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Renita Jablonski: Directors from major U.S. companies like IBM, Microsoft and Apple are attending an investment conference in Northern Ireland today. The province is hoping to capitalize on its peace process by bringing in more American money. As Stephen Beard reports, some potential investors may have doubts about the deep divisions that remain in Northern Ireland.
Stephen Beard: Former enemies have united in government. The protestant first minister shares power with a Catholic deputy who’s a former IRA chief. The two get on so well, they’ve even been lampooned in a local cartoon as The Chuckle Brothers.
Chuckle Brothers singing: We are the Chuckle Brothers and we’re going to have some fun…
But the chuckling can’t disguise the divisions that weigh down the economy. Northern Ireland is a segregated society, which spends millions of dollars a year keeping the Catholics and Protestants apart, duplicating public services like schools. It’s a huge drain on the public purse, says Peter Shirlow of Queen’s University.
Peter Shirlow: You still continue to pay for segregation — two leisure centres, two health centres. Having to have one thing for one community, one thing for the other.
In some places, there are even two bus stops — a few yards apart — so that Protestants and Catholics can get on the same bus, separately. Shirlow says the economy cannot reach its potential until these divisions disappear.
This is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.
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