Category: Archive

Hain comments spark furor

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The DUP Councilors’ Association unanimously revoked an invitation sent to Hain. Its vice chairman, Arlene Foster, said his “unacceptable slur” had caused massive damage to prospects of attracting inward investment.
The cause? Hain’s view reported here that the Northern economy was “not sustainable in the long term” and that in future decades “it is going to be increasingly difficult to look at the economy of Ireland north and south except as a sort of island of Ireland economy.”
Hain had also spoken of “deepening north/south co-operation in a number of areas” and that he didn’t want “the Northern Ireland economy to be a dependent economy as it is now, with a sort of UK ‘big brother’ umbrella over it”.
The comments sparked a furious response, with the DUP saying he had “insulted the efforts of the business community”. Things might be far from perfect, said the DUP, “with a decline in manufacturing and an over dependence upon the public sector, but neither are we some economic backwater.”
On a visit to the taoiseach in Dublin, party leader, Ian Paisley, condemned Hain’s remarks. “He has never been a friend of Northern Ireland and by making that statement he has tried to undermine all the good work that has been done to get American firms into Northern Ireland,” he said.
“Peter Hain has come, Peter Hain will go, but Ulster will go on for ever. He should resign and go home,” Paisley said.
George Dawson, the DUP’s economy spokesman, called Hain’s comments “among the most disgraceful ever uttered by a secretary of state.” His assertion that the Northern economy was unsustainable, said Dawson, was “inaccurate and deeply damaging.
“American companies, have brought 15,000 jobs to Northern Ireland in the past 10 years. The argument that there should be a single economy for Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic is nonsensical,” Dawson said.
“Hain’s comments can only be a disincentive to inward investment. His responsibility is to promote the economic advantages of investing here, not to undermine the efforts of those seeking inward investment.
“Much has been made of the relative success of the economy in the Republic of Ireland”, said Dawson. “But this period of success is less than 15 years old. The success in the Republic is a largely greater Dublin phenomenon.”
“We have an over reliance on the public sector, but this too can be remedied. We need a planned transition to the private sector. The numbers of economically inactive do need to be reduced. This can be achieved by setting targets for reduction and managing change.
“Northern Ireland has a long history of determination to succeed against the odds. Our economic interests are integrated into the British economy. It is here our future lies, not in some politically contrived linkages to a small economy on the periphery of Europe”, he said.
An editorial in the Ulster News Letter, which is read mainly by people from the unionist community, said Hain had “once again shown his nationalist sympathies” and that his comments were “a quite disturbing intervention by a man whose anti-unionist sympathies are well documented.”
The British prime minister should be “challenged at Westminster to confirm if this is now official government thinking,” it said. “For Peter Hain to be talking glibly about the Northern Ireland economy, as though it was that of a separate independent sovereign state, is disingenuous and insulting to loyal citizens in this Province.”
The Belfast Telegraph, which claims to have a cross-community readership, said Hain’s remarks had “predictably irked unionists” because they had politicized an economic question.
The Telegraph admitted the shortfall between what Northern Ireland contributes and what it receives is around

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