Sinn Féin - On Your Side

‘At the Heart of Regeneration’ - Adams

14 February, 2008

Under the title: 'At the Heart of Regeneration' Sinn Féin held a Special Business coffee morning in An Chultúrlann, Falls Road, this morning.

The event was hosted by Gerry Adams, Sinn Féin President and west Belfast MP MLA.

The event was for local business people and entrepreneurs who have an interest in the social and economic transformation of west Belfast and Belfast.

Remarks were made by Mr. Adams and by Padraic White, Chairperson of the West Belfast and Greater Shankill Enterprise Council and of the Employment Services Board.

The Full Text of Gerry Adams Remarks:

Sinn Féin - At the Heart of Regeneration

I want to welcome you all here this morning.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh achan duine anseo inniu

Ta súil agam ón imeacht seo go mbeidh an caidreamh nios laidre idir gnó agus Sinn Féin in Iarthar Shinn Féin agus i mBéal Feirste san iomlán.

Tá guth láidir ag Sinn Féin sa Tionól agus sa Comhairle. Táimid ansin chun ár spriocanna a bhaint amach;

Daonlathas ina roinntear cumhacht pholaitiúil agus cumhacht eacnamaíochta chomh leathan agus is féidir - Éire atá bunaithe ar an chomhionannas, ar cheartas, ar chearta agus ar chumas na ndaoine.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to briefly outline to you Sinn Féin's view of the current economic climate and the possibilities and potential for business at this time.

I am also pleased to see so many business people who are making a positive contribution to the life of this city and this constituency.

The last few years have witnessed the consolidation of Sinn Féin's influence in all of the elected forums on this island and in a range of other agencies.

We are not in these institutions just for the sake of it.

Sinn Féin is there to advance our republican goals, which include, building prosperity and promoting the well being of all citizens.

We have a vision of the kind of Ireland - the kind of Belfast - that is possible.

An Ireland of Equals in which citizens have rights, are tolerant of each other, and of each others views, opinions or beliefs, and which is inclusive.

An Ireland which has the highest standard of public services and protections to all citizens equally.

Sinn Féin has a political and economic strategy to achieve this.

This is not pie in the sky idealism. This is hard headed politics.

And this party has demonstrated in recent years our ability to overcome the impossible and achieve the unexpected.

The restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement has opened up the potential to build prosperity and a good quality of life for everyone.

Sinn Féin understands the need for a strong economy to achieve these goals and to provide the essential public health and education and other services that every citizen has a right to expect in the 21st century.

Building the economy is therefore a major priority for our party.

So, let me be very clear.

Sinn Fein is not anti-business. We are pro-business.

Sinn Féin wants to see businesses thrive.

We want to see investment in areas, like west Belfast, that have been deliberately neglected for so long.

In 2001, Sinn Féin secured the establishment of the West Belfast and Shankill Economic Task Force. It published a crucial report mapping out the way forward.

In 2002 this was accepted by the power-sharing Executive and support for the Task Force report is contained in the recent Programme for Government.

It is the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken about socio-economic needs in this part of Belfast, and is a template for others.

It also presented a package of recommendations, and spawned a series of related flagship projects, including an Ceathrú Gaeltachta, the refurbishment of Conway Mill, St Comgall's and others.

But the Task Force report was not only about the social economy, important though that is.

Padraic White and John Simpson co-chaired the Task Force process for the last six years.

I would like to commend their resolve and their radical thinking throughout.

Padraic's personal commitment to west Belfast cannot be overstated. This is reflected in his stewardship of the Employment Services Board and the Enterprise Council for west Belfast.

I would like to commend the work of the Employment Services Board.

In particular, the Health Employers Initiative which involves the Royal and Mater, the local health trust and local community

The reestablishment of the West Belfast Traders Forum is also a timely development and I would like to add my support to its work.

Tugaim tacaíocht don feachtas a thosaigh siad ar 'ceannaigh go háitiul'.

In particular I would like to praise the endeavours of the Enterprise Council.

Since its inception it has been pioneering.

It organised a study trip to USA last year. Since its return the Council has promoted the idea of a scale model of this constituency profiling key physical investment projects.

The Enterprise Council has raised £40k to make that plan a reality.

This, like the Aisling Awards, is the real spirit of enterprise which prevails in this community.

