By Ciara Quinn
New York City Comptroller John Liu was in Ireland this week to explore the potential for investments, most especially in parts of the north most affect by the Troubles.
"These past few days have been incredible and very rewarding," Comptroller Liu told the Irish Echo.
"Although I have had a non-stop schedule of meetings, it has given me an overview of how to build a fairer and more equal society here," he said.
"We need investment directly into areas such as west, north Belfast and Derry. We need to build on the existing peace that has been built in the North of Ireland and see economic growth grow from it.
"I spent quite a bit of time with Gerry Adams at Conway Mill on the Falls Road in the heart of west Belfast. I spent some
time on the Shankill Road. To an outsider like me it was clear we have a place with people who are want to do the right thing but just need the opportunities to do so," Liu said.
Liu said he was extremely impressed with the resilience of the North's workforce and stated: "We have seen people who are ready, willing and able to work. You have a highly educated work force, a relatively young force here and with the milestone reached with the peace process. This has paved the way for key ingredients for investment for the country."
Liu stressed that it was his job to invest profitably on behalf of the taxpayers of New York City.
"It is my personal mission to help bring about change and a level playing field for everybody," he said.
The chairman of the Emerald Isle Emigration Center in New York, attorney Brian O' Dwyer, who accompanied Comptroller Liu on his Irish visit, said the chances of the comptroller's office investing in the North were "excellent."
"Comptroller Liu is a very careful man and does not take his responsibilities lightly, he will look toward investment opportunities in a very favorable manner.
"We want to say to those in the North who want to see the peace bring real benefits that your Irish American cousins are committed to investing in your future. The hope must be that if Comptroller Liu commits to invest. then other strongly Irish
American cities such as Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, will follow suit," O'Dwyer said.
Jack Ahern, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, also traveled with the Liu
Coinciding with his Irish visit, Comptroller Liu announced that Art Technology Group, Inc. has agreed to implement equal employment opportunity standards based on the MacBride Principles, this as a result of a shareholder resolution filed by the New York City Pension Funds.
"The New York City Pension Funds have once again used the leverage of their share ownership to successfully spur change in how companies conduct business in Northern Ireland," Liu said.
"There is no place for discrimination of any sort in the workplace. By adopting the MacBride Principles, Art Technology has affirmed its commitment to promoting fair work practices. I look forward to working closely with the trustees of the Systems in advocating for more companies to adopt these very important principles."
The resolution was filed in December 2009 by former Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. on behalf of the New York City Pension Funds, and was officially withdrawn by his successor, Liu, after he was notified that Art Technology had agreed to adopt MacBride.