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Civic leaders must set themselves bolder goals

By Staff Reporter

If the mission of last week’s Belfast One City Conference could be summed up in a word, it would be a four-letter one: Jobs.

For, as South Belfast councillor Alderman Christopher Stalford — Chair of the Council’s powerful Development Committee — pointed out, the ambition of the city to grow must be matched by its ability to create employment.

And that in turn must mean attracting investment by putting forward a compelling proposition — not by holding out a begging bowl. As Alderman Stalford put it: “In the past there would have been investment because it was seen as a sort of charity, whereas now they should be doing it because it’s the best place in Europe to do so.”

And viewed from the heights of the Titanic Building, there was plenty to feel good about in Belfast 2012 — as stated by speakers from as diverse a background as Glenn Jordan of East Belfast Mission regeneration project Skainos and David Dobbin of the Strategic Investment Board.

But all is not rosy in the garden, as stressed by UNISON representative Patricia McKeown. As part of her presentation, she showed a photograph of North Belfast taken from the top of the Titanic Building. What tangible change in quality of life had occurred there since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, she asked.

And in truth, the photographer could just as easily have looked east or west across inner-city Belfast for, as the leading trade unionist insisted, indices of poverty and joblessness have remained virtually unchanged in 40 years in those parts of Belfast.

All of which underlines the necessity to ensure that those, from all sides, who talked the talk at the One City Conference, must also walk the walk to deliver that most prized commodity of any great city: jobs.


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