I want to encourage everyone to get behind the Enterprise Council's work.

Of course, making progress has been frustratingly slow.

There is significant resistance from within the governmental system to the agenda for change that is necessary for this area.

Only this week I had occasion again to challenge the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment about the role of Invest NI in west Belfast.

In the last twelve months Invest NI has not brought one inward investment project to this constituency.

Despite 33 acres of unused land in its possession in west Belfast, we were told by the Minister that INI could not assist InBev to relocate within the constituency because it was no longer involved in manufacturing.

Nowhere in INI's aims and objectives can I find a restriction that it can only provide support for businesses involved in 'manufacturing'.

So, Sinn Féin has a lot of work to do in challenging the negative attitudes that still exist.

Of course we recognise that people have to be prepared to travel to work.

All the jobs, required for example for this constituency could not be supplied within the boundaries of this constituency.

But wherever the jobs are they should be accessible to people from areas like this.

This means ensuring that any future decisions taken on investment strategy and funding are Equality Impact Assessed.

This is now part of the legal framework and we will use it.

The difficulties evident in INI's failures means that there is an imperative on all of us to work together in a close partnership to deliver the next generation of jobs that will drive the economy forward and sustain economic prosperity.

This requires a focus on the provision of infrastructure and on the education and training of workers.

Sinn Féin strongly believes that additional support should be given to those attempting to establish new businesses and to those trying to develop entrepreneurial ideas.

Additional supports also need to given to improve the level of research and development in existing businesses.

This perspective informs our approach in the Executive where Sinn Féin ministers head up Ministries which play a crucial role in the development of the economy - Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Regional Development, and Education.

One example of this is the work of my colleague Conor Murphy who is the Minister for Regional Development.

He is involved in examining the potential of a new rapid transit system in Belfast. We need to ensure that this is extended to west Belfast and beyond.

And Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has firmly put developing the economy at the centre of the business of the OFDFM.

We made important progress on this recently with agreement in the Executive and Assembly on the Programme for Government, the Budget, and the Investment Package.

This was a very significant achievement.

Sinn Féin takes satisfaction from the fact that the Programme for Government, the Budget, and the Investment Package are equality proofed.

That means that government policy and the money it spends are being scrutinised to ensure that they are being applied and used in the best interests of all citizens.

This is the first time this has ever happened. And it is entirely due to the determined approach of the Sinn Féin Ministers and our Assembly team.

However we are very mindful that this is only the first Programme for Government, Budget, and Investment Package of this Executive.

And we know that there are many problems of disadvantage and poverty, in particular child poverty, in urban and rural areas; there is serious underfunding in our public services; in the environment; on cultural rights; in infrastructure; in our agricultural industry and economy; in housing provision, and across many other issues.

There are also genuine concerns regarding the regulatory burden on small and medium enterprises.

We want to encourage entrepreneurship and aid for the small and medium enterprise sector while protecting workers rights and protecting consumers.

The upcoming Investment conference could make a significant contribution to this endeavour if it is properly organised and held in positive conditions.

Political parties, particularly government parties, have a responsibility to ensure that there is a competitive environment in which to do business - those factors which push up the cost of doing business need to be tackled.

It makes sense that inward investment should be sought on an all-Ireland basis.

Additionally there needs to be greater collaboration in developing indigenous enterprise north and south.

Business regulations and labour law also need to be harmonised on an all Ireland basis to facilitate those who want to do business on both sides of the border.

We don't have enough money to do what we would like. The reality is that the Executive has to work within an inadequate block grant from the British Government.

It is a significant problem that taxation and public expenditure policies are determined in London.

Lack of economic sovereignty is something that the Assembly and Executive, and unionism in particular, will have to face up to in the time ahead.

Mar sin de, tá a lán obair déanta agus tá ár sochaí ag athrú go hollmhór.

Tá níos mó deiseanna le haghaidh gnóanna ná mar a bhí riamh.

Ach fa choinne tuilleadh dul chun cinn caithfear páirtaíocht a bheith ann.

So, a lot of progress has been made in recent years. The situation in this constituency has changed dramatically.

The opportunities for business are better than ever before. But to maximise your potential and its positive impact on the community we have to continue to work together.

Sin é. Good luck to you all, thanks and best wishes.

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