Category: Archive

An all-island economy

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

And this will mean, among other things, joint investment delegations advocating the advantages of Ireland on a 32 county basis, Hain acknowledged.
Hain, on a visit to both New York and Boston, firmly reiterated his intention to impose the November 24 deadline for a return to power sharing government in Belfast.
But he also used his time in the U.S. to further outline his vision of an all island economy, an idea he outlined to the Irish Echo in an interview last year and, in so doing, prompted a storm of critical reaction from Unionist politicians.
Hain pointed to the recently announced decision to bring closer together the operations of the investment agencies Invest Northern Ireland and the Republic’s Enterprise Ireland.
The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, at its meeting in Hillsborough outside Belfast last week, agreed to the pooling of resources in trade promotion and specifically, according to a post-conference press releases “opening all trade missions to companies across the island and making the facilities of Invest NI and Enterprise Ireland overseas offices available to all companies on the island.”
“It is quite a move,” Hain told the Echo.
“I think it was to you (the Echo) that I first used the phrase an island of Ireland economy and it created 24 hours of excitement and maybe even a call for my resignation from the Rev. Ian,” Hain said.
“But what is interesting is that since that statement of the obvious, as I saw it, it’s become the common currency of the business community in Northern Ireland and you do have Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland working together on trade missions.”
Hain said that on recent visits to Asia undertaken by both himself and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern the message had been the the island of Ireland as a place to invest.
“And I think increasingly the future for jobs and prosperity in Northern Ireland will be increasingly intertwined with the Republic, the South, and people see that as common sense,” he said.
“It has nothing to do with the constitutional future, that’s entirely separate and dependent on the votes of the people and they’ve decided that through the referendum following the Good Friday agreement; so the border exists constitutionally, but in economic terms it doesn’t; in economic terms it’s about cooperating across the border and making use of best friends either side.”
By way of example, Hain referred to counties Derry and Donegal. It was in the interest of both to be “joined at the hip” economically and for business purposes.
“We will see much more of that post 24th of November, I hope being taken forward by a devolved legislature,” Hain said.
Hain stressed that the island of Ireland was a very small place when compared to economies such as China and India.
“You’ve got to maximize your strengths and that’s about Northern Ireland companies trading into the South, companies in the Republic trading into the North, setting up subsidiaries.
“Increasingly the two governments see it as an island of Ireland economy, despite the constitutional separation which will remain unless otherwise decided by the people.”
There will, he said, be a limit on how the benefits of a virtual single market could be maximized, but then there was a need to think globally together. This implied joint trade missions to India, the U.S. and elsewhere.
Irish America’s focus, said Hain, has been on the Republic “for all the historic reasons that we understand” but there was a need now for Irish America to include the North in its investment plans.
Hain said his visit to New York and Boston – it was his first as secretary of State to that city – was to reinforce the message the 24th of November was a real deadline.
“There will be no blinking on our part and anybody seeking solace or comfort, or think they can out-psyche us on it, will be disappointed,” Hain said.
“I think for Northern Ireland’s political parties it’s a bit of a moment of truth because it will be over four years since the assembly was suspended,” he added.
There was, he said, “a kind of virtual politics going on where members of the legislative assembly act as if they are legislators when they are not, have all the trappings of assembly members without actually doing their jobs, make representations, grab headlines, do all the normal theater of politics when actually nothing is going on. And this can’t continue.”
Hain described devolved government as a “tremendous prize” for all the parties, including the Democratic Unionists.
“I’m sure they (DUP) don’t want to be seen by others as being the principal obstacle to it,” he said.
“If we don’t make devolution work this time Northern Ireland will march past its politicians, it already is, and leave them behind. They are the only ones who can catch up. I can’t force them to do anything and I have no wish to do so,” he said.
“If there was any feeling among Unionists that we are trying to push them or bully them into meeting the deadline, then the answer is we are not,” Hain said. He stressed that the people of Northern Ireland were “fed up to the back teeth with the procrastinations that have gone on.”
As a result, they were moving on, Northern Ireland was more prosperous then ever before, people were “more and more turned off politics which is a shame because democratic politics in the end is the guarantor of democracy and accountability.”
The North’s politicians, he said, would be doing themselves a favor by restoring power sharing government and would be doing the people of Northern Ireland a favor too.
“But in the absence of that I will do it my way,” he warned.
Hain said that the Nov. 24 deadline was not met, the axe would fall equally on all parties.
“No question that four of the five parties will want to do the deal by the 24th, and before then if possible. The DUP has still to make its mind up and, as the leading party, clearly it’s the critical player,” he said.
“But in the end it’s not just the DUP that has responsibility. All the other parties have an equal responsibility to make this work. Sinn F

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