- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 Oct 1998, p. 171-180
- Trimble, The Rt. Hon. David, Speaker
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- The political roller coaster of the past six months in Northern Ireland. A brief review of events. The prospect of real peace for the first time in a generation. The difficult summer, culminating in the terrible bomb at Omagh. The qualitative difference in the public reaction to this outrage. Creating a new political landscape in Northern Ireland. Seeing Ulster in miniature in Canada. Reminders of the contribution Ulster people have made to the creation and establishment of Canada. A shared history. Some examples of Ulster contributions. Economic ties between Canada and Northern Ireland, with illustrative examples. Trade and investment in Northern Ireland. Joint ventures. Highlighting investment opportunities in Northern Ireland - opportunities free from past problems and enhanced by a new Agreement. Some key points, along with an offer of stability, investment potential, and prosperity. The lack of any justification, moral or political, for violence. The final hurdle. Commonalities and differences between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Opportunities rather than difficulties. Canada's support for the peace process. An invitation to Northern Ireland.
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- 14 Oct 1998
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- The Rt. Hon. David Trimhle First Minister of Northern Ireland
NORTHERN IRELAND--THE WAY AHEAD
Chairman: George L. Cooke, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Montague Larkin, Executive Director, The Ireland Fund of Canada and Honorary Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Bishop Arthur Brown, Chancellor, Renison College, University of Waterloo; Thomas Savage, Chairman, Northern Ireland Partnership and Immediate Past Chairman, The Ireland Fund of Canada; The Hon. Barbara McDougall, former Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs and Chairman, AT and T Canada Long Distance Service; Sir Anthony Goodenough, British High Commissioner to Canada; Laurent Beaudoin, Chairman, President and CEO, Bombardier Inc.; William Neill, Vice-President, Sun Media Corporation and Chairman, The Ireland Fund of Canada; Brian Metcalfe, President, Bay Research Associates Inc.; Judith Cirulis, Student, North Toronto Collegiate Institute; and Ann Curran, Partner, Lewis Companies and Third Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada.
Introduction by George L. Cooke
We are privileged today to have as our guest speaker, The Right Honourable David Trimble, First Minister of Northern Ireland.
Mr. Trimble is a veteran of Northern Ireland politics, involved in the hardline Vanguard Party led by William Craig in the early 1970s. In 1978 he entered mainstream unionism and joined the Ulster Unionist Party, and in 1990 he was elected as MP for Upper Bann.
David Trimble was the winner in the race for the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party in 1995. He succeeded to the top of the party after refusing to support John Major's government in a parliamentary vote on European Union fishing policy. He had little support from his parliamentary colleagues, but the party rank and file clearly thought differently. In part his success was explained by his high-profile role during a stand-off in Drumcree between members of the Protestant Orange Order and local Catholic residents. His election was also an indication that rank-and-file unionists were unhappy with the government's vision of the future for Northern Ireland and wanted to see firm leadership at the top of their party. Soon after he was elected party leader, Mr. Trimble showed his true leadership as he was prepared to upset some of the unionists rank and file by meeting with the main party leaders in the Irish Republic.
Mr. Trimble is a former lecturer in law at Queen's University in Belfast and a non-practicing barrister by profession. He was born in Bangor, a seaside resort in County Down. The fact that he ascended to the leadership of the Ulster Unionists was something of an upset, since he is not of the Anglo-Irish "squirearchy" that for generations has controlled unionism in Northern Ireland.
He has been described as being an "effortlessly articulate but routinely intransigent defender of the Union."
Mr. Trimble, welcome to The Empire Club of Canada.
Thank you for those kind words of introduction and allow me first of all to say how delighted I am to be here. It is indeed a signal honour to be invited to address The Empire Club of Canada, following, as I do, in the footsteps of international statesmen and world leaders. Others better known than I but with domestic political problems that eclipse those of Northern Ireland have graced this stage. I too am honoured to have been invited to address such an august gathering.
By any yardstick, the past six months have been a political roller coaster of unparalleled intensity in Northern Ireland. We have had the negotiations and the Agreement in April, followed by the referendum campaign in May then the Assembly elections in June! Now we are engaged in the task of establishing a new political order where local, accountable government, responsive to the needs of all our people is taking root. For the first time in a generation, we have the prospect of real peace--a goal worth striving for and taking some risks for.
It has been a difficult summer culminating in the terrible bomb at Omagh. But there was a qualitative difference in the public reaction to this outrage. We detected a settled determination by the people that these events should not deflect us. There is now no support among any significant section of the people for a return to violence. We, the elected representatives owe it to them and to so many others to be determined and tireless in our efforts to create a new political landscape in Northern Ireland in which all our people have a stake and where all can claim proud ownership. My party and others in the new Assembly realise it is a daunting challenge, but I believe the overriding desire to create a better future will embolden and strengthen us.
