New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli followed up his triumphant Nov. 4 electoral performance with the most intensive visit yet by a state comptroller to Belfast.
In the city, the comptroller met with community leaders from the unionist and nationalist communities and was briefed on the progress of early-stage companies which benefited from his $15 million investment in March in Crescent Capital — representing the biggest-ever single investment by a state pension fund in a Northern Ireland equity vehicle.
The comptroller also addressed over 500 people gathered for the annual Aisling Awards, the city's premier awards event, and met with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.
His first visit to Belfast since 2008 saw the comptroller, who was accompanied by his chief advisor on Ireland, MacBride Principles co-author Pat Doherty, visit the Bombardier Aerospace plant in East Belfast.
For years under fire in Irish America for its religious imbalance in the workforce, Bombardier has pushed the percentage of Catholics in its workforce to just 16.7 percent, even though Belfast now has a marginal Catholic majority.
The comptroller told the Aisling audience that he was determined to keep "the equality agenda" front and center as peace talks, aided by President Obama’s peace envoy Gary Hart, continue at Stormont.
"I met people across Belfast who have suffered and who have issues which must yet be resolved, but I was heartened by the resolve of all sides to move forward," Di Napoli said.