A newly published report proposes a 35-year "road map to prosperity and social justice" in Northern Ireland.
The Heenan-Anderson report says there is an “urgent need” to agree and develop a long-term vision for Northern Ireland up to 2050 that inspires positivity and hope, an entrepreneurial spirit, collective confidence and drives forward a thriving economy.
"At this time of political crisis, this report could act as a template for the actions needed to address the deep-seated causes of poverty and deprivation," said its authors Professor Deirdre Heenan of Ulster University and businessman Colin Anderson.
The report was commissioned in September last year to examine the causes of economic marginalisation and deprivation in Northern Ireland and was designed to be a blueprint for moving Northern Ireland forward had Labour won the British general election.
Labour's shadow Northern Ireland spokesman Ivan Lewis, who initiated the report 12 months ago, said at its launch in Belfast on Tuesday that it "sets out a landmark agenda" that will be useful for Westminster and the Executive in developing a future for Northern Ireland.
“A radical agenda is needed to prevent anyone being left behind in Northern Ireland, which remains a society emerging from conflict. At this very challenging time of constant crisis for political stability in Northern Ireland, it is vital to remember the day to day difficulties of the poorest in society,” added Mr Lewis.
As part of the “road map” the Heenan-Anderson report calls for measures to tackle joblessness, the devolution of corporation tax-setting powers, as was agreed in the stalled Stormont House Agreement, and a closer working relationship between Westminster and the Northern Executive to tackle deprivation.
In stating that Northern Ireland must encourage and foster leaders at all levels of society call, Prof Heenan and Mr Anderson for the creation of a “leadership academy” that would be a partnership between the private, public and civil society sectors.
“We tend to be good at identifying problems but less skilled at identifying solutions,” they state.
They also call for a “comprehensive anti-poverty strategy” with agreed objectives and a robust action plan.
Their fifth key recommendation is to prioritise mental well-being. “The legacy of the Troubles, including intergenerational trauma, means that Northern Ireland needs a world-class universal mental health system,” the authors state.
They add that the British government should consider providing additional funding to assist the Northern Executive in this area. “There are substantial economic and social benefits not only from providing timely and efficacious treatments for mental disorders, but also from investing in people as potential parents and producing a social environment conducive to positive mental health and positive parenting,” they state.
The report identifies three key themes to tackle intergenerational poverty in Northern Ireland: early intervention, education and jobs promotion and the economy. Prof Heenan and Mr Anderson hoped the report would start a “national conversation” on the way forward.
“Tackling intergenerational poverty and social exclusion should be a priority for any society, but in a society like Northern Ireland which is emerging from conflict the stakes are much higher,” they said at the launch today. “Despite significant efforts and a variety of initiatives by the devolved government and by communities themselves, there is much more work to do in reducing poverty and intergenerational deprivation.”
“We hope the Labour party, the Westminster government and the Northern Ireland Executive will use this report to inform their policy development in the future,” added Prof Heenan and Mr Anderson.