Not such an economic crisis after all?

Given the recent comments by Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland Peter Hain, regarding the economic prospects for NI, when he stated “The Northern Ireland economy, though it is doing better than ever in its history, is not sustainable in the long-term.”, there has been a lot of attention on what could be proposed.. and Peter Hain indicated the direction he intends to take. All of which, perhaps, makes the response from Peter Hain and Irish Minister Dermot Ahern, to the announcement of a change in focus for the International Fund for Ireland, and the investment it has available – some £25million this year according to its Chairman – somewhat surprising.From the joint statement by Peter Hain and Dermot Ahern –

The launch of the five year strategy, entitled Sharing this Space, brings to an end much of the Fund’s work in economic development, in favour of reconciliation, cross-community and cross-border links.

It coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Fund’s foundation by the Irish and British Governments in 1986 to channel international funding to marginalised communities. The US, EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all contributed to the Fund’s work in Northern Ireland and Southern border counties.

Peter Hain said: “This is an appropriate change in direction at this time given the greatly improved economic situation on both sides of the border. In these circumstances the Fund’s decision to focus on reconciliation and integration themes is welcome and timely.”

Dermot Ahern added: “This is a bold move by the Fund and proof of its ability to adapt to the new reality on the ground.

“The fact is that the needs of the North and border counties have changed substantially and for the better since 1986 – not least in economic terms. Reconciliation and cross-border links are the new priority and I’m pleased to see that the Fund is addressing these through this strategy.”

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  • DK

    Not on this topic, but not reported yet on Slugger is the news that the new Orange Parades Commission has re-routed the Garvaghy Road parade:

    http://www.u.tv/newsroom/indepth.asp?id=69442&pt=n

  • Crataegus

    Looks like we can look forward to an incoherent economic development strategy.

  • IJP

    As stated in my own press release about this, this should be a welcome move by the Fund, but there is a severe danger that it will become precisely the reverse.

    The integration, and indeed democratization, of Northern Ireland can only come about through a fundamental change of direction in the government’s (and our own parties’) strategy – away from promoting division (segregated housing, separate schools, divided leisure centres et al) towards promoting united (mixed housing, integrated education of some sort to the fore, larger/better leisure centres serving mixed communities etc).

    The idea that this can be done outside Government through a few ‘programmes’ here and there is not only plainly ludicrous, but also, worryingly, threatens to promote the very segregation it aims to overcome. If you send 11 Prods and 11 Taigs off to America to play soccer, not only does this great expense not really make any difference to their world view, it in fact *increases* the importance of segregation (as they’re only there due to their ‘communal label’ in the first place).

    To cap it all, Northern Ireland’s economy is on the verge of total collapse. The subvention, in real terms, has *doubled* in the last decade – a decade, supposedly, of ‘peace’. The economy is in fact central to reconciliation. Of course again, it is for the government and parties to make the economy much more central, not a Fund.

    Most of all, the encouragement of integration must be sold to, and done at the behest of, the people. I seek the backing of the Northern Ireland people, not the US or Australian Governments, no matter how well meaning. And I recognize the mandate of the Northern Ireland people, not outsiders – even when that mandate goes against me as it patently the case right now.