Call for "Marshall Plan" to aid Border counties


THE vicechancellor of the University of Ulster has called for a plan for Northern Ireland and the Border counties along the lines of the US financed "Marshall Plan" which helped rebuild war torn Europe 50 years ago.

Speaking in Dublin last night, Sir Trevor Smith said: "The particular political circumstances that have blighted the north of the island and the Border counties call out for a further major initiative.

"There have been political initiatives of numerous kinds which have met with varying degrees of success - though none has had much lasting impact - but people of goodwill at every level, from cabinets to individual citizens, must continue with their resourceful efforts."

The initiative he now envisaged was along the lines of the plan announced 50 years ago, almost to the day, by Gen George Marshall, to enable US aid and skills to contribute to the economic regeneration of Europe.

"I believe that a Marshall Plan for the north of the island, sponsored by the governments in London and Dublin, the European Community and the US government, could provide not just for the economic and social regeneration of the area but would also have a significant impact on the political perceptions of ordinary people and of their land."

Speaking to The Irish Times. Sir Trevor, who is currently chairman of the Conference of Rectors of Ireland, said the original "wish list" presented in 1947 by European governments to the US was thrown out, and they had to come back with detailed, costed sect oral plans for the various industrial sectors in need of regeneration.

He said the Northern Ireland Technology Foresight Exercise - which brought together business leaders, senior civil servants and relevant academics - had recently identified six potential growth areas in the northern economy: engineering, food and drink, textiles and apparel, life and health technologies, software, and networks and systems.

He suggested this could be matched by a parallel study of the Republic's six Border counties and could be used to target job creating investment throughout every community and constituency in the North.

He said that if such a "Marshall Plan" was in place in time for another IRA ceasefire, people would not merely see peace as part of the political process, but as "peace plus - they would see what is in it for them".