I want to pay tribute to State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli and City Comptroller Bill Thompson and past holders of this office.
The offices of the City and State comptrollers have used powerful American pension funds to back MacBride, to challenge patterns of structural inequality in the workplace, and now in supporting sustainable investments in areas of the North that have suffered decades of systematic discrimination.
It is important that we recall twenty-five years of MacBride. MacBride was central to ensuring the development of new laws and policies that promote equality of opportunity, particularly within the remit of the Good Friday Agreement.
Ten years of institutional resistance since the Agreement proves that legal tools and public policies are not enough, unless they are effectively implemented and monitored.
Political power and financial muscle from America, filtered through tough contract compliance measures, can continue to play a hugely positive role in the North of Ireland.
Americans understand that investments which embed inequality in the North are not cost-neutral. As is increasingly recognized, the failure to positively promote equality carries huge long-term economic and social costs and any investor who chooses to ignore the North’s structural inequalities is, by default, helping to reinforce them.
Investment has to be about ending inequality, for people and for places in the North of Ireland
Forty years ago, political gerrymandering of electoral boundaries was a central spur to the civil rights campaign, mirrored on the tactics and demands of the civil rights movement here in the United States.
Today, we still see the systematic gerrymandering of patterns of poverty and deprivation against successive generations within the same districts in North and West Belfast, and Derry. Our priority today must be to challenge and change those deepening structural inequalities.
Citizens have an unconditional right to equality in jobs, in housing, and in life opportunities. Those were key civil rights demands, here in America and in the North of Ireland and we as politicians have a responsibility to ensure that this right becomes a reality for all our people.
No one can any longer be left behind by institutional resistance to equality. There has been huge progress in Ireland in building inclusive political institutions based on equality and justice. But that political progress must translate into the economic reality for people on the ground.
If the peace process is to mean anything, it must deliver sustainable social change by integrating economic growth with tackling the deep-rooted inequalities and discrimination that still exist. This is sensible, modern long-term economics.
The MacBride commemoration event at New York’s City Hall this week event reminds us that external support, exemplified by the work of the comptrollers offices and political goodwill in America, has been of enormous assistance in tackling discrimination in employment.
I want to acknowledge the continued positive agenda of city and state comptrollers in New York in standing for the objective of sustainable social change in the North of Ireland and in a way that turns hope into reality in areas – like my own constituency – that are still experiencing structural inequalities and systematic neglect.
Twenty-five years after the launch of the MacBride Campaign, there is still work to be done. We have to deliver real change for those that have suffered decades of discrimination and neglect.
Enormous political progress ahs been made. I serve as Junior Minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Ministers, an office in which authority is exercised by Sinn F