Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly head stateside for engagements ahead of St Patrick’s Day gathering

Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly will attend events to foster ‘special connection’ with America

First Minister Michelle O’Neill, left, and deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly will take part in a series of St Patrick’s Day engagements
First Minister Michelle O’Neill and deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly will take part in a series of St Patrick’s Day engagements in the US. PICTURE: PA (Liam McBurney/PA)

The north’s first and deputy first ministers are departing for the US ahead of St Patrick’s Day engagements in Washington DC.

The Stormont leaders are among politicians from across the island attending events in the US and its capital, including the traditional St Patrick’s Day gathering at the White House where they will meet President Joe Biden.

This year’s engagements are taking place against a backdrop of calls for leaders to boycott the events over the Gaza conflict and US support for Israel.

The SDLP have said they will not attend the White House gathering but will instead attend events in Washington DC with both Irish-American groups and Palestinian-American groups.

Sinn Féin has said its delegates will use “every political and diplomatic opportunity and influence that we have to be a voice for Palestine” and to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

President Joe Biden waves to supporters after speaking at a campaign event in Atlanta (Brynn Anderson/AP)
President Joe Biden PICTURE: BRYNN ANDERSON/AP (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Ahead of meeting Mr Biden, Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little Pengelly will attend a series of events in the US, including the NI Bureau Breakfast, Ireland Funds Gala, a meeting with the US Chamber of Commerce, and an event at Georgetown University.

“I am ambitious for a brighter future for our people and I want to harness the benefits of the special connection between ourselves and the US. This relationship was crucial to our peace process and continues today through investment, knowledge sharing and support,” Ms O’Neill said.

Ms Little-Pengelly said the events “give us the opportunity to engage with some of the most influential decisions makers at a senior level”.

She added: “I am confident they will see the potential we have to offer and recognise our commitment to doing everything we can to ensure Northern Ireland thrives.”

Stormont economy minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy arrived in the States earlier this week for a series of meetings, while Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris is travelling to Washington ahead of the St Patrick’s Day engagements.