Question Time: Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister 24 March 2014

During today’s listed questions posed to deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Adrian McQuillan asked if the Ministers considered the Haass talks to have provided value for money. The deputy First Minister asserted that the talks are essential and while conceding that there are no easy answers he remains committed to finding a long term sustainable solution for the community. He added that he considers it a privilege that figures of such international standing as Richard Haass and Megan O’Sullivan agreed to facilitate the talks and on a pro bono basis. “While the talks concluded without agreement between the five Executive parties this does not negate the value of the process so far nor call in to question the necessary and unavoidable costs that this entailed”.

Junior Minister, Jennifer McCann, then provided an update on the delivery of the Social Investment Fund, hoping to reassure Members concerned at the slow rollout of the selected projects, saying that they are “keen to ensure that projects are fully established and under way as soon as possible”.

The deputy First Minister was also able to provide the House with an update on his recent trip to the USA with the First Minister. As well as participating in the St Patrick’s Day celebrations on Capitol Hill the deputy Minister was pleased with the investment opportunities that arose on the trip. They met with senior executives from HBO (the production of ‘Game of Thrones’ has brought approx. £98m into the NI economy) and also attended the opening of the new Invest NI office in San Francisco. He was also encouraged by the response that they received at their business meeting with 120 executives from Silicon Valley and is “very confident” that this will lead to further job creation. During topical questions, Mr McGuinness also confirmed his belief that the devolution of corporation tax powers would further boost the prospect of attracting direct foreign investment.

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