PM visit 'a tremendous endorsement'
The Prime Minister is to attend a major investment conference aimed at boosting Northern Ireland's economy next October, it was revealed.
The two-day gathering in Belfast will promote jobs and growth, Stormont's Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) said. It follows the peaceful G8 summit in Co Fermanagh and pledges from David Cameron to bolster the local economy.
The meeting, which will be at the Titanic Belfast visitor centre on October 10 and 11, will showcase the region to business leaders considering establishing operations and focus on the opportunities for investment and the potential and strength of key export sectors.
Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson said: "That the Prime Minister has committed to attend the conference and work through the various embassies to ensure that the highest and most appropriate business delegations attend, is a tremendous endorsement of the positive experience of hosting the G8 summit. We are also delighted that (US) President (Barack) Obama, and all of the other leaders we discussed it with, have agreed to lend their support to this initiative."
Thirty years of violent conflict have left Northern Ireland with a GDP around a fifth less than the rest of the UK and many people working in the public sector. Part of an economic pact announced by Downing Street and the Stormont ministerial Executive last Friday includes measures to promote new private sector jobs and a temporary increase in borrowing powers to help the devolved administration fund the shared future programme aimed at uniting Catholics and Protestants. It also includes a £20 million fund for research and innovation that will focus on the aerospace industry.
The Executive has worked on attracting high quality jobs to Northern Ireland, using financial incentives proffered by government jobs creation agency Invest NI and measures encouraging more young people to study subjects like science and technology.
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the visit of the G8 and the global media gave unprecedented access to key decision makers and a positive international profile.
"For those leaders with which we already have good relationships, it was an opportunity to strengthen and deepen those bonds, whilst for others it was an opportunity for us to outline our potential and begin to explore opportunities for closer co-operation," he said. "All of the leaders showed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and goodwill and we are determined to build on this and translate it into the investment and jobs that will support the rebalancing of our economy and underpin the building of a shared future for all our people."
This month marks the start in earnest of loyal order marches which have sparked violence in the past and led to the cancellation of a major education conference but a senior police officer has said there is no reason to believe the forthcoming marching season will create difficulties.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said Northern Ireland had been in the news for all the right reasons. "The whole world has seen the tremendous progress that Northern Ireland has made since the political settlement was reached 15 years ago, and Northern Ireland has shown the world that it is open for business," she added.