Northern Ireland news

David Sterling to attend St Patrick's lunch with Donald Trump

US president Donald Trump
Brendan Hughes

STORMONT'S chief civil servant is to attend a lunch with Donald Trump as part of engagements in the US marking St Patrick's Day.

David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, will next week attend the speaker's lunch at Capitol Hill in Washington, which will be attended by Mr Trump and taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Northern Ireland has not had a power-sharing government in place for the past year amid political deadlock, with civil servants instead running executive departments.

When Stormont ministers were in post, the first and deputy first ministers would have annually visited the US as part of a St Patrick's Day programme of events.

But following the collapse of the institutions, former head of the civil service Sir Malcolm McKibbin attended events last year in Washington.

The Executive Office yesterday confirmed Mr Sterling would be travelling to Washington this year.

He will attend the American Ireland Fund Gala and the British and Irish Ambassadors' receptions.

Mr Sterling will also deliver the speech at the NI Bureau's Breakfast, and attend a seminar hosted by the NI Bureau highlighting the north's experience of community policing.

Policing Board chair Anne Connolly will also attend events in Washington to mark St Patrick's Day, including a speaking engagement with PSNI chief constable George Hamilton.

The board is responsible for monitoring the performance of the PSNI, but political representatives have not sat on the board since Stormont's collapse

In November, it emerged that the justice department's permanent secretary said it had received "legal advice to the effect that the board cannot exercise any of its functions".

In relation to the St Patrick's engagements, a board spokeswoman said Ms Connolly had also attended events last year with the chief constable.

"It is important that the current position of the Policing Board is represented and the impact that the ongoing political impasse has on the work of the board and policing," she said.

"The Policing Board and the Police Service of Northern Ireland have always appreciated and benefited from the US interest and support.

"There is also much acknowledgement for the learning and experience that policing in Northern Ireland can bring to the US."

She added that the cost of the trip had not yet been finalised and "will be met from within the board's budget".

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has said new president Mary Lou McDonald will be leading a delegation to the US next week for St Patrick's celebrations.

She will be accompanied by vice-resident Michelle O'Neill, and former leader Gerry Adams at events in New York and Washington.

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