17 February 1996
In this publication, Sinn Fein sets out its vision of a West Belfast enjoying full employment, a vibrant West Belfast which benefits fully from the inexorable move towards all-Ireland constitutional and economic arrangements. We also point out the concrete action needed to achieve that vision.
Our core demand is one which was first made in the 1988 Obair report, commissioned and drawn up by local jobs' activists: The setting up of a powerful Jobs Task Force which would in the short-term bring 4,000 badly-needed jobs to West Belfast.
While welcoming the important step forward taken by the Department of Economic Development and its constituent agenices by introducing a new policy of Targeting Social Need, we point out that for the people of West Belfast who have still to realise any perceptible economic peace dividend, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. No pudding would be sweeter, of course, than a DED announcement that it was determined to locate half of the new 1,000 job Emerson Electric-FG Wilson project in West Belfast. Indeed, the progressive policies of TSN may be entirely negated by British Government decisions to run down the Royal Victoria Hospital - the economic umbilical chord of West Belfast - and undermine the ACE scheme which provides hundreds of jobs to the young unemployed.
The action plan, including the unique proposal for a Cultural Cluster, in these pages proposes the creation of 4,050 jobs over three years at a cost of 110m - with 40m of this sum coming from the European Peace and Reconciliation Fund. Our plan would ensure that those who have been marginalised in the employment stakes even within the already disadvantaged area of West Belfast - women, ex-prisoners, the young, the disabled, and Irish speakers - would all be given new opportunities for employment in jobs which provide long-term security, equitable rates of pay and full union rights. Given that the British spend 85m annually in unemployment benefits in West Belfast, this plan makes good economic and fiscal sense.
We are also demanding the dismantling of the war economy with funds being diverted from the propping-up of a highly militarised statelet - most starkly evidenced by the continued occupation of the Whiterock Industrial Estate in West Belfast - into job-creation in the areas where economic reconstruction is sorely needed. Part of that regeneration effort will of necessity include moves towards the all-island economy which will - as business interests and economists alike now concede - bring significant employment gains for ordinary people on both sides of the Border. Discrimination in the workplace - the life-blood of the Northern economy over 75 years and more - has no place in our vision of a country where jobs are allocated on merit and not on the basis of religious or political belief. Economic justice for all requires nothing less. The publication of this document is only the start of a process of consultation which will involve not only the economic agencies but also - and even more importantly - the West Belfast community which is at last making real headway in its long fight to have a central say over its own economic destiny.
Investment and jobs are important economic tools for underpinning the peace process and creating economic justice. They provide the opportunity to tackle in an effective and practical way some of the debilitating social and economic effects of Partition and their associated injustices.
A crucial element of cementing the peace process with jobs is to move strategically from the war economy - with vast spendings on `security' - towards a reconstructed peacetime economy which sees investment in public and private enterprises which can improve the quality of life of all our people. Such an economy would also exploit the obvious potential of cross-border economic co-operation as we move towards a fully integrated economy and all-Ireland constitutional arrangements.
As we seek to regenerate our economies, we are mindful of the fact that discrimination in employment remains a fact of life in the North of Ireland. Any economic strategy which hopes to draw jobs to the nationalist employment blackspots has little chance of succeeding without eradicating this discrimination. Equality is an essential foundation for peace.
For inward investment to be effective it must seek to reverse the disproportionate level of discrimination suffered by nationalists. The creation of genuine equality for all is therefore crucial. There must be an end to direct and indirect political vetting of the nationalist and republican communities by the British Government and the economic agencies.
One statistic alone shows the necessity of targeting the areas of greatest deprivation in any projects designed to regenerate communities which have suffered most over the past 25 years: While nationalist males make up 38 per cent of the economically active population, they make up 65 per cent of the long-term unemployed.
