NI’s top civil servant at St Patrick’s lunch with Donald Trump

David Sterling will be in Washington this week
David Sterling will be in Washington this week

The civil servant who is effectively running Northern Ireland in the absence of any political leadership will be at a St Patrick’s Day function attended by Donald Trump.

The Executive Office confirmed to the News Letter on Sunday that civil service head David Sterling will be at the Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, Washington, on Thursday – a function set to be attended by both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the US president himself, along with a large number of other dignataries.

It is part of a programme of St Patrick’s Day-related events, which will also see Mr Sterling deliver a speech at the NI Bureau, the Northern Ireland Executive’s US-based office.

This will highlight the Province’s “food and drink and promote tourism and business opportunities to an audience of 350 US opinion formers”, according to the Executive Office (an engagement which happens to coincide with the news today that Co Down mashed potato maker Mash Direct is to start selling its products in the USA).

The Executive Office said: “The first minister and deputy first minister regularly visited the US as part of the St Patrick’s Day programme of events.

“Former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, Sir Malcolm McKibbin, attended events in Washington in 2017.”

In addition, the chairwoman of the Policing Board Anne Connolly will also be in Washington for St Patrick’s events, along with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton.

They are set to address “community policing lessons in Northern Ireland”.

The taoiseach has a string of engagements in the USA in the days ahead, including visits to Texas and New York; one of them will involve joining senator George Mitchell as a keynote speaker at a congressional event to mark 20 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.