US Economic Envoy to NI: “It’s no longer somebody else’s problem.”

The US Economic Envoy to Northern Ireland, Declan Kelly, was here on a one-day visit yesterday.

According to a statement from the NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson

 The Secretary of State discussed with him how the Government could, in partnership with the Executive, help develop the private sector and attract new foreign investment. He outlined his thinking of the possibility of permitting the Northern Ireland Executive to reduce the rate of Corporation Tax, on which a consultation paper is in preparation.

Perhaps the Secretary of State also told him of his concerns about a lack of enthusiasm for reducing corporation tax?

The Secretary of State said: “The basic facts are, if we can get this through, and we’ve got to persuade the Treasury and we’ve got to persuade the European Commission, so we have got quite a long way to go on this, but bluntly, we won’t get there if we don’t have enthusiasm from Northern Ireland.” [added emphasis]

The NI First and deputy First Ministers were also treated to a visit

Mr Kelly has been tasked by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to foster trade and investment links between the US and Northern Ireland and to assist the Executive in attracting greater business opportunities.

Both Ministers welcomed the opportunity to meet Mr Kelly again, to review ongoing progress and to explore future potential.

But perhaps of most interest are his reportedly unscripted comments at a meeting of business leaders in Belfast

Mr Kelly, who is US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s economic envoy, said: “You must realise that a transformation of the Northern Ireland economy needs to take place . . . you the private sector must be the driving force behind this change. It’s no longer somebody else’s problem. The reality is this is the time to take a brave step forward and start investing in your own future.”

He later added: “The time has come to call a spade a spade. I’ve spent 16 months in this job and I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen . . . All the tools needed are on the table, we’ve got to make that happen.

In his address, which left his audience in near silence as a question-and-answer session began, he said the private sector had advantages, ranging from a well-educated and young workforce to the lowest costs anywhere in Britain or Ireland. What was needed was a commitment to investment and to cease blaming others – such as the banks or the British government over its cuts – for the North’s economic problems. [added emphasis throughout]

Let’s hope that message was also conveyed to the political leaders…