Northern Ireland Assembly: Private Members’ Business: All-Ireland Job Creation Strategy (17 October 2011)
It will come as no surprise that the SDLP supports the motion, which calls for an all-Ireland job creation approach and on the North/South Ministerial Council to focus areas of high unemployment across the island. There is no harm in any of that, and it is right and proper that that should be the approach. I say to unionist colleagues in the House that that does not exclude having east-west co-operation on economic matters. There is a view in the House that a North/South strategy excludes an east-west strategy and vice versa, but they are not mutually exclusive. They can, in fact, be married together quite properly so that we maximise the benefit of our position in these islands. That is right and proper for all of the people in Northern Ireland.
I have looked at the draft Programme for Government. Where in that Programme for Government is there an all-Ireland job-creation strategy, whether it is comes under the work of the North/South Ministerial Council or any other body? There is a complete absence of such a strategy. Why does the Programme for Government neglect to address this issue? Surely, if Sinn Féin was serious about the motion, and I hope that it is, it would have included it in the draft Programme for Government. Why is there this absence? Why does Sinn Féin not pursue this in the Executive, where it has substantial membership? If that is absent from the Programme for Government is not Sinn Féin letting down its own support base and people in general?
With regard to North/South co-operation in the Programme for Government, there is an absolute lack of any meaningful commitment to developing partnership between the Executive in the North and the Government in the Republic. That is fact. Look at the Programme for Government. That needs to be addressed if we are serious about developing an all-Ireland job-creation strategy. We in the SDLP therefore look forward to receiving a credible and more detailed version of the Programme for Government.
In relation to North/South co-operation, we are fully supportive of the development of any job-creation strategy. I hope that everybody in this House is in favour of that and that their own political position — and I refer specifically to unionists — does not prevent them from supporting that on a reasonable cross-border basis. On this island, we should be co-operating together.