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Remarks at U.S.-Northern Ireland Investment Conference Reception

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Belfast, Northern Ireland
May 7, 2008

First Minister Paisley, Deputy First Minister McGuinness, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you, Minister Dodds for your leadership in ensuring the success of this conference. You have been a tireless champion for investment, and I am delighted at the tremendous turnout for this event. Congratulations also to Leslie Morrison and Invest Northern Ireland for their dedication and hard work.

Thank you to the Ministers who are joining us tonight, and Members of the Legislative Assembly. Your support for this conference speaks to your commitment to working together for the future of the people of Northern Ireland.

We also have a wide range of representatives from throughout Northern Ireland with us tonight, representing the rich cultural diversity that Northern Ireland has to offer – from all six counties. We are joined by members of Chambers of Commerce, Local Councils, community groups, trade organizations, and students like Sarah McKegney, whose entrepreneurship is representative of the youth of Northern Ireland who are ready to take their place in today’s global martketplace. Your support is equally critical to the success of this effort, as we are relying on you to work together for the benefit of all the members of your communities.

While this conference is taking place in Belfast, we want to highlight the fact that every community in Northern Ireland has something special to offer investors, and that every community can benefit from investment.

President Bush is firmly committed to this investment in peace. He welcomed First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to the White House in December to thank them for their leadership in governing together for the good of their people, and their vision in championing investment.

He has sent a Presidential delegation to this historic conference to reinforce his pledge that the United States will continue to work – through the conference and beyond, along with all of you –to promoting prosperity and security for everyone in Northern Ireland. Delegation members include The Honorable Robert H. Tuttle, U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom; The Honorable Thomas C. Foley, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland; The Honorable Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of the City of New York; David Scott, President & CEO, 3PAR Inc.; and Catherine Brune, Senior Vice President and CIO, Allstate Insurance Company. We are also joined by our Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tevi Troy.

We are fortunate indeed to have the leadership of the First and Deputy First Ministers in this effort. During their December trip to the United States, they met with business leaders in New York and Washington, the New York Stock Exchange, and with Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez, to advocate the merits of investment in Northern Ireland.

Their meeting with New York Mayor Bloomberg led to $150 million investment of New York City pension funds in Northern Ireland’s infrastructure – a real vote of confidence in Northern Ireland as a promising place for investment - and a decision by the Mayor to bring a group of leading businessmen to this conference to explore additional possibilities.

The First and Deputy First Minister know that companies can help grow more than the economy – they can grow a new Northern Ireland. Companies invest in their people, and their communities.

For example, Merrill Lynch has helped to fund Northern Ireland-themed segments of “Sesame Street” to promote early childhood education. Ulster Bank and The Glen Dimplex Group have supported the arts in Northern Ireland, with sponsorship of the Belfast Festival at Queens University, and a 1 million pound contribution to the renovation of the Lyric Theater, respectively. Pfizer has given millions of pounds in support of over 100 community-based projects addressing health inequalities throughout the UK, including projects here in Northern Ireland. These and other corporate social responsibility initiatives are actively encouraged by groups such as the American-Ireland Fund and others present here tonight, to whom we are grateful for their engagement.

During the period of uncertainty created by the Troubles, many of the young people of Northern Ireland, some of them the top graduates in the UK, could not see a future here and moved elsewhere. Many of the people who did stay were underemployed, because in those times of uncertainty, there were few new business opportunities to match their skills.

But now, many of the people who left Northern Ireland want to come home, those underemployed hope to demonstrate their skills in new ventures, and those who have left the workforce because of a lack of opportunities are keen to return.

Certainly, the greatest resource of Northern Ireland is its people. But there are many other good reasons to invest here. Lower office rents, higher workforce retention rates, good transportation links to the UK and mainland Europe are but a few of Northern Ireland’s advantages.

Over the next two days, those of you who are participants in the Investment Conference will have a chance to explore in some depth how an investment in Northern Ireland can be a solid opportunity for growth.

This Conference is a concrete demonstration that Northern Ireland has moved beyond its “troubles.” This conference, for every region and for all the people of Northern Ireland, signifies a new beginning. Northern Ireland is in a take-off phase, with people ready to work and a government eager for investment and open for business. The world is taking a new look at Northern Ireland, and it likes what it sees. The challenge now is to finish the job and demonstrate unequivocally that Northern Ireland is not only open for business, but that it is also building an inclusive, welcoming society where diversity is respected and celebrated.

The United States will remain firmly engaged with you in working together towards this goal. We want your commitment for continued partnership, as we use this conference as a starting point for further growth.

Thank You.

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