Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness provided details on the itinerary for his forthcoming trip to the USA with the First Minister during today’s Question Time. The purpose of the March trip will be to promote inward investment opportunities. As well as meeting with current investors such as HBO and Seagate, the Ministers will also be hosting an investment luncheon with more than 100 Silicon Valley business executives to discuss the merits of doing business in Northern Ireland. They will also be officiating at the opening of the new Invest NI office on the west coast. The Minister acknowledged the significance of direct foreign investment and the important role that this trip will play.
Junior Minister Jennifer McCann also updated the House with the latest developments on the Social Investment Fund. It was recently announced that £33m will be invested in 23 projects through the programme. These projects will tackle “poverty and deprivation through improved community-based services and facilities”. These projects encompass all nine social investment zones and show that the Executive “remains committed to delivering social change through significant investment and working with the communities”. Funds will be released as the projects complete the approval process.
During the Topical Question period, Phil Flanagan asked the deputy First Minister for his views on the recent racial abuse suffered by fellow MLA Anna Lo. The Minister was quick to register his disgust at the “vile treatment” directed at Ms Lo and issued a call for all MLAs to stand together in the face of such abuse, not just towards elected representatives but everyone in our society.
Other topics discussed during Question Time included e-safety, contingency plans for the recent extreme weather, the future of the Maze Long Kesh site and funding for shared education.