Par­ties need to work to­gether on fi­nal­is­ing an in­dus­trial strat­egy

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - Bysi­mon­hamil­ton, Dup­strang­fordmla

Iap­pre­ci­ate Conor Mur­phy’s ar­ti­cle in last week’s Busi­ness Tele­graph on the draft in­dus­trial strat­egy — even if it cen­tred mostly on crit­i­cis­ing me — as at least a rare but wel­come con­tri­bu­tion from Sinn Fein on an is­sue that mat­ters to the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of peo­ple in North­ern Ire­land, namely the econ­omy.

Whilst is­sues of lan­guage, cul­ture and iden­tity are in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant I hope that this piece by Mr Mur­phy her­alds a much needed shift in em­pha­sis by Sinn Fein to­wards those mat­ters that ef­fect the day to day lives of ev­ery­one in NI.

The draft in­dus­trial strat­egy was pub­lished in the dy­ing days of de­vo­lu­tion. Its in­tro­duc­tion was wel­comed by a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions rang­ing from busi­ness or­gan­i­sa­tions to trade unions. In­deed, I can re­call a meet­ing with Conor who was then chair of the assembly’s econ­omy com­mit­tee where he reg­is­tered none of the con­cerns about the strat­egy that he has now so pub­licly crit­i­cised.

I was though baf­fled by Sinn Fein’s seem­ing will­ing­ness to dis­miss the eco­nomic achieve­ments of the last Ex­ec­u­tive. I re­main proud of the fact that our poli­cies have helped to pro­duce the low­est un­em­ploy­ment lev­els in our his­tory, an all-time high in re­search and de­vel­op­ment in­vest­ment and record num­bers of overseas visi­tors.

There was a time when Sinn Fein would have hap­pily shared in those achieve­ments as the joint suc­cess of the DUP/SINN Fein-led Ex­ec­u­tive. There was a time when Martin Mcguin­ness trav­elled around the world with Dr Paisley, Peter Robin­son and Ar­lene Foster bring­ing record lev­els of in­ward in­vest­ment to these shores. It’s a shame that Sinn Fein are turn­ing their back on that pos­i­tive part of Martin Mcguin­ness’ legacy.

I wouldn’t ar­ro­gantly sug­gest for a sec­ond that the draft in­dus­trial strat­egy was the per­fect doc­u­ment. It was, af­ter all, a draft. But it was am­bi­tious.

It was our am­bi­tion to pave the path to­wards a re­gional econ­omy that is, yes, big­ger, but also more pro­duc­tive, more high tech and more knowl­edge-based.

It pro­posed to do that by fo­cus­ing much of our en­ergy on those sec­tors of our econ­omy, like ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing and en­gi­neer­ing, ma­te­ri­als han­dling and life and health sci­ences where we are al­ready world-lead­ing, and on those sec­tors where we pos­sess the po­ten­tial to be global lead­ers like cy­ber se­cu­rity.

And it pro­posed, in part, to also achieve that aim by build­ing sec­tors and in­dus­tries that are synced with where our uni­ver­si­ties have in­ter­na­tional ca­pa­bil­ity in terms of re­search and by con­cen­trat­ing much more on trade, es­pe­cially with fast grow­ing mar­kets around the world.

All of this was geared to­wards achiev­ing eco­nomic mile­stones such as cre­at­ing 50,000 new jobs, dou­bling the amount spent by tourists from out­side North­ern Ire­land and in­creas­ing an­nual R&D spend to £1.5bn.

Am­bi­tious tar­gets cer­tainly even if not, to use Mr Mur­phy’s own word “rad­i­cal” enough for Sinn Fein.

Al­though many will shud­der at what “rad­i­cal” poli­cies Sinn Fein would in­sti­gate when they re­call one of their MLAS who is now an MP once se­ri­ously suggested the very rad­i­cal pol­icy that Sinn Fein would wipe out ev­ery­one’s credit card debt.

I note with great in­ter­est that Mr Mur­phy says that “when the Ex­ec­u­tive is re­stored” Sinn Fein will seek to im­prove the in­dus­trial strat­egy.

If Sinn Fein are now, at long last, be­gin­ning to rightly pri­ori­tise is­sues like the econ­omy and jobs over lan­guage then let’s get the Ex­ec­u­tive back up and run­ning im­me­di­ately.

The DUP will join Sinn Fein in power shar­ing and be­gin tak­ing those big de­ci­sions in­clud­ing fi­nal­is­ing an am­bi­tious in­dus­trial strat­egy that will im­prove lives and move North­ern Ire­land for­ward.

All of this was geared to achiev­ing mile­stones such as 50,000 new jobs

A func­tion­ing Stor­mont is vi­tal if es­sen­tial is­sues are to be ad­dressed

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