FIRST Minister of Northern Ireland Dr. Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness were in New York on Friday welcoming the announcement of a $150 million investment from New York Pension Funds to Northern Ireland.New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson announced the largest U.S. investment to date since the peace process in the north at his office.Thompson, chief advisor to the New York City Pension Funds, committed to investing $150 million with the potential of eventually reaching $750 million. "This announcement follows the Pension Funds' longstanding, 20-year commitment to promoting peace and equality of opportunity for all in Northern Ireland," he said.Thompson announced that the $150 million, the biggest ever-public investment in Northern Ireland, will be controlled by Emerald Investment Development Fund LP, a private equity fund with future offices in Belfast and New York. The money is aimed at targeting infrastructure investment projects in Northern Ireland."Now is an attractive time for investment. in this stable political environment," said Thompson, a probable candidate for New York Mayor next year.Paisley, who was stunned into silence by the multi million-dollar investment - "I never thought I'd say this but I am speechless," he said - graciously thanked Thompson and his colleagues "from the depths" of his heart and said such an investment will provide "great stimulus" to Northern Ireland at this time."Their decision to choose Northern Ireland as a place to do business ma-kes this a truly great day for us and for New Yo-rk," he added."This in-vestment confirms that North-ern Ireland has turned a corner. We are now a sound in-vestment location that can provide the right caliber of people and projects to successfully underpin further inward investment, particularly from the U.S.," said Paisley.McGuinness, who accompanied Paisley on a four-day visit to the U.S. in an effort to promote the Northern Ireland investment conference in Belfast next month, described the investment as "another piece of history." "New York led the way and Bill Thompson put its money where its mouth is," said McGuinness.McGuinness and Peter Robinson, who will take Paisley's place as first minister next month, met with Thompson and his colleagues in Belfast last June. "I am delighted that today we have seen the fruits of this engagement," he said.The $150 million investment comes from the pension funds of a variety of organizations, including firefighters, police officers, teachers and government employees. "It is in effect the ordinary people of the U.S. investing in the future of the ordinary people of the North of Ireland," said McGuinness.Paisley, referring to Northern Ireland as the "best kept secret until it got out," said the ultimate aim for the money is to have a "fair and inclusive Northern Ireland" and at the same time "raising the living standards and quality of life for everyone."Although Thompson said that no specific projects have been targeted for the money, it is to be disseminated across various sectors including waste management, conventional energy, alternative energy, property development, public infrastructure and real estate development and ventures.From Ireland on Friday, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams welcomed the investment saying it would be used to "promote equality of opportunity." "Sinn Fein's endeavors to secure inward investment are geared towards improving the economic condition of those who have been disadvantaged by patterns of historic discrimination," he said.Paisley described the announcement on Friday as "a great springboard" in the run up to the investment conference on May 7 to 9. "This is certainly an exciting time for us all," he said.
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