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Adams Reveals Invest NI failure to invest in West Belfast

22 January, 2008

Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin West Belfast MP and MLA revealed on Tuesday that of the £20.7 million of assistance given by Invest NI toward 16 inward-investment projects for Belfast, none were located in west Belfast and greater Shankill area.

Mr. Adams was speaking in an adjournment debate on the collapse of the US based firm TriVirix in February 2006 with the loss of 119 jobs.

The Sinn Féin MLA expressed serious concerns about the public money given to TriVirix, as well as the appalling record of Invest NI in failing to target inward investment into the border counties, west of the Bann, Derry, as well as west Belfast.

Mr. Adams warned Invest NI that Sinn Féin intends scrutinizing its strategic approach to investment, expose its failings and hold its management to account where we believe they are not working in the interests of all sections of our people.

The Sinn Féin west Belfast MP MLA said:

"I want to thank my colleague for west Belfast for placing this adjournment debate on the order paper. Last week, in a supplementary question to the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, I raised the case of TriVirix.

"In 2005, Trivirix had an annual revenue of $51•5 million. It was in the top 100 fastest-growing companies in the USA.

"The company claimed 2006 was a successful year, and it boasted of positive growth and a major expansion in the US in 2007. But in February 2006 it suddenly pulled out of the Springvale site in West Belfast.

"£2.5 million of public money had been invested in TirVirix by Invest NI, who appeared to have been taken completely by surprise when the firm went into administration.

"119 people lost their jobs. This was a devastating blow to each of them and to their families.

"The closure of the firm also dealt a major economic and morale blow to west Belfast, which has long been starved of inward investment.

"Before I go on I would just like to take a few moments to commend my colleague and late member of this Assembly, Michael Ferguson, who worked closely with the staff and trade union representatives to salvage something out of this mess. I want to acknowledge that it is always going to be a difficult endeavour to attract inward investment, and ensure that such investment is proper, sustainable, and with fair and decent wages for their staff.

"However, the TriVirix affair raises serious questions about the methods used to encourage inward investment, including the scrutiny of the companies being brought into the north, and the monitoring of how public money is being spent after it has been given to a client.

"The TriVirix debacle stands as a stark reminder of the inadequacy of these processes.

"I was pleased last week to be given the Ministers assurance that Invest NI has implemented full recovery procedures to claw back all public moneys owed and that it remains in regular contact with the joint administrators, who continue to review creditor control and who have indicated their intention to pay a dividend to creditors in the coming months.

"I await to see exactly how much will be returned to Invest NI.

"However, just as I have serious concerns about the performance of Invest NI generally, I also have very specific concerns about their abject failure to locate employment within west Belfast, including the Greater Shankill.

"Invest NI has consistently failed to get the balance right in targeting investment in these areas as well as the border counties, west of the Bann, including Derry. Yet these are the areas which need the greatest investment; these are the areas of highest deprivation and unemployment.

"The 2006 report revealed that North and West Belfast together received less than a third of the financial assistance given to South and East Belfast for 2003-04 (£12.6 million compared to £41.5 million).

"The 5 border constituencies of South Down, Newry/Armagh, Foyle, West Tyrone and Fermanagh/South Tyrone together received less assistance than South Belfast, one of the most affluent areas of the North.

"At that point the seven constituencies West of the Bann have received only 10% of assistance given and were only allocated 10% of future planned investment.

"It is no accident that these areas receiving the lowest levels of INI financial support and investment are predominantly nationalist areas.

"The correlation between those areas which are losing out on Invest NI support - with areas of high unemployment and deprivation is stark.

"There appears to be truth to the accusation that Invest NI is operating a disinvestment strategy to these areas rather than an investment strategy.

"My concerns about this disinvestment strategy were reinforced last week when in a written reply to a question put down by me the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and "Investment revealed that no first time investors were secured by Invest NI for the west Belfast and greater Shankill area in the last year.

"Yes, some money from Invest NI did make its way into west Belfast - a pittance to what is needed - but let's examine the figures provided to me by the Minister.

"According to the Minister in the year 2006/07 Invest NI offered 39 million of assistance to projects in the four Belfast constituencies.

"This included 20.7 million of assistance toward 16 inward-investment projects.

"None of these were located in the west Belfast and Greater Shankill area. The pattern continues. This is unacceptable.

"Invest NI was established in 2002. The idea was that a single agency would be more flexible, not have the baggage of the past, and be more effective in tackling the major economic challenges confronting the north.

"And there can be no doubt that Invest NI has secured significant investment in the north's economy, including an increase in exports generated by companies funded by it.

"But Invest NI is still clearly failing in its duty to equality proof its investment strategy and as a result the patterns of neglect, through bad practice in the north, are continuing.

"This pattern of behaviour must and will be challenged.

"Invest NI needs to understand that Sinn Féin intends scrutinizing its strategic approach to investment, expose its failings and hold its management to account where we believe they are not working in the interests of all sections of our people. TriVirix is one example of one type of failure by Invest NI." Críoch

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