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North needs funds

As illustrated by the strong turnout at the 25th anniversary celebration of the MacBride Principles campaign in New York City Hall last month, Irish America sees the investment of hard-earned dollars in projects in the North of Ireland - at a profit - as the logical follow-on to the campaign for fair employment.

But while New York state and city workers have generously committed at least $180 million to projects in the areas of greatest disadvantage in the North, the reality is that not one cent has yet been invested.

All of which calls for new thinking at the start of a new year.

New York State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, has bold plans to invest at least $30 million in the Derry region and believes some investment announcements could be made soon. In the case of New York City, $75 million has been log-jammed in a Belfast-based intermediary fund for over a year. However, a second $75 million tranche from New York City remains in city coffers.

Anyone who heard Comptroller John Liu speak at the City Hall meeting in December will be in no doubt about his continued commitment to deploy pension funds in the underserved areas of Northern Ireland.

However, fresh thinking should mean a direct engagement with the power sharing government at Stormont to find ways of partnering innovative programs - such as the ILEX transformation of former British military sites in Derry into cultural and commercial hubs - which can provide hope and jobs on the ground in Northern Ireland and, not least, a real return on investment for New York City's retirees.

In the meantime, both comptrollers, New York State and New York City, may find it useful to get some "eyes on the ground" in the North in order to swiftly analyze the blockages on investments to date and come up with a new strategy to build on MacBride by putting U.S. pension fund dollars profitably to work.

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