All parts of Northern Ireland must benefit from fresh economic investment in the region, US Special Envoy Joe Kennedy III has said.
The US envoy highlighted his own home city of Boston and the contrast between thriving areas and poorer neighbourhoods as he stressed the importance of ensuring prosperity filters down to those in most need.
Mr Kennedy’s remit as envoy is focused on stimulating economic growth in Northern Ireland.
Last week, President Joe Biden said hundreds of US investors were poised to invest in the region but were cautious due to the lack of a powersharing executive at Stormont.
The former congressman emphasised the opportunities presented by Northern Ireland’s dual access to the UK and EU markets as he addressed the Queen’s University conference commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
In his speech on the third and final day of the conference, Mr Kennedy said:
“No country, no government, no economy, has been able to ensure that the benefits of capitalism take hold in every corner of their communities, even one that generates 23 trillion dollars per year.
“Yet that is also our collective task ahead – from my backyard to yours – to ensure that the benefits of prosperity and growth touch every single soul across this great place.
“From the city centre (of Belfast), past the Falls and the Shankill, to the River Foyle, and through every corner of Co Down. To be deliberate, to be intentional, to be impactful.
“If there is a place on this planet that is resilient, that is capable, that is clear-eyed and scrappy enough to take on that challenge, it’s the shores we stand on today because you all aren’t afraid of the hard stuff.
“You have wrestled through hundreds of years of division – tribe and tradition, country and creed, pain, hurt and loss. And you are still here.
“You are building a Northern Ireland where the Troubles of the past give way to the triumphs of tomorrow, where children will read about history and not relive it.”
Mr Kennedy said there could be no prosperity without peace but also there can be no peace without prosperity.
“Two of my primary responsibilities will be trying to get those firms who are already here to expand their footprint and of course to make the case to the next set of global partners about why they should come here,” he said.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, many executives are already aware of the case for Northern Ireland. They know about the talent and the ease of transit. They know about the potential for market access.
“They also, yes, want clarity and certainty. They want to have a good idea of what might change and how and when that might happen. The sooner they have answers to those questions, the better for a Northern Ireland economy.”