Stormont Executive ministers in Washington for St Patrick's festivities

Stormont Executive ministers in Washington for St Patrick's festivities

EXCLUSIVE by Peter Kelly in Washington DC

Michelle O'Neill to US audiences: 'we're open for business'

Michelle O'Neill, Nancy Pelosi and Emma Little-Pengelly

Northern Ireland is in a new era, Stormont leaders told exclusive Washington audiences this week.

They were speaking ahead of meeting US President Joe Biden at the White House in the annual St Patrick's Day celebrations across the United States.

First and Deputy First Ministers Michelle O'Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly attended star-studded events across the US capital in a show of unity. They were there to promote investment in the North in the aftermath of restoration of government in Belfast in February.

The new Sinn Féin First Minister told business audiences: "We’re here with a clarion call to all US investors that we’re open for businesses, that government has been reinstated. It’s functional again."

One event raised $1.2million for the Ireland Funds charity. Established in the 1980s it supports peace and cultural projects along with education and community development programmes across Ireland.

Mrs O'Neill told The Irish Post at the event: "Engaging with American audiences is critical. They have been successive partners for peace and helped deliver our own peace process. Our politics is working again."

The Tyrone Assembly Member added, "There's no doubt we are in a new era" and described the North as "a very changing portrait."

Telling Washington audiences that Ireland is open for business

Emma Little-Pengelly attended events as the first unionist to occupy the role of deputy First Minister in the North's history. She said: "We stand here tonight, as Irish and Ulster-Scots representing the two great traditions of our island." The DUP representative was accompanied by her unionist party leader Sir Jeffery Donaldson in a show of strength with a DUP delegation from the new Executive.

Mrs Little-Pengelly echoed the Sinn Féin First Minister's call for economic investment and thanked audiences for supporting the North "through the difficult times" and declared the region "open for business."

Joining the pair on stage was Joe Biden's White House envoy, former Congressman Joe Kennedy, the great grand-nephew of former US president John F Kennedy. Both First Minister O'Neill and Deputy First Minister Little-Pengelly will meet President Joe Biden at the White House on St Patrick’s Day.

Peter Kelly in Washington