Investment conference 'will bring hundreds of jobs to NI'
This week's investment conference will bring hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs to Northern Ireland, First Minister Peter Robinson has said.
The two-day conference was attended by 150 potential and existing investors.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Northern Ireland was second only to London in the UK as the top destination for inward investment.
Mr Cameron praised the working relationship between the first and deputy first ministers.
At a news conference following the event, Mr Robinson joked that it was good to talk to Mr Cameron because he understood the difficulties that can exist in coalition governments.
Addressing the conference, Mr Cameron urged foreign investors to "put your money in Northern Ireland and be part of this incredible success story".
"Some people say it's a bit undignified for a prime minster to make a sales pitch, I say nonsense," he said.
"I'm passionate about the power of business to create jobs and growth and I'm passionate about what Northern Ireland has to offer, and so I'm here today with a very simple message.
"Put your money in Northern Ireland and be part of this incredible success story because investing in Northern Ireland makes good business sense."
Mr Cameron told the conference at Belfast's Titanic Building that Northern Ireland had put on a "great G8" during the summer.
"What was seen this summer was a new Northern Ireland open for business, ready for investment, strengthening the foundations for peace, stability and prosperity and determined to be defined not by divided past but by shared future," he said.
"With over 800 foreign investors, Northern Ireland is second only to London in the UK as the top destination for inward investment, with almost 8,000 jobs from foreign investment in the last three years alone."
Mr Cameron also visited the east Belfast factory of the aerospace company Bombardier, which said it will create at least 250 new jobs in the city over the next 12 months.
On Thursday, it emerged the company hopes a future research programme will employ an additional 230 people.
"These murders are despicable and the people responsible should be hunted down prosecuted and convicted, they should face justice," he said.
Mr Cameron said that investors believed Northern Ireland was a "safe and secure" place to do business.
He said that First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had taken risks for peace and that they would continue to take risks to ensure there was progress.
"They come from very different political parties, different traditions but they work together for the people of Northern Ireland," Mr Cameron added.
Earlier, the first and deputy first ministers said Northern Ireland has much to offer international investors.
Mr Robinson said Northern Ireland has "many of the building blocks in place" to take its economy to a "higher level".
Mr McGuinness said the country had a young, educated workforce and offered a high standard of living.
Mr Robinson said the key to moving Northern Ireland forward as one community was creating jobs and promoting social inclusion.
He said at the heart of the Northern Ireland Executive's programme for government was the creation of a vibrant economy.
"The reaction we often get from potential investors who take the time to come here is that 'we didn't think that Northern Ireland had so much to offer,'" he said.
Mr Robinson also joked that he hoped those attending the conference had enjoyed a traditional healthy, fat-free Northern Ireland breakfast.
'Safe place to live'
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told delegates that Northern Ireland was a "very safe place to invest and to live, with very low crime levels".
He said existing inward investors had been impressed with what Northern Ireland had to offer, including its "young educated workforce", excellent telecommunications infrastructure, government support and its location as a "gateway to Europe".
Mr McGuinness said people in Northern Ireland had a "strong work ethic" and more than 60% of school leavers continued their studies by taking either further or higher education courses.
The deputy first minister also praised the quality of life in Northern Ireland. He told investors that they would never be more than an hour's drive from either the sea or the mountains, and could enjoy first class golfing and fishing facilities.
Speaking at the conference on Friday morning, Northern Ireland Economy Minister Arlene Foster said Mr Cameron had fulfilled a commitment he had made during the summer, when the prime minister hosted the G8 summit in County Fermanagh.
She said he had promised in June to return to Northern Ireland to promote the role he believes it can play in the wider UK economy, and she added that the business event was part of the "economic legacy of the G8".
Ms Foster said she was "very confident that there will be investment after this conference".
The economy minister was asked if the murders of Kevin Kearney and Barry McCrory, who were shot dead within 48 hours in Belfast and Londonderry, had overshadowed the event.
Ms Foster said: "Obviously those of us who live here are shocked and horrified that those sorts of murders can take place on our streets."
However, she added: "We've been focusing on talking to the delegates about the good things in Northern Ireland - that fact that we have such good skills here, and if people invest in Northern Ireland they will definitely get value for money."
The conference is the first event of its kind in Northern Ireland, since the global downturn began in 2008.