Nancy Pelosi, The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, in Dublin yesterday.
Bill Heaney reporting from Dublin
The Democrat news team have just returned from a week’s break in Ireland, which turned out to be a busman’s holiday.
Quite a few big stories relevant to Scotland broke while we were there and, of course, we filed them for you, our loyal readers.
Dublin’s a busy, busy city and there’s a great deal going on politically there right now.
We bumped into Nancy Pelosi’s impressive cavalcade in a narrow street off Grafton Street, outside the Westbury Hotel, where she has been staying during her pre-Brexit, whistle-stop tour of the Republic and the North.
The top US Democrat told the Irish parliament: “America will continue to stand with you in protecting the peace that the Good Friday accords have realised.”
Ms Pelosi said that the seamless border in Ireland must not be imperilled by Brexit, during an address to the Irish parliament.
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives promised that America would continue to stand with them to protect the values of the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking as part of a year-long celebration to mark 100 years since the first sitting of Dáil Éireann (the Irish parliament), Ms Pelosi said: “We must ensure that nothing happens in the Brexit discussions that imperils the Good Friday accord, including – but not limited to – the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.”
Reiterating comments she made earlier in the week during a speech in London, she added: “Let me be clear. If the Brexit deal undermines the Good Friday accords, there will be no chance of a UK-US trade agreement. I say that hopefully, that we will not have to face that reality, but I say it as a prediction.”
Ms Pelosi’s words were met with applause by a packed chamber of parliamentarians, and special guests including U2 frontman Bono – who she praised at length, noting that after attending so many of his concerts, she was glad to see he was in her audience for a change.
She also remarked on the legacy of John Hume and the late Martin McGuinness, and delivered a powerful tribute to the Northern Ireland peace process – “We treasure the Good Friday accord because it is not just a treaty, it is an ethic, it is a value, it is an article of faith for us, it is a beacon to the world. We treasure the Good Friday accord because of what it says is possible for the entire world; a reason to hope in every place that dreams that reconciliation will be possible for them too.
“America will continue to stand with you in protecting the peace that the Good Friday accords have realised.
“Now, the first generation born into the hope of Good Friday – the children born then are 21 years old now – are entering their adulthood, knowing peace, we cannot jeopardise that. We must not and we will not allow that progress to be undermined.”
Referring to the well-known links between the US and Ireland, Ms Pelosi noted: “While I don’t have Irish grandparents, we do take pride in having Irish grandchildren.”
On climate change, Ms Pelosi noted that the US had much to learn from Irish initiatives, and said: “We must do better and we must do more, together … We have a moral responsibility to future generations to hand this planet over in a responsible way.”
She also advocated for Ireland receiving a temporary seat on the UN Security Council in 2021, which was met with loud applause.
Ms Pelosi attended a cultural celebration at Ireland’s historic GPO building on Tuesday evening, and will attend a reception at Dublin Castle tonight (Wednesday).
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Household income is at a record high and continuing to grow sharply in the Irish Republic, under-pinned by jobs and investment, according to a new report out today in Dublin.
In contrast to the Celtic Tiger, when notional wealth was linked in many cases to debt-funded property assets, rising incomes are underpinned by what are described as “exceptional levels” of business investment and related employment effects, in the new research from employers’ group Ibec.
In its latest ‘Quarterly Economic Outlook Q1 2019’, Ibec says per-person household income is at a record high and growing 6pc annually. That trend has been flattered by low inflation boosting the impact of wage growth.
“Since 2015, Irish households have seen growth of real income, per person, of just over 11pc cumulatively. UK households on the other hand saw their incomes fall by 1.2pc over the same period,” the Ibec report said.
However, it said the pace of growth will not last indefinitely as the global economy shows signs of slowing.
A no-deal Brexit would also be expected to have a significant impact including cancelled investment, falling consumer confidence, rising prices, and trade disruption.
For now, however, disposable income per person is now back above pre-crash levels for the first time, according to Ibec, driven by the drop in unemployment levels and labour market participation of 83.5pc for prime-age workers (25-54 years), which has never been higher.
Those figures may be the reason consumer spending held up last year despite a drop in consumer sentiment linked to fears over the risks of a no-deal Brexit in particular.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe claimed spending has been brought under control and promised there will not be a repeat of last year’s €600m Department of Health spending overrun.
Mr Donohoe published a Stability Programme Update 2019 yesterday, effectively kick-starting the Budget 2020 process.
He said he will deliver a budget surplus both this year and in 2020 helped by strong corporation tax receipts already forecast to come in €500m above expectations this year.
“We are aiming to deliver a significant improvement in performance on health expenditure for this year,” Minister Donohoe said on Tuesday.