The civil servant who has been running Northern Ireland in the absence of either devolution or direct rule is to dine with Donald Trump on Saturday - but neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin leaders have been invited.
David Sterling, the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, is to have lunch with the US President at the White House on St Patrick’s Day, the annual high point of Irish-US diplomacy.
Yesterday The Irish Times reported that neither DUP leader Arlene Foster nor Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald had been invited to the White House this year. Neither party denied that report.
Sinn Féin said that it was “waiting to hear” from the White House. The DUP said that Mrs Foster had “received a number of invitations to meet with key influencers in Washington and New York” but would not be travelling this week. The party said that Mrs Foster had asked her Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, to attend events in Washington, including the speaker’s lunch.
Past US administrations have used invitations to the White House as a means of showing pleasure or displeasure at what is happening in Northern Ireland, most forcefully in 2005 when Gerry Adams was not invited to the White House in the wake of the IRA murder of Robert McCartney and instead Mr McCartney’s sisters were invited to meet President Bush.
A spokesman for the US Consulate in Belfast said: “In the absence of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive, Northern Ireland will be represented at the Saint Patrick’s Day reception by Head of Civil Service David Sterling.
“A number of business and civil society leaders from the region will also attend.”
The Irish Times reported that DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr and former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams had been invited to the White House.