DUP squad heading to USA to lobby Washington figures as Joe Biden's team scope out possible visit to Northern Ireland

A number of DUP figures will be setting off for the United States next week ahead of St Patrick’s Day.
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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Gordon Lyons comprise the ‘official’ delegation going to Washington DC, whilst Ian Paisley, Emma Little-Pengelly and Phillip Brett will be visiting independently.

“I look forward to meeting with law makers and opinion formers in the United States next week,” said the DUP leader.

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"My message to them will be that it is vital Northern Ireland is able to move forward building on solid foundations – but that can only be done by respecting the views of Unionists…

"We are determined to see a return to the delicate political balance within Northern Ireland where the views of unionists are valued and respected.

"Washington, Dublin, London and Brussels must remember that progress has only ever been made in Northern Ireland by both unionists and nationalists working together.”

Meanwhile, White House officials have visited Belfast in advance of a potential trip by President Joe Biden next month.

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It is understood officials and members of the Secret Service arrived in Northern Ireland last weekend to scope possible venues for a presidential visit.

US / UK flagsUS / UK flags
US / UK flags

The officials have also toured sites in Dublin and elsewhere in the Republic of Ireland as part of planning for a multiple-destination visit to the island of Ireland, the PA news agency understands.

While no dates for a visit have been finalised, there is an expectation that a trip, if confirmed, would take place in April, given that is the month when Northern Ireland marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement peace deal.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet Mr Biden in Washington DC next week as part of the annual St Patrick's programme of events in the US capital.

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Former US president Bill Clinton and his wife and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton are already expected in Belfast next month for events to commemorate the landmark accord that largely ended the Troubles.

Other key figures involved in securing the deal are also expected in the city too.