Tánaiste Remarks at Northern Ireland Investment Conference
Speech13 September 2023
Secretary of State Heaton Harris,
Special Envoy Joe Kennedy,
distinguished guests, ladies & gentlemen.
Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo anocht. Is áit stairúil an caisleán seo, lán de scéalta faoín mbealach chuig an tsíocháin. Is faoi fhoscadh na síochána a bheidh an tsochaí in ann blathú. Is i gcomhphairtíocht is láidre an tsíocháin. Go raibh maith agat a Chris as an gcuireadh.
It is a great pleasure to be here this evening, in this historic place filled with stories and memories of the peace process.
It is in the shelter of peace that society flourishes, made stronger again by partnership. And it is the key partnership between the UK and Irish Governments that provides the foundation and the impetus for peace and progress in Northern Ireland.
In that spirit, I want to thank you Chris for your invitation to share this occasion.
Northern Ireland, with its unique offer to investors of access to both the UK and EU internal markets, can have a bright future.
Unlocking Northern Ireland’s potential for economic growth and prosperity will shape that bright future. That is what brings us here today.
Talent, clusters of expertise, and a business-friendly environment underpin this place’s ability to attract significant foreign direct investment. Investment which leverages the centuries of world class engineering innovation that is in this corner of the island’s DNA.
Investment in Northern Ireland will benefit the economy of the entire island of Ireland, and in turn will benefit from the competitiveness of all-island supply chains and an integrated, educated workforce.
Twenty-five years on from the Good Friday Agreement, we now have a closely integrated all-island economy, which both supports and is supported by the peace process.
Today, cross-border trade in goods and services is worth almost €10 billion, effectively a threefold increase since 1998.
We have an all-island consumer market of almost seven million. With close to three million people available to work, we have a larger collective labour pool than countries like Denmark, Finland, and Norway.
Our combined population is among the youngest and the most educated in Europe. And it is growing at a faster rate than that of many of our neighbours across Europe, including Great Britain, with some eight million people projected to be living on this island by 2040.
Working together, we have an economic advantage. By taking an all-island approach, we can harness this economic advantage for mutual benefit.
The Shared Island Initiative that I established when I became Taoiseach is aimed at strengthening cross-border infrastructure and investing in innovation, research, and skills.
The Shared Island Initiative’s goal is to create a more connected, sustainable, and more prosperous island, one which understands itself better and works better for the benefit of all communities.
The Irish Government is firm in its commitment to making this island a hub for innovation and research, with more than €50 million in Shared Island funding already allocated to high quality research programmes across the island.
We have also pledged €44.5 million from our Shared Island Fund to expand Ulster University’s Derry campus, underscoring our commitment to investment in education as a cornerstone of future innovation and growth.
With the Windsor Framework in place, we want to work together with our partners across these islands and internationally to promote Northern Ireland as a hugely attractive place to invest and to do business.
However, ongoing political uncertainty makes this a more challenging task than it should be. Let me assure everyone here, Chris and I are working hard, together with the parties, to get the institutions up and running so that they provide the steady and stable local government everyone deserves.
In recent years, Invest NI has been highly effective in attracting multinational companies to Northern Ireland, particularly in the fintech, cybersecurity, and advanced manufacturing sectors.
Almost 40% of FDI in Northern Ireland originates in the United States, with over 12% coming from Irish-owned companies, and investors are increasingly thinking of the island of Ireland as a single market and business ecosystem where common advantages create added value.
Foreign investors are drawn to our talent, location and market access, infrastructure, and quality of life.
While some may see the two jurisdictions as competitors, that is far from the case.
I am, and always have been very clear, investment anywhere on the island benefits us all. Increased economic prosperity, North or South, threatens nobody and is to everyone’s shared benefit.
We know that FDI has a significant knock-on effect, generating other commercial activity across our economy and helping to drive further investment in research and innovation.
In Northern Ireland, the manufacturing sector is a critical source of employment outside of Belfast and is already a major recipient of foreign direct investment.
In the context of current global uncertainty, as many firms increasingly looking to onshore or reshore production closer to home, Northern Ireland’s unique trading position puts it in a strong position to take advantage of this and other trends. Nowhere but Northern Ireland can offer seamless access to both the EU Single Market and the UK internal market – a combined market of over half a billion people.
Targeted investment provides an opportunity to create jobs across all communities – including those in historically disadvantaged areas – to help fully realise the economic dividends of peace.
I would like to thank you for your interest in investing in Northern Ireland and the effort you’ve made to come and see for yourselves the potential of the region.
I look forward to hearing new and exciting investment announcements in the period ahead which will help unlock the full and enormous potential of this wonderful place.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh