US Delegation Met By Stormont 'New Boy'

A high-powered delegation of US Congressmen has been welcomed to the Stormont Assembly.

Greeted by the newly appointed Junior Minister Robin Newton, (pictured) and the Executive's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, they had a working lunch at Parliament Buildings yesterday.

The delegation - members of the bipartisan Friends of Ireland Group - are on a fact finding tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Mr McGuinness said: "We have enjoyed unprecedented access on Capitol Hill in recent years and it is vital, that in the changing political environment, that we adopt a new approach to strengthen and co-ordinate political cooperation and engagement with the US."

He said that the working lunch allowed the opportunity to explore how to best develop relationships with some of the America's most influential politicians, particularly in relation to issues such as ongoing inward investment and the plight of the undocumented Irish.

Newly sworn-in Junior Minister, the East Belfast DUP MLA, Robin Newton said: "This presents the opportunity to formally welcome the delegation to Northern Ireland and to acknowledge the Executives appreciation of the role and contribution made by the US administration and Congress to the political and economic developments here."

The meeting took place on the same that Mr Newton was sworn into office.

He said that he was looking forward to the many challenges that his new role as Junior Minister will present.

"To be appointed to the post of Junior Minister is a tremendous honour and a great responsibility.

"I am looking forward to getting down to work on a wide range of important and varied issues," he said, noting that he has long held an interest in the issues affecting both young people and older people.

"I am looking forward to addressing their needs and to championing their causes as part of my overall responsibilities. I aim to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society have their voice heard at the highest levels of government," he said.

Earlier, Mr Newton's new colleague, Sinn Féin Junior Minister, Gerry Kelly, had welcomed the appointment of Robin Newton replacing the outgoing Jeffrey Donaldson, who is also an MP.

Mr Kelly said: "As Junior Ministers we have special responsibility for some of the most vulnerable people in our society, children and young people as well as older people, and we will continue to ensure their needs are a key priority."

In a separate development, Mr Newton has been engaged in exchanges over apprenticeships having criticised the Ulster Unionists party's Sir Reg Empey, who is the Employment Minister.

Mr Newton has decades of experience in training and career-related educational achievements and has been at odds with the Minster over his policies.

See: Apprentice Policy Defended By UUP Following Criticism


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