By Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams
Firstly, I want to commend the crucial role played by Irish America in the development of the peace process and in helping to ensure that equality and human rights are at the heart of the Good Friday agreement.
Through campaigns like the MacBride Principles campaign, U.S. institutions and business were persuaded of the merits of linking investment and fairness, to prosperity and justice and the tackling of economic and social inequality.
One example of this is the positive work and contribution of the New York City Comptroller’s office.
Since the historic political deal reached between Sinn Féin and the DUP last May, significant political progress has been made.
The power sharing executive has agreed a program for government, a budget and an investment strategy. There are all-Ireland political institutions.
The North of Ireland has suffered from years of institutional, social and political discrimination. A key element of the work of the new Executive is to end these inequalities.
One of the Executive’s priorities is building the economy and to tackle inequality, poverty and deprivation.
This is the context in which Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley have invited a range of investors to visit the North for a major investment conference in May coinciding with the first anniversary of the establishment of the power sharing institutions.
The strong focus on building the economy, alongside a rapidly developing all-Ireland economic framework, makes the North a good place in which to invest and do business.
The Six Counties has a highly skilled workforce and we will be seeking to greatly expand the skills base. We are also close to European markets. With the restoration of the All-Ireland Ministerial Council there have already been significant developments in bringing forward major all island infra-structural projects.
Building the economy is an investment in cementing the peace and contributing to the progress made in recent years. International investment is vital for the future growth and stability of the economy across the island.
These twin aims of building the economy and promoting equality are now increasingly recognized by business leaders across the globe as not only complementary, but also directly linked. Building a fairer and more equal society is necessary to delivering a more sustainable economy and vice versa.
The objectives of our investment conference in May will be best delivered by those investors who prioritize sustainable economic investment in partnership with sustainable social economic investment.
For example, by ensuring that the promotion of equality of opportunity is built into the language and practice of contracts and tenders.
The imperative is to effectively address existing patterns of social and economic disadvantage and target resources and efforts at those in greatest need whilst simultaneously developing our economy.
Sinn Féin is determined to ensure that those who are living in the most deprived and divided areas of the North do not end up getting the least out of increased prosperity and peace.
That is why for example new guidelines for public procurement policy are being prepared to ensure that socially beneficial outcomes are delivered for communities.
By integrating social, economic and environmental policies we believe that we can maximize the impact of government spending to ensure that public contracts really do deliver for the whole community, whilst simultaneously also building our skills base for a sustainable, modern economy.
This means including practical social objectives to ensure the promotion of equality into contracts and tenders as one way of making sure that Executive policies are turned into actions. Using enhanced economic growth to tackle existing patterns of inequality makes sense.
These areas of social deprivation straddle both sides of the traditional political divide. Both sides of the border corridor and both urban and rural areas are affected. Tackling this socio-economic deprivation will be good for everyone and vital in the rebuilding of our society as we move out of conflict. It is crucial that no section or community is left behind.
The work we are now all engaged in as we approach May’s investment conference is crucial as we seek to deliver on the wider objectives of equality and sustainability.
May’s event in Belfast provides a unique opportunity for those within the private sector to come together along with our international friends to develop all island economic investment models that are both socially beneficial and economically advantageous.
This is about building upon the massive transformation that has been made in Irish society over the past 15 years. It is about cementing the significant advances made since the restoration of the political institutions last May.
We are inviting you to become partners in an exciting new future for all the people of Ireland.