A US pension fund was today set to reveal plans to offer a huge multi-million investment pot for Northern Ireland — defying the dissident republican murderers attempting to destabilise the province.
The boost to the local economy comes as First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness continue their US tour. The announcement being made by New York State Comptroller Thomas P DiNapoli is likely to offer local investment of up to $35m (£24m).
The boost will be seen as a vote of confidence in the stability of Northern Ireland following the murders of two soldiers and a police officer last week.
It will be the second time in the last year that Northern Ireland has benefited from pension fund investment from New York.
Last April, Mr McGuinness and then First Minister Ian Paisley were on hand when New York City Comptroller William Thompson announced that four city pension funds would invest upwards of $100m (£70m) in Northern Ireland via the venture capital firm Emerald Infrastructure Development LP.
It was the largest ever American investment in Northern Ireland. However, there has been criticism that Northern Ireland is yet to see the benefits of the funding announcement.
Today’s investment opportunity involves plans by State Comptroller DiNapoli to use funds from the $150 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund.
Meanwhile, First Minister Peter Robinson was in Chicago today where he was meeting with representatives of some of the companies that had to be scratched from the initial trip itinerary following the dissident IRA killings of British Army sappers Quinsey and Azimkar and PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll.
The First and Deputy First Ministers are taking part in separate and joint engagements.
In addition to attending a Capital Hill luncheon hosted by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and an evening event at the White House, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness will also meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor, James Jones. The President is expected to briefly attend the Jones meeting as well.
There is also speculation that Obama will use St Patrick’s Day to name his selections for America’s next ambassador to Ireland, and the new Northern Ireland envoy.
The front runner for the Phoenix Park post remains Dan Rooney (76), owner of Pittsburgh Steelers. Rooney was a prominent backer of Obama early in his quest to win the Oval Office. For the Northern Ireland envoy, it is believed that the White House has reportedly been mulling over four finalists in recent weeks.
They are: Mark Tuohey, a Washington lawyer who travels to Ireland regularly and acted as an advisor to the Patten commission; Elizabeth Bagley, who was US ambassador to Portugal from 1994 until 1997; Carol Wheeler, who was Obama’s point person on Irish issues during the presidential campaign; and Dr Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University who Hillary Clinton appointed to be the State Department’s new Director of Policy Planning.
Although Obama could choose someone else, Capitol Hill sources contacted by the Belfast Telegraph said that Dr Slaughter may be the favourite, in part because she now holds the post once held by current Northern Ireland envoy Paula Dobriansky, and her immediate predecessors, Mitchell Reiss and Richard Haass.