Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 18:00 UK

US unveils NI investment package

US dollars
Northern Ireland is in line for a significant US investment

Northern Ireland is in line for a US investment package which could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Four New York city pension funds are to invest a total of $150m in the Emerald Infrastructure Development Fund.

NI's First and Deputy First Ministers Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness heard New York City Comptroller William Thompson make the announcement.

His office described the investment as "unprecedented" and "the largest ever US public investment in NI".

It is expected that half or more of the $150m will be used to finance projects in Northern Ireland that target sectors such as energy, waste management, water, property and ports.

Money from the fund will also be used to back green energy and environmental projects in the USA.

It is expected that other pension funds will also contribute to the Emerald Fund and that in time it might have access to up to $750m.

The fund will be run from offices in Belfast as well as in New York.

Mr Thompson told a news conference: "The trustees of the New York city pension funds and I are very excited and optimistic about the opportunities for potential strong returns from investments in the expanding Northern Ireland economy.

This investment confirms that Northern Ireland has turned a corner
Ian Paisley
First Minister

"This announcement signals a great opportunity for investors such as the pension funds to invest in Northern Ireland's bright future."

The four pension funds are: New York City Employees Retirement System, the Teacher Retirement System for the City of New York, the New York City Police Pension Fund, and the New York City Fire Department Fund.

Mr Paisley said the package had shown "vision and commitment".

Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley on the Nasdaq's seven storey video screen
Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley are meeting the NYC Comptroller

"This investment confirms that Northern Ireland has turned a corner," he said.

"We are now a sound investment location that can provide the right calibre of people and projects to successfully underpin further inward investment, particularly from the US."

Mr McGuinness said the investment comes from the pension funds of ordinary people.

"It is, in effect, the ordinary people of the US investing in the future of the ordinary people of the north of Ireland. "

The move is a boost for the Northern Ireland executive's investment conference which is due to take place next month.

BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport said the expected announcement showed how far the political process had come.

"In the past, New York city was in the forefront of the McBride Principles campaign, which promoted a code of conduct for US businesses operating in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The principles' supporters argued they were a necessary counter to discrimination, but unionists regarded them as an obstacle to investment."

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