Investment Opportunities in Northern Ireland
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Apr 1994, p. 391-401
Mayhew, The Rt. Hon. Sir Patrick, Speaker
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The Ireland Fund of Canada. Investment in Northern Ireland. A brief history of Northern Ireland. Joint Declaration. Northern Ireland economy. Advantages of living and working and investing in Northern Ireland.
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8 Apr 1994
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The Rt. Hon. Sir Patrick Mayhew, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Chairman: Dr. Frederic L. R. Jackman President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Sam Billich, Life Underwriter, Prudential Assurance Co. Ltd. and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Catharine Graham, Chairman, Ireland Fund of Canada; The Rev. Canon Harold Roberts, Rector, St. Timothy's Church, Agincourt and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Thomas H. Savage, CBE, Principal, Hixon-Savage & Associates and Chairman, The Northern Ireland Partnership; Jean C. Monty, President and CEO, Northern Telecom Limited; Peter D. R. Davies, Consul General for Britain; Montague Larkin, Chartered Accountant, a Past Chairman, Royal Commonwealth Society and an Honorary Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Eithne Heffernan, Chairman, "The Spirit of Ireland," Musician and Harpist of Distinction; Edward J. McConnell, OBE, Vice-Chairman, Barclays McConnell Limited and Canadian Observer to the International Fund for Ireland; The Hon. R. Roy McMurtry, Q.C., Chief Justice, Ontario Court of justice.

Introduction by Dr. Jackman

Ladies and gentlemen, Sir Patrick, we are all pleased that you would visit with us on your brief tour in Canada. We are particularly pleased to be able to host you in this most British of hotels--The King Edward.

As you may know, Sir Patrick, the mission of The Empire Club is to promote, through discussion, the interests of Canada and the British Commonwealth. As members of the Commonwealth, it is particularly painful to witness "The Troubles"--the violent hatred that has stained Northern Ireland for a generation.

It is also true that there is "a little Irish in all of us." Here in Toronto, we see it in street and subway names, like St. Patrick just a few blocks from where we sit today. We see it in the quantities of green beer that were being quaffed all over this city just three weeks ago.

And we see it every year in the community's support for the Ireland Fund of Canada. This fund was begun by Hilary and Galen Weston just a few years ago, and raised over $100,000 this year for the purpose of assisting charity and culture and the promotion of peace in all of Ireland. Similar Ireland funds exist in six other countries--U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain and New Zealand. So you see, the Irish are just about everywhere.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Right Honourable Sir Patrick Mayhew, Q.C., M.P. was born Patrick Barnabus Burke Mayhew in 1929. He was educated at Tonbridge School and Balliol College, Oxford. After completing his national service, he was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1955. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1972. He is married and he and his wife Jean have four sons.

Sir Patrick, brings 20 years of elected political and cabinet experience to his present portfolio. His political career dates to 1970, when he contested, unsuccessfully, the riding of Camberwell-Dulwich. (And Sir Patrick, I should tell you that you and I have shared that particular experience).

Unlike me however, four years later you were successfully elected the Conservative Member of Parliament for Tunbridge Wells. Ladies and gentlemen, Sir Patrick became a member of the Executive of the 1922 Committee from 1976 to 1979 and was elected Vice-chairman of the Conservative Home Affairs Committee in the House of Commons during the same period.

Following the general election of 1979, Sir Patrick was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Employment and in 1981 was promoted to Minister of State at the Home Office. He was made Solicitor General in 1983, the same year in which he was knighted by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. In 1986 Sir Patrick was named a Privy Counsellor and the following year he was made Attorney General for England and Wales and for Northern Ireland. He received his present appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland following the general election of 1993. We applaud your personal courage in accepting this opportunity and wish you good luck as you fulfil your duty.

News reports now suggest that a negotiated settlement in Northern Ireland may be near. We look forward to hearing our guest's insights into the current state of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the possibilities for peace. Please join me in welcoming The Right Honorable Sir Patrick Mayhew.

