Northern Ireland investment conference begins in Belfast
Leaders hope to capitalise on positive image of region generated during G8 summit
Japanese minister Naoki Ito, chief executive of Invest NI Alastair Hamilton, US consul general Gregory Burton, secretary of state for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers, first minister Peter Robinson, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, enterprise minister Arlene Foster and Canadian high commissioner Gordon Campbell at the gala dinner for the Northern Ireland Investment Conference at Hillsborough Castle last night. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire
A major overseas investment conference in Northern Ireland provides a chance to capitalise on the positive image of the region generated by the successful hosting of the G8 summit, Stormont’s first minister has said.
Peter Robinson highlighted the region’s credentials as a good place to do business as he and deputy first minister Martin McGuinness welcomed visiting delegates from 16 countries.
British prime minister David Cameron will join the leaders of the devolved administration in Belfast today for the high profile event.
It comes after Mr Cameron hosted fellow leaders of the G8 nations at the Lough Erne Resort in Co Fermanagh in June — an event that witnessed none of the protest disorder that had dogged previous summits.
Last night Mr Robinson, Mr McGuinness and Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers hosted a welcome dinner for the delegates, who include both current and potential investors, at Hillsborough Castle.
But efforts by political leaders to showcase a positive post-Troubles image of Northern Ireland have been hit by two murders in the region this week, in Belfast and Londonderry, that have been blamed on dissident republicans.
Mr Robinson said: “This evening’s dinner is an opportunity to welcome the many senior executives, ambassadors and government representatives that have made the journey to be part of this investment conference, as well as current investors who have made such a valuable contribution to our economy.
“While the conference proper begins tomorrow, this evening’s event is a unique opportunity for us to begin building relations with key decision-makers, in the impressive surroundings of Hillsborough Castle.
“The Investment Conference is a direct result of the very positive impression made by Northern Ireland at the G8 Summit in June. It is great chance for us to capitalise on that and ensure that Northern Ireland retains a high profile worldwide.”
Mr McGuinness added: “Tonight’s event is an excellent opportunity to strengthen our bonds with existing investors and to warmly welcome potential investors who have taken the time to come and hear what we have to offer as an investment location.
“Foreign Direct Investment can bring many benefits to our community, by creating new jobs and helping to boost economic growth. It also generates additional opportunities within the local supply chain and leads to the expansion and growth of many home-grown businesses.
“It is important potential investors get the right impression of a highly competitive, stable, investment location. The senior executives at the conference will find a business-friendly Executive ready to support international investment.”
The Northern Ireland Investment Conference is organised by Stormont business support agency Invest Northern Ireland on behalf of the powersharing executive.