Belfast Telegraph

Call to set up 'prosperity process'

A "prosperity process" similar to American aid which rebuilt Europe following the ravages of the Second World War is needed in Northern Ireland, it was claimed.

The mini Marshall Plan should underpin the peace process and Good Friday Agreement and tackle problems such as youth unemployment and emigration, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said.

He argued that hopes of an economic boost at the time of the signing of the 1998 peace accord had been dashed.

"I am calling on the OFMDFM, the Executive and the British and Irish Governments, even at this late stage, to do all that is necessary to establish a meaningful prosperity process as a matter of urgency.

"We need a prosperity process that will underpin the peace process and lay the foundations to create the well-paid jobs that would banish the spectre of youth unemployment and emigration that has brought so much heartbreak to our communities."

The Marshall Plan, named after the US general who conceived the idea, used American money to rebuild a Europe devastated by the Second World War.

Unemployment is still significant in Northern Ireland, with 22% of young people out of work. Despite this, Northern Ireland is second only to London in the UK as the top destination for inward investment.

Recently Prime Minister David Cameron led an investment conference for Northern Ireland following the G8 meeting of world economic powers in Co Fermanagh.

Mr McDonnell told his party conference in Armagh a formal prosperity process was needed, pursued with the same ambition and determination as the peace process.

"Indeed, 15 years ago many of us expected a prosperity process; a mini Marshall Plan; to be constructed to underpin the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

"There were promises - hopes were raised; and hopes were dashed," he added.

Dr McDonnell said people felt let down by the DUP and Sinn Fein.

"They have had their chance and they have failed the test," he said.

He said SDLP ministers, MLAs and MPs had challenged and faced down the "bad politics" of the parties.

The South Belfast MP claimed the many broken promises in the programme for government show the disappointing failure of the two larger coalition partners, including the failure to get to grips with a shared future, collusion issues, real power sharing and integration.

"Politics have to deliver results for everybody, particularly ordinary hard-working families," Dr McDonnell said.

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