Stormont official suggested ‘sexier’ picture of NI economy required, files show

The Government needed to project a “sexier” plan for Northern Ireland’s economy to the rest of the world following the Good Friday Agreement, a Stormont official suggested.

The official in the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) made the comment in relation to a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) document drawn up for use by UK embassies overseas.

The Bull Points document offered a brief overview of issues pertaining to Northern Ireland in early 2000.

An FCO official sent it to the OFMDFM in February 2000, asking for it to be updated to reflect the latest political developments in the region.

The official who questioned whether the paper needed a “sexier economic approach” also suggested the document represented a “relic of the past”.

The paper, which is newly released from the archives of the Public Records Office NI, offered an optimistic assessment of political progress in Northern Ireland.

“A devolved Executive, representative of the whole community, has set about tackling the issues which people care about: health care, education, environment and jobs,” it said.

“It’s still early days but the signs are encouraging and examples of normal politics are beginning to emerge.

“Politics are no longer dominated by the constitutional issues.

“Ministers in the 11 devolved departments are already experiencing the opportunities and challenges of taking real responsibility.”

In a short section covering economic, social and cultural issues, the Bull Points paper said the Government would make rapid progress with a new economic development strategy for Northern Ireland.

In a handwritten note on an internal OFMDFM letter about the approach to making potential amendments to the document, the official stated: “A relic of the past or so I thought. It could do with a sexier economic approach. What do you think.”