Northern Ireland needs a plan for jobs and growth – not dithering from government about whether to devolve corporation tax

This month marked the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It is one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government. And we stand ready today to help secure its legacy and help build peace, progress and prosperity in every community in Northern Ireland.

Vernon Coaker MP is shadow secretary of State for Northern Ireland

This month marked the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. It is one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government. And we stand ready today to help secure its legacy and help build peace, progress and prosperity in every community in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has made huge progress since 1998. It is a place transformed, with a power-sharing Executive at Stormont making decisions on health, education, transport, policing and the environment. Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness are working together as first and deputy first minister to encourage investment and tourism to create jobs and growth.

But despite the huge strides forward, we cannot be complacent about the challenges that remain. And, for us in Westminster, devolution should not mean disengagement. We have a role to play, and the government here – alongside the Irish government – has a responsibility to help keep Northern Ireland moving in the right direction.

That’s why I led a debate in Parliament yesterday to talk about the progress we’ve made, the challenges we face and the work we need to do to build a shared future. I want to put Northern Ireland right at the top of the political agenda in London.

Because on security, the economy and building a shared future, decisions made at UK-level have enormous implications for everyone in Northern Ireland. And on all of these issues, big challenges remain.

There are serious worries about the activities of dissident republicans. They are small but dangerous, and have shown that – despite being rejected by the public – they are determined to continue their campaign of violence. The murder of prison officer David Black a few months ago should serve as a reminder of their deadly intent. And it is only thanks to the bravery and dedication of the PSNI, the Army Technical Officers and the security service that further atrocities have been avoided.

Loyalist paramilitaries remain involved in criminality and were heavily involved in the rioting in the early part of this year. There is a worry that in some of the most deprived areas of Northern Ireland – both unionist and nationalist – elements who want to take us back to the bad old days are gaining a foothold.

We all must continue to support the many individuals and organisations working on the ground in communities across Northern Ireland to bring people together, and give young people hope of a better future. They do not have an easy task. And the government’s economic policies aren’t helping.

Unemployment is at a record high of 8.4 per cent, with almost 1 in 4 young people out of work. Twenty thousand families with children have lost out because of changes to tax credits; and the bedroom tax will affect 32,000 people in Northern Ireland, having a disproportionate impact because the vast majority of social housing stock is larger family homes – there simply aren’t smaller properties for tenants to downsize.

Northern Ireland needs a plan for jobs and growth – not dithering from government about whether to devolve corporation tax. That’s why Labour has outlined plans to temporarily reduce VAT, provide funding for a youth jobs fund, bring forward infrastructure projects and support Northern Ireland’s small businesses. We want to work with the Executive to grow the private sector and put Northern Ireland on a sound economic footing.

My message is clear: Northern Ireland still maters. We can’t take the progress made for granted. And we must continue the work to build peace and prosperity in every community.

One Response to “Northern Ireland needs a plan for jobs and growth – not dithering from government about whether to devolve corporation tax”

  1. anne

    Start a concerted campaign against sectarianism and provide education in human rights to all classes in NI society
    Repeat message often and clearly Everywhere. For as long as needed probably around 6 years
    Put posters in all government buildings, hospitals, buses,shops Videos on the TV stations Soap operas Target all associations, clubs, schools, shops etc. Set up shared trips, meetings on neutral subjects – fashion, birdwatching, old time dancing – whatever
    This would help pacify extremists on both sides, generate jobs and provide spin-offs for startup companies.
    Why has no one ever tried this approach?
    Because it suits neither side?

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