“our economy appeared to be performing well..”

Whilst Taoiseach Brian Cowen tries to balance the [Irish] books the Northern Ireland Assembly has been debating the Programme for Government and Budget. Below the fold the NI deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, reads out the brief provided to him on the economy [to a yawning Paul Maskey and few others – Ed] and claims that the NI government polit-bureau is “far from powerless”. Also below, NI Enterprise Minister, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, defends a trade mission to the Netherlands amidst concerns about the NI economy from the head of Invest NI. But firstly, here’s the NI Minister for Employment and Learning, the UUP’s Reg Empey, on, among other things, the different problems faced by the UK and Ireland economies.

The NI deputy First Minister reads out a briefing paper on the economy and what the NI government administration can do about it.

And the NI Enterprise Minister on the trade mission, the importance of optimism, and criticism from Sinn Féin.

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  • Dewi

    Sir Reg raises the point about the marketability of both jurisdictions debt. This is now of real concern – who is going to buy the gilts? A new national loan for the South?

  • frustrated democrat

    InvestNI needs to move on from old strategies and concentrate on investing in equity and loans in NI companies which are being starved of cash.

    We in the NI can ill afford to lose private sector companies which in normal circumstances are profitable and viable.

    Let the Executive rewrite the brief of Invest NI immediately to saving jobs and not wasting money looking for inward investment in the current climate.

    How soon can they act?

  • ZoonPol

    There was a programme on RTE last night about the South’s credit rating confidence and how it may be downgraded from AAA to A. Not a good sign.

    In relation to Northern Ireland the Assembly has already spent more than it collects – the politburo is like Robin Hood in that it takes from other budgets and distributes in the name of the OFMDFM. The Department for Social Development in Northern Ireland, for example, may as well be a under the control of a junior minister for Minister Ritche be have the legal title but Robinson et al has its deeds. Further we are spending 2009 and 2010 budgets without allowance for the present economic downturn so whenever the Justice Ministry is introduced in the Fall expect a big red blot on the balance sheet.

  • Brian Walker

    I’m a novice at listening through to ministerial statements but can anybody tell me – do MLAs realise they can actually seek to interrupt them with sharp questioning and liven the whole thing up?
    If so, why don’t they do it? If not, why don’t they learn? MLAs’replies especially welcome!

  • Greenflag

    frustrated democrat

    ‘How soon can they act?’

    LOL -brilliant I mean actually hilarious . This lot have been acting out a 40 year long rehearsal ;). It’s obviously come as a shock that the real world prefers ‘acting ‘ to be confined to a theatrical environment 😉

    Timing is everything in acting and it’s no different in politics . Messrs Blair , Ahern and Paisley lucked out in the timing stakes . Messrs Brown ,Cowan , Robinson , and McGuinness have stumbled on to the stage just as the auditorium has erupted in flames .

    Dewi ,

    ‘Sir Reg raises the point about the marketability of both jurisdictions debt.’

    Not a good idea to sell in a buyer’s market . Even a worse idea to try and sell when the buyers have vamoosed 🙁

    We are entering ‘dangerous ‘ waters -Good job the 6 Nations starts Saturday eh 😉 Gotta have something to look forward too .

  • The Raven


    Excellent point on INI – have been posting that for simply ages now, but I thought perhaps people round here didn’t know who they were… 😉

    I hate to say it, but it’s perhaps time to move back to the days of direct grant subsidy on certain items (I’ll expand more on my thoughts on this if anyone wants), and a move away from “ok, we’ll put an 80-grand programme in place, but it will only to be for the purposes of buying in consultants”.

    Also, Mrs Foster is correct about developing optimism. However, her latest round of overseas visits display the sort of crassness that only an insensitive and out of touch minister could show.

  • The Raven

    By the way, if I may note as an impartial party here – doesn’t Reg speak so much more like…how can I put this….a human…than Arlene?

  • frustrated democrat


    I don’t think going back to capital/employment grants is the answer, I think working capital (equity and loans) coupled with some innovation in attracting cutting edge R&D;projects and trade support which INI do fairly well will give us a foundation to move forward. I would rather have 200 R&D;projects with 2000 employees than 2 1000 job call centres.

    We may loose 50% of the R&D;projects but 100 cutting edge projects employing a few thousand people would be fantastic.

    I know the projects are available I have seen many of them, we just need the imagination to get them here.

  • Pete Baker


    You might well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment..

  • The Raven

    Wouldn’t disagree there, FD, but my point is a bit different to yours, simply because of the nature of our private sector at the moment, which gives me the opportunity to expand…

    One of the most successful programmes in Northern Ireland over the past ten years was the LEADER+ programme. Despite DARD’s best attempts to fuck it up, it was delivered locally by groups of people with an interest and focus in small business, and especially micro enterprise.

    Essentially, it gave these businesses – less than 10 employees – the helping hand to get over the hurdle and into larger, different, or completely new markets. Now, I don’t have the stats to hand, but from memory, the £15m of LEADER+ money created over 400 jobs in rural parts of Northern Ireland, and “safeguarded” many more; not all projects, of course, had the output of job creation.

    One company that I know of, who accessed £15,000 of grant, for a very basic service, now (even at this stage) has 27 employees. Before the grant it had 6. There are many fine case studies from this programme. And many of them, FD, DID engage in small scale R&D;and pure research projects. Perhaps not the level at which you are talking about, but worthy nonetheless.

    I don’t disagree with what you are saying. My point merely is that given:

    – the stage the economy is at now
    – the nature of our local private sector (97% with less than 10 employees, IIRC)
    – the ambitions that are now in the market place (staying afloat rather than expanding)

    ….that this model, which is very much back-to-basics, worked exceptionally well, is tangible, and is perhaps likely to push small companies into that next stage of development.

    Regarding the call centre comment – agreed. But at this moment in time, a job is a job. This is especially true in many areas which are not actively “pushed” by INI.

    (Yes, I know INI say they don’t promote one area over another, but when their head office is in Belfast, or Derry, you don’t see many client executives wanting to visit a company past Grimgormley or Eglinton.)

  • barnshee

    “In relation to Northern Ireland the Assembly has already spent more than it collects”

    Er– basically the assembly collects fuck all
    All real revenue is collected by HMRC run from London. The assembly gets what it is given (a damn sight too much in my view).
    The assembly has access to your money via THE RATES be afraid— be very afraid

  • frustrated democrat

    The danger of supporting companies that do not export outside NI is that jobs are just moved around as there is such a small local market.

    We need ‘exporting’ companies that sell in the RoI and GB and further afield and the best growth areas are in biomed, software and technology. So we need to concentrate our efforts where the markets are growing.

  • The Raven

    Yes, but FD, many of those small companies DO export outside Northern Ireland. And further assistance to them is thwarted by rules that INI use going back 25 years to LEDU and IDB days. Food, light engineering, construction, printing, internet-based businesses – these (and many more) were all a feature of the LEADER+ programme.

    And the reason they ended up coming through THAT programme rather than INI is simply because they didn’t fit within the INI “rules”.