Sir Anthony O'Reilly: 'A great future for the economy of Northern Ireland'

From a lecture by the chief executive officer of Independent News & Media at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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The Independent Online

My central proposition tonight is that the United Kingdom should, for a limited period of 10 years, create a sub-division of the UK tax system for Northern Ireland, which would allow Northern Ireland as an investment destination to equate in every way with the Republic of Ireland - so that each and every investor throughout the world is location-indifferent as to where its investment is made on the island of Ireland.

It would, I believe, create unprecedented prosperity in Northern Ireland, and, indeed, further foster it on the whole island of Ireland, and it would bring an extraordinary future to all the people of all our traditions.

There will be many voices raised against this proposition, both in Europe and the UK Treasury and indeed possibly in the Republic of Ireland, but when you consider the unique position of Northern Ireland in the past 30 years in the context of Europe, it is an entirely justifiable derogation to seek from all parties in the United Kingdom and in Europe.

At Independent News & Media, we have invested over €600m in Northern Ireland in the past five years. Although our products are mainly for regional consumption, we are hugely impressed with the work ethic of all parties, the "can do" spirit of the community, and the feeling that if tax assistance along the lines that have made the Republic of Ireland so successful is available, there will be a great future for the economy there and for all of the people on this island.

I am hugely optimistic about the 21st century, particularly in the form that Irish society is evolving. Importantly, we have helped partially to solve, or at least assuage, the most difficult political problem of Northern Ireland, and although there have been certain setbacks, I say, as one of the founders of the Ireland Fund, that the healing process is irreversible. In that sense, sharing the prosperity of the South in the manner that I have outlined will be an enormously important example of what can be achieved within Europe and the world, by a peaceful Ireland.

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