Patrick Mayhew

Mr. President, Chief Justice, ladies and gentlemen, it is a delight and an honour to be present among so distinguished a gathering, assembled at the historic Empire Club of Canada. I feel a great sense of diffidence as a successor to an immensely long line of speakers of such eminence. It is a great privilege for me but also a most welcome opportunity to salute The Empire Club, and in particular to salute the Ireland Fund of Canada and those who support and work for it, many of whom I know to be gathered here today.

To raise money for the relief of poverty, distress and suffering; for the advancement of education; for the promotion of peace, culture and charity throughout Ireland, North and South--these are noble aims. They fit so well, also, with those of the historic Joint Declaration issued by our own Prime Minister and the Taciseach, Mr. Albert Reynolds, on December 15, 1993.

Reading the Ireland Fund's journal, I was particularly struck by the analogy drawn by Tony O'Reilly between your own patient work and the epic endeavour of Christopher Columbus, who entered in his log day after day "saw no land, sailed on." It is that dedication to a vision which drives you and which drives many of us to play our part in the search for a peaceful resolution of Northern Ireland's problems, deep-rooted though they are but in my confident belief certainly not intractable, although they still occasion episodes of the most repellent brutality of which Belfast witnessed another on Tuesday night.

Naturally I want to take this opportunity to address issues that are of direct interest to the business community: namely, Northern Ireland as a location for inward investment and our employment policies. But I am sure that, first, you would expect me to say something about the political context for each of these.

History still looms large in Northern Ireland. Mistakes and worse have in the past been committed on all sides. But my concern is with the reality of the present--two traditions with differing national identities and aspirations, that have yet to find the art of living in tranquillity together, of developing what they have in common and of drawing strength from their diversity rather than dwelling upon it with mutual animosity. At present a numerical majority in Northern Ireland feel themselves to be British and want to remain British. A sizable minority aspire to a United Ireland and look towards Dublin as representing their identity. There are many Catholics who, in the words of the Father Faul of Dengannon, a reliable spokesman for nationalist supporters, are in no hurry to see a United Ireland.

People belonging to each tradition are to be found in all parts of Northern Ireland. It is worth remembering that in some parts of the world divisions such as these have led to conflicts which put our own in a more proportionate perspective than it sometimes seems to have to those of us in close and daily proximity to it. Bosnia and Cyprus are good examples, in both of which theatres incidentally, Canadian troops serve alongside their British counterparts in the cause of keeping the peace. But I am firmly and rationally hopeful for the future of Northern Ireland--for a host of reasons.

First the two governments concerned stand shoulder to shoulder, in the cause of securing that political differences are not addressed and sought to be resolved by violence. They are determined to help the main constitutional parties secure a political settlement and to bring to an end the scourge of terrorism, and to do so without making any concession to violence. We are as one in this.

Our Joint Declaration epitomizes the two governments' approach. It is a declaration of principle, and a declaration of political reality. It stands for peace, democracy and consent. It rejects coercion and violence. It specifically recognizes the aspirations, and it promotes the interest, of both traditions in Ireland--without calling for the compromise by either of any essential principle.

As such, it surely constitutes the soundest of platforms for the ongoing process of political talks. In this the two governments, and all democratic parties in Northern Ireland, have the opportunity, and to set themselves the goal, of reaching the comprehensive settlement to which I have referred. It is a settlement that must cover all three key relationships if it is to achieve the wide agreement it needs in order to be durable; those within Northern Ireland; those between the north and south of Ireland; and those between the two governments. The declaration is not in any sense in competition with those talks. They have been in progress since March 1991, in one format or another. Much work remains to be done, but when divisions have roots as deep as ours in Northern Ireland, it is essential to keep patience and never lose heart. For our part I give you this assurance: We are going to persevere.

