22 June 2000 Edition

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Empey gets it wrong on the IDB and Strategy 2010


Just weeks after the Industrial Development Board was slated by one Commons committee at Westminster, up pops Assembly minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment, Reg Empey, to sing its praises to another.

Empey was appearing before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee to ``give evidence on inward investment'' into the Six Counties. The evidence Empey was presenting was based on the same facts and figures dismissed by Westminster Public Accounts Committee the week before as misleading and in some cases just wrong.

For example, Empey told the committee about the IDB's record of ``jobs promised'' and the low cost of these jobs. The Accounts committee found that the IDB had misled them on the number of jobs promoted, on the actual figures for inward investment and on the costs of these jobs. All of this did not seem to bother minister Empey who told the committee that ``being

invited to give evidence today provides me with a useful opportunity to outline details of IDB achievements''.

To cap it all off, Empey also quoted liberally from the Department of Economic Development's Strategy 2010 document, which has come in for widespread criticism from not only republicans but a range of other groups.

More importantly, it does not seem to occur to Minister Empey that the time has passed for trotting over to Westminster to give accounts of your actions. Surely instead, two new things should happen.

One is that the Six-County Assembly should be used as a much better forum for discussing and monitoring inward investment into the Six Counties. Two, the North South Ministerial Council should be the arena to harmonise and investigate the work of the IDB, LEDU, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland?

This would make sure that all employment and development agencies on the island were not only working in harmony but actually became accountable to Irish elected representatives.

No one really doubts the fact that Minister Empey wants the best possible economy for the Six Counties. However, that can only happen in the context of firstly recognising the failures of the past, especially those of the IDB, and secondly acknowledging that the Six-County economy can best grow in an all Ireland context.

It looks like it might not just be the RUC that has to be disbanded. The IDB is coming up fast on the horizon as yet another hangover for direct rule that must be rebuilt from the bottom up.

An Phoblacht
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