Ministers defend Brazil invitation

A street is decorated with national flags of countries participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup near Santa Cruz Cabralia, Brazil
A street is decorated with national flags of countries participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup near Santa Cruz Cabralia, Brazil

Exports to Brazil are worth millions of pounds to the Northern Ireland economy so any trip by the First and Deputy First Ministers during the World Cup would be no junket, an Executive spokeswoman said.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are considering an invitation to visit the vast South American country to “support continued investment” and to build on existing relationships.

News of the proposed trip has sparked anger in some quarters, with claims the ministers would be better off remaining in the Province to repair their own fractured relationship.

It is understood the pair have been invited by Marfrig, the Brazilian parent company of Moy Park, which also operates in 15 other nations around the world and has a distribution network spanning 160 countries.

One of the most outspoken critics of the visit is businessman Bill Jeffrey who described the trip, expected to be around the time of the world’s greatest football tournament, as “a junket” and that “there is no other word for it”.

The World Cup gets under way tonight when the host nation plays Croatia in Sao Paulo, and will run until the middle of next month.

Mr Jeffrey said: “They need to be here – they need to demonstrate leadership, and we have enough of a backlog of legislation in that Assembly up there.

“If they are going to bring job here they need to clear up some of the problems they have with the discrimination that’s widespread right across Northern Ireland and is a total disgrace,” he told BBC Radio’s Nolan show.

Another caller said he also thought the visit was a waste of time, and added: “They are doing nothing at Stormont and they are going away at the worst time of the year.”

However, one man rang to say he backed any effort to bring more jobs to Northern Ireland.

Responding to the criticism, the OFMDFM spokeswoman said: “Northern Ireland enjoys positive relationships with Brazil, for both trade and investment as a result of previous trade missions and ministerial visits.

“Provisional figures for 2013/14 show exports to Brazil worth £34.6m to the Northern Ireland economy.

“In addition, over the last five years Invest NI has supported projects that will contribute over £9m to the Northern Ireland economy.”

The spokeswoman added: “A visit to Brazil is currently under consideration to further develop these relationships and support continued investment.”

Cup link to domestic abuse

As the World Cup kicks off in Brazil, police have issued a warning that domestic abuse, linked to an increase in alcohol consumption, will not be tolerated.

The PSNI is reminding victims that they do not need to suffer in silence and encouraging them to report any and all incidents.

C/Superintendent George Clarke said: “Of course we hope everyone enjoys the football spectacle over the next month, but we urge a sensible approach when consuming alcohol. All too often we find that alcohol is a significant contributory factor in domestic abuse incidents...please drink responsibly.”