In December 1995, greater West Belfast had almost 10,000 people on the official unemployment register. Indeed, according to the most recent unemployment statistics, there are more people out of work in West Belfast than in any other Westminster constituency. Thousands more unemployed haven't bothered to register as seeking work or are airbrushed off the official jobless tables through employment schemes and training programmes which rarely lead to real jobs.
The first thing which is necessary if we are to turn around the devastated economy of the west of the city is to agree upon a regeneration strategy. In this document, Sinn Fein points to some of the measures which could make up that new strategy; job-creation measures which can only be advanced in a new partnership between the community, business, and the economic agencies.
PROPOSALS FOR A NEW APPROACH
There is an urgent need for a powerful jobs task force which would be charged with putting West Belfast to work by involving all the sectors of the community - voluntary, unemployed, political, cultural, business and statutory agencies - in a new economic regeneration partnership.
We support the establishment of a jobs forum which would bring new thinking to bear on the West Belfast unemployment crisis.
West Belfast must be granted `most favoured region status', thus making it a key area for industrial growth and economic investment.
A seven point action plan
We have pinpointed seven main areas which should be targeted by the jobs task force if we are to begin to turn our vision of a West Belfast in full employment into reality.
We recommend proposals which could, over three years, create 4,050 jobs at a cost to the DED of 110m. These proposals were presented to the Department of Economic Development Permanent Secretary on 14 December 1995 and we are now releasing them for wider discussion and consideration.
The seven sectors are:
As an aid to the necessary debate on these proposals, the current Sinn Fein position on the Springvale campus proposal by the University of Ulster - that of a qualified welcome for the plan - is made available on the web also. Sinn Fein is still negotiating with the University and the relevant British Government departments to have our demands for a better deal for local communities from the campus met. The most recent response from the university (January 1996) has failed to effectively address our concerns.
The Manufacturing Sector
Decades of discrimination by the British Government and its economic agencies have combined with the effects of a quarter of a century of warfare and unfavourable economic climes to leave West Belfast - in comparison with East Belfast - all but bereft of a manufacturing sector.
Any serious attempt at economic regeneration requires the development of a sustainable manufacturing sector.
This will require both the attraction of foreign investment and the promotion of indigenous enterprise.
A concerted effort should be made to attract information technology projects thus building on Belfast's ``already well-established reputation for the accuracy, low-cost production and high integrity of its software development industries'' (Belfast City Council `Embracing the New Age of Information'). A new cluster of businesses dealing in telecommunications, computer software, telematics, and teleservices could - with Fujitsu and BCO Technologies which already operate in West Belfast - become the cutting edge of the area's rejuvenated economy.
Given the DED's own Targeting Social Need criteria, it is essential that large established firms here already - for example, FG Wilson of Larne - in receipt of IDB assistance should be persuaded to expand not just at their current locations but also into new locations such as Springvale and Poleglass. There needs to be specific and attractive compensation for firms which agree to split site arrangements.
Sinn Fein calls on the DED and IDB to set a target of 2,000 jobs in new investments at four main sites across West Belfast over the next three years. We estimate that this would require a commitment of around 34m.
Sinn Fein calls for urgent measures to introduce local labour clauses into new investment packages to ensure that the local, long-term unemployed benefit from a fixed percentage of the new jobs. The Training and Employment Agency has a pivotal role to play in ensuring that the long-term unemployed in particular are in a position to benefit from increased investment in the area.
We outline here the potential for investment at four West Belfast locations.
1. Poleglass-Twinbrook: 3 factories. 650 jobs. Cost 11m.
This is one of the few remaining locations in West Belfast where industrial development can proceed without infringing on neighbouring housing developments. It has therefore the potential to become an economic heartland of the new West Belfast.
There are already two existing factories on the Glenwood Industrial Park site but at least two more purpose-built advance factories are needed. The two existing factories - one built for CIS Data before that investment deal fell through - could attract substantial investments providing 250 jobs each in new foreign investment packages at a cost of 8.6m.
