Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Monday, 17 March 2008

Devolved policing crucial - Bush

Mr Ahern presented President Bush with a bowl of shamrock
Mr Ahern presented President Bush with a bowl of shamrock

President George Bush has stressed the importance of devolution of policing for Northern Ireland.

Speaking at the annual St Patrick's Day reception at the White House in Washington, the US leader said more work needed to be done.

He said the United States was willing to help, and would send a high-level delegation which would benefit both NI and US investors.

Several NI politicians attended the reception.

They included Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson.

Ministers also took part in the Northern Ireland Bureau's St Patrick's Day breakfast in Washington.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern participated in a traditional shamrock ceremony with President Bush.

The White House said the shamrock ceremony symbolised the "deep cultural roots and close ties of friendship" between the United States and Ireland.

Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward also attended the ceremony.

Mr Ahern held talks with President Bush ahead of the ceremony.

'High-level delegation'

The president said there would be no progress "without clear conviction and determination by the folks who live in Northern Ireland".

"And there's more work to be done. Taoiseach, as you said, the devolution of policing is important, and we support that," he said.

"But we can also help by sending a clear signal that we're interested in investment opportunities. And so the Northern Ireland Investment Conference in May will be held.

"And I want to repeat what I told the Taoiseach - that we will send a high-level delegation to not only send a signal that we support the efforts of the folks in Northern Ireland, but we expect our folks to be able to find good investment opportunities -- for the good of both."

The two men held talks before the White House reception
The two men held talks before the White House reception

Mr Ahern told the president that it was a time of "unprecedented optimism and promise in Ireland".

"I want especially to acknowledge the leadership of First Minister Ian Paisley, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and our colleagues in the new executive in Northern Ireland.

He added: "I hope that Ireland can now begin to share the lessons of our peace efforts with others in the world who suffer the pain and loss of conflict and division. I'm pleased to be able to say that the new executive and my government enjoy a close and productive partnership.

"We're determined to serve all the people of Ireland, and to ensure that everyone can enjoy rising and sustained prosperity."

White House celebrates St Patrick's Day
17 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Strange bedfellows at Paddy's shindig
17 Mar 07 |  Northern Ireland

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