Another cause for rational hope--and the most important--is to be found in the people of Northern Ireland themselves. I shall say more about their great qualities in a moment. But in a recent opinion poll commissioned by the BBC and the Irish Independent 85 per cent of them said the IRA and Sinn Fein should give up violence and join in political negotiations--only four per cent said they should not. Mr. Adams, who professes to be a democrat, should heed the people. It is their will which is going to prevail. It should prevail at once and on a permanent and not a temporary or conditional basis. In no way at all can the threat of continued violence be justified by any claimed need for clarification of the Declaration. Both governments have gone to great lengths to explain both what is in the Declaration and, no less importantly what is not in it. Sinn Fein's claim for clarification has, incidentally, never been made specific.

Two days ago Sinn Fein's spokesperson was repeatedly pressed by journalists to identify any area which was in need of clarification. She firmly refused to do so. Small wonder. To attempt to do so would simply attract ridicule and scorn. Is it for this, the world would say, that you justify going on blowing people, including children, to bits? Mr. Spring has dismissed the claim for clarification. Mr. Adams must be disappointed that so few, on either side of the Atlantic, are proving gullible enough to give it credit.

In any democracy nobody who has perpetrated violence for political purposes, or has justified its use, can expect to be brought into discussions if they refuse to foreswear such violence for the future. Otherwise, those who do submit themselves to the disciplines of constitutional politics would be fatally undermined. We must send no such signal, and offer no such reward to terrorists of any kind. Were we to do so, men of violence the world over would take heart. Canada would be no exception in experiencing this response.

The Provisionals have their opportunity to take part in political dialogue--provided that they give up violence for good and join those parties who adopt exclusively democratic methods. The Joint Declaration once more makes that plain. I hope that they will take that opportunity. We shall not change the lock on the door which leads to the conference table, but the key is in their hands. If they do not turn it in the lock, the political process will go on. Northern Ireland will move on--with or without Sinn Fein. Nor could Sinn Fein by any means count on holding their already meagre vote in such circumstances. Business will go on, too, and I believe from strength to strength.

Which now brings me on to the economy--an economy that, in this period of recovery, is growing more rapidly in Northern Ireland than other parts of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland has an increasingly favourable reputation as a successful and profitable manufacturing base. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the notable success recorded recently by Shorts Brothers. That company has benefited immensely from their relationship with their new Canadian parent Bombardier. They are the oldest aircraft manufacturers in the world, and they have benefited mightily from being brought into the private sector as an arm of Bombardier's business.

Just as good witness to the attractions of Northern Ireland is to be found in the experience of Northern Telecom, employing nearly 1,000 people there in high communications technology. The skills and talents that have contributed so much to the success of Shorts--and of many other local enterprises--are also increasingly attracting companies from continental Europe, Asia, and North America. Their products--which range from medical devices, computer software and video cassette recorders to automotive components, and electronic chips-are exported to virtually every corner of the world.

We greatly value such investment and are constantly searching for more. In the financial year just ended, for example, our Industrial Development Board helped to bring to Northern Ireland almost 2,000 new jobs and $220 million of industrial investment. Over the past five years overseas companies have invested over $1 billion in Northern Ireland. These have included many American companies--including Fruit of the Loom, Seagate and Valence Technology. North American including Canadian-owned companies now employ 17 per cent of all those engaged in manufacturing industry throughout the province. You can visualize so well, I know, the influence for good that this represents, politically no less than economically.

But why has Northern Ireland's recent investment track record been so impressive? Some of the best people to ask are the executives who have moved to Northern Ireland to run these overseas plants. I spend quite a lot of my time touring Northern Ireland and talking to such people. They tell me that not only do they find Northern Ireland a highly advantageous business location but it is also a place where they and their families can enjoy a lifestyle rivalled by few other countries in a green and pleasant environment.

Not many people know, for example, that Northern Ireland has the lowest crime rate in the U.K. and one of the lowest in the Western world. Despite the media portrayal, those who visit or invest in Northern Ireland soon come to realize that the impact of the emergency does not impinge significantly on their businesses when set beside the many advantages. But then, Northern Ireland is invariably a surprise to those who come to it for the first time.

