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Imagination required for northern economic recovery

23 June, 2006

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has said that approach to economic development north and south could not be more stark and called for a Peace Dividend and imagination to support Economic Recovery on the North.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"The Irish government announced another 3.8 Euro billion investment in Science and Technology Development to ensure the continued growth of the Southern economy. In the North we had an announcement of a possible 1000 Call Centre jobs over the next couple of years. The contrast could not be greater.

"This week the parties met the British Chancellor Gordon Brown at Stormont and Sinn Féin reiterated our call for a £10 billion pound ten-year peace dividend.

"The British government now has an opportunity to funnel some of the billions savings from its security budget into rectifying its wilful neglect of the North's infrastructure over the last three decades. With a little bit of imagination the two governments could contribute jointly in boosting the Northern Economy.

"It would give a tremendous injection of momentum if the British government were to invest in a comprehensive programme of infrastructural reconstruction while simultaneously the Irish government encouraged potential investors in the Science and Technology field to locate in the Border Corridor in close proximity to Northern areas of high unemployment. Such a joint enterprise by both governments would send a clear message to the DUP and other opponents of change that they cannot stand in the way of progress.

"It is accepted that the South needs an influx of workers in all spheres to accommodate continued economic expansion. By investing in the Sub-Region of the Border Area and drawing on the available workforce in the six-counties the whole island economy would benefit as the South has a shortage of workers and the North has a shortage of jobs. It makes sense - there is a well-educated and motivated pool of workers available and it would invigorate the Northwest Region.

"It would also be an opportunity to expand Magee University by creating a partnership for Research & Development with Letterkenny Institute of Technology and University College Galway. This is a project that the Irish government should take forward pro-actively in discussion with the British government and all of the Northern parties. Sinn Féin believes that it would be to the ultimate benefit of all the people of Ireland.

"Such an approach taken forward by the two governments would present broad civic and political society across this island with an historic opportunity to address some of the core issues that has blighted Irish society since Partition.

"It would also present a convincing opportunity for unionists to embrace its social and economic benefits and solicit their support for maximising all-Ireland co-operation.

"Sinn Féin has long called for a substantial expansion of North-South co-operation as a means of demonstrating to unionists the non-threatening nature of Irish unity and speaking in Derry recently, Brian Cowan advocated this as the way forward. Now he has the opportunity to have the Irish government adopt this approach as formal government policy." ENDS

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