Prime Minister unveils economic package for Northern Ireland
Funding was unveiled by David Cameron and the First and deputy First Ministers in London
Prime Minister David Cameron has unveiled a new economic package for Northern Ireland which he has said will be crucial for the local economy.
He was joined by the First and deputy First Ministers at Downing Street this afternoon to launch the economic pact which includes a £20m fund for research and innovation - focusing on the aerospace industry.
Initiatives to stimulate private sector investment and job creation, boost lending to businesses and deliver capital funding for frontline projects such as hospitals, schools and roads are to be included in the package.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the ambitious package would help strengthen the foundations for peace and send a positive message ahead of next week's G8 summit at Lough Erne.
"In Fermanagh, we will show the world an increasingly outward-looking Northern Ireland, that is open for business and focusing on the steps it needs to take to succeed in the global race.
"This agreement is a symbol of our ambitious vision for Northern Ireland - a genuinely shared society that is fulfilling its economic potential and strengthening the foundations for peace, stability and prosperity for the future," said Mr Cameron.
The pact includes a drive to accelerate investment in infrastructure and to promote new businesses in an effort to help the ailing construction industry. Initiatives to boost tourism will also be supported.
Decades of trouble have left Northern Ireland's economy heavily dependent on an inflated public sector. The region has been particularly badly hit by the property crash and also competes for big business against the Republic where the rate of corporation tax is 12.5%.
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said she hoped the new measures would help Northern Ireland compete in the global race for jobs, investment and move towards a shared future.
"Northern Ireland has taken great strides forward in recent years. Building on the political stability that has been achieved, the Government and the Executive are committed to working together to rebalance the economy and build a genuinely shared future. The pact we have agreed today will reinforce progress on both those objectives," she said.
Last month the First and Deputy First Ministers outlined a range of plans to tackle sectarianism and division, including the removal of all peace walls within 10 years; the establishment of cross-community summer schools/camps for young people; and the setting up of 10 shared education campuses. Additional funds for projects that aim to break down sectarian barriers between unionist and nationalists and to regenerate communities are also expected.