Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Clinton Global Iniative and Northern Ireland

OFM, DFM, Declan Kelly (DK) (Envoy) Sec. of State (SoS), Michael Martin (MM)(Foreign Affairs) join President Bill Clinton (BC) to discuss Northern Ireland at Global Iniative in New York. Reg Empey was in the audience and answered questions.

FM has said that NI has strong political stability and inspite of difficulties NI is a good place to invest. When it comes to terrorist attacks the community stands together. Unemployment can lead to increase terrorism. It is up to politicians to make people feel the benefits of devolution.

BC to DFM: why invest in NI? why or how is the economy central to your strategy?

DFM: Thanked President Clinton for his focus on NI when he was in White House. Talks of role Clinton played including the meeting with Gerry Adams.

Talked of relationship with Paisley and said

DFM: As good a relationship with Peter Robinson as Ian Paisley. Its not easy being in government with DUP and Peter would say same of SF but no where else to go. The War is over people want peace.

We have a talented and very skilled workforce, two great universities, please come and see it for yourself we will give a good package along with InvestNI

BC to DK: What can we do? What is the strategy?

DK: There are 600 inside room and 300 outside waiting to get in so that shows the interest.

Forget its NI its an island of 1.7m with low cost base, best educated workforce in UK, lowest unemployment in EU. £785m invested by 43 companies when in recession

Strategy - Short - get people over to see it and work with InvestNI
Strategy - Long - focus on industries such as Financial services, Connected Health, Technology, Business services - There will be a promotional programme to reflect success in NI. Need to be patient and realistic.

SoS - There are great opportunities for private sector in NI. Our determination is to underpin stability for policing and justice by providing a good budget.

BC - Value of link with RoI

MM - Celebrated InterTradeIreland and its contribution to development of technology and other business areas.

BC - Reg Empey - if a company wants to go and invest $500m what can you do? What is the cost of training?

Reg Empey - Specify the labour force requirements and all training will be provided free of charge. I have appointed an officer at the NI Bureau in Washington DC to take forward educational links between US and NI.

FM - NI has a well educated workforce with a great work ethic, some of the best infrastructure in Europe and cheaper and faster broadband with Project Kelvin. Cheaper ICT costs, accountany costs and premises costs than London or Dublin. Also cultural and language compatability. Protection of Intellectual property and a regulatory environment in which companies will feel comfortable.

BC - Concluding Remarks: If any company wants to invest in Northern Ireland and needs contacts or help the Clinton Global Initiative will help.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

East Belfast Assembly Roadshow

Fair Play to Dawn Purvis for turning up. The other MLAs were held up by a debate on Policing and Justice. The East Belfast Roadshow will be rescheduled.

Good News Time

I would welcome any stories or anecdotes from people that can educate the public about the positive aspects of devolution. Remember how far we have come in 10 years. Whilst there may be political doom lets create a bank of stories that we could send to people, media and even politicians to raise hope in Northern Ireland.

e.g. Home Start granted funding to provide services for an extra two years in branches that otherwise would have had to close.

£150 grant to those suffering from fuel poverty...more please!

Monday, 21 September 2009

SDLP Leadership Contest

There has been much comment today about the announcement that Mark Durkan will resign as leader of the SDLP should he win the Foyle constituency in the next Westminster election.

There has been some strange criticism of his decision. Did he not say that he wanted to lead the party for 10 years and did not want to do it when he was 50? Yes he did. Is it so strange to see a politician keeping his promise? Perhaps it is, and that is why there will be those who will say he was pushed or 'stabbed in the back'.

Whether or not you agree with Mark Durkan and his policies he has brought the SDLP and some of his political colleagues (not always willingly) to a stage were the police are accepted. He has also personally defended the Good Friday Agreement which, inspite of its faults, brought peace to Northern Ireland and the decommissioning of both IRA and most of the Loyalist weapons (eventually).

For the critics who might say that he was no John Hume or Seamus Mallon I would sday that they are right. But was a John Hume needed? could he have delivered the results that Durkan has? Yes, the SDLP suffered electorally but if that was the price for peace will anyone in their right mind not say it was worth paying? (There are better people than me to answer these questions but I believe it was worth it)

Now there will be a contest and yes it may be largely about the personalities of either Deputy Leader Alasdair McDonnell or Minister Margaret Ritchie. A strong personality will be needed to tackle the challenges we will face going forward. Whoever wins will have to make the party relevant to a population that has to a certain extent switched off politics or some who view the absence of violence as peace. Let this contest not be about egos. Let it be a time for renewal. There is room for a strong peaceful nationalist voice that can tackle

- Dissident Violence
- Economic downturn
- Social deprivation
- Education of our children

A new revitalised SDLP is needed. Whilst it is good to remember the achievements of Hume and Mallon the SDLP cannot afford to rest on its past victories. The party of civil rights has to broaden its image and message to make education and economic rights part of their continuing civil rights campaign.

To whoever takes on the mantle all I can wish them is GOOD LUCK!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Margaret Ritchie Public Forum