It's time we stood on our own

Published: 10 Jan 2013 09:000 comments

It has been a fairly inauspicious start to 2013 with the ongoing flags protests not doing much for the image of a progressive, post conflict Northern Ireland that many had hoped would be further energised by the 2012 Our Time Our Place campaign. Is it really only six months since the flags on everybody's lips were those on the 18 holes of Royal Portrush as the world's best golfers came to Northern Ireland for the first Irish Open to be staged in Northern Ireland for over 50 years.

Add in events like the MTV Awards and the upcoming G8 in our home county and it is fair to say that Northern Ireland has enjoyed some special privileges in an attempt to not only stimulate the economy but also to make the country a popular destination. Fermanagh, by definition, was meant to benefit accordingly. Trade missions to China and the like by DETI paint Northern Ireland as an untapped gem ripe for investment but is that investment coming and more importantly is any of it coming to Fermanagh?

At ground level in Fermanagh, the closure of the Carlton Hotel in Belleek this week, the staff reductions at Liberty Insurance, the worries over the Quinn manufacturing sector, the continuing administration at Lough Erne Resort and the seemingly endless inability to escape the clutches of recession, has created a Fermanagh economy living very much on the edge.

One obvious consequence of this uncertainty has been an exodus of young workers to other countries in search of employment.

And, it is just not the traditional routes of the United States and Australia that the youth of the day are chasing work.

In recent weeks, the Impartial Reporter has been writing about people who emigrated to places such as Russia and China in the search of work.

Of course, not everyone who leaves Northern Ireland in search of work does so because they have to, many do it because they want to but it is a fact that in the past two years the numbers leaving has been increasing. It is a trend that needs to be arrested. The G8 Summit this June in Fermanagh will be important for many reasons. Can it kick start the local economy will be foremost on the agenda of the people of Fermanagh more so than what will be debated by the leaders of the world's leading eight economies?

Indeed, it could be a watershed or it could be a damp squib? Northern Ireland has had lots thrown at it in the past 10 years in terms of investment and economy stimulators, but it seems not much of it has stuck.

There is much talk of a facelift for Fermanagh and that can only be good but equally it is largely cosmetic. The hospitality industry will be boosted but then again it should be busy in the middle of June anyway if Fermanagh really is a tourist entity.

Investment, jobs and security are what the people of Fermanagh and Northern Ireland really want and it is hard to see the G8 securing any of this.

Some time soon, this country will have to stand on its own two feet and to do that it needs a strong, peaceful, independent economy if it is to have any chance of long term stability irrespective of religious differences.

That is the real debate for 2013 and what should be occupying the minds of our decision and policy makers.

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