We are an industrious, plain-speaking and proud people who have given much to the world. Now, more than ever, we need to call on those same qualities so characteristic of our forefathers to finish the job we have started.
Everywhere I look in this great country I see Ulster in miniature. Everywhere I go, I see reminders of the contribution Ulster people have made to the creation and establishment of Canada.
You and I revere and honour the same people--people who left Ulster to find a new life across the Atlantic and who went on to make their mark in commerce, construction, banking, politics and the nation's armed services.
Street names and monuments commemorate their contribution and commitment. Men such as Lord Dufferin of Clandeboye in County Down who, as Governor General of Canada, made such a profound constitutional impact, and Edmund de Wind who emigrated to Canada and became involved in the building of the great Trans-Canada Highway. On the outbreak of the First World War he returned home to join the Ulster Division and was killed on the Western Front in an action, which earned him the Victoria Cross. It is a fine acknowledgment of his service that a mountain near your world-famous Whistler Resort in British Columbia is named after him--a permanent reminder by a grateful people. He wasn't alone. Many others fought with distinction and they too are honoured at the Ulster Division Association Club located not far away from here in Gerrard Street. The Association was formed by veterans of the Great War and today it still serves as a focal point for the tens of thousands who have made Toronto and Canada their home.
Then of course, there was Timothy Eaton, an Ulsterman whose name is a byword for hard work, business acumen and entrepreneurship. His great grandson, Fred, maintained his family's close links with Ballymena and Northern Ireland during his recent term as Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. The relationship we have is profound. I mention but a few of those who left our shore in search of a new life in a young country but the relationship is not just one way.
Canada has given generations of people from Northern Ireland the opportunity of a new life and in return Canada has been rewarded and fulfilled. Just as Northern Ireland has been rewarded with some exports from here. Names like Bombardier and Northern Telecom are household names here but they have also carved out an enviable reputation back home.
They now account for over 7,000 manufacturing jobs and thousands more in indirect support employment. They have each set international quality benchmarks, which serve as role models for the rest of industry to emulate. Northern Telecom, through Nortel Networks in Northern Ireland, is an international player developing and manufacturing telecom systems for the global marketplace. Regional, United Kingdom, and European Quality awards grace its boardroom--no finer tribute to a company and work force at the forefront of technology.
When Short Brothers of Belfast, the old and respected aircraft manufacturer which had been nationalised, was about to be privatised in the late eighties, Bombardier spotted a commercial opportunity and became the new owner. Shorts was poorly funded, losing money and needing modernisation. Bombardier, in partnership with a progressive local management and a willing work force, set about rebuilding and reviving the once great aviation company. With the introduction of new manufacturing methods, product diversification and substantial investment, the company is Northern Ireland's largest private-sector company. A dramatic turnaround made possible by a Canadian company in partnership with a work force that was given the opportunity to embrace a new era and prove to the world that the skills base and work ethic we pride ourselves in are alive and well.
Today, there is another Canadian name making an appearance in the business pages of our newspapers. CanWest, the fast-growing media group based in Winnipeg has bought a stake in Ulster Television, Northern Ireland's only independent television station.
Bombardier, Nortel, and CanWest are welcome investors. They know that Northern Ireland is good for business. Bombardier and Nortel invested in Ulster when times were not so good. They were, if you like, the Canadian pioneers, the industrial frontiersmen with the same spirit and determination so characteristic of the Ulstermen who came to Canada to build a new future.
In Northern Ireland today, we too are building a new future. Scamus Malion and I, as the newly designated First and Deputy First Ministers of the Northern Ireland Assembly, are here with a team from the IDB to encourage trade and investment. Our purpose is to provide the economic underpinning of the opportunities provided by the Agreement.
It is right that this first joint venture should be for the purpose of building the Northern Ireland economy. North America leads the industrial world and is the largest international investor in Northern Ireland, generating over 10 per cent of our manufacturing jobs. Since 1990 over 45 companies from North America have invested well over $1 billion in setting up or expanding operations in Northern Ireland. Included in this list are Fortune 500 companies like Emerson Electric and Seagate and Canadian giants like Nortel Networks and Bombardier.
Economically Northern Ireland is more fertile than ever before. We are not an emerging market. The Bann and Lagan valleys in counties Down and Antrim are where the industrial revolution took root in Ireland. We have an industrial and entrepreneurial tradition.
We are here to explain the investment opportunities in Northern Ireland-opportunities free from past problems and enhanced by a new Agreement. Stability, investment potential, prosperity. These are the words people will use when they talk of Northern Ireland in the future. In the language of industry, Northern Ireland has re-tooled. It has a new management elected by its people. We are now facing the international marketplace confident in ourselves.
Let me highlight again the key points.
First, we have the right connection. Northern Ireland is the ideal gateway to the largest single market in the world. We speak your language. We have common business methods, a familiar legal system, and a common culture. These advantages we share with our neighbours in other regions in the British Isles.
