reaction to the result, although other party leaders struck a more cautious tone.

DUP supremo Mrs Foster said: "We are a small region but we are fortunate to have strong historical, economic and political ties to the United States.

"Northern Ireland has developed a mutually beneficial relationship with the United States and I look forward to working with Donald Trump's administration to continue this. As our largest inward investor, the United States plays a massive role in our economic progress."

And Sinn Fein's Mr McGuinness added: "I will work constructively with President Trump to maintain and strengthen our well established and deeply valued relationship with the United States.

"Over many years successive US administrations have made a major contribution to both our peace process and economic development, and I expect this to continue."

The Deputy First Minister added: "I commiserate with Hillary Clinton, who showed unwavering commitment to the north of Ireland as Secretary of State and First Lady."

Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to Mr Trump to congratulate him on his victory, declaring that Britain and America will remain "strong and close partners".

Asked if he was a fit person to be President and someone she could work with, she said: "Yes, I look forward to working with President-elect Trump. The American people have elected him as the next President of the United States."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said he looked forward to "continued US engagement" with Northern Ireland. He also thanked former Senator Gary Hart, who has served as President Barack Obama's special representative to Northern Ireland.

"The question now is what will President-elect Trump do?" he asked.

"I appreciate the way Gary Hart was willing to help without interfering, but I get the impression President-elect Trump is either full-on or totally out - and neither would be best for Northern Ireland.

"We appreciate American interest and assistance, but we would not welcome an administration trying to tell us what to do."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the President-elect needed to unite his country and attempt to heal the wounds of a bitterly divisive election campaign.

"It has not only split America almost down the middle but his own party has been fragmented. A President has to be a unifier and I hope he realises this."

The former East Belfast MP said it was no secret she had supported Mrs Clinton, "but the American people have made their decision via the electoral college and we must respect it".

"However, although there is clearly a growing anti-Establishment movement throughout global politics, Donald Trump is part of that Establishment," Ms Long added.

"Whatever people's thoughts and whoever American citizens voted for, we cannot let the rhetoric Mr Trump used repeatedly throughout his campaign to become the norm. We must stand together and challenge hate speech and actions, even if it is from the President of the United States."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: "Just like the decision to leave the EU, the prejudiced and blinded liberal pundits of the media never saw the election of Donald Trump coming.

"Once again they have been defied by the will of ordinary people who like straight talking and are fed up of a ruling elite who think they know better than the rest of the population."

But SDLP leader Colum Eastwood yesterday stood by his insistence he will not attend White House events in Washington - and slammed the result as a "victory of fanatical and fantasy absolutism".

The Foyle MLA made clear last month Trump's "absolutely grotesque" remarks about women, immigrants and minority communities would make it impossible for him to accept any invitations under his presidency.

"Trump's was not so much a victory of Right over Left, it was a victory of fanatical and fantasy absolutism over a more considered, coherent and kinder politics," Mr Eastwood said.

"I choose to stand by a very different set of values than those displayed by this man."

Belfast Telegraph


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