A new third factory could house a 150-job package by an indigenous firm at a cost of 2.4m
2. Springvale: 4 factories, 800 jobs. Cost 13.3m.
Springvale must be the epicentre in terms of location and scale of activity of any regenerated West-North Belfast. It retains the potential to transform the ravaged economy of neighbouring communities by becoming the hub of industrial production in the west of the city.
The first workers in the new Fujitsu Fulcrum plant (employment target 100, approximate cost 1.7m) are already on site. But there is clearly room for another three - perhaps even, with the much-needed purchase of the JP Corry land, four - major factories providing up to 500 jobs. If 300 of these jobs were in foreign-owned firms and 200 in indigenously-owned firms, the total cost of these jobs would be approximately 8.4m.
It is estimated that the industrial and commercial activity at the site would lead to 200 `back office' jobs at Springvale. The total cost of these jobs would be 3.2m.
3. Whiterock Industrial Estate: up to four factories, 400 jobs, cost 6.2m
The 13-acre Whiterock Industrial Estate, occupied since 1979 by the British Army could once, handed back to the community, be the base for 400 jobs.
100 of these jobs could come from a foreign investment, 250 in indigenously-owned firms and 50 in enterprises backed by LEDU, the total cost would be in the region of 6.2m. In the event of the British Army refusing to move out of this industrial estate, the same projects could go ahead at the IDB's ten-acre Glen Road site.
There is scope in this inner-city site - which lies in the most deprived ward in the North - for the creation of up to 200 IDB-assisted jobs. If 75 of these jobs were created in inward investment projects, the remainder by indigenous firms, the total cost would be 3.3m.
This area is also targeted by Sinn Fein for major cultural/arts/heritage investment which - with the complex's current education, retail and small business elements, could create up to 100 additional jobs in the Lower Falls.
Estimates of the cost of the jobs are based on the IDB 1994-95 figures of 15,948 (gross) cost of an assisted job in indigenously-owned firms and 17,236 (gross) cost of an assisted job in a foreign-owned firm. The cost of a LEDU-assisted job is estimated to be 10,000.
Building on our centres of excellence
A key element of any regeneration strategy will be to build on the centres of manufacturing and industrial excellence which already exist in West Belfast. Equally important is the need to protect existing jobs in the public sector. No economic strategy to revitalise West Belfast can be successful if the traditional large employers such as the Royal Victoria Hospital are forced through cutbacks to make local workers redundant.
Firms which already receive IDB assistance and which have exciting plans for expansion must be encouraged to meet their employment targets over the next three years - in the process ensuring that the local long-term unemployed are recruited.
Some of these firms are operating below the predicted levels of employment which first captured the headlines.
The IDB has a crucial role to play in ensuring that the figures on paper become the figures on the shopfloor. A prerequisite of economic regeneration in the west of the city is that, as these firms expand, they remain located in the west of the city.
Montupet, BCO and Shorts could form the foundation stone of the area's economic recovery if they can meet the latest targets they agreed with the IDB.
Bass and Delta Print also have ambitious plans for expansion which have been backed by IDB finance.
LEDU also has a vital role to play in continuing to help existing small businesses to expand.
The IDB and LEDU should set a target of 1,000 additional jobs in existing manufacturing companies and small businesses over the next three years. This would be additional to the new jobs announced recently at Montupet and Shorts and would include a special role for the existing Local Enterprise Agencies across West Belfast.
This strategy should cost the IDB an estimated 27m.
A Cultural Cluster for West Belfast
The failure of previous economic strategies to regenerate the economy of greater West Belfast points to the need for fresh thinking to be introduced to the jobs' debate.
Sinn Fein believes that a key part of a new approach to job creation in the area should be a 5m initial investment in the arts, culture, heritage and tourism infrastructure with the aim of creating 500 jobs in a new Cultural Cluster or Cnuasach Cultúrtha.