What distinguishes us from them is the second key point. We have the right people. One of the best educated work forces in Europe. College leavers have average grades higher than our neighbours. Young people, highly skilled, readily available and enthusiastic for work. Ten thousand of them leave colleges and universities each year. Now more than ever before they are determined to make the best of the new opportunities for the future.
Thirdly, we also have the right business base offering attractive costs in comparison to the rest of Europe both in terms of staffing and property, acquisition and construction costs being lower than other regions.
Finally we have an extremely business-friendly tax environment such as no property taxes on industrial premises. We can offer a very attractive package of taxfree-set-up incentives to the potential investor.
In Boston yesterday we announced that Segue Software Inc. was going to open a worldwide technical support Call Centre in Belfast. In an overview of its plans Segue wrote that it "is looking to expand in Northern Ireland because of its lower operating costs, its well trained and enthusiastic human resources and its excellent computing and telecommunications infrastructure."
In fact AVX lose more days due to snow in South Carolina than they do to labour relations in Northern Ireland.
To those economic advantages we can now add the prospect of political stability through the Agreement. Its main elements are interdependent and interlocking. The constitutional question has now been settled for good with the enshrining of the principle of consent. There can be no change in Northern Ireland's position within the U.K. without the assent of a majority. The Agreement enshrines equal rights for all and it incorporates a new wider dimension to Northern Ireland's relationships with the formation of a North-South Ministerial Council and a British-Irish Council For the first time, the totality of relationships within the British Isles will be catered for and used to further co-operation. The Agreement also provides for the release of prisoners over a two-year period and for the decommissioning of all terrorist weapons and explosives. All parts of the Agreement are interlocking; all are interdependent; all must move forward in parallel. At present all parts are moving forward bar one. There has been no decommissioning of weapons.
There is no longer any justification, moral or political, for violence. There is no longer any need to hold on to the weapons of violence. Their decommissioning is not a precondition to progress under the Agreement. It is an obligation and one that must be fulfilled before the representatives of violent organisations can take their seats at the table of democracy. This is the litmus test of the Agreement and of those organisations from whom the fundamental issue of decommissioning is required. The demand for peace does not just come from Unionists. It comes from all sections of society. I believe that paramilitary organisations will not be able to resist the pressure from society for much longer.
This is the final hurdle and one which when overcome will allow Northern Ireland to be at ease with itself and its neighbours. Just as Canada enjoys sensible business and trading ties with its neighbour, the United States, so too should Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. Impressive levels of cross-frontier business already occur but much more could be done, not simply in what is bought and sold, but across a range of activities from cooperation in agricultural research and disease control to unproved management of shared amenities such as our inland waterways.
We have a lot in common with the Republic of Ireland but there is a lot also that separates us and makes us different. These differences should represent opportunities not difficulties and you in Toronto provide the perfect model.
Almost every culture on earth is represented in this impressive, bustling, cosmopolitan city and each coexists with the other. Canada celebrates difference and shows the rest of the world how those from widely differing backgrounds and ethnic origins can live side by side. This is not a weakness. It is a strength with respect at its core. Canada has come to terms with the differences that go to make up its rich cultural tapestry and it is the stronger for it.
Canada has supported the peace process through the example it sets for us and through the financial support it has provided to the Peace and Reconciliation programme of the International Fund for Ireland and through the work of the Ireland Fund of Canada. I wish however on this occasion to single out one particular Canadian for his untiring efforts with the peace process. General John de Chastelain worked with Senator Mitchell and Prime Minister Holkeri on the International Body that established the six Mitchell Principles of non-violence. He co-chaired the peace talks and has remained in Belfast to chair the International Decommissioning Body. This is perhaps his most difficult role to date but his military expertise coupled with his patience and diplomacy has earned him respect from all sides. Here is a Canadian who came to Northern Ireland and has made a difference.
I invite you all to come to Northern Ireland and see the difference. As peace takes hold Northern Ireland will reassert itself as a premier tourist destination. A few weeks ago the Hilton Group opened a hotel in the heart of Belfast's waterfront regeneration zone, a zone that has been modelled in many ways on the Toronto waterfront development. Other international chains are establishing themselves and it is estimated that our developing tourist industry could create up to 20,000 new jobs over the next few years. Here again, political stability is the key. The new Assembly will prioritise tourism and we look to Canada and America as key markets to develop.
It is my intention to forge new relationships and partnerships for the benefit of all our people. It is my strong conviction that one of the longest-running conflicts in any region in Europe is at last coming to an end. And it is my plea to you today to continue to support us as we make a great leap forward. Canada has been a great friend to Northern Ireland. We have strong business ties and a common allegiance. We can look to the future together as old allies and new partners. Thank you.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Ann Curran, Partner, Lewis Companies and Third Vice-President, The Empire Club of Canada.