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Sinn Féin delegation meet Invest NI Chief Executive

19 July, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún and Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA have led a delegation to meet with the Chief Executive of Invest NI Leslie Morrison in Belfast today. The position of the EU in relation to the issue of state aid and guidelines on competition were discussed. Sinn Féin also raised issues about the distribution of funding by Invest NI.

The meeting comes at a time when the European Commission are bringing forward new Regional Aid Guidelines. It also comes after fierce criticism of Invest NI from Sinn Féin and the Federation of Small Businesses over the imbalance in financial assistance and planned investment that has seen the border counties, West of the Bann and North and West Belfast lose out to comparatively affluent areas such as South Belfast.

Speaking after the meeting Ms de Brún said:

"Sinn Féin will raise issues at the European parliament in relation to the operation of state aid and the EU rules governing competition. We will continue to analyse and engage with the Regional Aid Guidelines as they develop over the summer months. Invest NI also has a role to play in terms of their use of state aid and their wider funding policies. There is a strong case that can be made about the need to tackle the negative impact of the border, the legacy of a disparity in funding, particularly West of the Bann and also in terms of support for a society emerging from a legacy of conflict and discrimination.

"Sinn Féin have very serious concerns about the imbalance in the distribution of Invest NI resources. Given the economic consequences of the border, under investment and patterns of poverty, disadvantage and discrimination it is incumbent on INI to recognise that firstly there is a major problem and major failings in policy and secondly to convince Sinn Fein that they are both serious about and capable of addressing these issues. This may necessitate working with other public bodies and a range of departments.

Sinn Fein Economy Spokesperson Mitchel McLaughlin added:

"Undoubtedly there are many structural issues that must be addressed if we are to have economic development spread equitably across the Six Counties. Sinn Féin firmly believe that the emerging all-Ireland economy needs to be strongly supported as the only long-term solution to these structural weaknesses.

"Agreement at EU level for targeted state aid could and should be part of the solution. However if Invest NI are to have any useful role in economic development they must address the fundamental problems that are reinforced by their own patterns of awarding of financial assistance and investment. In particular it is becoming abundantly clear that the New TSN catchment areas are so wide as to be totally meaningless as part of a strategy to tackle inequality, under investment, disadvantage and discrimination." ENDS

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