Such a strategy would for the first time acknowledge the rich cultural bedrock on which West Belfast rests and exploit the talents of the community to forge a new future for the district. This new approach would also recognise the arts, culture and heritage as economic activities.
Of course, the Cultural Cluster concept is only one strand in an overarching economic regeneration strategy which the west of the city desperately needs. It is not, and should not be viewed as, an alternative to industrial investment and other job-creation schemes.
Celebration The creation of a Cultural Cluster would necessitate the unshackling of Irish culture and replace ongoing attempts to marginalise indigenous arts - the music, dance, language and song of West Belfast - with a celebration of the Irish identity. It would mean that West Belfast's status as a centre of excellence for Irish arts and culture would become a selling point and an asset for the community of West Belfast in their search for jobs.
Cultural Tourism There is clear scope for other cultural tourism projects - linking into already existing showcase schemes such as Colin Glen - which would be similar to other interpretative centres such as the Tower Museum in Derry and the Navan Centre in Armagh. The Conway Mill is just one of many venues which would provide the perfect location for such an interpretative centre.
Féile The expansion of the West Belfast Community Festival, which has performed a magnificent ambassadorial role for the area, would underpin any community arts expansion. The Festival has succeeded over many years in attracting high-profile arts' activities to the area and shown the true face of West Belfast. It could play a pioneering role in shifting the cultural-arts axis of Belfast from the south of the city to the west and north, ultimately providing a festival feel to the area from 1 January to 31 December.
Training and Resource The Foundry Regeneration Trust has well worked-up proposals for an arts' training and resource centre in the Lower Falls that could firmly anchor the growth of community arts in West Belfast and provide a path into the job market for arts practitioners who have to date been forced to look elsewhere for exhibition and rehearsal space.
Flagship Irish Language Centre The first steps in the creation of a flagship Irish language arts centre have already been taken by the Cultúrlann and it is clear that what our Irish language community achieved in terms of educational provision can be repeated in the field of Irish language arts. Arts Council and Making Belfast Work support for this grassroots' project has been crucial in its success but must be increased in coming years. While the British Government's attitude to Irish culture remains discriminatory and patronising - as seen by its treatment of that other Cultúrlann tenant, Meánscoil Feirste - young people in West Belfast can now see for themselves the creativity and verve of their native culture. Itself an unqualified success story, the Meánscoil will also have a central role to play in the burgeoning arts and culture network which can be put in place in West Belfast in coming years.
Music Mecca For years, the McPeake's School of Music and famed musicians such as Sean Maguire, Francie McPeake and now Patrick Davey - the all-Ireland Fleá Cheoil uileann pipe champion from West Belfast - have ensured that the traditional music tradition remained deeply rooted in West Belfast. But they have done so against a background of official indifference. We regard them as much our Ulster orchestra as the Ulster Orchestra which receives - and is clearly entitled to - over 1m in grant-aid per annum but now we want to see our musicians properly resourced and their role in the repackaging of West Belfast as a Mecca for the traditional arts recognised.
Employment Through Irish These developments in arts and culture will go hand in hand with efforts to boost employment for Irish speakers and to exploit the job potential of the language itself. A radio station to complement the excellent work already being carried out by the Irish newspaper Lá would confirm Belfast's position as the Irish language capital of Ireland. But while fresh bids to relaunch Lá as Ireland's only daily Irish language paper need to be explored, there is no doubt that the city is well placed to benefit from the start next year of Teilifís na Gaeilge. As the biggest city in Ulster, Belfast should provide TnaG with a substantial proportion of its programming from the province. Its Irish-speaking community is also in the ideal position to build links with the Gaelic-speaking communities across the Sea of Moyle. Giving the Irish speaking community support and encouragement in this way - as opposed, as is present British policy, of harassing and harrying that community at every turn - could create scores of jobs. The newly-established Forbairt Feirste group, which aims to create jobs for Irish speakers and use Irish as a catalyst for job creation, should play the lead role in this field.
