On the 3rd of February, the BBC carried a story that Alan & Overy would be creating an office in Belfast & which is to create 300 jobs or so in the city. 180 of these jobs are roles which are being relocated to Belfast from London, in a move which is receiving approx £2 million from Invest NI (INI) – the body associated with the NI Assembly to attract inward investment into the province.
A&O are a huge company with a global presence, so you’d think that everyone in NI would be happy about their announcement… but of course, as seems to be always the way in NI, a politician somewhere has something to complain about. The Ulster Unionist Party’s (UUP) Finance spokesman, David McNarry, has complained about the manner in which O&A are planning to use Invest NI Grant monies which are part of the deal.
As A&O are relocating 180 jobs from London, they’ve decided that they will offer the jobs in Belfast to their London employees first – offering them £8,000 of the INI grant money each. In my mind, this is a calculated move by A&O – you can bet your bottom dollar they’re not doing it just to be nice. By offering the money to their current staff they may attract enough of their existing skilled labour to ensure a smoother transition of quality than if the office was to open with just new staff – which has merit.
David McNarry though isn’t a happy bunny, as he sees this use of money from the “NI purse” and consequently it should be spent on “Northern Ireland people”!! Seriously!!
Now ignoring the fact that it’s highly unlikely 180 people will decide to take up the offer, David McNarry patently displays typical small town ideals here – local things for local people, to paraphrase Little Britain. He’s managed to completely ignore the fact that if people said yes to the move, they would actually become “Northern Ireland people” as they’d be living, working & more importantly contributing to our local economy!!
The £8.000 may be spent on a deposit and first months rent, or on some hotel space whilst people look for a new home. Perhaps on the relocation itself involving NI airports or ferry ports. They’ll bring partners no doubt, perhaps entrepreneurs??
The Minister for Enterprise in NI, Arlene Foster has had to defend a move that could create up to 300 jobs in Belfast – and by Northern Irish standards, perhaps the most bizarre piece of work any Minister has ever had to do?!
It’s also mildly ironic that such a jibe should come from the UUP and be batted back by th Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Only last year, the UUP engaged in an electoral pact with the Conservative party to attempt to bring UK wide politics to Northern Ireland for the first time in decades. They would often jibe the DUP about being nothing more than Northern Irish nationalists… yet here, the UUP are complaining about a UK company move into THEIR region whilst the DUP are promoting the move.
They often say you couldn’t make it up, but unfortunately in Northern Irish politics, often you don’t have to.