Northern Ireland

Brazil trip by NI ministers 'not World Cup junket'

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness
Image caption Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have been invited to take part in a trade mission

NI's first and deputy first ministers have been invited to visit Brazil next month.

It is understood they have been invited to visit Marfrig, the Brazilian parent company of Moy Park.

Marfrig is one of the official sponsors of the World Cup which starts this week and runs until mid-July.

A senior Stormont source denied that any trip by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness could be described as a "World Cup junket".

The source pointed out that the trade mission to South America would involve securing hundreds of jobs.

The source told the BBC the two politicians would see more football if they stayed at home and watched it on television than if they took long-haul flights to engage in a trade mission.

Both Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness visited Marfrig's headquarters in Sao Paulo in March last year.

'Not negotiate'

Sinn Féin sources said the Brazil trip should not pose any logistical difficulty for the forthcoming inter-party talks on flags, parades and the past because both Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are expected to be in Northern Ireland for the next three to four weeks.

Sinn Féin sources told the BBC the talks could get going as early as next week.

Republicans want the discussions to start as soon as possible.

But both the DUP and the Ulster Unionists say they will not negotiate about the legacy of the Troubles at least until they have assessed the outcome of Lady Justice Hallett's review into On The Runs.

The Northern Ireland Office is expecting Lady Justice Hallett to complete her report to the secretary of state by the end of this month.

A senior unionist source suggested that, given politicians are still waiting for the Hallett review, the new round of talks might have to concentrate on parades or flags at the outset.

However, Sinn Féin sources have said all the contentious issues must be dealt with, and they would be unhappy with any attempt to separate parades from flags or the past.

Stormont sources told the BBC that government offices are a more likely venue for the fresh talks than a hotel.

It is understood the parties are being asked to set aside days during each of the next three weeks, with the talks concluding by the first two or three days of next month.

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