Craftwork First-class craftwork, much of it created by prisoners or former prisoners, has long been a hallmark of West Belfast. The task now is to co-ordinate the work of our potters, jewellers, woodworkers, leather designers, musical instrument manufacturers and dancing costumer makers - along with the work of our creative artists - so that we can ensure maximum employment from all their endeavours and provide a forum for their products. There is no reason why West Belfast can't have its own centre of excellence for crafts, providing workspace for our craftsmen and craftswomen and a shop for their wares.
Service Industry The creation of a Cultural Cluster will provide vital spin-offs for our underdeveloped service industry. Employment would, of course, be generated in pubs and restaurants, for entertainers and for shopowners. But there would also be an increase in tourism and visitor numbers which would increase the number of black taxis and private taxis needed in the district. Most importantly, it would lead to the opening of more bed and breakfast accommodation in West Belfast and hostels for back-packers.
Vision In Action In the South, it is estimated that over 40,000 are employed in arts and cultural projects. In that light the Sinn Fein call for 500 jobs to be created from a West Belfast Cultural Cluster (which includes the 250 service sector posts detailed below) is a reasonable and eminently attainable objective.
The Service Sector and the Social Economy
The development of the economy of West Belfast, coupled with concerted efforts to improve the quality of life in the area, to attract tourists and to create a cultural cluster will all have knock-on effects on the district's services' infrastructure - not least because local people in employment too will have more money to spend. Pubs, restaurants, shops and garages should all benefit from a service sector boom in an improved economic climate.
Two initiatives ripe for investment and development are transport and accommodation.
Transport: The West Belfast Taxi Association has commendable plans for a city-centre headquarters at King Street for its service, incorporating offices, cafe, restaurant, parking and retail outlets, creating 40 jobs.
The taxi association also envisages a significant increase in the number of passengers to be carried on its routes in coming years, enabling it to put more money back into the community both directly (by upping the number of taxi drivers on the road) and indirectly (through the spending power of its drivers).
Accommodation: Despite its ability to draw tourists, West Belfast is lacking in bed and breakfast, hostel and hotel accommodation. Recent decisions by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to refuse backing to local hotel plans are disappointing and must be reversed. Last year just 1,000 of the Board's 14m budget was spent in West Belfast. This is clearly unacceptable.
The burgeoning - though underfunded - social economy can also bring fresh job opportunities for the people of West Belfast in the fields of health, education and social care and child care. Any attempt to regenerate the economy of West Belfast must ensure that the social economy is underpinned and that we have increased public spending.
LEDU and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board should take the lead in creating service sector employment in West Belfast, using the Cultural Cluster concept as the dynamo to drive their efforts and setting a target of 250 new jobs - costing around 3m - over the next three years. There should be representation from the disadvantaged communities on the board of NITB.
LEDU should work closely with the Department of the Environment in developing the expansion of the black taxi service in West Belfast.
LEDU, the International Fund for Ireland and the Tourist Board should agree on a joint strategy to significantly increase the availability of bed spaces in West Belfast with a target of opening one new hotel and creating at least 60 new jobs.
Research and Development
The IFI-backed RADIUS (Research and Development between Ireland and the United States) programme is an ambitious plan to boost employment in the field of Research and Development.
The RADIUS programme is to be administered in the North by the Industrial Research and Technology Unit. While modest at the moment, it has the potential to grow into the type of BIRD (Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation) initiative first suggested for Ireland and the US by John Cullinane and now in operation between the US and Israel.
The new Technological Cooperation Program of Activity between the US and economic agencies here, and in particular, the Manufacturing Technology Partnership, also offer new job creation and job promotional possibilities.
If located in West Belfast, these programmes would not only provide employment but would also send out the message that showcase technology developments can be located in an area of massive disadvantage.
