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17 April 2008 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column

What might be and what could be

THE week of 6 May will see Brian Cowen succeed Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach, then a major US investment conference in Belfast followed immediately by Peter Robinson taking over from Ian Paisley as First Minister at the Assembly. Understandably, there is much speculation about the new relationships to be forged following the installation of the new leaders of the DUP and Fianna Fáil.
What might be is that a cautious, conservative approach could be adopted by the two former finance ministers while they find their feet in their new roles as party leaders. Brian Cowen, as An Taoiseach, will be free to speak definitively on behalf of the Irish Government as the senior partner in that coalition administration. Peter Robinson will not have the same latitude to reflect a DUP agenda because of the equal status of Martin McGuinness in the Office of First and Deputy First Minister.
Martin McGuinness will continue in his approach of working with the DUP and Peter Robinson in particular in order to deliver the best possible government to all the people and be seen to do so. Peter Robinson, on the other hand, may feel constrained in his approach because of the sizeable minority in the DUP who still wish to pursue a hostile approach to the all-Ireland aspects of the institutions. It may take a period of time for Peter Robinson to establish his authority over the more reactionary elements within the DUP to permit him to move ahead in a confident and pragmatic manner.
But to unduly prolong this bedding-down period might only serve to encourage those opposed to the process of change and might indeed undermine all of the good work done since May of last year. But what could be the positive outcomes of the leadership transitions?  What could be is the recognition that the strengthening of all-island co-operation in the economy, energy, tourism, agriculture, etc, has enormous mutually beneficial potential.
The announcement made by Brian Cowen enabling Southern-based financial services investors to open subsidiaries in the North has the potential to provide thousands of sustainable, well-paid jobs, especially in the border corridor region. It opens up opportunities for the North to participate in and share the benefits of the South’s burgeoning financial services sector. The $150 million investment announced this week by the Comptroller of New York and the initiative published by the European Commissioner, Danuta Hubner, could not have been secured without the power-sharing Executive and the support and assistance of the Irish and British governments. The same, of course, could be said of next month’s investment conference in Belfast.
We could continue with this approach to building relationships and demolishing barriers that retard progress and the growth of a strong, vibrant economy and a bright future for all on the island.
Sinn Féin wishes Brian Cowen and Peter Robinson well in their new roles and looks forward to working with them in developing policies and delivering programmes that will benefit all the people of this island.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

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