By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – Britain is to pump _315 million sterling into Northern Ireland, Chancellor Gordon Brown announced Tuesday, denying it was a vote bribe for the May 22 referendum or that it was conditional on a Yes vote for the peace deal.
The package is more than double the _150 million sterling that had been predicted and the cash will be plowed into infrastructure programs, developing skills, retraining and education.
New tax incentives will be introduced for investment and there will also be funds to promote tourism.
Brown and British Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam are also planning to head a major economic mission to America to persuade U.S. big business to invest in the North.
Brown said the cash was part of a strategy for development in Northern Ireland that he had been planned for some time and pre-dated the final peace settlement negotiations.
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“This is not some shopping list dreamed up in a few weeks to tide us over a few months,” Brown said. “It is an economic strategy developed over many months that offers the prospect for many years ahead.”
He said there would be a _150 million sterling investment fund for infrastructural projects like transport, communications, housing and schools.
A skills fund would also be established to help the unemployed.
About 50 percent of the jobless in the North are long-term unemployed and Brown said they needed training and reskilling.