There is an urgent need for IRTU, which like all DED departments has to TSN its activities, to make a commitment to West Belfast.
This should involve, in the first instance, the location from Day One of the Manufacturing Technology Partnership at Springvale. RADIUS could be headquartered at the same premises which accommodates the MTP team.
We propose an IRTU commitment of at least 5m to West Belfast over the next three years with the aim of creating up to 40 jobs.
With a budget of 240m, the EC peace fund can make a significant difference to the quality of life and, indeed, to the employment levels, in the most marginalised communities in the North and the Border counties.
Nowhere is the Programme's assistance needed more than in West Belfast.
It is essential therefore that an equitable proportion of the new fund - based on criteria of need and disadvantage - is targeted on the area.
It is equally essential that the monies from the Fund are truly additional to spending by the Exchequer. However, there is growing evidence of bad faith from the British in relation to EC aid with clear indications that cutbacks in ACE employment schemes and healthcare are being carried out by the British in the knowledge that they can use European funds to `plug the gaps'.
Partnership bodies must be democratic, accountable and inclusive to ensure not only that the funds reach the grassroots' communities in need but also so that those who are expected to benefit from the change are involved in the process of change. Unionist attempts to hijack the Belfast City Council Partnership do not augur well for the plan of action which that Partnership will be obliged to draw up for the expenditure of its 10.1m allocation from the EC Fund.
The intermediary bodies charged with the distribution of much of the Fund must not only be totally equitable in the distribution of funds but must also ensure that those bodies and projects overlooked in the past - projects not yet at the starting gates - are given the initial assistance to enable them to compete with the longer-established groups.
In recent months, Sinn Fein has praised the increased emphasis on areas of TSN and on community development projects within the International Fund for Ireland. We support moves to target IFI funds at the areas of greatest need and support efforts to have representatives of the disadvantaged communities on the IFI board.
A target of 40m in EC peace programme aid should be set for the disadvantaged wards of West Belfast with the aim of creating 500 jobs through the projects funded under the programme. At least one of the flagship, multi-million pound projects envisaged under the scheme should be located in the area.
The International Fund for Ireland should ensure that key projects in the areas of greatest need receive full support. This applies in particular to IFI funds which are allocated via the economic agencies such as the IRTU and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and which are clearly not being funnelled down to the areas of greatest disadvantage.
The All-Island Economy
The inevitable constitutional and political change towards an all-Ireland democratic settlement opens up exciting opportunities for integrating the economies of the North and the South - with benefits for all our people.
The concept of a Belfast-Dublin Economic Corridor is just one worthy proposal which opens up exciting new possibilities for building cross-border economic bridges which could bring real benefits from the all-island economy to communities both North and South. Sadly, the British have put political expediency before jobs and, despite the best business advice, have refused to back this concept.
Stragetically placed to exploit the Belfast-Dublin corridor, West Belfast could become the site for a new programme aimed specifically at encouraging productive cross-border links. But the area has much to bring to the entire integration progress by pioneering economic and business links. Too often the economic agencies in the North adopt a secretive approach to their cross-border links. This policy acts as a barrier to integration and hinders the creation of a new, all-island mindset, putting the political objections of unionism before economic perogatives.
There needs to be immediate action on the full integration of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Bord Fáilte, of the IRTU and Forbairt and of the IDB and Industrial Development Authority. The higher rate of corporate tax regimes in the North is hindering investment there and emphasises the need for the two tax codes to be harmonised in this vital area.
There is also an urgent need for steps to be taken to integrate the electricity services and charges, the communications structure, currency, health, education and many other aspects of everyday life which influence economic growth.
An All-Island Economy Development Centre dedicated to developing the integration of the two economies - in close liaison with the Corridor Task Force set up by the Joint Business Council - should be located at West Belfast. It has the potential within three years to employ at least 10 people. Initial funding of just 1m could enable the Centre to be established so that a strategy and action plan can be drawn up. The funding of that action plan could then be shared by the economic agencies North and South and the IFI. This Development Centre would also consider the most effective method to demilitarise the North's economy.
