Foster issues warning on Irish loan
Protection for Northern Ireland interests should be written into any loan from the UK to help bail out the Republic of Ireland, a senior unionist has said.
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said she contacted Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson asking him to intervene with the Treasury on the issue.
She told the Stormont Assembly she was concerned over the risk of job losses in the banking sector following any consolidation of Irish banks by the Dublin government.
Nationalists urged the minister to make contact with her counterparts in the Republic to keep abreast of developments and to show "solidarity".
Ms Foster noted that jobs have already been lost among Bank of Ireland staff in Northern Ireland and added: "I think we very quickly need to speak to Treasury, to the Secretary of State, and to say very firmly in this part of the United Kingdom that, if a loan is going from Treasury to the Republic of Ireland, then we believe that that should be taken into account in relation to any conditions that are set in that loan, so that we are protected here from any adverse impact that may occur from the Republic of Ireland."
The minister said the decline in the Republic of Ireland economy affected business north of the border.
She added: "This has implications for the Northern Ireland economy as the Republic of Ireland accounts for over 10% of sales by local manufacturing companies and 28.5% of exports. It highlights the importance of Northern Ireland firms diversifying their export base and seeking out new markets, which is one of the reasons why I will shortly be leading a trade mission to China.
"I only intend to have discussions with the Irish government on this matter if there are direct implications for the Northern Ireland economy of the measures taken in reducing the Republic of Ireland's budget deficit."
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) MLA Alban Maginness, chair of the Assembly's Enterprise Committee, said: "For all of us, the difficulties that the Republic is now experiencing is something which can have profound effects on ourselves locally. Out of solidarity, I think it is important to us to keep contact at the very least with the southern government."
Sinn Fein finance spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin said the decline in the Republic's economy was already hitting sectors of the northern economy. "I think across most parties there will be very clear recognition that there has already been a significant impact in terms of our construction industry in particular," he added.