Thursday, May 8, 2020 represents the first anniversary of the restoration of political institutions in Northern Ireland. During the last twelve months the First and deputy First Ministers have had the honor of visiting the United States on several occasions, including a meeting with President George W. Bush.
Northern Ireland remains indebted to the work of successive US administrations in the efforts to secure peace, prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland.
Twelve months ago after years of talking and many start-stop initiatives, the devolved government of Northern Ireland was established. At long last local ministers are making decisions on behalf of the people. This is where government shows its worth - the newly formed government understands the needs and challenges of those it represents and will work to make a difference. The impact of devolution was immediate within it's own administration by taking decisions on important local issues. Northern Ireland has become a beacon of hope, working to harness all the energy and talent that abounds for the benefit of all its people.
Just a few weeks ago, the executive issued and approved its first Program for Government, Investment Strategy and Budget . These plans were put forward by locally elected and accountable politicians who are dedicated to delivering a better and more stable future. A firm foundation has been laid; they have built a pro-business program that has as its top priority the development of the economy.
Speaking on the first anniversary of the return of a local administration, Dr. Paisley said: "The country and government we have today is ready for fresh challenges and is demonstrating a growing confidence and optimism in itself and in its abilities to become a global competitor once more. Local people now have a say in their own affairs.
"For the first time in almost four decades, we now have a bright light pointing the way ahead where previously we had darkness and despair. There can be no turning back, with deliberation, dedication and dogged determination, we must go full steam ahead."
US/Northern Ireland Investment Conference:
The US/NI Investment Conference which begins in Belfast, May 7, will see the presentation of Northern Ireland's business package to over 80 senior American business executives. The 2-day program includes meetings with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Taoiseach Brian Cowan as well as Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange Duncan Niederaurer.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "The last year has been one of major transition and political development. Our aim must be to match that with economic progress as a foundation to build a better and more equal society for all our people.
"As we press forward we are also aware that the progress that we have made in resolving our differences can be used as an example for others in other regions in conflict. We cannot pretend to have all the answers but I firmly believe that at the very least our example is one which shows that if there is the will and the leadership progress can be made."
Northern Ireland is now ready for fresh challenges and demonstrating a growing confidence and optimism in themselves and its abilities to become a global competitor once more. The conference will be a key landmark on the road towards the establishment of a modern dynamic economy attracting increasing numbers of overseas investors, and where its young people have the jobs and career opportunities which allow them to stay.
However, Northern Ireland is not going to sit waiting for the economy to grow. Alongside the Program for Government, the executive recently launched an unprecedented £20 billion ($39 billion) investment program to build the infrastructure. The Investment Strategy represents the largest and most ambitious program in the government's history. The executive is determined to transform its infrastructure to meet the needs of the 21st century.
The foundations have been laid, the strategy has been developed, and the plans have been agreed. The focus now must be on delivery. Vision without delivery is a daydream that is why action must be a key word for the new government and they must deliver on the goals and targets that have been set.
Historic Return for Northern Ireland Assembly May 8, 2020
Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern witnessed the creation of a new executive in Northern Ireland, almost five years after the previous institutions were suspended. Ministers from the four main parties took their pledge of office in a ceremony at Stormont. Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness were confirmed as First minister and deputy First minister respectively.
Ian Paisley First Minister: “I believe we're starting on a road which will bring us back to peace and to prosperity. And I would challenge the people of Northern Ireland to rise to the challenge today and be determined that come what may, we'll make this a country when all men and women will be equal under the law and equally subject to the law”.
Martin McGuinness, deputy First Minister: “We've already taken joint decisions, but that was in the context of not having power. All of that is going to change in the next couple of hours, and by midday today, we're going to be in charge, and we're going to be charged with the responsibility of governing in the interests of the people. I think we do so in the belief and the sure knowledge that we have the overwhelming support of all of the people of Ireland for what we're about to do”.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: “There are people who still think that the compromises that were made along the way were unacceptable. But sometimes politics is about that in order to achieve a better end -- and there are always two kinds of people in politics -- those who stand aside and commentate and those who get their hands dirty and do”.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern: “This was not a process that promised quick or easy rewards. But he (Tony Blair) has been a true friend of peace, and a true friend of Ireland. And for that we express our heartfelt thanks. I thank him, not so much for the tea, not so much for the castles that I had the pleasure of spending so many times in, but for the true determination that he had, for just sticking with it. For 10 tough years, he has spent more times dealing with the issues of the island of Ireland than any person ever could have asked any other person to do”.