There you will find an education system that produces more high flyers proportionately than anywhere else in the United Kingdom; excellent research facilities at the universities and a close rapport between them and industry; a health-care system second to none; low housing costs resulting in high disposable income; unrivalled leisure opportunities, and a high-quality infrastructure, especially in transport and telecommunications.

Corporate taxes, which are the same as in the rest of the U.K., are amongst the lowest in Europe. Our Industrial Development Board can also offer potential investors a wide range of financial incentives. We have one of the most flexible packages of financial assistance in Europe, with grants of up to 50 per cent, covering areas such as training and exporting which are key to business success. A low-tax economy, combined with the other incentives which Northern Ireland can provide, makes Northern Ireland an extremely attractive place for overseas companies to invest in, and we find that it is those who actually try it who become our best ambassadors.

But perhaps our biggest asset is people. Northern Ireland offers a first-rate work force, educated and flexible, and a forward-looking pro-business environment. This is something we work very hard on. In Northern Ireland, where unemployment has been a perennial problem, people literally get on with the job; our industrial relations record is excellent.

Call it the Northern Ireland work ethic if you will. The fact is that energy and drive, coupled to technical skills, have meant that Northern Ireland's work force has shown, time and time again, that it can produce quality products which can compete with the best in the world's marketplace.

I spoke earlier about the Joint Declaration--and its commitment to promote the interests of both traditions. Nowhere have we been more determined to fulfil this commitment than in the field of fair employment. Discrimination on the ground of religious belief or political opinion is illegal. In the Fair Employment Act of 1989 we have the strongest anti-discrimination legislation in Europe. It is making significant inroads, necessarily gradually, into the imbalance between the two communities' participation in employment.

The legislation obliges firms to monitor the religious composition of their work forces, and to take affirmative action to correct imbalances in clearly-defined circumstances. There is a Fair Employment Tribunal to adjudicate on complaints of alleged discrimination, with powerful sanctions available to it. But we remain firmly opposed to any form of "quota" or reverse discrimination, both of which would be counter-productive.

Of course you here in Canada are familiar with this sort of approach, having had such legislation in place for years. But alongside the legislation, of crucial importance in reducing disparities in employment is new investment; the creation of new jobs. That is why I was so very pleased recently by the "Call" from the leaders of the four main churches in Ireland, and their counterparts in the United States, for fair employment to be linked to investment in Northern Ireland. That is the way forward, in contrast to the McBride campaign which highly significantly is supported by one of the Northern Ireland political parties and one alone--Sinn Fein. It is my hope that the "Call" will be taken up by the many friends of Northern Ireland on this side of the Atlantic to the benefit of both traditions in the province. Not only is this something inherently right in itself, it will lead to the reduction of those areas of special disadvantage which are such prolific recruiting grounds for paramilitary organizations of whatever character.

Mr. President, I hope I have been able to impart to this distinguished gathering my own strong sense of rational hope for Northern Ireland and all its people, and a no less strong sense of our determination. People, from both traditions in Northern Ireland, especially the young, are determined to work together for the future. They are not going to turn back now.

Our long-standing ties with Canada, which we value enormously, play a very important role in this process. My short time here convinces me that that relationship will continue to prosper, for I have met, from businesses, from journalists, from Government, the fullest degree of understanding both of the challenges that confront us and of the confident and determined responses we are making. To that understanding it is my earnest hope that I may have contributed a little more today.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Montague Larkin, Chartered Accountant, a Past Chairman, The Royal Commonwealth Society and an Honorary Director, The Empire Club of Canada.

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Investment Opportunities in Northern Ireland

The Ireland Fund of Canada. Investment in Northern Ireland. A brief history of Northern Ireland. Joint Declaration. Northern Ireland economy. Advantages of living and working and investing in Northern Ireland.