Indeed, tens of thousands of ordinary people in the North owe the fact that they are in work to the groundbreaking campaign by successive comptrollers in support of the MacBride Principles on Fair Employment.
Without MacBride, there would have been no fair employment legislation in Northern Ireland. And without that commitment to fair employment, there would have been little prospect of sealing the deal for peace.
With last week’s announcement, therefore, of a multi-million dollar investment in a new development fund for Northern Ireland that will target areas neglected and disadvantaged over 30 years, Comptroller William Thompson is following in the progressive footsteps of his predecessors.
He is also, however, trumping the worthy efforts of his predecessors by putting $150 million of the hard-earned cash of the New York’s public service workers behind the Irish peace process.
This is a bold and historic move that, like the MacBride Principles before it, has the potential to positively transform society in the North. If other pension funds follow Comptroller Thompson’s pioneering lead and expand the Emerald Fund to its $750 million target, they will create an extraordinary economic engine for change.
For not only will the fund dollars have a huge impact on the ground but their decision to link investment to tackling disadvantage – not least through local employment and procurement clauses in contracts – will also inspire the fledgling power sharing government at Stormont to ensure that the communities which suffered the most during the conflict benefit the most from the peace.