Page last updated at 19:09 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 20:09 UK

PMs attend NI investment event


Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Taoiseach Brian Cowen both attended events at Stormont

The British and Irish prime ministers are in Belfast in a bid to drive forward foreign investment in Northern Ireland.

Gordon Brown and Taoiseach Brian Cowen were greeted at Stormont by First and Deputy First Ministers, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.

Senior politicians and business executives are attending the three-day investment conference.

Earlier, US President George Bush sent a video message to event delegates.

"Peace in Northern Ireland is giving your people a new opportunity to prosper"

The President said it was clear Northern Ireland was "open to foreign investment".

"The United States will continue to support the people of Northern Ireland as you take charge of your future, and we share with you the firm belief that even greater opportunities for co-operation lie ahead," he added.

European Union President Jose Manuel Barroso also sent an upbeat video message, where he said: "Northern Ireland now has a great chance to build on its new political momentum, its well-educated workforce and its international ties.

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"I am sure that foreign investors already established in Northern Ireland will soon be joined by more, and then Northern Ireland will take its place on the map as a region embedded in a broader network in a new Europe which is the foundation stone for our future prosperity."

Before going into Parliament Buildings, Mr Brown said it was an "historic day of opportunity for Northern Ireland".

"This is a day that celebrates the anniverary a year ago of the reinstitution of the executive and the assembly.

"I want to thank them (the First and Deputy First Ministers) for the significant progress, great progress over the last year."

The leaders will speak to more than 100 US executives who are in Northern Ireland for the three-day conference.

It will be the first joint engagement for the prime minister and the new taoiseach.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also due to go on walkabout in Belfast city centre.

Mr Paisley told delegates that the executive had plans for improvements in schools, hospitals, roads and telecommunications which would amount to $40bn over the next 10 years.

He said investing in Northern Ireland would provide opportunities for everyone.

He added: "I know that you are with us in spirit, but we ask you today - you that have money - be with us with your bank and cheque."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said there "was an awful lot to look forward to in Northern Ireland".

"I want to commend ministers Paisley and McGuinness for coming together to organise this conference and for drawing a curtain back on a new north that is now open for business."

More jobs were announced on the second day the conference.

He added: "What can government now do to help spur the investment that drives economic opportunity?

"The answers are generally the same no matter where you go... good schools and a well-educated workforce. Good infrastructure, especially transportation links to other commercial hubs. A good quality of life with the kinds of diverse cultural opportunities that will help attract the best and the brightest from around the world.

"And most importantly - peace and stability."

Later on Thursday, a gala dinner will be held at Hillsborough Castle.

The investment conference which runs from 7-9 May is the fifth to persuade US firms to invest in NI. The first was after the 1994 IRA ceasefire.

Some 120 executives from 80 companies are attending the 36-hour event which includes a sales pitch from Invest Northern Ireland.

Invest NI hopes this showcase event will persuade at least some of those firms to invest - but as is the nature of these things it could be three years or more before its success can be judged.

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