Indeed. Countries such as the United States, with whom we share a special relationship, maintain a huge interest in Northern Ireland, and the US derives that interest partly from its own historical and cultural relationship with Ireland, as well as its instrumental role in supporting the Belfast agreement negotiations. As everyone knows, Ireland’s long-standing historical connections with the US meant that Irish and Ulster Scots immigrants were fundamental in the early years of the United States. As the hon. Gentleman mentioned in his opening remarks, that bond is an important link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the world, creating further potential for attracting visitors to Northern Ireland’s shores.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was in Washington last week for the annual St Patrick’s day celebrations—an annual event that has endured for more than 25 years. He met a wide range of key stakeholders from across Irish America, including the new special envoy for Northern Ireland, Mick Mulvaney. They discussed the diplomatic break- throughs represented by the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement and the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive—further milestones that will help to secure Northern Ireland’s social and economic success.
The hon. Gentleman highlighted the connections that Northern Ireland’s people enjoy across the world, as well as their justified local pride. I should point out that Northern Ireland’s tourist attractions can, and often do, speak for themselves. How could visitors to Northern Ireland not be enticed by the promises of wide open spaces and fresh air? Indeed, anyone on a wellness pilgrimage should look no further. Boasting many miles of stunning coastline, unforgettable experiences and exceptional food and drink, local tourism is a dynamic and rapidly expanding sector, making a substantial contribution to growth, employment and prosperity in Northern Ireland. I have been fortunate over the last few weeks to visit a number of the key attractions and sample some of the outstanding hospitality for myself, but I can hardly compete with the hon. Gentleman’s travelogue in selling the benefits of his constituency.