The DED should set up an inclusive task force to examine and exploit the benefits of cross-border economic co-operation, integration and harmonisation.
Equality of opportunity for all From its inception, the unionist Six County state implemented a system of economic apartheid of which working class nationalists were the principal victims. Apart from the denial of basic civil rights, nationalists were for over 50 years systematically excluded by the unionist administration in the areas of employment, housing and electoral rights.
In 1969, the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson promised that ``Every citizen of Northern Ireland is entitled to the same equality of treatment and freedom from discrimination''. However, the 24 years since the imposition of direct rule by the British Government has seen a series of ill-planned and inadequate attempts to implement legislation aimed at redressing employment discrimination. All these attempts have ended in failure and Catholics in the Six Counties are still 2.2 times more likely to be unemployed than Protestants after over 20 years of so-called ``fair employment'' legislation.
Today in the second half of the1990s, the level of economic discrimination remains at unacceptably high levels.
In September 1992, a leaked document from the Department of Economic Development stated that, ``On all major social and economic indicators, Catholics are worse off than Protestants''.
A 1994 Family Expenditure Survey showed that the average gross weekly income for Protestants was 17 per cent higher than the average income for Catholic households. 29 per cent of Catholic households derived their total income from social welfare payments compared with 17 per cent of Protestant households.
In recent years fair employment cases by Catholics were vindicated against state health boards, local councils and Queen's University. Latest statistics show that 65 per cent of the long-term unemployed in the North are Catholics.
Sinn Fein has made a submission to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR) review of the Fair Employment Legislation and has also recently met with the Chairman of the Fair Employment Commission to outline the need for urgent action to redress employment imbalances.
PROPOSAL There should be clear and comprehensive legal powers to eradicate discrimination and to ensure that equality is realised.
There should be affirmative action as the key to redressing the imbalance in the workforce with a timetable for eradicating the imbalance in employment ratios.
While it is impossible to eradicate discrimination within the Six County state because the state is built on the denial of opportunity to nationalists, it is important that any new legislation which emerges from the ongoing review of Fair Employment Legislation by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights must aim to end sectarian discrimination in employment within tangible timescales.
Rising to the challenge
The challenge of creating thousands of jobs in West Belfast is indeed great but the scale, intensity and duration of the joblessness crisis insists that this challenge must be met and met now.
For its part, Sinn Fein has placed on record its belief that there is an urgent need for a partnership between the economic agencies and the entire community in order to affect meaningful and lasting regeneration. That partnership must be one of equals and the constituency we represent must have the right not only to place its concerns on the record with the economic agencies but to also be involved in the delivery of change - for example, through membership of the Industrial Development Board. We are commited to playing a full and positive part, not only in the new West Belfast Jobs' Task Force we have called for, but also in any genuine partnership efforts - such as the West Belfast Partnership Board being proposed by the Clár Nua umbrella body for local community groups - to implement new economic strategies.
The adoption of an regeneration strategy of the scale proposed by Sinn Fein - 110m or under one tenth of the DED budget over the next three years - makes social and economic sense. It also makes good fiscal sense. Annually, the British Government pays out 85m in social security benefits in West Belfast. Over the three years of the action plan outlined here, that amounts to a total allocation of 255m. Our Vision In Action strategy could actually result in a net saving to the British Exchequer.
No-one is underestimating the scale of the resources needed to put into effect a comprehensive, strategic economic recovery programme for West Belfast but let there be no doubt but that the entire area - be it the Falls or Shankill - is long overdue this type of attention and expenditure. 1.3bn was spent by the British Government in the privatisation of Shorts and Harland and Wolff, 700m has been spent to date on Laganside in South Belfast.
There is no reason to expect any less to be spent on West Belfast's economic future.
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