McGuinness warns over anniversaries

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

The north’s economic recovery will be damaged if significant upcoming anniversaries are blighted by violence, Martin McGuinness has warned.

The Deputy First Minister said negative headlines about the region would hit the prospects of foreign direct investment.

Mr McGuinness also told the Assembly that work on the long-awaited and at times controversial Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (CSI) Strategy was nearing completion.

The centenary of the signing of the pro-Union Ulster Covenant last weekend passed off without disorder in the midst of a major security operation. It followed a summer when violence did flare over parading issues in north Belfast.

The next 10 years will see a number of potentially-sensitive anniversaries, including the 1916 Easter Rising and Battle of the Somme.

Mr McGuinness said it was important that politicians worked together to ensure all dates were marked in an inclusive and respectful way.

“The last thing that we need on our streets is contention and conflict, and I know from first-hand how damaging that can be to our efforts to attract foreign direct investment,” he said.

“I do think priorities need to be got right, and we need to recognise that we are in the face of one of the worst economic crises that the world has ever seen and we, as an Executive, have a job to battle against that and provide jobs for our young people and provide services for our people, and we can only do that if we do that against the backdrop of a peaceful environment.

“The First Minister and I, over the course of the last couple of years, have brought in more foreign direct investment jobs than any other time in the history of the state.

“We can only do that if we can portray to the world that the peace process is moving forward and continuing, and the last thing we need is setbacks such as those we’ve seen over the course of the last couple of weeks.”