Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 19:27 UK

President leaves NI after visit

George and Laura Bush
The president and first lady have left Northern Ireland

US President George W Bush has left Northern Ireland on Airforce One after his one-day visit.

Mr Bush invited the first and deputy first ministers to the White House before he leaves office in January.

Speaking after meeting Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, Mr Bush said the progress made in Northern Ireland over the past 10 years was unimaginable.

He said the world had been impressed by the progress of peace and reconciliation.

Mr Bush discussed investment issues and the devolution of policing and justice with the two ministers.

"This is a good place for investment. Ultimately investment will help NI reach its full potential," Mr Bush said after the meeting.

He said other countries around the world looked to Northern Ireland and wondered if reconciliation was possible for them.


"Northern Ireland is a success story," he said.

"Obviously more work has to be done. Progress made to date would have been unimaginable 10 years ago."

Mr Robinson praised George Bush's role in encouraging economic development in Northern Ireland.

"We are very grateful for the work that has been done by the president and his ambassadors over the previous years ," he said.

"The endorsement of the president for our investment conference goes a long way and it lets people throughout the world know that Northern Ireland truly is open for business."

Mr Bush also met Irish leader Brian Cowen and former first minister Ian Paisley, with whom he exchanged gifts.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife, Sarah, also travelled to Belfast to meet Mr Bush and his wife, Laura.

Martin Mcguinness, George Bush and Peter Robinson
The president met with the first and deputy first ministers

Mrs Brown later accompanied Mrs Bush to a community project in the city where they met young people involved in cross community work across Northern Ireland.

One of the final stops on the presidential party's schedule was to Loughview Integrated Primary School in Castlereagh, where they met pupils and some of the champions of integrated education.

A small crowd had gathered at the school to protest at the visit and one man was arrested.

Earlier on Monday, several hundred people demonstrated in Belfast city centre against Mr Bush's visit to Northern Ireland.

Some climbed to the roof of the city hall and erected an Iraqi flag.

The protest at Belfast City Hall was organised by the Belfast Anti-War Movement representing trade unions and student and women's groups.

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