On 25-27 May 2007, Ambassador Fu Ying visited Northern Ireland and called on Mr. Francie Molloy, Deputy Speaker of Northern Ireland Assembly, Sir Empey leader of Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), David Ford leader of Alliance Party, Lu Manhua Member of the Assembly and Pat McCarthy, Lord Mayor of Belfast to find out political and economic situation, development of culture and education, after the self-government was established in Northern Ireland. They exchanged opinions on promoting the cooperation between Northern Ireland and China.
The Assembly Members generally consider peace of Northern Ireland is the irreversible trend. After long-term struggle, the two political parties realized that problems cannot be resolved by violent clashes and are eager to sue for peace; the people surviving years of war long for peace. Moreover, British and Irish governments have arrived at a consensus on promoting peace of Northern Ireland which received the support of US and European countries. However, Some Assembly Members point out that the two parties have incurred deep historical, national and religious resentment; therefore time and more endeavors of both parties are needed to eliminate hatred. The Assembly Members say they will do their best to maintain peace, cooperate with each other to preserve local stability, promote economic development and improve people's lives. They also hope China will participate in the construction of Northern Ireland.
Lord Mayor of Belfast McCarthy notes that the economic development of Northern Ireland does not stop in spite of the long-term disturbance. The speed of economic growth of Northern Ireland has been higher than the average of the UK since the 1990's, unemployment rate remains rather low, and the per capita GDP reached nearly 20,000 US dollars. As the political situation of Northern Ireland is heading for stability, the real estate prices are on the rise continuously, which give impetus to economic development. Northern Ireland has a solid industrial base, for example, its ship building industry was well-known in the world, and the famous Titanic was built in Belfast. In contrast to the rapid economic development in Asia, Northern Ireland lost its advantage in labor-intensive industries, thus turned its focus of development to IT, pharmacy, life science, tourism and service sector. Now a large-scale technology park will be built to further develop IT industry on the site where Titanic was built. There will be great potentials for cooperation between Northern Ireland and China in this field.
Lord Mayor McCarthy notes that thanks to stable political situation and economic development, Northern Irish tourism has a broad prospect. As the number of Chinese tourists is limited, he hopes to strengthen cooperation with the Chinese Embassy to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Tourist Board has set up special fund to invite Chinese media and travel agencies to visit Northern Ireland, print and distribute brochures of Chinese version and construct website in Chinese language.
Fu Ying says she had paid close attention to the news and situation of Northern Ireland from the beginning of learning English, and was glad that the political situation of Northern Ireland has restored stability. Surviving years of war, Northern Ireland has numerous development opportunities; she hopes the China and Northern Ireland will make joint efforts to increase mutual understanding and expand cooperation so as to promote bilateral relations.
Ambassador Fu elaborates on the programs of "China Now" which will be held in the UK from February to August next year. Fu says "China Now" is a series of large-scale comprehensive programs sponsored by the British business circles aiming at objectively presenting modern China to the UK people and helping them to understand China properly. Covering numerous fields of culture, arts, economy and trade, academy, education, science and technology, medical treatment and sports, this event will mark a grand gathering in Sino-UK cultural exchange. Fu Ying says the event has received great endorsement and support from the two governments. She hopes that all circles of Northern Ireland will make use of this platform to promote publicity and investigate opportunities of cooperation.
The incumbent Northern Ireland government is set up in March, which is the 4th in history. Though the peace process of Northern Ireland experienced several setbacks, it seems that the trend of peace is irreversible.
The kingdom of Ireland merged with the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1801. During the First World War, due to the upsurge of Irish national independence movement, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland agreed the 26 counties in southern Ireland to form a separate Irish Free State in 1921, but the northern 6 counties remained in England. The remaining Kingdom has therefore been known as "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland". Afterwards, conflicts among the Catholics maintaining Ireland to break away from England, Protestants willing to remain in England and British authorities occurred in succession. In 1969, Sinn Fein, a Catholic political party advocating north-south reunification of Ireland, set up a military organization called Irish Republic Army (IRA) aiming at freeing Northern Ireland from British rule by force. In 1990's, IRA launched a series of armed attacked against the police, soldiers and civilians in the UK, and was accused of committing 1,800 murders. In recent years, Democratic Unionist Party became the largest party of Northern Ireland. The US began to support resolving the Northern Ireland issue in a peaceful way after 9.11 accidents. Blair government expressed its firm anti-terrorism determination after the blast in London and ranked IRA as the number one terrorist organization of the UK. IRA voluntarily declared to disarm totally in September 2005 which means the substantial progress has been made in the peace process of Northern Ireland. In October 2006, UK and Ireland jointly promulgated the "roadmap" of Unionist group and Republic group to share power of Northern Ireland, deciding to restore the local governments before March 2007. Democratic Unionist Party from Unionist group and Sinn Fein from Republic group, two feuds started negotiation and concluded the agreement on restoring local government this March. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern attended the ceremony of restoring local autonomous government of Northern Ireland together on 8 May, on which the US congratulated. UK media called it a historic moment.