Category: Archive

Quinn wants to raise North’s game to NY’s level

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

During her stay, the leading New York City Democrat and a politician who many believe will make a mayoral bid in 2009, met with business leaders to chart ways of improving the local economy.
Quinn, whose grandparents immigrated to New York from Ireland 100 years ago, talked warmly about her love for the land of her forebears.
And she spoke of how New York wants to be a partner in helping the Northern Ireland economy to “take off.”
“The people of New York have a tremendous amount of identification with Ireland,” said Quinn.
“Everyone feels Irish. People feel a connection and a debt because Irish immigrants built New York.
“The feeling in New York about Northern Ireland is that everyone is now pulling for peace. People are excited at the political breakthrough. We are looking at Northern Ireland and saying that if people who were at odds with each other for such a long time can sit down and govern then nothing is too big.
“Northern Ireland can learn from New York’s example and become a world-class place to do business,” she said.
“All four wheels are on the road. And now you have that you can accelerate at whatever pace suits.”
While the New York economy is strong, there still remain pockets of deprivation in the city. Contrasts can be drawn with parts of Belfast where pockets of unemployment are at odds with the overall improving shape of the local economy.
Quinn maintains that any New York-inspired economic boom the North benefits from must help deprived areas.
“New York City Council created a $20 million fund to target the unemployed,” she explained.
“We identified job sectors where there are a lot of vacancies – the auto trade, building work, forklift driving. Jobs that you don’t need a college degree for. And then we put the unemployed into apprenticeships, we involved them in these trades, involved them in the industry and they got jobs. Northern Ireland can take a lead from this – you have to figure out what assets you have and use them to build the economy.”
Quinn also included an educational component in her Belfast trip.
“I visited an Irish-speaking school in West Belfast. It was fantastic. It is projects like this that we should be investing in. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could develop and exchange program where New Yorkers came over for a few weeks to learn Irish at the school. There would be huge interest in this back home,” she said.
“This is the type of thing we should be looking at, because if this happens not only would the school benefit, the economy would too – the people taking part would need somewhere to stay in Belfast, they would need somewhere to eat, somewhere to shop – everyone benefits.”
With the North economy on the cusp of significant U.S. investment, Quinn stressed that any new cash must be distributed evenly.
She is a firm advocate of the MacBride Principles on fair employment that insist on companies having equal religious and community representation.
Quinn is adamant that any investment coming to the North from New York will be equally distributed and monitored closely to ensure it is used appropriately.
“There is an investment conference taking place in Belfast next May involving New York businesses. The New York Mayor and I are hoping to visit the city shortly afterwards.
“During the conference, the point will be made explicitly that any investment has to be distributed equally, it has to close the disparity gap. We want to help create in Northern Ireland a bold new economy that can take on historic challenges,” she said.
“There is no reason why somewhere like Belfast cannot become a world-class international city. A major corner has been turned – why wouldn’t companies come here? The investment opportunities are huge.”
Although New York born and bred, Quinn is proud of her Irish heritage.
Her grandparents come from counties Cork and Clare – although one of them almost never made it to the Big Apple.
“My maternal grandmother came over in steerage on the Titanic. That’s why I feel such a close affinity to Belfast. It was this city from which she sailed.
“She was one of the few from there to survive. She always told a story about her escape from the Titanic. While everyone got on their knees and prayed she got up and ran. I guess I inherited a lot of my spirit from her.”

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