Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and First Minister Peter Robinson met once again with President Barak Obama today as Washington’s politicos hosted a belated St Patrick’s Day celebration.
Mr McGuinness described the discussions in the White House as “very good” as he and Mr Robinson headed in the President’s convoy to a lunch at Capitol Hill.
The Northern leaders briefed the President on political and economic developments. Aides briefing after the meeting said the President recognised the significant progress made in recent years whilst acknowledging the major challenges ahead. President Obama reiterated the US Administration’s continued support for economic growth and told Ministers that he was looking forward to visiting County Fermanagh when he attends the G8 Summit in June.
The President also met the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Oval Office, and during the day both men referred to the situation in the North.
Speaking before the meetings, President Obama said of the North - “There’s a lot more work to be done before there’s true unity in that country.”
Mr Kenny spoke of “a time of great fragility in Northern Ireland” at the lunch at the Capitol, hosted by Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
President Obamo suggested it took the Irish to get feuding Democrats and Republicans together - and even in green ties.
“We spend the whole year trying to bring this town together, and these leaders are able to do it in a single afternoon. They even get us to dress alike,” the President said. “So my question is: How long can you stay?”
He cited his mother’s ancestral hometown in the small Irish village of Moneygall, joking that he’d brought along documents to prove his claim to Irish heritage but was surprised that people were willing to take his word for it.