Today's Irish Times carries a very significant article by the chairman of Ulster Bank, Dr Alan Gillespie, calling for the creation of a new all-Ireland investment agency.
Dr Gillespie expresses strong support for an all-island corporation tax rate, but suggests that the UK Treasury's Varney review will probably only offer marginal concessions, so that a plan B is necessary.
I believe that to market Northern Ireland effectively we should align the inward investment marketing activities of Invest NI (INI) with the Republic of Ireland's IDA. We should promote an all-island economy through a single, joined-up effective agency with the IDA and INI no longer competitors but merged and fully collaborative. (Irish Times)
There are a number of sensitivities around this proposal as the Irish Times own commentary points out:
The proposal poses both a challenge and a potential economic opportunity for the Government and the Executive.
For the Government, it could mean the proven record and marketing experience of the IDA being exploited to create jobs in Northern Ireland, possibly at the expense of jobs in the Republic. For the Executive - particularly for unionist Ministers - it raises questions about potential dilution of UK sovereignty. (ireland.com)
Southern concerns will no doubt have been strengthened by the recent Shannon controversy. Nevertheless, there is an obvious fit between the the North's needs and the IDA's expertise. There is surely sufficient goodwill for that expertise to applied one way or another.