Nothern Ireland's politicians 'must tap into success of our powerful diaspora'
A leading New York businessman has urged the soon-to-be First Minister Arlene Foster to appoint a "minister for the diaspora" to help drive inward investment to Northern Ireland.
Rostrevor-born Jim Clerkin - president and chief executive of Moet Hennessy in the United States - has warned that there must be "no more broken promises" by politicians as they try to woo investors with a reduced rate of corporation tax.
In an interview for the Northern Irish Connections magazine, published with today's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Clerkin said the Executive must tap into the power of the diaspora worldwide, particularly in America.
"As a member of the diaspora in New York, I'm thrilled that Northern Ireland is getting the tax cut," said Mr Clerkin. "The jobs it will bring will be highly paid jobs. By doing this, Northern Ireland is making it much more attractive for people to invest.
"It will make the job of selling Northern Ireland so much easier, not just for Invest NI, but for people like me in the diaspora who are committed to doing our bit."
Mr Clerkin - who runs a multi-million dollar drinks business - has hosted receptions in New York for Invest NI and has made introductions to key Wall Street figures. He welcomed the Fresh Start agreement and urged the parties to move forward quickly.
"It's been frustrating over the past 18 months to have positive engagements with business leaders and potential investors in the US, then to see something political blow up in Northern Ireland," he said.
"This new agreement is fantastic. We have stability now and we can plan for the corporation tax cut, because it will need careful planning.
"I've talked to Arlene Foster and others in the Executive about having a minister add the Northern Ireland diaspora to their portfolio, like Jimmy Deenihan, who's Minister of State for the Diaspora in the Republic. There's no one here in a senior political role pulling the diaspora together, no focal point."
New York publisher Stephen Colvin, originally from Belfast, has called for a series of international "summits" to bring together the NI diaspora.
The chief executive of Robb Report, a print and digital magazine aimed at an affluent audience worldwide, is a strong supporter of the NI Connections initiative.
"It is an excellent way for us all, and for our children, to stay in touch with our Northern Irish heritage," he said.
"It is also an excellent way for Northern Ireland to harness the passion, expertise and resources that the diaspora represents across the numerous areas of life."
The Northern Irish Connections magazine is published today with the Belfast Telegraph